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Best Flea Shampoos for Dogs

When your dog picks up fleas, the only thing you can do is tackle the problem quickly. Fleas breed rapidly and can quickly spread throughout your home, leaving you and your pets with itchy bites. Anti-flea treatments are, therefore, a big business, and there are hundreds of treatments to choose from. A firm favorite among dog owners is flea shampoo – a (relatively) mess-free way to de-flea your pup, while leaving their coat shiny and clean. But which is the best flea shampoo for your needs, what ingredients are most effective for killing fleas, and which will help your dog stop scratching? We decided to review the most popular anti-flea shampoos available to answer all these questions, and more!

When your dog picks up fleas, the only thing you can do is tackle the problem quickly. Fleas breed rapidly and can quickly spread throughout your home, leaving you and your pets with itchy bites. Anti-flea treatments are, therefore, a big business, and there are hundreds of treatments to choose from. A firm favorite among dog owners is flea shampoo – a (relatively) mess-free way to de-flea your pup, while leaving their coat shiny and clean. But which is the best flea shampoo for your needs, what ingredients are most effective for killing fleas, and which will help your dog stop scratching? We decided to review the most popular anti-flea shampoos available to answer all these questions, and more!

FOR SMALL INFESTATIONS

Wahl Flea & Tick

Combo of eucalyptus and cedarwood oil works well to kill and repel fleas, while being gentle on your dog’s skin and coat.

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FOR SOOTHING THE ITCH

Veterinary Formula

Specially-selected ingredients work wonders to sooth inflamed, irritated skin, giving your dog some much-needed relief while you battle fleas.

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FOR LARGE INFESTATIONS

Adams Plus

Combination of insecticides and IGRs target fleas at all stage of the life cycle, quickly eradicating adults, larvae and eggs.

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1

Wahl Flea & Tick

FOR SMALL INFESTATIONS
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What we like:

What we don't like:

  • Doesn’t kill flea eggs
  • Not as effective as other flea-killing products

REVIEW

The Wahl flea formula is a mixed bag. The natural ingredients (eucalyptus oil and cedar oil) are both among the group of essential oils useful for repelling arthropod pests (i.e. fleas). It can, therefore, be used to effectively reduce the number of fleas in your dog’s fur. When combined with other control methods, this can help to get rid of the critters once and for all. Not only does the Wahl flea and tick shampoo effectively reduce a flea population, it’s also great for your animal’s skin and fur. It’s pleasant (but not overpowering) scent and moisturizing ingredients (like coconut oil) work to hydrate their fur and skin. This can not only soothe the itch of flea bites but can also leave your pooch softer and shinier than he’s been in years. Due to the absence of harsh chemicals in the Wahl formulation, this product is also suitable for regular use, so your dog can be fresh and clean at all times.

Unfortunately, though the Wahl shampoo may be effective for clearing small numbers of fleas, it is unlikely to help with a large infestation. The essential oils in the recipe are proven flea-repellents, but they don’t do anything to tackle flea eggs. What’s more, they simply won’t kill or repel as many fleas as products containing stronger insecticidal ingredients.

2

Veterinary Formula

FOR SOOTHING THE ITCH
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What we like:

What we don't like:

  • Doesn’t kill fleas
  • Doesn’t repel fleas

REVIEW

The Veterinary Formula flea and tick shampoo is a lifesaver for owners of itchy pups. This medicated shampoo combines carefully selected ingredients to soothe flea bites and heal irritated skin, giving your dog a much-needed break from scratching. The veterinary-grade ingredients include salicylic acid, coal tar and micronized sulfur, which work to combat a wide range of skin complaints. These work effectively alongside oatmeal extracts and allantoin, to promote skin healing and banish the itch for good.

Meanwhile, you’ll have to employ other methods of pest control if you want to eradicate your flea infestation. This is because, while excellent for keeping your dog clean and comfortable, the Veterinary Formula shampoo doesn’t contain any ingredients that kill or repel fleas. Fortunately, this product is entirely safe to use in combo with other flea treatments (such as spot-on treatments) and will help your dog to deal with the symptoms of the infestation in the meantime.

However, if you’re looking for an all-in-one treatment, you may want to shop around for other options.

3

Adams Plus

FOR LARGE INFESTATIONS
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What we like:

What we don't like:

  • Cannot be used in combination with other flea treatments

REVIEW

If you’re facing a major flea infestation, you need to bombard the bloodsuckers with everything you can to eradicate them. Fortunately, Adams Plus is packed with ingredients to kill fleas at every stage of the life cycle, from adults to eggs. The insecticides and insect growth regulators included in this formula can knock down adult fleas, disrupt the development of larvae and even stop eggs from hatching. The effects of this product are so potent that they can last for up to 28 days after treatment, helping to prevent re-infestation and reducing the need for re-treatment.

Besides working wonders to kill off fleas, Adams Plus can also help to ease the reaction to flea bites. If your dog has been suffering from a heavy infestation, chances are their skin is inflamed, sore and itchy. The inclusion of coconut, oatmeal and aloe extracts in the Adams Plus shampoo can help to hydrate and heal this damaged, irritated skin to give your dog a break from scratching.

The only downside to Adams shampoo is the heavy chemical content. Although approved for safe use on both adult dogs and puppies, the ingredients are potent enough that this product can only be used once a month to guarantee the safety of your pup. What’s more, the high insecticide content of this shampoo means it cannot be used alongside other flea treatments.

Other products to consider

Paws & Pals Flea and Tick Shampoo

Paws & Pals Shampoo combats fleas and ticks using a variety of natural ingredients, including essential oils, aloe vera and shea butter. This gentle formula will leave your pup squeaky-clean and can even help to reduce flea numbers. However, it is unlikely to be potent enough to tackle a large infestation.

Zodiac Flea and Tick Shampoo

The Zodiac Flea and Tick Shampoo not only contains ingredients to kill adult fleas, larvae and eggs, it is also enriched with soothing oatmeal extracts to help stop itching. Unfortunately, it cannot be used on puppies under 12 weeks of age, so those with young dogs will need to look elsewhere for their flea troubles.

Oster Flea and Tick Shampoo

Oster Flea and Tick Shampoo contains pyrethrins, a natural insecticide that is very effective for killing fleas. As with the Zodiac shampoo, however, Oster flea and tick shampoo is not safe for use on dogs under the age of 12 weeks.

Advantage Flea Shampoo for Dogs

The Advantage Flea Shampoo for dogs kills adult fleas on contact, making it ideal for reducing the number of fleas (and bites) on your pet. Unfortunately, this product doesn’t tackle flea larvae or eggs, so it needs to be used more than once or alongside other treatment methods to prevent re-infestation.

Sentry Flea and Tick Shampoo

The Sentry Flea and Tick Shampoo formula has the added benefit of containing an IGR alongside the usual pyrethrin. This means it can be used to eliminate both adults and larvae, while preventing eggs from hatching for up to 30 days. However, it doesn’t contain any ingredients to soothe itchy, irritated skin, which can be a problem for heavily-infested dogs.

Hartz Flea Shampoo

Hartz Flea Shampoo is formulated using insecticides intended to kill adult fleas on contact. It doesn’t target the larvae or eggs of fleas, though, and may not be as effective as other products in reducing flea numbers. What’s more, it can’t be used on young dogs and is only safe for use on pups over 6 months old.

Tropiclean Flea and Tick Shampoo

Tropiclean Flea and Tick Shampoo is packed with essential oils to help rid your dog of fleas, including cedarwood, clove, lemongrass, sesame and cinnamon. This can not only effectively repel fleas, it also smells fantastic! However, if your dog has a heavy flea infestation this shampoo may not be potent enough to make much of a difference to their overall numbers.

About flea shampoo for dogs

What is a flea shampoo?

Flea shampoos are specially formulated shampoos that can contain a wide range of medicated, natural and insecticidal ingredients to combat fleas. These can be applied to your dog’s fur to kill adult fleas on contact, prevent larvae from developing and even stop eggs from hatching. When used as part of an integrated pest control plan, these products can be a valuable tool in the war on fleas. Not only this, but many flea shampoos contain hydrating and soothing ingredients (such as aloe vera, shea butter, and oatmeal) to heal and comfort irritated, itchy skin. If your dog has been scratching non-stop, the relief from a good flea shampoo can be a lifesaver.

Many shampoos have residual effects that help to protect your dog from fleas for up to 4 weeks after treatment and will only need to be used occasionally.

Other formulas (often those containing natural ingredients) are suitable for use every week, or even every day.

Make sure to always read the product label carefully before using a new shampoo on your dog and follow the directions carefully.

Who uses flea shampoos?

Flea shampoos are aimed at pet-owners; especially those with animals that spend a good deal of time outdoors. Flea infestations are often picked up when you let your dog outside to run around, so if you have a large yard or regularly let your dog off the leash while out walking, chances are your pooch will pick up a few of the insects at some point or another.

What other products can a flea shampoo replace?

Flea combs

Cut the labor of painstakingly removing fleas from your dog’s fur by ditching the flea comb. Flea shampoo is a much quicker and easier way of removing fleas from your pet’s coat – though you should still use the comb to monitor your flea infestation during and after treatment.

Flea sprays

Sprays are a popular way to de-flea pets, but is this method as convenient as it seems? While the point-and-spray application is undeniably simpler than running a bath for your dog, flea sprays often need to be applied daily, or every time your dog leaves the house. Many flea shampoos, on the other hand, have residual effects that continue to repel fleas for a period of up to several weeks after the initial treatment. This means that, not only are they often more potent, but flea shampoos can also be used less frequently than sprays.

What are the most commonly used ingredients in flea shampoos?

Flea shampoos can contain any combination of a wide range of active ingredients, from insect growth regulators to essential oils. So, what are the most commonly used ingredients in flea shampoos for dogs?

Common natural ingredients in flea shampoos

Cedarwood

Cedarwood oil is a plant extract with a proven track record of killing and repelling pests, so it’s often included in natural flea shampoos. This essential oil helps to kill and repel fleas and, if your infestation is small, may be able to help you get rid of the fleas altogether.

Clove oil

Clove oil is another essential oil that is often included in natural flea shampoos for dogs. Like cedarwood oil, clove is toxic to a wide range of insect pests and can help to reduce the number of fleas in your dog’s fur.

Aloe vera

Flea shampoos often have two functions; to remove fleas from your dog’s fur, and to reduce their reaction to the bites. One botanical often chosen for soothing bites is aloe vera, a plant extract that can often be spotted among the listed ingredients in pet shampoos. Aloe hydrates and soothes the skin, helping to reduce inflammation and promote skin healing while you battle the fleas.

Oatmeal extract

Oatmeal extract is another ingredient that is often included in flea shampoos to promote skin healing. It has anti-inflammatory properties that can help to combat the itchy irritation of flea bites, so your dog can stop scratching while you battle your infestation.

Common chemical ingredients in flea shampoos

Pyriproxyfen

Pyriproxyfen belongs to a class of insecticides known as insect growth regulators (IGRs). These chemicals mimic insect hormones, disrupting the growth and development of larvae and preventing eggs from hatching. Flea shampoos containing IGRs are often highly effective for getting rid of a flea infestation, as they kill the insects at every stage of the life cycle. This helps to prevent new fleas from hatching, reducing the need for re-treatment.

Pyrethrins

Pyrethrins are a type of natural insecticide derived from chrysanthemum flowers. These potent insect-killers are often included in flea shampoos, as they can take down adult fleas on contact. This means they can effectively clear the bulk of a flea infestation in no time at all; however, they won’t have any effect on flea eggs. To target these, you need to use a shampoo containing an IGR, or repeat the treatment over the following weeks to get rid of any newly-hatched fleas.

Methoprene

Another IGR, Methoprene is a common ingredient in flea shampoos. By mimicking insect hormones, this insecticide can prevent proper larval development, egg production and egg hatching. By preventing larvae from reaching adulthood, it also interrupts the flea reproductive cycle, meaning you’re less likely to experience re-infestation.

Buyer’s guide

How many fleas?

The first thing you need to consider when choosing a flea shampoo is the size of your infestation. If you’ve only spotted one or two bugs jumping through your dog’s coat, you may be able to eliminate the problem using less-potent formulations. This means that natural products containing essential oils (which many pet owners favor over the insecticide-laced alternatives) may be completely adequate for your situation.

If you are facing a heavy, well-established infestation, however, you may need to pull out the big guns. Fleas breed incredibly quickly, so the main problem is keeping on top of the hordes of newly-hatched fleas that can emerge in the weeks after your dog’s initial treatment. For your best chance at eliminating the problem entirely, choose a shampoo containing an IGR (such as Methoprene or Pyriproxyfen) alongside an adulticide (e.g. pyrethrins) to kill the fleas at every stage of their lifecycle.

How old is your dog?

Many flea shampoos containing insecticidal agents are unsuitable for young dogs, especially puppies under the age of 12 weeks old. In some cases, the same is true for very old dogs.

Important!

Always check the label carefully to make absolutely sure you are choosing the right product for your pup.

Accessories and supporting products

Flea comb

A flea comb is a time-consuming and laborious way to rid your dog of fleas. However, they are a valuable monitoring tool in the war on insects and should be used throughout flea treatment to keep an eye on their population. Use a flea comb regularly to check how many bugs are in your dog’s coat; this will give you a good idea of how well the treatments are working and can help to prevent re-infestation.

Oral medication and spot treatments

If your dog is crawling with fleas, it may be necessary to employ a multi-pronged attack to kill them all. Often, using a flea shampoo alongside another treatment (such as oral medication and spot treatments) is the most effective way to annihilate the bugs. Remember to always read the instructions on the label carefully, however, as some flea shampoos aren’t suitable for use alongside other treatments.

Top tips for effective use

Limit your dog’s time outdoors. Pets often pick up fleas while roaming around outside. If you are having problems beating a flea infestation, it’s a good idea to limit their time outdoors to stop them picking up more of the insects.

Use your shampoo as often as directed. Flea infestations can be persistent. To make sure you’ve got them all, use your flea shampoo as regularly as the product directions indicate.

Use a flea comb. Monitor your flea population by checking your dog’s coat for fleas, especially after treatment.

Living with the product

Storage

Generally, flea shampoos will keep their potency long after they’ve been opened if they are stored in a cool, dry place. Read the directions on the product label carefully find out exactly how and where your chosen shampoo should be stored.

Safety

Always read the safety precautions, warnings and directions for every flea shampoo carefully before using it on your dog, especially if this is the first time you have used this particular product.

Some flea shampoos should not make direct contact with the skin, and you should always avoid contact with the eyes, nose and other sensitive areas when washing your dog.

Finally, you will need to consider the age and health of your dog when choosing a flea shampoo. Some formulas can be dangerous for dogs that are sick, nursing, pregnant, very old, very young, or using other medications.

Conclusion

Shopping around for the best flea shampoo for your dog can be a confusing process. With such a wide variety of products to choose from, how can you be sure you’re picking the best option? Products like the Wahl flea and tick shampoo and the Veterinary Formula flea shampoo are ideal for soothing itchy bites and healing irritated skin, while the Adams Plus flea shampoo contains potent ingredients to kill fleas quickly. To tackle an infestation as effectively as possible, it’s best to choose a shampoo containing both an IGR and a contact killer, to eliminate fleas at every step of the cycle.

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