How do I get rid of persistent fleas on my dog?

Fleas are annoying and stressful. They can irritate dogs with flea allergies, transmit disease, and cause a host of other problems for your pets.

On top of that, finding fleas on dogs naturally makes us feel dirty and discouraged. Don't worry! Fleas are a common problem among pet owners and they are easily managed with the right approach.

Many pet parents take a wait-and-see approach to flea control, treating only if they notice itchiness or fleas. But, if you have an active flea problem you need to know what kills fleas on dogs instantly.

Keep reading to find out:

  • What kills fleas on dogs instantly
  • Types of flea treatments
  • The best treatment to keep fleas away

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What is the best way to get rid of fleas on a dog

Above all else, the health of your dog is most important. Before using anything to kill fleas, make sure it is safe for your individual dog's needs.

The best thing for fleas on dogs will depend on:

  • The species of dog
  • Your pet's age
  • Their weight
  • Any health issues
  • Pregnancy status

Dealing with a flea infestation can feel overwhelming, but it is possible to get rid of fleas for good. Powders, dips, flea collars, and essential oils — here are a lot of options when it comes to flea and tick prevention.

No matter what, you'll want to find the right solution for your pet. Let's dive into each option so you can make the best decision to kill fleas.

Types of flea treatments for dogs

There's a lot of misinformation about flea and tick treatment. Options range from diatomaceous earth and dish soap to flea shampoo and prescription medications. So where do you start?

Here are a few options to consider when battling fleas or preventing them in the future.

Over-the-counter flea treatments

There are lots of over-the-counter (OTC) flea treatments available for your dogs. However, not all solutions are 100% effective. Most of these solutions will kill adult-stage fleas in 24-48 hours. But, there are some caveats for each type.

Fast-acting tablets

If you need help combating fleas quickly, an oral fast-acting tablet might be your go-to. These treatments contain the active ingredient Nitenpyram which kills fleas in under 12 hours.

These products are best used to treat an active infestation with a complementary preventative product to kill fleas at every life cycle stage (i.e., flea eggs, pupae, and larvae).

Oral flea treatment

One common OTC oral medication is an insect development inhibitor (IDI). These pills release slowly into your pet’s bloodstream over a few weeks. After the female flea bites your pet she will ingest the IDI which will stop the reproduction of future fleas.

But, there are two big cons to these types of treatments.

  1. IDI’s are ineffective at killing adult fleas so you’ll need to add another treatment.
  2. Oral treatments need a flea bite to work which can lead to infection.

Topical flea treatment

Topical treatments are applied directly to your dog’s skin. The topical solution works to spread throughout your dog's coat via hair follicles and natural oil in their skin.

The best topical flea treatment for dogs is one that both kills fleas and repels all flea life cycle stages.

Examples of topical flea treatments:
  • Spot-on treatments
  • Flea shampoos
  • Flea sprays
  • Flea combs*


*Invest in a flea comb to help you part your dog's coat to apply topical flea treatments and search for adult fleas.

Wearable flea treatments

Wearable flea treatments, like flea and tick collars, are a less messy alternative to topical solutions. Unfortunately, they aren’t as effective as other topical flea and tick treatments.

Because your dog wears the collar around their neck, your dog’s hind legs and tail may be less protected. Be sure to consult with your veterinarian when using flea collars and closely follow the instructions provided.


Wags Advance® for Dogs will kill adult fleas in as little as two hours after application. This topical product contains ingredients that attack the flea’s nervous system which helps kill individual adult fleas and stop reproduction to prevent a future flea infestation.

Prescription flea medication

If you are looking for a combination treatment your veterinarian may be able to write a prescription.

Examples of prescription flea medications:
  • Pill form
  • Topical solutions
  • Injections

Keep in mind, every product works differently. What kills fleas on contact with one dog may not work for another. Talk to your veterinarian about what treatment they recommend for your specific dog.

Natural flea treatment

Natural remedies to get rid of fleas are convenient options for pet parents. Primarily because you can find many items in your cupboards.

While natural or home remedies are helpful in solving an immediate problem because the ingredients are so readily available, these solutions aren’t effective at preventing future flea infestations. In fact, some may be toxic to your pet.

Examples of natural remedies to avoid:
  • Apple cider vinegar
  • Coconut oil (essential oils)
  • Diatomaceous earth
  • Garlic
  • Sage tea
  • Baking soda and salt

In addition to these items, bathing your pet in soapy water may seem like it's helping you get rid of fleas. But, a mixture of bath water and shampoo usually only kills adult fleas.

An over-the-counter treatment or prescription flea medication is imperative for preventing reinfestation.

What’s the most effective flea treatment for dogs

Now that you know the different types of treatments available, how do you pick the right product for your pet? No matter what you choose, the best way to get rid of fleas is through continuous prevention.

Here’s what you should know to effectively kill and prevent fleas:

1. Look for key active ingredients.

First, find a medication that will kill fleas safely and effectively. Flea medications can have side effects, and not every product is appropriate for keeping every pet healthy.

The most effective flea treatment for dogs includes active ingredients that kill and repel fleas and ticks.

Active ingredients in common flea and tick medications

Kills fleas (all flea life stages)

Kills ticks

Kills mosquitoes

Kills flea eggs & larvae

Repels pests

Safe for cats


2. Be consistent about your treatment.

It’s far easier to keep fleas away than it is to clean up an active issue. If your pets are unprotected it may cost you more in the long run:

The cost of doing nothing:

  • Additional doses of topical treatment: $8 - $24
  • Nitenpyram oral treatment: $20 - $45
  • Household spray (IGR): $20 - $40
  • Vet visits for flea allergy dermatitis (FAD): $50 - $400
  • Treatment for Lyme disease: $500+

Leaving pets unprotected can really add up. That’s why year-round prevention is your best strategy for avoiding fleas.

3. Apply properly every time.

Ridding your home and all pets completely of fleas takes patience and persistence. Every time you apply flea treatment, be sure to follow the instructions for each pet’s weight class.

Also, be sure to treat every pet in your household. If other pets are unprotected they may reinfect the others.

4. Take care of your home.

After applying treatment, vacuum every area your pets spend time in. This can help you get rid of 30-90% of flea eggs. Discard the contents of the vacuum outside or place the debris in water to kill any fleas or flea dirt collected.

Next, wash all bedding and soft toys in hot water and wipe down hard surfaces. In difficult cases, an insect growth regulator (IGR) may be helpful. A flea spray with this ingredient helps break up flea breeding grounds to prevent future reproduction.

5. Stay the course.

Getting rid of fleas on dogs isn't easy. Soon you will once again have a flea-free environment and happy, healthy, itch-free dogs. Pet owners know finding fleas on your dog isn't fun. But, stay the course and you’ll be well on your way to flea freedom.

What do I do if my dogs fleas won't go away?

Use a home spray that contains an adulticide and an insect growth regulator. These ingredients won't kill the flea pupae already present in the home, but they do reduce the number of eggs and larvae that go on to develop into pupae and therefore decrease the time it takes for the infestation to be resolved.

Why do fleas keep coming back to my dog?

If your dog is constantly being reinfested with fleas after treatment, it is most likely there is an environmental infestation in or around your house. The adult fleas we see on pets represent only 5% of the total population. The other 95% are immature stages in the environment.

How do you get rid of fleas that won't go away?

This includes washing bedding, rugs, and pet bedding, and thoroughly vacuuming and sweeping floors and carpeted areas and along the edges of walls. Pet treatment. Every pet in the home must be treated. Thoroughly bathe pets with soap and water, then comb them with a flea comb.