Every canine lover knows that choosing the best flea shampoo for dogs is essential. After all, a good flea shampoo is the first line of defense you reach for when your dog starts showing signs of fleas.
It allows you to quickly – and effectively – wipe out a large percentage of the fleas driving your dog crazy. And the best flea shampoos also contain ingredients that soothe and alleviate the itchiness of flea bites. Many flea shampoos will even leave your beloved canine’s coat looking better than his pre-flea days!
So, how do you get started choosing the best flea shampoo for your dog and most important, wiping out the flea infestation once and for all? Well, there are a few things you should know…
Shampoo is not a cureall
We hate to break it to you, but even the best flea shampoo is not a complete treatment for fleas by itself.
That’s ’cause even the most effective flea shampoos won’t kill the entire population of fleas on your dog. Sure, the most potent shampoos can wipe out upwards of 90% of the infestation but don’t expect your dog to be totally clear of fleas, especially after the first wash. Getting rid of fleas requires a more holistic approach, which brings us to…
Your house matters a lot
Your dog may be the Ground Zero for the flea infestation but trust us when we say the infestation has probably spread a lot further than your dog’s fur. Fleas lay eggs on your dog but the eggs aren’t sticky so they tend to roll right off your dog’s fur and land all over your house – the carpet, the furniture, your dog’s bedding, your bed and so on.
If your dog is infested with fleas, there’s a very good chance that there are flea eggs and larvae lurking in and around your home. That means that you can rid your dog of the fleas that are currently living on him, but he’ll just pick up another batch as soon as he lies down on the carpet or his bed.
That’s why it is absolutely essential that you combine getting rid of fleas on your dog with getting rid of fleas in your home.
A good tip to make use of before you lather your dog up with flea shampoo: First, wet and apply the flea shampoo all the way around their neck. Lather that area immediately so the fleas can’t flee (pun intended) up from the body to the face.
Once you’ve secured the neck roadblock, go ahead and shampoo up the rest of your dog’s body.
Another helpful tip is to ease the entire process by bringing in some doggy treats to keep them busy while you lather and wait patiently for the fleas to die.
Choose ingredients wisely
Choosing the best ingredients in a flea shampoo can be a bit of a tricky balancing act. On one hand, you want to choose the most effective flea killing ingredients. But on the other hand, you might feel hesitant about exposing your dog to harmful toxins or potentially irritating your dog’s already bitten, itchy and irritated skin.
What’s a dog owner to do? It ultimately comes down to your situation and your needs. Yes, pesticides have been linked to potentially harmful side effects. But then again, they are undoubtedly effective. It all comes down to weighing the negative impact of fleas vs the potentially harmful effects of pesticides.
Our two cents? Look for a flea shampoo that has a combination of insecticides that’ll kill flea eggs as well as adult fleas as well as soothing ingredients like oatmeal and aloe vera to counteract the harsher ingredients.
Which flea pesticides do what?
Choosing the right flea shampoo sounds like a simple thing, doesn’t it? You Google “flea shampoo for dogs,” you look at the results, you order and then you lather up your pup, right?
If only it were that simple. The truth is that there are a lot of big, chemical-sounding words listed in the ingredients column and let’s be honest – none of us really know what they are.
Well, you’re about to get a quick crash course on what the various pesticides used in dog flea shampoos are so you’re better equipped to be a smarter shopper! Here’s what you need to know…
- Pyrethrins. Pyrethrins are derived from chrysanthemum flowers and have been used for flea and tick control for over a century. They work by attacking the central nervous system of fleas and altering nerve function, which causes paralysis and eventually death.
- Pyrethroids. Pyrethroids include permethrin, phenotrhin, etofenprox, allethrin and resmethrin and are synthetic compounds manufactured in labs. It kills fleas and ticks in a similar manner as pyrethrins. The difference is that pyrethroids do not work as fast but lasts a longer time.
Note: Permethrin is fine for dogs but highly toxic to cats. Never use a dog flea shampoo containing permethrin on your cat!
- Methoprene. Both of the above insecticides – pyrethrins and pyrethroids – are effective at killing adult fleas but what about flea eggs and larvae? This is where ingredients like methoprene come in handy. Methoprene is what is known as a Insect Growth Regulator (IGR) which targets pre-adult fleas by preventing them from growing normally into adults.
What about 100% natural flea shampoos for dogs?
Not loving all this talk of pesticides? We feel you, we like non-toxic pest control too. So are there any natural flea shampoos out there? Well, the short answer is, yes, there are.
The long answer is that yes, there are totally natural flea shampoos for dogs but they’re often not enough against an active flea infestation. Sure, the best ones will work for killing fleas living on your dog but they won’t be able to kill the eggs and larvae.
What they do offer is a gentle alternative for older dogs as well as dogs who are more sensitive to pesticides. Most of the natural flea shampoos use a combination of potent essential oils like cinnamon, rosemary, and peppermint, which can kill and repel fleas.
But keep in mind, they are not as potent as the flea shampoos below and we recommend strongly stepping it up in the other arenas of flea warfare – i.e. being diligent with the flea comb, making sure the carpets are free of fleas – if you’re going to choose the natural flea shampoo option.
What is the Best Flea Shampoo for Dogs?
Natural flea shampoos are a good protection against fleas but if you’re dealing with a current infestation, you’ll want to go straight for one of the best, most effective flea shampoos below…
Adams Plus Flea & Tick Shampoo
Why we love it? It straight up works. This is the most effective flea shampoo on the market.
It’s no surprise this flea shampoo is Amazon’s best seller for its category – this is hands down the most effective flea shampoo for dogs (and cats) you can get your hands on.
Its claim to flea killing fame? It wipes out not only the adult fleas, but it also kills flea eggs and flea larvae, which is essential since these buggers may not be biting now but they definitely will be as soon as they hatch.
With just one wash, you get up to 28 days of control for pre-adult fleas. As for the adult fleas, it has the best kill ratio and is capable of wiping out around 95% of the active flea population. You’ll notice a huge difference right after the first bath.
Of course, this sort of effectiveness comes with downsides. For example, this is not a natural, toxin-free flea shampoo. It contain pesticides such as pyrethrins to kill adult fleas as well as Precor, which is an Insect Growth Regulator (IGR) that breaks the flea lifecycle by preventing the young fleas that come into contact with it from growing normally into the next phase.
The result? Dead adult fleas and pre-adult fleas that will never grow into blood-sucking adult fleas.
Oh, and in case you’re worried that the pesticides are going to be too much for your dog – rest assured, Adams Plus Flea & Tick Shampoo balances out the harsher, flea-killing ingredients with soothing aloe and oatmeal – both ingredients that provide immediate relief for flea bites – as well as lanolin and coconut extract to help flea bites heal.
Keep in mind, though, that this is most certainly not a “no-tear” shampoo and take care to keep it out of your dog’s eyes!
Sentry Flea and Tick Shampoo
Why we love it? Effectiveness plus…vanity. It smells lovely and leaves fur soft and smooth.
Another highly potent flea shampoo for dogs, Sentry has the advantage of actually smelling lovely. If you’re used to snuggling with your dog and you hate that medicated scent of most flea shampoos, this is the one for you. It’s got a tropical Hawaiian ginger scent that perks up your mood, which is surprisingly nice when you’re ankle deep in your war with fleas.
And sure, the last thing you think about when choosing the best flea shampoo for dogs is how pretty it makes your dog look but this must be mentioned. ‘Cause this shampoo excels at softening and smoothing even the most unwieldy fur. It’s also great for dogs with dry skin, as the oatmeal helps soothe and moisturize the skin.
As for effectiveness, Sentry’s Flea and Tick Shampoo also uses permethrin, a pesticide to kill fleas, which has the downside of not working as fast as pyrethrins (which is the pesticide used in the Adams Plus shampoo above) but has the advantage of lasting for a longer time.
That means this shampoo not only kills off fleas but also continues to repel them. Thanks to this, one wash will continue to kill fleas and ticks for up to 10 days afterwards.
It’s also worth noting that unlike Adams Plus, Sentry’s shampoo doesn’t contain an Insect Growth Regulator (IGR) so it won’t be effective against pre-adult fleas, at least until they’ve matured into adults. For this reason, this flea shampoo is best when combined with a flea treatment that contains an IGR to wipe out the baby fleas as well.
Note: This shampoo is frequently sold out. So if you like it, grab a couple bottles to see you through your war with fleas.
De Flea Flea And Tick Shampoo
Why we love it? It’s pesticide-free, toxin-free…and it works!
On the hunt for a pesticide-free flea shampoo for dogs? Wondering if such a thing would even be effective? You bet it is.
De Flea’s Flea and Tick Shampoo is pesticide and toxin free. Instead, it uses a patented combination of flea killing ingredients that essentially melts the waxy exoskeleton of fleas (as well as ticks, lice and mites).
Once the acids have melted the natural armor that fleas have, its internal organs get shut down. The result? Dead fleas – all without pesticides.
The most brilliant thing about this flea shampoo, though, is that it’s effective against all life stages of fleas so you don’t have to worry about flea eggs and larvae escaping from this fate.
So if you’re looking for a toxin free flea shampoo that works, this is the one to pick. After the first wash, you will literally see hundreds of dead fleas falling off your beloved dog. Hurrah! Victory.