Find the Best Flea Treatment for Dogs

There are a gazillion different types of flea control options and each manufacturer seemingly offers a half-dozen or more different formulas or styles with different purposes. When you search the internet for flea treatments you get thousands of results and when you go into the store there is an entire area devoted to flea and tick prevention products. It is mind-numbingly frustrating when you are a savvy shopper and you are doing the best to make an informed and educated purchasing decision, but are overwhelmed and left confused by the plethora of options.

Why is it so hard to find the best flea treatment for dogs?

I have researched the options and have built this website to help my fellow dog owners make sense of these choices and to allow them to make the purchase that is right for them, their dog and their circumstances. Feline owners are encouraged to read our review of the best flea treatments for cats. Although there are several types of flea treatments to choose from, let’s start with the most common and that is the spot-on topical solutions applied each month. Please see the introductory comparison chart below as we take a look and evaluate the best flea treatments for dogs:

Dogs & Puppies: Flea Treatment Comparison Chart

Bayer
Advantage II
Frontline
Plus
K9
Advantix II
Parastar
Plus
Sentry
Fiproguard Max
Kills Fleas
Repels Fleas
Kills Flea Eggs
Kills Flea Larvae
Kills Ticks
Repels Ticks
Kills Lice
Repels Lice
Kills & Repels Mosquitos
Repels Biting Flies
Dog Weight (lbs)0-10
11-20
21-55
55 & up
0-22
23-44
45-88
89-132
0-10
11-20
21-55
55 & up
0-22
23-44
45-88
89-132
0-22
23-44
45-88
89-132
Amazon
Prices &
Customer Reviews
Read Here!Read Here!Read Here!Read Here!Read Here!
PetSmart
Prices &
Customer
Reviews
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Flea Control and Prevention 101 – The Definitive Buyer’s Guide

While the above comparison chart of the flea drops and solutions of the major manufacturers is fairly extensive, there are other factors that go into play when making your decision. Not only are we going to go into more depth about those factors below, we are also going to expound on the information provided in the chart and provide you with better clarity so that you feel 100% confident in your knowledge and understanding of these products. The next section on product packaging and dosages is for the first-time buyer of flea and tick medication. You may want to skip this section if you have already purchased flea medicine before.

 

Product Packaging, Dosage Amounts and Dog Weight Guidelines

First and foremost, you have to understand that one of the reasons why searching for the best flea treatment for your dog can be so daunting is that there are a million different packages on the shelves or your internet browser and they all look so similar.

So, first things first. You need to cut through the clutter and realize that the reason why there are so many products is that they are broken down by the weight of your dog along with the quantity of dosages. Once you figure that out it will allow you to focus your search and make things much easier for your brain to process.

Dog Weight Classification

All major brands break their products down by the weight of your dog and all the major brands have five weight classes.

Advantage II and K9 Advantix II, both Bayer products, have weight classifications that differ from the others in that they have much tighter ranges at the lower weight levels. As an owner of a smaller dog, I like this because I feel like the dosage is specifically tailored for my dog and its weight class. The major drawback is that you need to know your dog’s weight and you also may need to buy multiple products if you have more than one dog and they are different sizes.

The weight ranges for Advantage II and K9 Advantix are:

  • 0-10
  • 11-20
  • 21-55
  • 55 & up

The weight ranges for Frontline Plus, Parastar Plus and Sentry Fiproguard Max are as follows:

  • 0-22
  • 23-44
  • 45-88
  • 89-132

Please note that Parastar Plus and Sentry Fiproguard Max are both positioning themselves in direct competition with Frontline Plus, which is the biggest name in flea and tick control. Parastar added the word “Plus” to its name and Sentry Fiproguard compares itself to Frontline on its website and plays up the fact that they both have the same amount of the same active ingredient (fipronil) in their products.

Number of Applicators and Dosage Duration

Each of these products are applied in much the same way (more on this later) and each dose lasts for 30 days. Thus, the number of applicators in each box corresponds to the number of months you will be covered.

The Bayer products once again differentiate themselves from their competitors by offering packages with 4, 6 and 12 applicators. The others provide applicators in an assortment of 3, 6 and 12. Because of these differences, the chart above with the price comparison focus on the 6 applicator size since it is uniformly consistent across each brand.

 

Active Ingredients vs. Inactive Ingredients in Flea & Tick Medication

Don’t panic!

You read that header above and you are already thinking about skipping over this section. Please don’t.

I am going to make this painless and you are going to feel much more empowered after you read what I have for you down below.

When looking at flea medication, hell, any medication for that matter including the ones that may be in your medicine cabinet, you will see listings of inactive and active ingredients with percentages next to them. Here is what is going on.

Active ingredients are the actual medicinal components that make you or your animal feel better. These are pharmacological components that actually have a therapeutic effect. The inactive ingredients are things that control the time-release duration of the drug, the size or shape of the pill, the consistency of the solution, taste and a wide range of other characteristics.

In most cases, as long as the active ingredients are the same patients will experience the same benefits of each drug (brand name vs. generic). However, some people may have different reactions to generics versus the name-brand product because of these inactive ingredient differences. In fact, some people may have allergic reactions to generic formulas and others just have bodies that respond differently.

For example, one person might prefer Tylenol because the inactive ingredients that release the medicine into their body may do so more rapidly while another person responds identically to the slower release of medicine by the generic version.

In English, Please?

All this means is that when looking at flea and tick medication for your canine you will need to evaluate the specific active ingredients listed in each brand, their percentage and then be cognizant of the fact that your dog may react differently to the inactive ingredients in one brand over the other even though they have the same active ingredients.

As an example, it was mentioned earlier that Sentry Fiproguard Max positions itself as a cheaper alternative to Frontline Plus. Sentry Fiproguard Max directly compares itself to Frontline Plus in its online literature and states that they both contain 9.7% fipronil. While this is true, it does not necessarily mean that your dog will react the same way to the delivery of the fipronil into your dog’s system. Your dog may prefer Sentry over Frontline and vice-versa. Additionally, just because they both have fipronil in the same quantities as active ingredients, it does not necessarily mean that they both are an identical match because Frontline has another active ingredient to combat flea egg and larvae. This ingredient is called (S)-methropene and Sentry does not have it. This is the primary difference between the two products.

 

Active Ingredients Solve Different Problems

I hope this flea and tick treatment guide is helping you to better understand all of these products and your options. Let’s dig a little deeper and take a look at the different active ingredients in each product.

Dogs & Puppies: Active Ingredients in Major Flea Control Products
Bayer
Advantage II
Frontline
Plus
K9
Advantix II
Parastar
Plus
Sentry
Fiproguard Max
Fipronil9.8%9.8%9.8%Kills adult fleas
Kills ticks
Kills lice
(S)-methoprene8.8%Kills flea eggs and larvae
Cyphenothrin5.2%5.2%Causes paralysis
Kills adult fleas faster
Permethrin44.0%Kills & repels fleas,
ticks, lice, mosquitos,
and biting flies
Imidacloprid9.1%8.8%Help kills mosquitoes
Pyriproxyfen (IGR)0.46%0.44%Kills flea eggs and larvae

As you can see by the preceding chart that there are some commonalities and differences between the different brands of flea and tick control products. The immediate observations that I personally see with respect to these five particular products is that three of them possess the same exact amount of fipronil, two products have identical active ingredient formulations and the Bayer family of products have a completely unique product formula. So, what do we make of all this information? Well, we must first take a look at each of the six ingredients and learn their specific purpose.

 

Active Ingredients and Specific Purpose

Fipronil

Fipronil is the most common ingredient we see on the chart. It is a common pesticide used in many different products and for many different purposes. This pesticide essentially destroys the nerve sensors in insects. Insects have something called a “chloride transport mechanism” within their nervous system that allows for the contraction and relaxation of muscles. Fipronil prevents this system from allowing muscles to relax and causes hyper-excitability.

The key point that you the consumer need to understand is that fipronil is used to kill ticks and adult fleas. It will not kill the flea eggs or larvae on your pet. Therefore, any product you are considering purchasing needs to have a second active ingredient for that purpose.

We see that Frontline Plus, Parastar Plus and Sentry Fiproguard Max all have fipronil and therefore we know that they kill adult fleas and ticks. Now, let us look at the secondary ingredients of these products.

(S)-methoprene

The chart shows that Frontline Plus contains an active ingredient called (S)-methoprene. Methoprene is an insect growth regulator (IGR) and the chemical used to kill flea eggs and larvae. Not to get too deep into the woods here, but flea eggs and larvae mature and move into the next stage of the lifecycle as the juvenile growth hormones in their system decreases. The reduction or decrease in juvenile growth hormone signals to the body that it is time to enter the next life stage. Methoprene keeps the levels of juvenile growth hormone artificially high and therefore stunts the growth and development of the flea eggs and larvae.

Consequently, the fipronil kills the adults and the methoprene kills the babies. So, now we will turn to cyphenothrin which is found in Parastar Plus and Sentry Fiproguard Max.

Cyphenothrin

In our comparison charts above we see that Parastar Plus and Sentry Fiproguard Max have identical formulas and that neither kill flea eggs or larvae (since they do not have the methoprene that Frontline Plus contains.

Cyphenothrin attacks the nervous system of insects and causes paralysis. This chemical allows these brands to make the argument that they start killing fleas in as little as one hour. Though these products lack methoprene they are differentiating themselves from Frontline Plus in the speed at which they start killing fleas and ticks.

Next we will turn out attention to the formulas found in the two Bayer flea products.

Permethrin

In case all these unusual names of chemicals and pesticides are starting to cause your eyes to glaze over, please stick it out as we are nearing the end of our discussion on the active ingredients.

Permethrin is very similar to fipronil and cyphenothrin in that it causes muscle spasms and paralysis. This chemical will kill insects that touch it or eat it and is a key ingredient that allows K9 Advantix II to make the substantiated claim that it not only kills insects, but repels them, too.

It is this chemical that is dangerous to cats and why you see warnings on the Advantix II label.

Imidacloprid

Insects find nicotine to be toxic and naturally avoid it. Imidacloprid was created to mimic the properties of nicotine and similar to other aforementioned chemicals – it damages the nervous system of insects. It prevents nerves from sending proper signals to the body and eventually it dies.

Fleas and other insects that merely come into contact with the chemical on your pet’s body will die and do not need to actually bite your pet for the product to be effective. e This is very important because diseases are transmitted through flea bites. Additionally, this chemical, as well as pyriproxyfen, have larvicidal properties. This means that it kills flea larvae and keeps them from growing into adult fleas and continuing the infestation of your animal.

The combination of permethrin and imidacloprid is what kills mosquitoes in the K9 Advantix II product.

Pyriproxyfen

Pyriproxyfen is a larvicidal and ovicidal chemical killing agent meaning it kills flea larvae and flea eggs due to its insect growth regulator (IGR) properties. Similar to the methoprene found in Frontline Plus, it affects the hormone pathways in the insects.

 

Spot-on Flea Treatments: How Do They Work?

Each of these products are applied via liquid drops directly on the skin of your dog. Depending on the specific product and size of your dog you may be required to place the drops in more than one area.

More often than not you will place the treatment on the back of the neck and between the shoulder blades since your pet is unable to itch that area and disturb the body’s absorption of the medicine. The medicine is absorbed by the body into oil glands and the water-resistant lipid layer of the skin surface. It is through the biological process of translocation that the body distributes the medicine across the entire skin of the body, including hair follicles.

The method of application and the actual containers containing the liquid to squeeze the product onto your dog’s back is another area where these products can differentiate themselves. Some brands claim their product is easier than others to apply.

 

Health Warnings and Associated Risks

Every animal is going to respond to these products in a different way based on the active ingredient formulation as well as the composition of the inactive ingredients we discussed previously. Each product has similar warnings and advisements.

There are two key points worth mentioning in this section. Although all dog flea control products warn you not to use the product on cats, the K9 Advantix II product with its permethrin based formula is particularly toxic to cats. If you have a cat, especially one that is particularly chummy with your dog, you will need to sequester your dog from the cat for 24 hours after application.

Additionally, the single most often cited reason for adverse reactions to spot-on topical solutions is due to the incorrect application of the proper dosage. This can occur when a pet owner buys a product meant for a larger dog and thus the medication is too strong. Another potential for danger is the application of the monthly dosage too soon. Make sure you keep a record of when you applied the dosage so as not to give your canine another dose too soon.

Now that we have taken a good hard look at spot-on topical flea and tick treatment products we still need to do some more in-depth comparison and evaluation to find the best flea treatment for your dog. We also need to spend some time looking at the other different types of flea control options that include flea collars and oral medication.