Flea Collars for Dogs: How Do They Work and What Are the Best Ones?

The appeal of using flea collars for dogs is pretty obvious: it's an easy, affordable solution to the ever-present risk of fleas and ticks. You simply strap it on man's best friend and you're both ready to roam anywhere and everywhere, from the paved neighborhood streets to the wilderness.

No wonder the flea collar has become the quintessential icon of dog flea control. And even though there are so many effective flea treatment options available now, the popularity of the good old flea collar shows no signs of going away.

But before you invest in one, there are a few questions you want answered. After all, you're a responsible pet owner and you want the best for your beloved canine. So here's everything you need to know about flea collars for dogs!

How Do Flea Collars Work?

Flea collars for dogs are nifty little devices - an innovation on the standard dog collar, flea collars go a step further and provide flea and tick control benefits. How they work depends on the type of flea collar it is. Some collars serve only one purpose, such as repelling fleas, while others are effective for both repelling and killing fleas and ticks.

As of now, there are three types of flea collars for dogs. Here's how they work and what they do:

  • Ultrasonic flea collars for dogs (function: repel only). Also called high frequency collars or electronic collars, these ultrasonic devices can be found in both collar and pendant form and they work by releasing high-pitched, ultrasonic sound waves that repel fleas.
  • Gas based flea collars for dogs (function: localized repel and kill). Gas based collars release a gas-based pesticide to repel fleas from your dog - think of it as providing a sort of flea-free area around the collar. These collars can also kill fleas, but the fleas need to come in close proximity to the collar in order for the kill to happen. And that sums up the main downside of gas based flea collars: its effectiveness is mostly limited to the area around your dog's neck. In other words, it's not going to affect any fleas if they don't travel near the collar.
  • Absorption based collars for dogs (function: repel and kill). Absorption based collars are the most effective since they also contain insecticide, but instead of floating around your dog's neck area, it gets absorbed into your dog's skin, making them essentially flea-proof. How these work tend to vary:
    • Absorbed into fat layer. These contain medication that seeps into the fat layer on dog's skin, causing fleas to die after biting the dog and ingesting the poison.
    • Spread into natural skin oils. These spread active ingredients along your dog's body through the oils on his fur and skin. These flea collars kill fleas and ticks on contact, before they bite.

Now that you know how flea collars work, you'll probably be wondering how effective they are...

Do Flea Collars Work?

By now, you're probably wondering: do flea collars work? Obviously, you don't want to waste your precious time and money on something that's not going to be effective against fleas.

Well, the answer varies depending on the type of flea collar and what you want to use it for. Here's a quick example: Gas-based flea collars don't work very well for providing full protection. After all, they're only potent around the collar area, which means fleas that are living around the base of the tail can often survive. But that doesn't make these type of flea collars useless - in fact, these types of flea collars work brilliantly well when used inside a vacuum bag to kill any fleas that you suck up while cleaning.

As for ultrasound flea collars, there is no scientific evidence showing that these work at all. A few ultrasound flea collars have positive reviews, to be sure, but the overwhelming consensus is that they do not work.

So if you're looking for flea collars that repel and kill fleas on your dog, opt for the newer, absorption based collars since these are the most effective. And avoid springing for the super inexpensive collars you'll find at the grocery store - those don't tend to work very well.

What are the Best Flea Collars for Dogs?

You don't just want any old flea collar - you want the best flea collar for your dog. And by that, you probably mean a flea collar that meets these criteria:

  • Effectiveness. 'Cause after all, what good is a flea collar if it doesn't work?
  • Long-lasting. Flea collars for dogs vary in how long they last before they have to be replaced. For both your budget and effort, it's best to choose one that lasts awhile.
  • Practical. Your dog is going to wear this flea collar outside which means it must be a hardy, waterproof band that won't get ruined by some rough wear. Also, look for quick release collars so it is not hazardous to your pet in case he gets trapped.
  • Safety. Flea collars use toxic chemicals to get rid of fleas. In small doses, most of these insecticides are safe for you and your beloved dog but some are safer than others...
    • Deltamethrin, a synthetic pyrethroid, is one of the safest insecticides out there with minimal effects on both humans and pets.
    • Pyriproxifen is another safe insecticide that targets flea eggs and larvae, preventing maturation and sterilizing them so they're unable to reproduce.
    • Tetrachlorvinphos (TCVP) has been classified as a human carcinogen and neurotoxin that's harmful to humans and pets. Children are especially vulnerable to its effects. Avoid whenever possible.
    • Propoxur can be highly toxic to humans so either avoid or take caution when handling a flea collar that contains this ingredients. Always wash your hands afterwards and don't allow children near the flea collar or the dog when he's wearing a Propoxur collar.
  • Double-duty. As you found out above, some collars only repel while others both repel and kill fleas and ticks.

Are there are flea collars out there that meet the above criteria? Not many, but there are a few. Let's take a look at the best flea collars on the market!

Bayer Seresto Flea and Tick Collar for Dogs

best flea collar for dogs

Seresto Flea and Tick Collar, $35

There's good reason this flea collar is the most popular product of its kind on Amazon - it's hands down the best flea collar for dogs currently on the market. Read other users' reviews!

It's super long-lasting - a single collar lasts up to 8 months, slowly releasing active ingredients in controlled, very low doses to provide protection from fleas and ticks for most of the year. The collar is also odorless and extremely easy to use. We especially like that it features a quick release mechanism to allow your dog to escape if he ever gets trapped by the collar.

But the best part is its sheer effectiveness. It both repels and kills fleas and ticks, even in the most infested areas. It also holds up well against physical activity - it's water resistant so your dog can wear it rain or shine.

As with all flea collars, there are insecticides in this collar which is what makes it effective but can also make some dogs sick. The good news is that unlike many other dog collars, Seresto doesn't use Tetrachlorvinphos (TCVP), which is harmful to both humans and pets. That being said, please use with caution if you have elderly or sensitive dogs.

Scalibor Protector Band for Dogs

best flea collar for dogs

Scalibor Protector Band, $16

Scalibor's Protector Band may not be as popular or well-known as Bayer's Seresto Flea Collar (above), but it's a solid flea collar nonetheless. It offers six months of continuous protection in both repelling and killing fleas and ticks. It's highly effective and holds up well even in infested areas.

More good news? It's void of the most harmful pesticides and instead uses Deltamethrin, which kills fleas immediately and is deemed to be one of the safest pesticides for humans and pets.

You also don't have to worry about sizing - the collar is a one size fits all option, it's very affordable, and it's outdoor-friendly so your dog can wear it rain or shine.

Hartz Ultra Guard Plus Flea Collar

best flea collar for dogs

Hartz Ultra Guard Plus, $9

Hartz is a solid name in pet products and they don't disappoint when it comes to flea collars for dogs. Their flea collars are affordable, repel and kill, long-lasting - providing up to 7 months of water-resistant protection, and it comes with perks like reflectivity so your dog can remain visible in the dark, which is super useful if you usually go out on walks at night.

The main downside of Hartz's flea collar is that it uses Tetrachlorvinphos (TCVP), which has been classified as a human carcinogen and neurotoxin, so you'll have to take care whenever handling the collar and always wash your hands afterwards. If you have young children or health sensitivities, you'll want to go with one of the above options.

The good news is that Hartz Ultraguard Plus also contains Methoprene, which is an Insect Growth Regulator (IGR) to stunt baby fleas from growing into full, biting and reproducing adults. So with this collar, your dog will get protection from both adult fleas and future populations of fleas.

Are Flea Collars the Best Flea Treatment?

To be honest, fleas are a tricky pest to completely eliminate, which is why it's better to combine a few of the most effective flea treatments rather than look for one magic bullet solution.

And flea collars definitely have their place amongst the most effective flea treatments. They're long-lasting, for starters, and mostly hands-off so you get the benefit of easy flea control. Flea collars are also a very affordable option compared to other effective flea treatments like spot-on drops, which must be applies every month to be effective while a flea collar will last at least six months without needing replacement.

Overall, flea collars can be very useful in your fight against fleas and ticks, especially for outdoor dogs who live in areas with high flea and tick exposure.

Tips on Using Flea Collars for Dogs

Now that you've found the best flea collar for your pup, here are a few tips so you can get the most out of your new flea-control device!

  • Proper fit matters. Make sure you get the appropriate size for your dog and fit it snugly around his neck with little excess. It's essential to ensure that your dog cannot bite or chew the collar - the last thing you want is for him to ingest the harmful insecticides!
  • Let it air. It can be smart to air out a new flea collar for a few days before strapping it on your dog to lessen the risk of any potential side effects from the potency of a newly activated collar.
  • Flea collars are not for every dog. Flea collars contain pesticides that are usually safe in low doses but can be harmful for vulnerable dogs such as elderly, pregnant or nursing, and ill dogs with lowered immune systems. Most collars are also not suitable for dogs under three months old.
  • Monitor your dog. Just as you would check for potential adverse effects when giving your dog a new medication, it's good common sense to keep an eye on your dog to see how they react to the collar. Check their skin around the collar and watch his behavior very carefully the first few days for any signs of negative side effects so you can immediately remove the collar at any sign of a reaction.
  • You can take it off. A flea collar doesn't have to stay on all the time to be effective - especially if it's a gas-based flea collar. So use it just when you need it, i.e. for walks in the wilderness. When you're at home, you can remove it and save it in an airtight container or baggie until you need to use it again.
  • Sharing is not caring. When it comes to flea collars, sharing dog collars with cats is not a good idea. Ingredients and dosages that are safe for dogs can be harmful to cats so if you have other pets in the house, get species-specific flea treatment for each one.
  • Overdose is real. If you decide to use a spot-on treatment or give your dog oral flea meds, don't combine them with the collar. The active ingredients in flea treatments are safe in small doses but the last thing you want is to overmedicate your dog with pesticides.
  • Keep yourself and your family safe. Always handle flea collars with care, keep it away from children and wash your hands after touching the collar or the dog on every occasion.

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