Health & Wellness

Best Dog Flea And Tick Control: The Safest Ingredients To Look For

best-dog-flea-and-tick-controlAfter finding this Flea and Tick Products Directory, I decided that I wanted to:

  1. Educate myself on the chemicals found in flea & tick products — and which ones are the most/least harmful to dogs.
  2. Create a cheat sheet to print out and take it with me to the vet — and when I’m shopping if I see a sale or special display.


Best Flea & Tick Control For Dogs

Following are the flea & tick preventatives that are technically the safest for dogs and the ones that I am most likely to use in my home.

It’s important to note that the summary below only applies to dogs, since none of the specific warnings and notes for cats from the original list are included here. If you have cats in your home (I do not), then you may want to revisit the original list and make your own summary of the products that would be best for your household.

These are the ones that would be best in an all-dog family.

I can’t wait to talk with my vet about this and see which flea & tick product(s) he recommends… and why. If he happens to recommend one that’s not on this list, I’ll be eager to hear his reasoning since it would technically be more toxic than the flea and tick products listed below which are the least harmful for dogs.

Okay, here we go…


Great Flea & Tick Products For Dogs (“Use only when chemical control is needed”)

Ranked in order of the safest first; my personal notes are in [brackets]

INGREDIENTS: Essential oils of Cedarwood, Lemongrass, Peppermint, Rosemary, and Thyme
FLEA & TICK PRODUCTS THEY’RE FOUND IN: “Herbal” or “Natural”  flea control products containing these ingredients

FLEA & TICK PRODUCTS IT’S FOUND IN: Program Flavor Tabs [doesn’t control ticks] and Sentinel brand tabs [doesn’t control ticks]

INGREDIENT: Nitenpyram
FLEA & TICK PRODUCTS IT’S FOUND IN: Capstar [doesn’t control ticks]

FLEA & TICK PRODUCTS IT’S FOUND IN: Comfortis [doesn’t control ticks]

INGREDIENTS: Pyriproxyfen (Nylar) 2-(1-Methyl-2-(4-phenoxyphenoxy)ethoxy) pyridine
FLEA & TICK PRODUCTS THEY’RE FOUND IN: Adams spot-on, Breakthru spot-on [discontinued?], Demize spot-on [discontinued?], Scratchex spot-on [discontinued]


Good (But Not Great) Flea & Tick Products For Dogs (“Use sparingly and avoid if pregnant or around young children”)

Ranked in order of the safest first; my personal notes are in [brackets]

INGREDIENT: Imidacloprid
FLEA & TICK PRODUCTS IT’S FOUND IN: Advantage topical, Advantage Plus topical (contains pyriproxyfen) [doesn’t control ticks]

INGREDIENT: Pyrethrins
FLEA & TICK PRODUCTS IT’S FOUND IN: 8 in 1 brand shampoo
Adams brand “Flea Off” shampoo
Adams brand “Plus” shampoo (contains pyriproxyfen)
Bio-Groom brand dip
Bio-Groom brand shampoo
Boss Pet Products brand shampoo
Cardinal brand shampoo
Cardinal brand spray
Country Vet brand pet dip
Country Vet brand spray
Ectosoothe brand shampoo
Enforcer brand pet powder
Enforcer brand shampoo
Flea-B-Gon brand spray
Four Paws brand soap
Fresh ‘n Clean brand shampoo
Happy Jack brand spray
Harrison brand shampoo
Hartz brand dip
Hartz brand shampoo
Hartz brand soap
Hartz brand spray
HydroSurge brand “Power Bath” shampoo
Pet Select Shampoo
Petcor brand spray (contains S-methoprene)
Perfect Coat brand Shampoo
Premium brand Shampoo
Raid brand “Flea Killer” (some contain S-methoprene & fenoxycarb)
Rigo’s Best brand dip
Rigo’s Best brand spray
Results brand pet powder
Sergeant’s brand shampoo (contains pyriproxyfen)
Sergeant’s brand spray
Unicorn brand pet dip
Unicorn brand shampoo
Virbac brand spray (some contain pyriproxyfen)
Zema brand pet dip
Zema brand pet powder
Zema brand shampoo
Zodiac brand spray (with S-methoprene)
Zodiac brand shampoo (some contain S-methoprene)

INGREDIENTS: D-limonene, linalool, citrus oils, essential oils of cinnamon, citronella, clove (eugonol), geranium, bay, eucalyptus, and rue
FLEA & TICK PRODUCTS THEY’RE FOUND IN: “Herbal” or “Natural” flea control products

INGREDIENTS: Tea tree and lavender oils
FLEA & TICK PRODUCTS THEY’RE FOUND IN: “Herbal” or “Natural” flea control products

INGREDIENT: Selamectin
FLEA & TICK PRODUCTS IT’S FOUND IN: Revolution topical [also prevents heartworms]

INGREDIENT: Metaflumizone
FLEA & TICK PRODUCTS IT’S FOUND IN: Promeris [discontinued]


The Takeaway…

Okay, here’s the list of flea & tick products for dogs that I’m taking to my vet and when I go shopping:

  1. “Herbal” or “Natural”  flea control products containing D-limonene, Linalool, Citrus oils, essential oils of Cinnamon, Citronella, Clove (eugonol), Geranium, Bay, Eucalyptus, or Rue
  2. “Herbal” or “Natural” flea control products containing Tea Tree oil or Lavender oil
  3. Adams Spot On

These are listed in order with the “safest” appearing at the top of the list. You’ll notice that I’ve eliminated all flea collars, dog shampoos, and sprays from my personal list because they aren’t as long-lasting.

Initially, I had a list of 9 of the “safest” flea & tick products here that I was going to take to my vet to get his opinion. That is until I did a little more research and learned that only one of the topical/spot-on products listed in the Top 11 (above) controls ticks in addition to fleas!

So my list kept dwindling, one-by-one, as I crossed off each of the products that couldn’t control ticks on my dog.

I look forward to asking my veterinarian about Adams Spot On to control fleas & ticks at our next visit. I’ll post an update here.

Ticks are not something to be taken lightly. They do, indeed, spread Lyme Disease. And yes, dogs get Lyme Disease too.

Truth is, you may not have many ticks where you live (we do). But before you make that assumption (or believe what you’ve been told) about the number of ticks and cases of Lyme Disease in your area, please consider my personal experience:

I was diagnosed with Lyme Disease a few years ago — even though we technically live in a low-risk area for Lyme Disease. (View the CDC’s Lyme Disease map.) You can bet I don’t want my dog to get it!

By the way, did you know that you can also get Lyme Disease from your dog?

See how to tell if your dog has Lyme Disease.

Bottom line: since there are a lot of ticks where I liveI want a preventative that controls ticks as well as fleas.


My Experience With Frontline Plus

In case you’re wondering which flea & tick control method we’ve been using in our home…

We’ve always had the best luck with Frontline Plus. (Technically, it would be #13 on the above list based on ingredients.)

Frontline Plus is what we’ve used consistently with 3 dogs over the past 22 years (except for trying K9 Advantix temporarily one time.)

And for what it’s worth, I usually stop applying it after the first hard freeze of the winter, and start applying it at the first sign of spring each year. Yes, I do this even though the experts don’t recommend it since you’re technically:

(a) creating a window where a diseased tick could infect your dog with Lyme Disease; and

(b) setting yourself up to fail because it’s easier to forget to give your dog his medication if you’re not 100% consistent with it month after month, year round.

TIP: Even if you don’t use a flea and/or tick control product year round, you may want to consider using them temporarily — like when you take your dog camping or hiking, or if your dog will be staying at a kennel or visiting other dogs who may have fleas.


What About Pet Armor And Kirkland’s Flea & Tick From Costco?

There are 2 flea & tick products that are not on the above list that I was hoping to see ratings for:

  • Pet Armor – since it’s the one that’s being advertised all over the place right now as a more affordable alternative to Frontline.
  • Kirkland Flea & Tick – since it’s very reasonably price, and I often shop at Costco where it’s readily available.

Here’s what I learned about those 2 flea & tick products:


Pet Armor Plus

The active ingredients are identical to Frontline Plus, which gets pretty good reviews from pet owners.

Many (not all) who have tried Pet Armor do not recommend it. Here are some reviews and opinions from pet owners on both sides of the fence.

However, Dr. Marie, a veterinarian, sums it up best:

Even though the active ingredients – fipronil andmethoprine are the same [in Pet Armor Plus and Frontline Plus], the inactive ingredients (which make up 90% of the product) are not.  The makers of PetArmor, Cipla, located in India, do not reveal what the inactive ingredients are.  Some vets feel that the inactive ingredients in frontline that help to spread the product over the skin of the animal work much better than the generic brands and leave less “grease” on the animal’s skin. With that being said, a recent study that compared a similar generic product found that it was just as effective as Frontline was for fleas. — Dr. Marie


Kirkland Flea & Tick

The active ingredients are identical to Biospot Defense, which doesn’t get great reviews from pet owners.

Many (not all) who have tried the Kirkland Flea & Tick product do not recommend it. Here are 5 pages of reviews and opinions from pet owners on both sides of the fence. More here.

Again, veterinarian Dr. Marie makes a good point:

Etofenprox is a synthetic pyrethroid. According to the experts it is “marginally effective” against fleas. The best products for fleas are definitely the ones sold by your veterinarian. I have found that almost all of the over the counter products will only kill a small portion of fleas. I can’t tell you how many clients I see who have spent hundreds of dollars trying every OTC flea product they can find and then finally coming to me for something that works! — Dr. Marie



So What’s Really The Best Dog Flea & Tick Control?

When it comes to choosing the best flea & tick products for your dog, it’s a difficult decision because you care about your dog’s health, yet you care about your dog’s health. Yes, you read that right.

What I mean is this: veterinarians (and pet parents) probably choose products that rank in the “danger zone” on the above list because they’re more effective against fleas and ticks than those that are labeled as “safer”.

For example, some of the “safest” flea & tick medications don’t last as long as the others, and some don’t work on all stages of fleas. For example, many products only work on adult fleas. However, to effectively control a flea problem, you need an ingredient that inhibits flea egg and larval development as well.

And I’ve already mentioned that most of the “safest” flea & tick products don’t even control ticks at all. If you don’t need tick control, then you’re lucky — there are lots of “safe” flea control products for dogs available to you. For those of us who need to control ticks on our dogs as well… we need a stronger product. There’s no way around it.

In my opinion, just because you choose a super-effective product that has strong chemicals in it doesn’t mean you don’t care about your dog’s health. Quite the contrary, you want a product that is going to be effective. Why pay for products that are only mediocre in their effectiveness, right?

For now, I’m sticking with what I know works well for my dogFrontline Plus. I will post an update here after having a discussion about Adams Spot On with our vet.

In the end, it’s a very personal decision. I hope this information helps you in some small way when deciding on flea & tick products for your dog.

Finally, keep in mind that not all flea and tick control products work the same on all dogs. And not all dogs react the same to all flea and tick control products. Your goal is to find the one that is the best for your dog:

Here are some natural flea & tick control methods for dogs.