18 Products That Can Help You Get Rid of Fleas
Experts reveal their recommendations for the best products to get rid of fleas for pets and the home, from flea collars to sprays.
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Fleas and pets at home
Your pet is like family, and just having a pet in your life can have health benefits, like boosting your mood. However, if you have a dog or cat, fleas—even just the fear of them—are likely the bane of your existence, especially during the warm, humid summer months. You likely start to panic every time Fido or Fluffy scratches, and with good reason.
“If your dog or cat has fleas and you don’t treat it with something strong right away, 30 fleas will breed to a quarter of a million fleas within a month,” says John Howe, president of the American Veterinary Medical Association and manager of North Country Veterinary Clinic in Grand Rapids, Minnesota. This means eliminating fleas and immature forms of fleas from your pet and your indoor and outdoor environment. (Here’s how to reduce indoor air pollution.)
Understanding the flea’s life cycle
Fleas are tiny, wingless insects that feed on the blood of animals and people. Their life cycle comprises of four phases. The adult fleas lay eggs, the eggs hatch into larvae or tiny worms, the larvae turn into pupae, and the pupae spin a silk-like cocoon and eventually turn into adults. An adult flea must attach to a dog or other mammal to complete its lifecycle, but will also jump onto a human for a snack while waiting for its mate. “Fleas will usually pick one person in a family and attack them viciously with bites up and down their legs, so it’s important to use really good flea products in the home too,” says Howe.
Without a host, adult fleas live for up to two weeks. They live an average of eight days on short-haired cats and dogs and longer on long-haired animals. The female flea begins laying eggs within two days of her first meal, and these eggs can spread in your home and yard every time your dog or cat scratches, shakes, or lies down.
How do I prevent fleas in my home?
Preventing fleas starts with making sure your pet is on a fitting flea prevention regimen all year round. “Brush your pet often, shampoo your pet regularly, use preventative insecticidal pills (or treats) or spot-ons [medicinal liquids],” says Coby Schal, PhD, Blanton J. Whitmire distinguished professor, entomology & plant pathology, North Carolina State University, Raleigh. (Here’s how to tell the difference between a bed bug and a fleabite.)
Whether you want to prevent or get rid of fleas, our flea experts explain what to look in a product when trying to protect your pet and home from a flea infestation. Here’s a roundup of our expert-recommended flea products for pets and for humans to protect the home.
Flea Comb for Cats Dogs Fine Tooth Comb Pet Comb Grooming Set
Combing through Fido or Fluffy’s coat after a bath is a good way to find any stowaway fleas, flea eggs, or flea dirt, says Carol Osborne, a holistic veterinarian based in Chagrin Falls, Ohio. However, you don’t necessarily need a specialized flea comb to do this, she adds.
That said, the Flea Comb for Cats Dogs Fine Tooth Comb Pet Comb Grooming Set offers multiple options depending on your pet’s hair length, and is an Amazon’s Choice product. Its round teeth can break up any mats in your pet’s hair and there’s an added bonus: It includes a tick removal tool too.
For inside the home: Shark Navigator Lift-Away Professional NV356E
Vacuuming can remove up to 30 percent of the larvae and up to 60 percent of flea eggs from a carpet along with the larvae’s food supply, according to Osborne. The Shark Navigator Lift-Away Professional includes a high efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filter, which is a mechanical filter that can trap dust, indoor allergens, like cockroaches, pet dander, without trapping gases. This is important since fleas could potentially get in and out of the vacuum canister or bag.
Don’t miss any spots especially below your drapes, underneath your furniture, and anywhere your pet sleeps. If you opt to use another vacuum cleaner, Osborne suggests to “throw out the vacuum bag if your vacuum requires one.” “If your vacuum uses a cylinder, thoroughly clean it with bleach when you are done or the eggs will hatch in there,” she adds.
Chewables for dogs: NexGard Chewables for Dogs, 10.1-24 lbs (Blue Box)
$60 for a pack of three
Osborne recommends NexGard for flea prevention in dogs. “It’s given monthly as a chewable, and the active ingredient is afoxolaner, which targets and kills adult fleas before they can lay eggs,” she says, noting that different flea treatments target different parts of the flea life cycle. NexGard is only available with a prescription from your veterinarian.
Other oral prescription flea prevention products for dogs include sarolaner (Simparica), fluralaner (Bravecto), and lotilaner (Credelio), adds PetSmart’s resident veterinarian Jennifer Freeman, who also owns Higley Groves Animal Hospital in Mesa, Arizona. Bravecto lasts up to 12 weeks and comes in a chew as well as a topical solution. Credelio tablets are for dogs and cats, she says.
All of these medications are in the isoxazoline class, and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration recently warned that dogs and cats who are treated for fleas with medication in this class are at risk for seizures, tremors, and other neurological side effects.
“When it comes to oral preventatives, I always recommend pet parents consult their veterinarian to decide what the best preventative is for their pet. Your pet’s age, pre-existing health conditions, and dosing interval preference (i.e. monthly doses versus doses every three months) play a role when deciding what product to move forward with,” Freeman says. (Got allergies? Pet dander can actually be a trigger.)
Spot-on for dogs: Frontline Plus Flea and Tick Treatment for Large Dogs (45-88 Pounds)
$26 for three doses
Freeman recommends Frontline Plus Flea & Tick Dog Treatment, a topical spot-on preventive that is applied once a month on a spot on the back of your pet’s neck to control adult fleas effectively. This product contains both fipronil and s-methoprene, as one ingredient kills off adult fleas and ticks, while the other attacks flea egg and larvae. It’s also available as Frontline Flea & Tick Spray ($25 for 8.5 ounces).
Spot-on for cats: Frontline Plus Cat Flea & Tick Treatment
$27 for three doses
Frontline Plus Cat Flea & Tick Treatment is great for cats, Freeman says. Make sure you choose the right spot-on for your pet’s species, age, size, and health. Other topical products for dogs can contain permethrins, but be extremely cautious using these products in households with cats as permethrins are highly toxic to cats, she says. (Learn to tell the difference between a mosquito bite and a fleabite.)
Flea collars for dogs: Bayer Animal Health Seresto Flea and Tick Collar for Dogs, 8-Month Tick and Flea Control for Dogs
$58, depending on the size of the dog
Flea collars are worn around the neck and deliver flea preventive medication to your dog or cat’s skin and coat. Seresto Flea & Tick Dog Collars contain the active ingredients imidacloprid and flumethrin, which are slowly and continuously released in low concentrations into your dog or cat’s coat and skin, Freeman says.
Flea collars for cats: Seresto Flea and Tick Collar for Cats, 8-month Flea and Tick Collar for Cats
Freeman suggests the Seresto Flea & Tick Cat Collar. This collar also contains imidacloprid and flumethrin which are slowly and continuously released in low concentrations into your cat’s coat and skin. When using a flea collar, it has to fit your pet snugly, says Howe. “You should be able to fit two fingers under your pet’s flea collar.”
For pet bedding: Control Solutions Inc – 82005202 – Martin’s I. G. Regulator – Insect Growth Regulator Concentrate
$21 for four ounces
Flea eggs tend to gather where your pet spends its time. Treating that area with a product that contains pyriproxyfen, a pesticide found effective in limiting flea growth (marketed under the trade name Nylar) such as Martin’s I. G. Regulatorcan prevents adult fleas from reproducing. Follow the instructions on the product label carefully.
Flea shampoos for dogs and cats: Adams d-Limonene Flea & Tick Pet Shampoo, 12-oz bottle
$11 for 12 ounces
Limonene and linalool are both natural chemicals found in plants that can kill fleas on contact, says Michael Merchant, PhD, professor and extension urban entomologist, Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service, College Station, Texas. Plain old soap and water will also kill adult fleas, adds Osborne. “Even Dawn dishwashing liquid works.” In addition, comb your animal’s fur with a fine-tooth flea comb, and dunk any critters into a container of sudsy water, according to our experts.
Natural flea spray for dogs and cats: Wondercide Natural Products – Flea, Tick and Mosquito Control Spray
Many essential oils can help solve your flea problem. The list includes lemongrass, cedarwood, peppermint, rosemary, thyme, and Neem oil,“ Osborne says. The Wondercide line is available in peppermint, cedarwood, rosemary, and lemongrass. Or “you can dilute the oil with some water for your own flea spray too,” she says. (Here’s a refresher on essential oil safety.)
For inside and outside the home: Essentria IC3 Insecticide Concentrate
Geraniol is the essential oils of rose, palmarosa, and citronella, and it can be a potent flea buster, Osborne says. “It’s available over-the-counter in a variety of products. The stuff is powerful and seems to be very effective on all four stages of the flea life cycle.” If you overdo it, your pets’ skin can become irritated, she warns. Essentria IC3 Insecticide Concentrate is an Amazon top seller. It also contains peppermint oil and rosemary oil, both of which also help control fleas, she notes.
For inside and outside the home: HARRIS Diatomaceous Earth Food Grade
Diatomaceous earth is a powder comprised of the remains of tiny organisms called diatoms. It’s a natural flea killer that can be sprinkled inside and outside the home, Osborne says. “Some people even feed a food-grade version to pets,” she says. It’s not totally risk-free though. “If you inhale diatomaceous earth, it can be very damaging to your lungs,” she says. Always wear a mask when using it and follow the instructions on the label, she says.
For your carpet: Fleabusters Rx for Fleas Plus
Fleabusters Rx for Fleas Plus is an Amazon top seller. This contains boric acid which can be effective at killing flea larvae, says Merchant. “Boron salts are stomach poisons for insects, so they have to be ingested to work,” Merchant explains. Since adult fleas are blood feeders only, these salts are ineffective on the adult stage. That said, the pre-adult stage is susceptible. “When flea larvae are foraging in carpeting or pet bedding, they ingest the salts along with their normal food of adult flea poop. This lethal combination can help break the flea life cycle. Make sure to vacuum all carpets and floors and throw away the vacuum bag, he says. “You usually need a follow-up treatment within 7-10 days or sooner with shorter-acting insecticides,” Merchant adds. (Beware of these germy everyday items.)
For your curtains: Adams Plus Flea and Tick Spray for Cats and Dogs
$11 for 16 ounces
Adams Plus Flea and Tick Spray for Cats and Dogs contains s-methoprene, another potent insect growth regulator that can help get rid of fleas in your home. “Because this ingredient breaks down quickly in sunlight, it is registered for indoor or on-pet treatment only,” Merchant says. (Here’s how your messy home is making you sick.)
For your furniture: CSI Tekko Pro IGR Insect Growth Regulator
$41 for 16 ounces
This potent product contains pyriproxyfen, marketed under the trade name Nylar. It is an insect growth regulator that prevents adult fleas from reproducing. CSI Tekko Pro IGR Insect Growth Regulator and can be used inside and outside, Merchant says. (Here’s how to get rid of dust at home.)
For your kitchen: Hot Shot 95911 AC1688 Bedbug & Flea Fogger
$10 for a pack of three
This Amazon best seller is a do-it-yourself “fogger” that fills the entire room with insecticide. Hot Shot contains Nylar, an insect growth regulator that prevents fleas from developing into adults. Results last for up to seven months, according to Hot Shot. This product can also be used in basements, attics, closed porches, and even garages. It’s a multitasker that also kills lice and ticks. Warning: Stay out of the treated area for the time indicated on the label, typically two to four hours as exposure to the fogger’s fumes can cause throat irritation, difficulty breathing, dizziness, eye damage, among other symptoms.
For your lawn: Southern Ag 10401 Natural Pyrethrin Concentrate
$19 for eight ounces
If your pet also spends time outdoors, you will need additional products to get rid of fleas and their eggs. “Focus on the shady spots where your pet likes to laze as that’s where the fleas are likely to be,” he says. Choose products with pyrethroids such as Southern Ag 10401 Natural Pyrethrin Concentrate. These are man-made chemicals that kill fleas by preventing their nervous system from functioning. (Included in this class are bifenthrin, permethrin, d-phenothrin. “Look for ‘thrin’ on the end of the name of the active ingredient on the label,” says Merchant.) Also, keeping your lawn clean and uncluttered will provide less shelter for fleas and who prefer dark, shady spots. (Next, read how you can create a healthy home.)
For your garden: Nema Globe 25 Million Beneficial Nematodes
Warning: This method is not for the squeamish. Nematodes are worms that eat flea larvae in the soil, Osborne explains. “They absolutely do the job especially in smaller garden areas.” To use Nema Globe 25 Million Beneficial Nematodes, just mix with water and spray around your yard.
- John Howe, president of the American Veterinary Medical Association and manager of North Country Veterinary Clinic in Grand Rapids, Minnesota
- Coby Schal, PhD, Blanton J. Whitmire distinguished professor, entomology & plant pathology, North Carolina State University, Raleigh
- Carol Osborne, a holistic veterinarian based in Chagrin Falls, Ohio
- Jennifer Freeman, PetSmart’s resident veterinarian, who also owns Higley Groves Animal Hospital in Mesa, Arizona
- Michael Merchant, PhD, professor and extension urban entomologist, Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service, College Station, Texas
- Texas Agricultural Extension Service: "Controlling Fleas"
- U.S. Food and Drug Administration: "Fact Sheet for Pet Owners and Veterinarians about Potential Adverse Events Associated with Isoxazoline Flea and Tick Products"