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HomepagePetsDogThe Best Flea Treatment for Dogs
Last updated on Nov 20, 2019

The Best Flea Treatment for Dogs

Rapid relief for your pup and protection from future infestations ​
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How we chose the best flea treatments for dogs

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68 treatments evaluated

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4 experts consulted

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6 top picks

Philip Palermo

By Philip Palermo Lead Senior Editor – For the Home

Philip Palermo leads the For the Home category at Reviews.com, including smart home and home security services. Since November 2015, he’s worn a number of hats at Reviews.com, but these days, Philip helps manage the day-to-day editorial content workflow. He’s worked at Engadget, The Unofficial Apple Weblog, Big Think, and several local/regional newspapers. Philip’s also been known to use a lot of spreadsheets to gauge how much value he’s getting out of his various services and subscriptions.

The Best Flea Treatments for Dogs

The best flea treatment for dogs should be effective, convenient, and safe enough to use around kids and other pets. To find our top picks, we consulted three vets and an entomologist, researched active ingredients, then examined the top spot-on and oral meds ourselves. In the end, the right choice for you is a matter of your dog’s needs and personal convenience.

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The 3 Best Preventative Flea Treatments for Dogs

    The 3 Best Fast-Acting Flea Treatments for Dogs

      The Best Flea Medicine for Dogs: Summed Up

      Best for
      Starting at
      Starts killing fleas within
      Prevents pests for one month
      Frontline Plus
      Monthly treatment with rapid relief
      $33
      4 hours
      PetArmor Plus
      Cheap monthly treatment
      $19
      12 hours
      Sentry Fiproguard Plus
      Monthly treatment runner-up
      $27
      12 hours
      Bayer Advantus Soft Chews
      Chewable fast-acting treatment
      $25
      1 hour
      PetArmor Fast Caps
      Fast-acting treatment in pill form
      $13
      30 minutes
      Sentry Capguard
      Fast-acting treatment runner-up
      $22
      30 minutes

      The best preventative flea treatments for dogs

      Our first three picks use a one-two punch to kill existing fleas and prevent future infestations. These are spot-on treatments: small packets of liquid medication that you dab on the back of your dog’s neck (where they can’t lick it off). All three use active ingredients fipronil to eradicate current fleas, and (s)-methoprene to prevent future generations. This combination has been proven to kill 100 percent of fleas within seven days.

      These medications are recommended for dogs that have frequent exposure to either fleas or ticks, and need proactive protection in addition to relief from a current infestation.

      Frontline Plus

      Best Monthly Treatment with Rapid Relief
      Frontline Plus

      Frontline Plus

      Pros

      Fastest relief for preventative treatment
      No-mess application

      Cons

      Generally more expensive
      Smellier

      Why we chose it

      Fastest relief for preventative treatment

      Although Frontline Plus uses the same active ingredients as PetArmor and Sentry, it should get to work a little faster. Frontline Plus states that it starts killing fleas within four hours and wipes out 100 percent of the pests within 12. The other two take 12 hours to even begin killing fleas. If you need a monthly treatment and want to give your pet rapid relief from a current infestation, Frontline is your best bet.

      No-mess application

      Hands-on testing secured Frontline’s place as our favorite monthly flea treatment. Specifically, we learned that Frontline uses a superior applicator compared to PetArmor and Sentry. To open, you peel off the protective seal then snap off the long, narrow tip. The other two had to be cut open, leaking medication onto the scissors every time. This may sound like a minor detail, but it’s always best to err on the side of less spillage when handling chemical products.

      Points to consider

      Generally more expensive

      The biggest downside to Frontline is that it’s generally more expensive that our other two picks. For large dogs (more than 44 pounds) in particular, Frontline is nearly twice the price of PetArmor. It’s a little pricer for dogs under 44 pounds, too, ringing in a few dollars above our other picks. The price bump may be worth it for fast-acting flea relief and better application — but if you’re on a budget, you may prefer PetArmor Plus or Sentry Fiproguard Plus for a monthly treatment.

      Smellier

      Although most spot-ons have a chemical odor (they are chemicals, after all) Frontline was a worse culprit than some. It has a distinctly harsh scent compared to PetArmor and Sentry’s spot-on treatments. We recommend avoiding this one if you (or your dog) have a super sensitive nose.

      PetArmor Plus

      Best Cheap Monthly Treatment
      PetArmor Plus

      PetArmor Plus

      Pros

      Cheaper for large dogs
      Mild-smelling

      Cons

      Slower reaction time
      Messier application

      Why we chose it

      Cheaper for large dogs

      Like Frontline, PetArmor Plus uses fipronil to kill existing fleas and (s)-methoprene to prevent them from coming back. The two treatments even look almost identical, delivered in packs of three applications, for three different dog sizes. However, PetArmor tends to be cheaper than the competition — almost half the cost of Frontline for dogs over 44 pounds. The tradeoff: It’s a bit slower acting and not as easy to apply. But if you’re mainly looking for preventative benefits (not an on-the-spot flea killer), then it’s probably worth it to save a few bucks with PetArmor.

      Mild-smelling

      PetArmor Plus also has a gentler scent than Frontline. It’s almost citrus-y, rather than the sharp chemical odor we noticed with other spot-on treatments. It’s a minor detail, but will make treating your pup a little more pleasant for both parties.

      Points to consider

      Slower reaction time

      The main difference between PetArmor and Frontline Plus is reaction time: PetArmor takes up to 12 hours just to start killing fleas, while Frontline should have the problem eradicated in the same time frame. That said, both medications are equally effective at protecting your dog from fleas and ticks throughout the month. If your dog doesn’t need immediate itch relief, then the longer set-in time shouldn’t be a problem.

      Messier application

      We didn’t love the PetArmor Plus applicator. It has to be cut open and tends to leak medicine out when you do so. You’ll have to be extra careful about rinsing off the scissors and washing your hands when using this treatment to make sure chemicals don’t end up where they shouldn’t.

      Sentry Fiproguard Plus

      Best Monthly Treatment Runner Up
      Sentry Fiproguard Plus

      Sentry Fiproguard Plus

      Pros

      May be cheaper
      Mild-smelling

      Cons

      Slower reaction time
      Messier application

      Why we chose it

      May be cheaper

      Sentry’s Fiproguard Plus treatment is cheaper than Frontline Plus for dogs under 44 pounds, and the same price for dogs over 44 pounds. It’s generally not as affordable as PetArmor Plus. That said, it has the same active ingredients and is equally as effective — so if you see it on sale or for a lower price than PetArmor, you should feel good about making the leap.

      Mild-smelling

      We found Sentry Fiproguard to have a mild, inoffensive scent. It’s less overtly chemical than Frontline and some of the other spot-ons we tested. This is another good choice (along with PetArmor) for pet owners with sensitive noses.

      Points to consider

      Slower reaction time

      Sentry’s spot-on medication takes 12 hours to start knocking out fleas, just like PetArmor Plus. This won’t be an issue if you’re purely looking for monthly, preventative treatment, and not immediate relief from a current flea infestation. If your pup does need rapid action along with monthly protection, try Frontline Plus — which gets to work in just four hours.

      Messier application

      Sentry Fiproguard also has the same leak-prone applicator as PetArmor Plus. That means you’ll need to use special caution when handling it, to make sure none of the medication ends up in a potentially harmful place (like your mouth or eyes).

      The best fast-acting flea treatments for dogs

      Our next three picks are for dogs that need fast-acting relief from a nasty flea infestation. These oral medications get to work immediately — using active ingredients imidacloprid or nitenpyram to kill up to 96 percent of fleas within the hour.

      Keep in mind: effects only last up to 24 hours. If your pup needs preventative treatment as well, follow up with one of our top spot-on treatments after a few days. Never combine flea medicines at the same time without talking to your vet first.

      Bayer Advantus Oral Flea Treatment Soft Chews for Dogs

      Best Chewable Fast Acting Treatment
      Bayer Advantus Soft Chews

      Bayer Advantus Oral Flea Treatment Soft Chews for Dogs

      Pros

      Powerful flea-killer
      Easy to administer

      Cons

      A little pricier

      Why we chose it

      Powerful flea-killer

      Bayer Advantus Soft Chews use imidacloprid to eradicate your dog’s flea problem. This insecticide acts quickly — dispersing through the dog’s blood stream and killing up to 96 percent of fleas within the hour.

      Easy to administer

      The best part about Bayer’s soft chews: They look, smell, (and presumably taste) like regular dog treats. It’s the only flea medication on our list that your pup will actually enjoy taking. This bumped Bayer’s treatment above PetArmor FastCaps and Sentry Capguard in our rankings; both of which come in a traditional pill form that you’ll have to trick your dog into swallowing.

      Points to consider

      A little pricier

      The soft chew regimen tends to be more expensive than other fast-acting flea meds. This is true for large dogs in particular: Bayer chews ($26) cost twice as much as PetArmor Fast Caps ($13) for dogs over 25 pounds. If your dog is under 25 pounds, Bayer soft chews will cost you $25 — the same price as Sentry Capguard, although PetArmor is still cheapest at $20.

      PetArmor FastCaps

      Best Fast Acting Treatment in Pill Form
      PetArmor FastCaps

      PetArmor FastCaps

      Pros

      Immediate flea relief
      Cheaper for large dogs

      Cons

      Harder to administer

      Why we chose it

      Immediate flea relief

      PetArmor Fast Caps use nitenpyram to treat flea infestations. This is one of the fastest-acting insecticides on the market, and should start killing fleas in just 30 minutes. The only other treatment on our list with the same active ingredient is Sentry Capguard — either one is a great choice for giving your pet near-instant relief from itchy pests.

      Cheaper for large dogs

      If you have a large dog (think 25 pounds and up), PetArmor FastCaps are probably the cheapest way to treat it for fleas. You can get six FastCaps about half the price of other rapid-relief medications. PetArmor tends to be cheaper for small dogs, too, but the difference isn’t as drastic — about $5 less than the next cheapest option.

      Points to consider

      Harder to administer

      The downside to PetArmor’s FastCaps is that they come in swallow-whole pill form — and anyone who’s had to treat their dog before knows how reluctant they are to taking meds. You’ll have to go the extra length of hiding the FastCaps in your pup’s food. If you’ve got a cunning canine who knows how to work around the old tricks, you may be better off with Bayer Soft Chews, which mimic a dog treat and are a lot easier to administer.

      Sentry Capguard

      Best Fast Acting Treatment Runner Up
      Sentry Capguard

      Sentry Capguard

      Pros

      Immediate flea relief
      May be a cheap option

      Cons

      Harder to administer

      Why we chose it

      Immediate flea relief

      Sentry Capguard uses nitenpyram to fight fleas — a powerful insecticide that you can expect to take effect in as little as 30 minutes. That’s a quicker response time than any of our other top picks (except PetArmor FastCaps, which use the same active ingredient). These tablets are a guaranteed way to get your dog feeling better, faster.

      May be a cheap option

      Sentry Capguards aren’t quite as affordable as PetArmor FastCaps, with prices starting at $22 for 6 treatments while PetArmor starts at just $13. Still, Sentry’s treatment packages for both large and small dogs are a few bucks cheaper than the soft chews from Bayer. They contain the same active ingredients as PetArmor tablets, too — so if you happen across Sentry Capguards on sale, you should definitely snag them.

      Points to consider

      Harder to administer

      Like the PetArmor FastCaps, Sentry Capguards come in a small, hard pill, about the size of an aspirin. They’re ultra-fast acting — but the catch is that you have to get an unwilling dog to swallow them. We recommend hiding the tablets in their food or a spoonful of peanut butter. If it’s still a no-go, try instead for a treatment your dog will willingly take.

      How we chose the best flea treatments for dogs

      Effective, easy to use treatments

      We considered two types of flea treatments for dogs: Spot-ons and oral medications. Of all the ways to treat your pet’s fleas, these are the most effective and convenient to use.

      • Spot-ons are concentrated liquid formulas that you apply to the back of a dog’s neck. Within 24 hours, the medication dissipates into the dog’s natural skin oils, killing fleas and preventing new generations from developing for up to a month.
      • Oral medications use insecticides that transfer into a dog’s blood stream in less than an hour. When fleas bite, they’re exposed to the insecticide and die. Oral products are faster-acting than spot-ons (wiping out the bugs in as little as one hour), but only last a day. They won’t protect your dog from future infestations.

      We held both types to the same standards: They had to use safe, effective ingredients and be convenient to buy and apply. The best one for you will depend on your dog’s needs and pricing. See our flea treatment buying guide for help choosing the right treatment for your pup.

      Safe for pets and people

      Effective flea treatments must use some form of pesticide; that’s how they’re able to wipe out the bugs. While all pesticides used in flea treatment are approved by the EPA, some can still cause serious side effects in humans and animals if they’re handled incorrectly.

      When it comes to the health and safety of our pets, we prefer to err on the side of caution. We turned to places like the National Pesticide Information Center (NPIC) and the National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI) to determine which pesticides to avoid.

      Our top picks use the safest, most pet- and people-friendly ingredients to treat your dog’s flea problem. But keep in mind: They’re still chemical products intended to kill insects. They can be harmful if they’re ingested or rubbed into an eye. That’s why it’s so important to avoid touching any topical medication directly, use disposable gloves, and always wash your hands after applying a treatment.

      3 potentially harmful ingredients we avoided

      Tetrachlorvinphos: According to the EPA and Humane Society, overexposure to this insecticide may cause nausea, dizziness, and confusion. In rare instances, it can even be fatal.

      Pyrethroids: The Agency for Toxic Substances & Disease Registration, a branch of the CDC, says that humans exposed to pyrethroids can experience numbness, itching, burning, stinging, or tingling. Check labels for any ingredient that ends in “-thin” (permethrin, deltamethrin, flumethrin, etc,) and etofenprox.

      Pyrethrin: Cat owners should avoid anything with pyrethrin, a natural insecticide that’s safe for dogs and humans but can trigger seizures in cats. All of our top picks are pyrethrin-free, just to be safe.

      Works to eradicate and prevent

      All of our top picks work to kill existing fleas, eradicating your dog’s itchy discomfort in the moment. But if you keep a multi-pet household that may be prone to repeat infestations, or if your dog is often exposed to fleas and ticks, you’ll want a medication that prevents the problem from happening again. That means spot-on treatment.

      We only considered spot-ons that use a combination of insecticides and insect-growth regulators (IGRs). Insecticides take care of the current infestation, while IGRs protect against future ones. In fact, the addition of IGR is where the “plus” comes from in Frontline Plus, PetArmor Plus, and Sentry Fiproguard Plus (they’re not just trying to impress you).

      Takes care of ticks, too

      Why not kill two bugs with one stone? Ticks are found in most areas of the United States, and can transmit Lyme disease, Rocky Mountain spotted fever, and other bug-borne diseases to your pet — which are much easier to prevent than to treat. With that in mind, we only considered spot-on flea treatments that also kill ticks.

      Guide to flea treatments for dogs

      How to find the right flea treatment for your dog

      Decide between preventative and fast-acting treatment

      The two types of flea treatment we reviewed have distinctly different benefits. Liquid spot-on treatments (like our first three picks) have flea- and tick-inhibiting chemicals that will protect your dog from pests for up to a month. They’re a great choice for households that have had repeat fleas, or dogs that spend a lot of time in the woods being exposed to ticks.

      That said, spot-on treatments may take up to 12 hours to begin killing fleas off — so if your pup is suffering an acute infestation and needs immediate relief, they aren’t the best choice.

      For fast-acting extermination, try an oral flea medication instead (like our last three picks); these can kill up to 96 percent of fleas within the hour. Just keep in mind that these effects only last for a day. If your dog still needs ongoing protection from fleas, ticks, and lice, you’ll have to follow up after a few days with a preventative medication. Never use two different types of medication at the same time without consulting your veterinarian first.

      Select the right dosage for your pup

      Different size dogs require different doses of medication. Most oral flea treatments come in two varieties: for dogs 4-22 pounds, and 23+ pounds. Spot-on treatments generally offer three different doses: for dogs 5-22 pounds, 23-44 pounds, and 44+ pounds. Be sure to check the box before you buy and make sure you’re getting the right dose for your pup’s weight.

      Consider your other pets

      All of our top picks use active ingredients that are safe for people and other pets; we made sure of it. If you’re considering other flea medications, though, you’ll want to be sure that they don’t present any dangers for your household. In particular, we recommend looking out for the ingredient pyrethrin — a naturally-derived insecticide that is safe for dogs and humans but may cause seizures in cats.

      For other recommendations and safety warnings, you can turn to these resources from the Humane Society, the Environmental Protection Agency, and the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry.

      Dog flea treatment FAQs

      More reviews for your pup

      Owning a dog isn’t all about fleas, ticks, and hiding pills in hunks of cheese. But it helps to get that stuff out of the way so you can enjoy the fun parts. (Check out our guide to flea and tick season here!) We’ve reviewed some of the most important topics — from dog food to pet insurance — so that you can keep you best friend happy and healthy.