Advantage II for Dogs
Advantage II for Dogs

Best flea treatment for dogs

Advantage II for Dogs contains two ingredients, one that kills adult fleas and one that prevents immature fleas from developing. Dog owners find it more effective than other topical flea treatments, and they say side effects are rare. Advantage II for Dogs comes in several formulations for dogs of different sizes from pups over three pounds (and that are at least seven weeks old) to large breeds weighing more than 55 pounds.
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Frontline Plus for Dogs
Frontline Plus for Dogs

Flea and tick treatment for dogs

Frontline Plus for Dogs is topical treatment that kills not only fleas, flea eggs and larvae, but also ticks and chewing lice. However, reviews are split between those who find the product highly effective and those who say it didn't help at all. Frontline Plus seldom causes any side effects in dogs. Generic versions are available; some are good alternatives, though the cheapest are judged to be less effective. Counterfeit versions of Frontline Plus have also been reported.

Advantage II for Cats
Advantage II for Cats

Best flea treatment for cats

Advantage II for Cats uses the same ingredients found in the canine version. Vets and pet owners generally agree that it's safe and effective. Available without a prescription, it's approved for kittens as young as eight weeks. A single dose, applied to the back of the neck, lasts for one month. Formulations are available for small cats and kittens (over two pounds and eight weeks old) to large cats (over nine pounds).
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Frontline Plus for Cats
Frontline Plus for Cats

Flea and tick treatment for cats

Frontline Plus for Cats is a cat-safe flea treatment that kills ticks as well as fleas, flea eggs and larvae. Many cat owners find this product highly effective, though we've also seen a significant number of complaints that it doesn't work at all. The flea hyperactivity it induces is sometimes mistaken for an increase in fleas. As is the case with Frontline Plus for Dogs, generic versions are available. Some are every bit as effective as Frontline Plus, but others are much less so.

K9 Advantix II
K9 Advantix II

Flea treatment for dogs only

No other flea treatment is effective against as many pests as K9 Advantix II. It kills adult fleas, eggs and larvae, as well as ticks, lice and mosquitoes. Moreover, it repels fleas, ticks, mosquitoes and biting flies. However, it contains permethrin, which is more toxic than most flea remedies that are sold over-the-counter, and can be lethal to cats. Therefore, K9 Advantix II should not be used if you also have cats in your household, or if your dog is likely to come into contact with cats before it completely dries -- which can take several days.

Capstar for Dogs and Cats
Capstar for Dogs and Cats

Best flea medication

Capstar for Dogs and Cats -- weighing less than 25 pounds -- is a tablet that kills adult fleas. A separate formulation is also available for larger dogs. It starts working within 30 minutes, produces no mess, and is quite safe for both humans and pets. However, Capstar won't kill flea eggs and larvae so it might have to be administered several times to completely get rid of an infestation. Some say it's most effective when used combined with a monthly treatment for both immediate and long term relief.
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Comfortis
Comfortis

Prescription flea medication for dogs and cats

Comfortis is a prescription-only flea medication in the form of a monthly, chewable tablet. Although it kills only adult fleas, it keeps working all month, taking out new fleas as they develop. As a result, most vets and users say it's effective enough to wipe out an infestation all by itself. Although most pets can use this drug with no side effects, they are more likely to occur than with Capstar, especially for dogs. Experts and the manufacturer recommend only using Comfortis under the supervision of a veterinarian.

Est. $90 and up for six doses Estimated Price
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Topical and oral flea control treatments are most effective

Fleas are more than an annoyance -- they can affect the health of their host dog or cat. A flea's saliva could trigger allergies, and the itching and scratching that ensue can lead to a more serious skin infection. Infected fleas can also transmit tapeworms and bacteria -- including bacteria that are harmful to humans. A large enough number of fleas can even cause life-threatening blood loss.

Unfortunately, fleas are not a problem that will go away on its own. In fact, ignoring a few fleas can quickly lead to an infestation. Female fleas can lay up to 50 eggs a day, many of which fall off and land in carpets, bedding and furniture. Once the larvae hatch, they remain inactive in cocoons for weeks or even months. Unsuspecting pet owners might think the problem is resolved after killing the adult fleas, but the life cycle will repeat weeks later unless eggs and larvae are prevented from maturing into adult fleas.

Experts say the only truly effective way to keep fleas off a dog or cat is with a topical or oral medication. Flea collars are generally described as ineffective and often toxic as well. Flea shampoos provide only immediate relief by killing adult fleas on the pet; they don't leave enough residue behind to kill new fleas as they hatch. As for flea dips, bombs, powders and sprays, many of them contain chemicals called pyrethroids, such as permethrin. Experts warn that these chemicals are highly toxic, especially to cats. Some vets say that products containing permethrin can be safe if you only have dogs in your household, but all warn to not use such products on cats or even on dogs if one is likely to come in contact with a cat. Permethrin comes in for the sternest cautions, but some experts also warn against the use of other pyrethroids as well.

Topical treatments, also known as spot-on products, are squeezed out of a tube and applied to the pet's neck or back. One advantage of these products is that they generally contain insect growth regulators (IGRs), which prevent eggs from hatching and larvae from maturing into adult fleas. This means that a single application can completely eliminate fleas for up to a month. However, these products have drawbacks as well. Although they're generally safe for pets if applied correctly, they can irritate the skin or eyes of humans; should you come in contact with the product, it must be rinsed off promptly. Once applied, the product may take several hours to dry. During this time, it may rinse off in water, and the residue may transfer to other pets, furniture or humans. Moreover, some pet owners find the smell or feel of the spot-on treatments unpleasant.

Other flea treatments come in tablet form. These pose no risk to humans, and they don't leave any messy residue. Oral flea treatments tend to kill adult fleas very quickly, but most of them don't contain an IGR to deal with the eggs and larvae. This means that pet owners must either combine the tablet with a second treatment that contains an IGR, such as a spot-on product, or keep repeating the dose until no new fleas are hatching. Another problem is getting a pet to take the pill. While some users say their pets will gobble them happily if they're tucked inside a treat, others -- especially cat owners -- find it very difficult to get them down their pets' throats. Also, some oral medications are available only with a prescription from a vet.

Finding the best flea treatment

Whether you opt for a spot-on or oral flea treatment, the two most important considerations are that it be safe for your pet -- and you -- and that it be effective. We also considered how easy or hard a flea treatment was to administer correctly. To find the best options, we looked at the guidance of vets and other experts, as well as reviews written by thousands of pet owners. The end result is our list of Best Reviewed flea treatments. We also name a few other flea control products are worth considering.

Elsewhere in this report:

Best Flea Treatments: Spot-on flea-control treatments are applied to the skin. Reviews say they are the most effective way to rid your pets of their pests, and these are the top choices.

Best Flea Medications: Oral flea medications are safer and less traumatic to some pets, but not always as effective as spot-on flea treatments. These are the ones that experts and users say are best.

Buying Guide: Finding a flea treatment that keeps you and your pet safe, but kills fleas fast and effectively, can be a challenge. These is what you need to know to find the best choice.

Our Sources: Where can you find the best reviews of flea treatments? Our editors used these reviews and guidance from veterinarians, pet experts, scientists and everyday pet owners in compiling this report.

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