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Fleas are parasites that live on your dog's skin and feed on their blood by biting them. Many dogs are allergic to flea saliva, leaving them with itchy skin. Additionally, fleas can carry diseases and bite humans, so eliminating them at the first sign of fleas on your dog is crucial.
Luckily, plenty of flea treatments and preventatives are available to keep your canine companion protected year-round. Oral, topical, collars, and shampoos can eliminate fleas and prevent future infestations. But what are the best flea medicines for dogs without a prescription? Keep reading to learn about our top picks for flea medicines for dogs.
- Signs Of Fleas
- Treating Fleas: OTC Vs. Rx Flea Medicine
- Do Over-The-Counter Flea Treatments Work?
- 3 Best Over-The-Counter Flea Treatments For Dogs
- Final Notes
Signs Of Fleas
Fleas are tiny insects that live on their hosts. Several types of fleas cause itching and can transmit various diseases and illnesses, like tapeworm. Some pet parents may spot fleas on their dog's skin when bathing or petting them, while others can see fleas jumping off their pets. Unfortunately, since fleas are so small, you might not even notice them at all. However, they typically resemble small grains of rice and are brown or translucent in color.
If your dog has fleas, they'll have noticeable symptoms and signs, such as itching, skin irritation, hair loss, and head shaking.1 Therefore, your dog will probably be scratching more than usual, even if you can't see the fleas. Additionally, you may be able to find flea bites on your dog that look like red dots or bumps.
Treating Fleas: OTC Vs. Rx Flea Medicine
Flea medicine and preventatives are dog care essentials. However, it's always best to consult your vet before treating your dog for fleas. While it's usually easy to diagnose fleas based on clinical signs, your dog's scratching could be due to other underlying health conditions.
Fleas are typically treated with oral medicines, topical shampoos, and flea collars. However, depending on the severity of your dog's infestation, your vet may recommend an over-the-counter (OTC) or prescription flea medicine. OTC flea medicine typically contains a lower percentage of the active ingredient, so they don't require a prescription.
On the other hand, prescriptions require closer regulation to ensure they're being used properly. These medications are regulated by the Food and Drug Administration(FDA) and may require additional diagnostic testing to ensure they're safe for your dog. Most prescription medications are oral medicines, but there are a few topical treatments.
Do Over-The-Counter Flea Treatments Work?
Over-the-counter flea treatments are effective, but it ultimately depends on the product. For example, Capstar is up to 90% effective at killing adult fleas. Preventive flea medicines can repel these insects as well as other parasites like ticks, mosquitoes, lice, and mites. So how does flea medicine work? Ultimately, it depends on the product, but they're designed to use chemicals that disrupt the normal function of the insect's nerve cells, leading to death.2
However, you should consult your vet before trying an OTC flea medicine. Your dog may need stronger medication depending on the severity of their infestation. Additionally, it's important to consider the fact that since these medicines contain less percentage of the active ingredient, they might not be effective in eliminating all the adult fleas or eggs living on your dog's skin.
Instead, OTC flea medicines are ideal for quickly killing a large percentage of adult fleas. For example, if you can't get your dog into the vet immediately, you might try an OTC medicine to prevent the infestation from worsening. These medicines may be ineffective at treating fleas on dogs because they're less effective than prescription medications. Additionally, they're ineffective preventatives because they don't have lasting efficacy.3
When treating your dog for fleas, you must also treat the other pets in your household because fleas can jump from one host to another and spread quickly. In addition, you should thoroughly clean your home because fleas can live on carpets, blankets, clothing, and furniture.
3 Best Over-The-Counter Flea Treatments For Dogs
If you want to quickly relieve your dog's itching before taking them to the vet, you can use over-the-counter flea treatments. However, it's important to note that most vets don't find them as effective as prescriptions. Since most of them only kill a portion of adult fleas, they can minimize the infestation but likely won't eliminate it.
Additionally, there are several things to consider before purchasing flea medicine for your dog, such as:
- Your dog's medical history: Some ingredients in OTC flea medicines can interact with your dog's current medications. Additionally, it's crucial to consult a vet before giving your dog any medicine, especially if they have an underlying health condition.
- Other pets in the home: Cat flea products and dog flea products contain different ingredients. You should avoid sharing flea products across species because some ingredients in dog flea treatments can be toxic to cats.
- Ease of use: Over-the-counter flea treatments for dogs are available in various forms, including oral tablets, chews, shampoos and topicals, and collars. Consider which option you think might be best for your dog. For example, some dogs don't like pills, so chews might be easier to administer. Meanwhile, other dogs don't like wearing collars, so they might prefer an oral tablet.
- Efficacy: Over-the-counter flea treatments typically contain less of the flea-eliminating active ingredient, so they may be less effective at eliminating an infestation on your dog. That said, many of the more effective options can greatly reduce your dog's infestation, but you'll need to ensure it's completely eliminated and invest in a preventative in the future.
Keeping all those things in mind, here are three of the best over-the-counter flea medicine for dogs:
1. Capstar Flea Oral Treatment for Dogs and Cats
Capstar Flea Oral Treatment for Dogs and Cats contains nitenpyram, an ingredient that's effective in eliminating fleas in dogs, cats, puppies, and kittens four weeks of age or older and at least two pounds.4 The fast-acting formula begins working in 30 minutes and can eliminate 90% of adult fleas on dogs within four hours to reduce itching and discomfort. Additionally, it doesn't eliminate eggs or remaining larvae, so you may need to combine it with a topical.
It's important to note that Capstar only works for 24-48 hours, so your pet may need another dosage depending on the level of their infestation. Capstar can be used daily or as needed to treat existing fleas. However, a monthly flea preventative is recommended for long-term prevention.4
2. Vectra 3D
Vectra 3D is a flea repellant that eliminates fleas on contact — before they bite your pet. A single application of this medicine lasts one month and is available in various dosing sizes for your pet's needs. This medicine is suitable for puppies as young as seven weeks and above 3.3 pounds.5
3. Capstar Flea Oral Treatment for Dogs
Capstar Flea Oral Treatment for Dogs provides the same benefits as Capstar Flea Oral Treatment for Dogs and Cats. Each tablet contains Nitenpyram, which eliminates adult fleas in dogs and puppies within just four hours and has been proven 90% effective.
How do I check my dog for fleas?
Even if you're using flea and tick medicine for dogs that prevent infestations, you should continue to check your dog for fleas regularly, especially during the warmer months, even if they're not showing any signs or symptoms like scratching. There are several ways to check your dog for fleas, but the visual check is often the easiest.
Adult fleas are fast and jump on and off their host and from host to host. However, if you have a dog with brown or thick fur, you might never see them. Nevertheless, you can perform a visual flea check by spreading their fur and looking for fleas based on what you know about their appearance. You may also be able to find flea feces.
Using a flea comb is also an option if you have one. If you suspect your dog has fleas, you can run a flea comb through their fur and check the comb afterward.
In addition to checking your dog for fleas, you should also check them for ticks. Unlike fleas, ticks burrow their heads into their host, making them difficult to remove. If you're checking for ticks, a flea comb is unlikely to pull any up. Therefore, the best method is to gently part your pet's fur and check their skin. Depending on how thick your dog's fur is, you may even be able to feel ticks while petting them.
Where can I get flea meds without a prescription?
If you want to know how to get flea medicine without a vet, all you have to do is visit your local pet store or shop online. Over-the-counter dog flea and tick medicine are available at pet stores, online marketplaces, and Dutch's pharmacy. You can purchase these products without a prescription. However, if your dog is suffering from fleas, we recommend making an appointment with one of our vets to determine if they'll need stronger medication to completely eliminate the infestation.
What kills fleas on dogs instantly?
Nothing will instantly eliminate a flea infestation on dogs, but several over-the-counter and prescription flea and tick medications are designed to work quickly to eliminate fleas. Many of them work in as little as 30 minutes to four hours to eliminate adult fleas.
Of course, before you try to give your dog anything to remove or eliminate fleas, you should always check with your vet. While there are several home remedies that may be considered effective, they can't prevent flea infestations and could be dangerous to your pet.
Finding the best over-the-counter flea medicine for dogs is crucial if your dog is dealing with an itchy infestation. These medicines can eliminate a large portion of adult fleas within a few hours to relieve your pet. However, they're not as effective as prescription medications, and they can't prevent re-infestations.
If you're wondering, "What is the best flea and tick medicine for dogs?" talk to a Dutch vet today to learn about your flea and tick care options. We can determine whether your pet would benefit from an over-the-counter dog flea medicine and recommend our favorite prescription products to prevent future infestations. Try Dutch today.
"Fleas and Ticks." ASPCA, https://www.aspca.org/pet-care/general-pet-care/fleas-and-ticks.
"How Do Common Flea Medications Work?" PetMD, https://www.petmd.com/dog/parasites/evr_multi_how_do_common_flea_medications_work.
"Flea and Tick Prevention and Treatment for Dogs." PetMD, https://www.petmd.com/dog/general-health/flea-and-tick-prevention-and-treatment-dogs.
"Capstar® (NITENPYRAM) Oral Flea Treatment for Dogs." Capstar Nextstar, https://capstarpet.com/products/capstar-nitenpyram-oral-flea-treatment-for-dogs.
“Vectra 3D for Dogs / Dog / Vectra 2019.” Vectra 2019, https://www.vectrapet.com/uk/Dog/Vectra-3D-for-dogs.