14 Best Flea and Tick Prevention Products for Dogs

By: Monica WeymouthUpdated:

best flea and tick prevention for dogs
Chewy Studios

Sometimes, the little things cause the biggest problems. Case in point? Fleas and ticks. Small but mighty, these notorious pests can wreak havoc on our four-legged friends, causing everything from itchy skin to serious medical conditions such as Lyme disease, anemia, Rocky Mountain spotted fever and more. But with the right flea and tick prevention for dogs, you can ensure your canine companion remains comfortable, healthy and parasite-free.

Ready to protect your pet? Read on for expert advice about how to choose the correct flea and tick prevention for dogs, as well as bestselling products recommended by doting pet parents (like you!).

Types of Flea and Tick Medications

Generally speaking, all dogs should be on a year-round flea and tick regimen.

“In my professional opinion, all dogs should be on some form of flea and tick prevention,” says Dr. Sara Ochoa, DVM, a veterinarian at Animal Hospital of West Monroe in Louisiana. “Any dog can pick up these pests, regardless of breed, age or lifestyle, so having a preventative in place is crucial for every pup.”

Fortunately, there’s no shortage of options to protect your pet.

Topical Flea Treatments

Available both OTC and by prescription, topical solutions (also known as spot-on treatments) typically kill ticks, adult fleas, flea eggs and flea larvae, while also repelling them. Some medications also protect against other parasites, including hookworms, roundworms, ear mites and parasites that cause mange. Most topical treatments provide a month of protection and should be applied between your pup’s shoulder blades, where they’ll be unable to lick it off.

“I recommend continuing year-round prevention to keep your dog protected during flea and tick season,” says Dr. Ochoa. “But even with preventatives, the occasional pest can still sneak through, so check your dog regularly.”

Best for: Dogs who don’t like taking oral medications; dogs with food allergies; killing all life cycles and life stages of fleas; providing protection against other parasites

Oral Flea Treatments

A popular alternative to topical treatments, oral medications are formulated to treat flea infestations quickly, making them ideal for dogs with active infestations. For example, Capstar Tablets begin killing fleas within 30 minutes and provide 24 hours of protection; other chewables, such as NexGard, take a little longer to kick in but provide up to 30 days of coverage. Some chewables, such as Simparica Trio, also protect against heartworms. These treatments are available OTC and by prescription, and are particularly effective for water-loving dogs.

“Chewables can be a good option for dogs who frequently swim or bathe, as water exposure does not diminish their effectiveness,” says Dr. Sabrina Kong, DVM, Certified Canine Rehabilitation Practitioner at Jules Veterinary Center in Tracy, California.

Best for: Dogs with sensitive skin; dogs with an active flea infestation; households with young children or other pets who may interfere with topical medications or collars; dogs who swim or bathe frequently

Flea Collars

Although not as popular as oral or topical treatments, flea collars can be a great solution for some pets. Sold OTC, these collars quickly kill fleas and ticks on contact, as well as repel the pests from landing on your dog. Collars tend to last longer than other preventives, making them an attractive option to pet parents who have trouble remembering to administer monthly medications.

“Collars can offer longer-term protection, up to several months, but their effectiveness can vary depending on the product,” says Dr. Kong.

Before selecting a collar, check with your veterinarian to ensure that it’s a quality brand that will adequately protect your pet.

Best for: Dogs who don’t like taking medications orally; pet parents who prefer a longer-lasting option; budget-conscious pet parents

Flea Shampoos

Medicated flea shampoos kill fleas on contact; some formulas also repel fleas in the following weeks, as well as prevent eggs and larvae from maturing into adult fleas. Flea shampoos usually include therapeutic ingredients such as oatmeal and aloe to soothe irritated skin. Because flea shampoos typically provide protection for only two weeks, they’re not usually recommended as a primary source of flea control. However, they can be a helpful short-term solution for pets experiencing an active infestation.

Best for: Dogs who actively have fleas; dogs (and dog parents!) who enjoy bath time; killing active fleas quickly

Flea Sprays

Flea sprays are a budget-friendly way to kill active fleas and ticks, as well as to prevent new pests from taking up residence on your pet. Conveniently, many formulas can also be used around the house and yard to target areas that harbor pests. However, there are some drawbacks: Sprays need to be applied frequently (as often as every two days) and some may irritate your dog’s eyes and nose. If you want to incorporate flea sprays into your treatment plan, consult your veterinarian about how to best use them.

Best for: Dogs who have an active infestation; pet parents who want to treat parts of the house and yard

How To Find the Best Flea and Tick Treatment for Dogs

As you can see, there’s no shortage of flea and tick treatments on the market today. So, how can you narrow things down and find the best option for your particular pup?

First thing’s first: Start with a conversation with your veterinarian. “I advise pet parents to look for flea and tick products that are approved and recommended by their veterinarian,” says Dr. Ochoa. “Products that vets trust have been thoroughly tested for safety.”

When selecting a product, you and your veterinarian will consider the following:

Your dog’s age: With the exception of very young puppies (under 8 weeks), as a general rule, almost all dogs should be on some type of flea and tick prevention. Elderly dogs with certain medical conditions may need to have their regimen adjusted, depending on their health; your veterinarian can advise if a new approach is needed.

Your dog’s overall health: Certain health conditions can affect which types of products are safest and most effective for your pet. Dogs with sensitive skin may need to avoid topical treatments, while dogs with food allergies may not tolerate oral treatments that include flavorings. For dogs with a history of seizures, your veterinarian may advise avoiding certain oral treatments that contain drugs in the isoxazoline class, which have been linked to neurological symptoms in some pets.

Your dog’s weight: Flea and tick treatments are dosed according to weight, with the weight range specified on the package. “Giving the wrong dose can lead to under- or over-dosing,” cautions Dr. Kong. “It’s essential to follow the product instructions carefully, and consult with a vet if there are any doubts.”

Your dog’s lifestyle: Your dog’s day-to-day activities may influence which type of product you select. For example, frequent swimmers may need to skip topical treatments, which require the dog to avoid getting wet for 24-48 hours. If your dog spends a lot of time outdoors in tick-heavy areas, your vet may recommend a combination of products for extra protection, such as a chewable and a collar.

Your lifestyle: Your household’s lifestyle may also influence the type of product you select. Families with young children may want to avoid topical medications, which can rub off on little hands. Similarly, flea collars may be tempting to curious toddlers.

How To Get Rid of Fleas and Ticks on Your Dog

If your dog actively has fleas or ticks, you’ll want to get rid of the current infestation, as well as prevent another one from recurring. This requires a multi-step approach:

Comb your dog with a flea comb, starting at the head and working your way to the tail. Place the removed fleas in a bowl of isopropyl alcohol to kill them.
Bathe your dog with a flea shampoo after using the flea comb. If your dog has a severe case, consult your vet first to ensure the product is appropriate to use on irritated or damaged skin.
Use a flea and tick prevention treatment and stick to the schedule. If you’ve lapsed on regular treatments, now is your time to get back on board!

Getting rid of fleas takes work, but it’s possible with a little expertise and effort. Check out this step-by-step guide with expert tips.

How To Get Rid of Fleas and Ticks From Your Yard and Home

If your pet has fleas, there’s a good chance the little buggers are also getting cozy in your home and yard. To permanently evict them, consider:

  • Washing all bedding in hot, soapy water
  • Vacuuming rugs, carpets and upholstery frequently, using a flea spray as necessary
  • Vacuuming hard surfaces frequently, concentrating on areas near food bowls and pet beds
  • Treating your yard with flea spray or hiring a pest management company

For more tips on flea prevention in the home, consult our down-and-dirty cleaning guide.

How We Chose These Products

We know fleas and ticks can be stressful. That’s why we rounded up these best-of-the-best products, as chosen by satisfied Chewy customers. Backed by thousands of ratings and reviews, these bestsellers have proven themselves to be effective, trusted tools in keeping dogs happy, healthy and pest-free.

Talk to Your Veterinarian

Every dog is an individual, and every dog responds to fleas, ticks and treatments differently. If you have any concerns about your dog’s health, medications or side effects, check in with your veterinarian and work together to devise a personalized plan for your one-of-a-kind pup.

Flea and Tick Prevention for Dogs FAQs

Q: What are the signs of fleas and ticks on dogs?
A: Signs of fleas include intense itching, scratching and biting; hot spots; restlessness; hair loss; and, in severe cases, pale gums. Signs of ticks include licking and chewing; inflamed skin, scabs; head shaking (if the tick is in an ear); and, in rare cases, paralysis.

Q: What instantly kills fleas and ticks on dogs?
A: Flea shampoos and flea sprays kill fleas and ticks on contact. You can also use a flea comb to find and kill fleas instantly. Some chewable treatments, such as Capstar, kick in quickly, killing fleas in as little as 30 minutes.

Q: How does flea and tick medicine work?
A: Topical treatments are absorbed through the dog’s skin, killing fleas and ticks on contact. Oral preventives are swallowed and absorbed into the dog’s bloodstream; adult fleas and ticks die after biting the dog and ingesting the pesticide.

Q: Are there home remedies to treat and prevent fleas and ticks?
A: There are some home remedies—including Dawn dish soap, lemon, apple cider vinegar and baking soda—that may help to kill or temporarily repel fleas and ticks. However, even natural flea treatments can irritate the skin or cause serious health problems if used incorrectly. Consult your veterinarian before trying any home remedy.

Flea and Tick Control: Next Steps

Fleas and ticks are no fun, for pets or pet parents. Fortunately, there are a number of effective treatments available to eliminate and prevent infestations—and the more you know, the better prepared you are to keep your pet pest-free! Ready to learn more? Check out these 10 telltale (and surprising!) signs of fleas.

Expert input provided by Dr. Sara Ochoa, DVM, a veterinarian at Animal Hospital of West Monroe in Louisiana, and Dr. Sabrina Kong, DVM, Certified Canine Rehabilitation Practitioner at Jules Veterinary Center in Tracy, California, and veterinary consultant at WeLoveDoodles.com.