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Compared to ticks that carry Lyme disease, fleas seem harmless. Unfortunately, that's anything but the truth. Fleas are insects that can infest your dog, home, clothing, carpet, and even humans. While they don't carry Lyme disease, they carry a variety of other diseases like the bubonic plague.
The best treatment for fleas on dogs is prevention, and there are many different types of dog flea and tick treatments available that eliminate fleas and prevent them from returning.
If your dog has ever had fleas, your vet may have recommended an oral flea medicine, shampoo, and a variety of other products. Flea shampoos can help eliminate existing infestations while preventing fleas from returning, but every product is different. What is the best flea shampoo for dogs? Keep reading to learn more about this treatment and prevention option and find the right product for your pet.
- Signs Of Fleas
- What To Look For In Flea Shampoo
- 3 Best Flea Shampoos For Dogs
- Comprehensive Flea Treatment
- Final Notes
Signs Of Fleas
Fleas are tiny jumping insects that feed off the blood of humans and animals. Unfortunately, many dogs are allergic to flea saliva, causing itchiness, inflammation, and red bumps. The most common flea found on dogs is the cat flea, which is brown in color and incredibly tiny. You might see these insects jumping off your dog when they scratch, looking like tiny specks of dirt.
Fleas may also lay eggs on your dog, which look like small white grains of rice. Unfortunately, seeing fleas on dogs is not always possible, especially if your dog has long or thick fur. Instead, the most notable sign of fleas is excessively itchy skin and rashes, scratching, overgrooming, and head shaking.
Fleas carry bacteria and diseases. In addition, their bites cause itchy bumps to appear on your dog. Depending on the severity of the infestation, your dog might have severely itchy skin and red splotches throughout their bodies.
What To Look For In Flea Shampoo
The best dog shampoo for fleas effectively prevents and treats flea infestations. Bathing your dog in soaps and mild detergents can drown and dry out surviving fleas.1 However, the most effective flea and tick shampoos have pesticides that eliminate fleas on contact. These shampoos also remove dead skin flakes and dried blood and can help relieve itchiness caused by flea bites.1
It's important to consider the ingredients in your dog's flea shampoo because some contain pesticides that eliminate fleas but can be toxic to dogs.1 You can check the product label for the list of ingredients and follow the instructions to prevent accidental poisoning while keeping the shampoo away from your dog's eyes, mouth, ears, and nose. Other pet shampoos contain natural insecticides, also known as pyrethrins, that kill insects on contact and are considered safer for some pets.2
In addition to the ingredients, you should consider whether the shampoo you want to use is a treatment, prevention method, or both. The best flea shampoo for dogs should have some residual effect to protect your dog after eliminating the existing infestation.2
Most flea shampoos for dogs are designed for healthy dogs with mild flea infestations. However, if your dog is pregnant, nursing, or has underlying health conditions, it's always best to consult your vet to find the best flea treatment. In addition, if your dog has a severe infestation, a flea shampoo might not be enough to keep it under control. Instead, your vet might suggest a more potent treatment plan to eliminate fleas and eggs while protecting them from returning.
3 Best Flea Shampoos For Dogs
The best flea shampoo for dogs depends on a variety of factors, including your pet's health, level of infestation of the fleas, your preference, and budget. Always consult your vet if you believe your dog has fleas. It's always better to get professional advice for the best products to completely eliminate the infestation and prevent it from returning.
Since fleas carry disease and can affect your entire household, including other pets and humans, any product you use must be effective enough to eliminate every flea to prevent re-infestation. Here are our top 3 picks for the best flea and tick shampoo for dogs:
Veterinary Formula Flea and Tick Shampoo for Dogs
Veterinary Formula Flea and Tick Shampoo for Dogs contains pyrethrum to kill fleas and ticks on contact while cleansing skin with gentle exfoliation. This shampoo is safe for use on dogs and cats and contains aloe and lanolin to soothe irritated, itchy skin from flea and tick bites.3
SENTRY Oatmeal Flea and Tick Shampoo for Dogs
SENTRY Oatmeal Flea and Tick Shampoo for Dogs cleans, deodorizes, and conditions your dog's coat while killing pests like fleas and ticks on contact. With the active ingredients permethrin and piperonyl butoxide, this formula kills fleas and ticks for up to ten days after use and contains oatmeal for dogs with sensitive skin. This formula can only be used in dogs and puppies over twelve weeks of age.4
Hartz UltraGuard Pro Triple Action Flea & Tick Shampoo for Dogs
Hartz UltraGuard flea and tick shampoo kills fleas, eggs, and brown dog ticks while preventing reinfestation for up to four weeks after use, making it one of the best flea shampoos available. In addition, unlike other flea shampoos for dogs, which target adult fleas only, Hartz UltraGuard Pro Triple Action kills flea eggs, which can contribute to re-infestation while protecting your dog for up to a month.
You can use this flea and tick shampoo for preventative purposes and to clean and deodorize your dog. It's safe for dogs and puppies 12 weeks of age and older.5
Comprehensive Flea Treatment
Fleas bite people and pets, leaving itchy bumps and carrying disease. While flea shampoo for dogs can help eliminate and, in some cases, prevent fleas, every pet owner needs a comprehensive flea treatment plan when their dog is infested.
Getting rid of fleas requires you to treat every pet in your home to prevent re-infestation. Additionally, since fleas can live on furniture, carpet, and clothing, you must treat your entire home. A comprehensive flea treatment program consists of the following:
- Deep cleaning your home: After your dog has been diagnosed with fleas, you must remove them from your home. Vacuuming your rugs and using a steam or carpet cleaner can help eliminate fleas quickly. Additionally, you should launder all of your pet's bedding, toys, and clothing and discard cleaning rags and vacuum bags outside to prevent re-infestation.6 You can also use a flea spray to help eliminate remaining fleas in your home by spraying carpets, drapes, and furniture.
- Treating pets: If one pet has fleas, it's highly likely all your pets have fleas. Treat all your pets with shampoo and quality flea and tick preventatives immediately. You can ask your vet for a flea and tick preventative to protect them year-round. These prescription medications are designed to eliminate a significant percentage of fleas and ticks within just a few hours after administering them. However, you can use flea and tick shampoo to eliminate any remaining fleas on your dog. Depending on the shampoo you use, your dog may require multiple baths to completely eliminate the fleas. Additionally, some flea and tick shampoos don't eliminate flea eggs, so you may have to do multiple rounds of baths to ensure you're removing all the fleas once they mature into adults.6
- Using preventatives: As we've mentioned, the best treatment is prevention. Since fleas are so hard to get rid of, it's highly likely your pet will be infested again. Using preventative products is crucial because they work for an entire month to protect your pet while killing adult fleas and eggs within just a few hours.
Do flea shampoos really work?
Flea shampoos are effective at eliminating adult fleas on contact. However, the effectiveness of the products varies by brand. When shopping for flea shampoos, consider whether they kill adult fleas only or adults and eggs. In addition, some flea shampoos for dogs don't have any residual effect, so they won't protect your dog afterward. If you want the best flea shampoo for dogs, look for one that eliminates adult fleas and eggs and can protect your dog long after their fur has dried from their bath.
The main downside of flea shampoo for dogs is that you may need to reuse it until your dog is completely flea-free. Since fleas may lay eggs on your dog, you must either use a shampoo that eliminates eggs as well as adults or wait one to two weeks for the eggs and larvae to mature before giving your dog another bath.
Additionally, you must continue to keep your pet's environment clean unless you find a flea shampoo that offers residual protection. Otherwise, they're likely to get fleas again.
Will any dog shampoo get rid of fleas?
Regular dog shampoo designed to clean their fur can help eliminate some of the flea population by drowning them. However, only flea shampoos with insecticides — natural or chemical — can effectively eliminate fleas on dogs.
It's important to avoid using any human shampoo on your dog because it may contain fragrances, colors, and other harsh chemicals that can further irritate your pet's skin. When your dog has ticks, they're likely suffering from severe itchiness. In addition, the acidity in human shampoos can cause irritation and, in some cases, pain.
What do vets recommend to get rid of fleas?
Vets typically recommend a variety of products to eliminate fleas on dogs and protect them year-round. For example, your vet might suggest flea shampoo and the use of preventatives to treat your dog's fleas while protecting them in the long term. There are several prescription flea and tick medicines available for dogs that have been clinically proven safe and effective.
In addition, your vet will recommend treating all your pets at home for fleas and any pets that have come into contact with your dog. Since fleas jump from host to host, your other pets are likely infested. Some dog shampoos for fleas are safe for cats, but you should consult your vet or check the bottle for more information.
The best flea shampoo for dogs will eliminate adult fleas and eggs while protecting your pet with residual effects afterward. However, you should invest in flea and tick preventatives to protect your pet year-round. Since fleas carry disease and can bite humans and other pets, it's crucial to avoid them in the first place.
Getting Rid of Fleas. University of Florida, https://sfyl.ifas.ufl.edu/archive/hot_topics/families_and_consumers/getting_rid_of_fleas.shtml.
Son, Katelyn. "The Flea and Tick Shampoo for Dogs: 5 Best Products for Protection against Pests." Veterinarians.org, 22 Feb. 2023, https://www.veterinarians.org/flea-and-tick-shampoo-for-dogs/.
"Flea & Tick Shampoo." SynergyLabs, https://synergylabs.com/product/flea-tick-shampoo/.
"Sentry Flea and Tick Shampoo for Dogs and Puppies (Original Formula)." Drugs.com, https://www.drugs.com/vet/sentry-flea-and-tick-shampoo-for-dogs-and-puppies-original-formula.html.
"Hartz® Ultraguard Pro® Triple Active™ Flea and Tick Shampoo for Dogs." Hartz, 20 July 2022, https://www.hartz.com/product/hartz-ultraguard-pro-triple-active-flea-and-tick-shampoo-for-dogs/#details.
Flea and Flea Control - Oregon State University. https://entomology.oregonstate.edu/sites/agscid7/files/entomology/flea.pdf.