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BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We only make money if you purchase a product through our links, and all opinions about the products are our own. Read more  
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.Read more 
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We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.

36 Models Considered
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80 Consumers Consulted
Zero products received from manufacturers.

We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.

Buying guide for Best dog flea and tick medications

Fleas and ticks are timeless and common pests that dogs and their owners face every year. These two kinds of parasites can simply be minor nuisances to a pet, but they have the potential to impart illnesses and cause serious harm to your beloved furry friend and even to you.

Fleas and ticks may be spot to see outside, but they are easy to come into contact with. While most fleas need a host to survive, ticks can live outdoors awaiting contact; they may even be hiding in your yard.

Depending on where you live and the type of outdoor activities you enjoy with your dog, flea and tick prevention is a worthy investment. If you forgo prevention, the cost to you as a dog owner increases should an infestation occur and a visit to the veterinarian be needed. Preventative options and treatments vary greatly, and your dog’s age, breed, lifestyle, and environment are all factors to consider. Our guide will help you find the best treatment for your dog so you both can stay healthy and safe year-round.

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While different dogs may be on different types of flea and tick medications, if you have more than one pup, it’s easiest and best to treat them all at the same time.

Key considerations

Active ingredients

Most flea and tick medications kill existing parasites while also preventing further reappearance, although some target either removal of these pests and others focus on prevention. The most popular type of flea and tick medication involves the isoxazoline class of active ingredients, including fluralaner, afoxolaner, sarolaner, and lotilaner. These ingredients disrupt the nervous system of parasites, killing them instantly when they bite your dog. Most popular flea and tick medications will identify one of these ingredients clearly on the product.

Spinosad is a common active ingredient that kills fleas, but it is not effective against ticks. Similarly, lufenuron prevents flea eggs from hatching but does not work against ticks.

Method

Topical: These treatments are rubbed on the dog’s skin to kill ticks and fleas when they bite. They are popular, inexpensive, and reliable. Most are waterproof and are not affected by weather or occasional bathing. However, some fleas and ticks are resistant to certain treatments that have been in use for decades. Depending on your dog’s size, applying topical treatments can be tedious, and the substance may rub off on you and other objects like flooring and furniture. What’s more, topical treatments require time to be fully absorbed, so you’ll need kids to stay away from your pet for a few hours.

Oral: An increasingly popular option is to administer pills or chews once a month. If your dog is not averse to taking these, this is convenient for most owners. Pills can be embedded in a treat or thrown in with food. Flavored pills and tablets are available and are eagerly accepted by many dogs. Unlike topical treatments, there is no risk of medication rubbing off. And provided the dog eats the entirety of the tablet, one need not worry about the treatment being delivered correctly. This method is also attractive if young children or other animals live in the house, as collars and topical treatments can leave traces of chemicals on surfaces where kids and cats come into contact with them.

Collars: While the quality varies widely on these products, high-end options have proven effective. Seek out collars that boast imidacloprid and flumethrin as active ingredients to battle fleas and ticks, respectively. Whereas topical and oral treatments typically must be administered monthly, collars can last six to eight months. However, these treatments tend to lose effectiveness if your dog frequently romps in the water; they also may break off if your dog is more active or rambunctious.

Dog characteristics

Flea and tick treatments are generally tailored to meet different sizes and ages of dogs. This information will be easily available on the box or in a main description of the product. Many pill and topical options have a recommended weight range that should be adhered to. Others are only suitable for certain ages. Most flea and tick medications are not recommended for puppies eight weeks of age or under.

Environmental factors

Fleas and ticks tend to thrive in humid and wooded areas. They live in tall grass, brush, and forests and are more plentiful during warmer months. As such, flea and tick season will vary depending on location. It can last year-round in southern states and warmer climates but might span April to December in regions that experience colder winters.

Even if you don’t go on hikes or have a grassy yard, prevention is a good idea if your dog plays with other dogs or visits a dog park; fleas can easily jump from one dog to another.

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For Your Safety
Most flea and tick prevention products cause little or no side effects and are considered very safe. But always consult your vet before starting a new product and monitor your dog for any response.
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Features

Additional protection

Some dog flea and tick medication may work to repel and kill other harmful insects and parasites. More potent options may target mosquitos, flies, and even lice, adding further protection and coverage.

Dosage

Most topical and oral treatments are to be admitted monthly. Typically, these options will be sold in sets of six doses, covering you for half the year. However, some higher-end options may offer more coverage, with certain oral applications protecting your dog for two or three times a month. Other products may need to be administered over the course of four weeks instead of monthly: though the difference is slight, the instructions must be followed for the medication to be effective.

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Caution
While some owners may be inclined to seek out natural or homemade remedies, these products often prove ineffective and sometimes even harmful.
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Accessories

Flea comb: Hartz Groomer’s Flea Comb
If fleas find their way to your dog, one component of treatment is physical removal with a flea comb. This inexpensive, ergonomic option by Hartz offers gentle yet precise brushing and extraction.

Dog treats: Greenies Pill Pockets
Use treats to reward your dog after topical medication is applied or use them to sneakily administer pills. These chicken-flavored pill pockets by Greenies are a breeze to use to effectively hide tablets.

Flea and tick medication prices

Inexpensive: You can find quality flea and tick medication for smaller dogs at under $30 that should last for six months.

Mid-range: Most six-month doses cost between $30 and $60; these will cover small and medium-size dogs as well as some larger pups.

Expensive: For over $60, you’ll find more comprehensive protection as well as options suitable for larger dogs.

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Did You Know?
The upfront price tag of flea and tick medication may deter some pet owners. But prevention generally proves much less expensive and worrisome than dealing with an illness or symptoms that may be caused by fleas and ticks.
Staff
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Tips

  • Check your dog after walks. Frequent physical examination, particularly after walks, should supplement preventative treatments. Ticks that have settled for more than five hours may start to infect your dog.
  • Administer on time. Flea and tick prevention becomes less effective if not given on time. Be sure you are giving a pill or applying topical treatments on the exact right day; set an alarm or reminder if necessary.
  • Monitor after first use. While most dogs receive medication without issue, there is always the possibility of side effects. Keep an eye on your pup for any adverse reactions the first few days after a new medication is administered.
  • Watch out in winter. While cold temperatures drastically slow the life cycle of fleas and extreme cold may kill them, it doesn’t mean they can’t pop up all year. Fleas may find shelter and survive in attics, under porches or in barns or sheds during the winter.
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To prevent parasites from finding your dog, keep your indoors clean and outdoors well-groomed. Regularly wash carpets, floors, and bedding, and keep grass cut low in the warmer months.

FAQ

Q. How can I tell if my dog has fleas or ticks?

A. Excessive itching and licking may indicate a flea infestation. Thoroughly investigate your dog’s skin and coat if you suspect fleas. White spots can indicate flea eggs, and black spots can be droppings; both will be easier to notice in areas where the dog’s coat isn’t as thick. Ticks are visible to the naked eye and can often be felt when running your hand over your dog or petting them. They typically appear around the feet, legs, belly, groin, hindquarters, neck, and ears. Lethargy or pale gums indicate an illness or infection, and a vet should be seen immediately.

Q. Is it better to get a prescription treatment or an over-the-counter one?

A. Provided you seek out quality and trusted active ingredients, over-the-counter medications provide worthy protection and treatment. There are many of these products, including some that will quickly eliminate fleas. Even if you don’t seek a prescription product from your vet, it’s best to consult them in order to make an informed decision. Prescription options will come at a higher price but likely provide more reliable protection as it will be catered to your dog’s weight, age, and sometimes even breed.

Q. How do I remove a tick?

A. If you spot a tick on your dog (or yourself), don’t panic. It’s fairly easy to remove one on your own without having to see a vet. Grab a pair of tweezers and carefully grab the tick by its head as close to the skin as possible. Pull the tick straight out gently and methodically: do not squeeze, pop or twist it, as the tick can break off and further infect the area. Specialized tick hooks can be useful if encounters with ticks are frequent. Once removed, thoroughly wash your hands, clean the area with alcohol, and disinfect the tweezers.

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