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Published Sep. 16, 2021

Flea and tick season is in full swing right now, and as we start taking our dogs into the field again, chances of them encountering fleas and ticks are high. Warm, furry and low to the ground, dogs make vulnerable targets for fleas and ticks looking for a host which is why flea and tick prevention for dogs is important. Flea and tick-borne maladies range from the annoying, itchy bites of fleas to potentially serious diseases spread by ticks, including Lyme disease and Rocky Mountain spotted fever making them some of the deadliest insects in the world. Once your dog brings fleas and ticks into the house, you become their next target.

Although the most effective flea and tick pills require a prescription, you can choose from several excellent over-the-counter treatments as well. Topical treatments, sprays, shampoos, collars all make effective weapons in the fight against these pests. They contain small amounts of pesticide that either kill fleas and ticks outright or reduce their ability to lay eggs. 

Any time you deal with pesticides you have to know what you’re doing. Consult with a vet before using flea and tick medication, especially with puppies, old dogs, dogs with health problems, and dogs with a history of seizures. 

Read on to learn how to find the best flea and tick prevention for your dog.

Best Topical Flea and Tick Treatment (Best Overall): K9 Advantix II

Best Topical Flea and Tick Treatment

Why it made the cut

A very effective, over-the-counter topical treatment, K9 Advantix is the best topical flea and tick treatment for dogs who won’t take pills or that claw at collars.

Three Key Features

  • Applicator: monthly dose bottle
  • Duration: one month per dose
  • Package contents: six doses

Pros

  • Over-the-counter effectiveness
  • Easy to apply
  • Kills fleas and ticks, also repels mosquitoes
  • Treatment lasts a month

Cons

  • Application can be messy
  • Dog can’t swim or bathe for 48 hours after application

Advantix II contains permethrin, the active ingredient in many insect repellents, so it not only kills fleas and ticks, it repels mosquitoes as well. Applied to a dog’s back where it can’t reach around and lick it off, Advantix II is absorbed into the dog’s skin, and attacks the nervous systems of fleas and ticks that come in contact with it. Sold in doses sized for dogs from 4 to over 55 pounds, Advantix comes in six packs that provide half a year of protection.

Best Flea and Tick Collar for Dogs: Seresto Flea and Tick Collar

Best Flea and Tick Collar for Dogs

Why it made the cut: Vets often recommend this as the best flea and tick collar for dogs, which offers long-lasting protection up to eight months.

Three Key Features

  • Size: Two sizes to fit necks from 4 to 23 inches
  • Duration: Eight months of protection
  • Package Contents: One collar

Pros and Cons

Pros:

  • Works on fleas, ticks and lice
  • Long lasting
  • Easy application
  • Easy to remove if you have to stop treatment

Cons:

  • Some dogs scratch at collars
  • Hazardous if chewed
  • Not as effective as topical

Seresto collars start working within 24 hours to kill fleas, ticks and lice. The active ingredients include imidacloprid for fleas and flumethrin for ticks. The odor-free collar is water-resistant, so you can leave it on when you take your pup for a swim. The collars trim to fit and are neither oily nor smelly like some collars are.

Best Flea and Tick Spray for Dogs: Frontline Dog Spray

Best Flea and Tick Spray for Dogs

Why it made the cut: An effective spray treatment that is safe even for puppies as young as eight weeks. It begins working within 24 hours.

Three key features

  • Application: spray bottle
  • Duration: 30 days
  • Contents: 250 ml

Pros and Cons

  • Easy application
  • Safe for puppies as young as eight weeks
  • Reaches spots some collars might miss

Cons

  • Application time takes longer than other treatments
  • Only lasts 30 days

This is the best flea and tick spray for dogs because it massages into your pet’s fur and is completely safe to touch once the dog’s coat is dry. It’s waterproof, so there’s no worry about taking your dog for a swim. The treatment is effective against fleas in all life stages, as well as against several types of ticks. It can also help control flea allergy dermatitis. Frontline spray also comes in home versions to spray on carpets in the house to stop flea infestations once dogs bring the fleas home.

Best Flea and Tick Shampoo: Adams Flea and Tick Shampoo with Precor

Best Flea and Tick Shampoo

Why it made the cut: A mild, effective shampoo that kills parasites on contact just got better with the addition of Precor flea growth inhibitor.

Three Key Features:

  • Contents: 12 ounces
  • Uses: works on dogs and cats
  • Duration: lasts 7-10 days

Pros and Cons

  • Kills on contact
  • Precor prevents young fleas from growing
  • Mild, good for coat and sensitive skin
  • Can be used on felines

Cons

  • Mostly effective on fleas on the dog during the shampooing

This shampoo combines pesticides to kill fleas, flea eggs, flea larva, ticks, and lice with Precor, a growth inhibitor that prevents fleas from growing to maturity when they can lay eggs themselves. Adams Flea and Tick Shampoo also contains oatmeal, lanolin and aloe, so it’s good for your dog’s coat and is a good choice for dogs that have sensitive skin. It is one of the few flea and tick control products that can be used on both dogs and cats, so you don’t have to buy two different treatments if you have both animals which is why it’s the best flea and tick shampoo.

Best Flea and Tick Spray for Home: Wondercide Flea and Tick

Why it made the cut

Why it made the cut: All-natural and safe to spray on pets and in kennels where fleas and ticks can lurk

Three Key Features

  • Contents: 32 ounces
  • Doses: 2-3 times per week
  • Uses: Works on dogs, cats and bedding

Pros

  • Natural, safe around children
  • Works on pets and on pet bedding
  • Pleasant, lemongrass scent

Cons

  • May require frequent applications

This best flea and tick spray for home was founded by a pet owner whose dog became ill from conventional flea and tick control products, Wondercide contains safe, natural oils and plant-based ingredients. Mild enough for cats and dogs, it also can be sprayed on bedding that usually holds fleas once they get into the house. It comes in a spray bottle, so you can spray your pet’s fur and rub the Wondercide in. It has a pleasant, lemongrass scent and no chemical odor.

Best Outdoor Treatment: Vet’s Best Flea and Tick Outdoor Yard and Kennel Spray

Best Outdoor Treatment

Why it made the cut: This effective natural spray takes the fight outside to the yard, where fleas and ticks wait to hitch a ride on your dog.

3 Key Product Features

  • Contents: 96 ounces
  • Doses: varies, often every two weeks
  • Uses: lawn spray

Pros and Cons

  • Natural ingredients
  • Pleasant peppermint scent
  • Hose adapter included

Cons:

  • Not for use on animals

Vet’s Best Yard and Outdoor Kennel Spray hits pests where they live. Attach the included hose adapter to the bottle and spray your yard and outdoor kennels to kill fleas and ticks before they get a chance to climb onto your dog and then come inside. It’s safe for the family, around other pets and small animals, and it won’t harm trees, shrubs or flowers. With peppermint and clove oils as its active ingredients, it has a pleasant smell, too.

Methodology

As longtime dog owners—and owners of a couple of cats over the years—we’re familiar with the need to combat flea and tick infestations to keep pets healthy, and we’ve used numerous prescription and over-the-counter products throughout the years. Our use of prescription preventatives allowed us to accurately judge the effectiveness of over-the-counter treatments.

We looked at a wide range of over-the-counter treatments because pet owners’ needs vary—and also because sometimes you need to use several types of treatment, such as a topical for your pet plus a yard treatment, to combat bad infestations. We selected them according to the following criteria:

  • Effectiveness: How long does it last, what pests does it protect against?
  • Safety: Some pets experience adverse reactions to treatment. We looked for proven products that  had a good safety record and were safe for people to be around.
  • Application: Ease of application
  • Versatility: Some products work on dogs, cats, and/or bedding, and we made note of those.
  • Price: Cost was not a consideration, because pet safety is more important than saving a few dollars. However, none of the products here are expensive.

Things to Consider Before Buying Tick and Flea Prevention Products for Dogs

Getting the best flea and tick treatment for your dog is not all about cost, or even about which one is most effective. The treatment has to be right for your lifestyle and for the type of dog you have. Keep the following factors in mind before deciding:

  • Will your dog submit to treatments? If your dog is squirmy, a collar may be a better choice than a topical treatment.
  • Do you live in an area with a high tick population? Using a lawn spray as well as a topical treatment or a collar will reduce the chance of your picking up ticks from being outside even without the dog. 
  • Will you be able to keep up with the treatments? If you’re busy, get a long-lasting preventative instead of a short-term one.

FAQs

Q: What is the safest tick prevention in dogs?

The best tick prevention for dogs is to keep them away from ticks during tick season. Ticks abound in woods and long grass. If you can keep your dog away from tick habitat until cold weather arrives, you will avoid most ticks. Failing that, all-natural treatments like Wondercide can be very effective and have excellent safety records.

Q: What do vets recommend for flea and tick control?

Veterinarians usually recommend a prescription oral treatment like Nexgard or Bravecto. Oral treatments have several advantages. It is easy to give the proper dose and there is no chance of accidental exposure to children or other pets with a tablet. The pills taste good and most dogs take them readily.

Q: What is the most effective way to prevent fleas and ticks on dogs?

Keeping dogs out of contact with fleas and ticks is the very best form of prevention, but that’s not always possible. If you live in an area with lots of fleas and ticks, you may need to take a multi-pronged approach by treating your pet, your carpets and your yard with products specifically designed for those purposes. You should not try combining treatments for your pet, such as using topical treatments and shampoos without consulting a veterinarian.

Q: How much does a Seresto flea and tick collar cost?

A Seresto collar costs around $60 for one collar that will last up to eight months.

Final Thoughts on Flea and Tick Protection for Dogs

Flea and tick prevention for dogs helps keep your dog—and you and your family—healthy. We rated Advantix the best over-the-counter remedy overall because it provides long-term protection, is easy to apply, and isn’t liable to damage like a collar might be. As with any treatment you give your pet, you should consult your veterinarian before use.

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