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Maybe you see that telltale itching and scratching, maybe you see black specks of flea dirt. Or worse, you actually see fleas on your dog. Fleas aren’t just annoying for your best friend, they can also be dangerous. Fleas can cause itching, irritation, and hair loss and the pests carry all sorts of diseases, some of which can cause people to become seriously ill.
When it’s time to give your pet a flea bath, choose a shampoo based on ingredients and the age of your pet. Keep in mind that these shampoos help deal with an immediate infestation, but are best when followed with a flea prevention product to keep fleas at bay long-term.
Ahead, we've rounded up the best flea shampoos for dogs.
Best Overall: Adams Plus Flea & Tick Shampoo
Active Ingredient: Pyrethrins | Life Stage: 12 weeks and up | Scent: Coconut
Kills fleas, eggs, and larvae
Moisturizes skin and coat
Lasts for 28 days
Some dogs react to chemicals
This popular flea shampoo is designed to kill fleas, eggs, and larvae. It can be used every 28 days to kill fleas during their cycle and prevent re-infestation. The formula contains oatmeal, lanolin, coconut extract, and aloe to help moisturize and condition your dog’s coat and skin.
Be sure to wet your pet, shampoo, and lather for three to five minutes before rinsing. The product is approved for dogs as young as 12 weeks, but double check with your vet. The active ingredient is pyrethrins which can be harmful to cats.
Best Overall Runner-Up: TropiClean Natural Flea & Tick Dog Shampoo
Active Ingredients: Clove, lemongrass, cedarwood, cinnamon, and sesame seed oils | Life Stage: 12 weeks-up | Scent: Citrus
Contains cocoa to soothe irritated skin
Has five essential oils
Light citrus scent
Only repels fleas and ticks for up to one week
If you want to take a more natural route to fight fleas on your pup, this TropiClean shampoo uses a mix of essential oils to kill pests. The mix stays on your dog’s skin to repel fleas, ticks, and their larvae and eggs for up to seven days. Then you have to either shampoo again or use another flea prevention product. However, because you shouldn’t bathe your dog more than every two weeks, shampooing that often isn’t ideal.
The formula also contains cocoa to help soothe skin that might be irritated and itchy from scratching at fleas and ticks. The shampoo has a light, citrus scent.
Never use undiluted essential oils directly on your pet unless your veterinarian recommends it. Some essential oils can be toxic to dogs. Flea shampoos with essential oils tend to have very low concentrations of oils that are safer for pets, but be sure to completely rinse all of the product off when you're done lathering, and consult your vet if you have any concerns.
Best Budget: SENTRY PET CARE Flea and Tick Shampoo With Oatmeal
Active Ingredient: Permethrin | Life Stage: 12 weeks | Scent: Ginger
Contains oatmeal to soothe skin
Inexpensive compared to some
Lasts for only 10 days
This cost-effective shampoo kills fleas and ticks on dogs and puppies as young as 12 weeks. The formula contains oatmeal to soothe and condition irritated skin. The shampoo is pH balanced for a dog’s skin and is designed to clean, deodorize, and condition your pet’s coat.
The shampoo works for up to 10 days, so you’ll need to bathe your dog regularly to get rid of fleas in the life cycle. The shampoo is not safe to use on cats and kittens. It has a ginger scent.
Best Itch-Relief: Vet's Best Flea Itch Relief Dog Shampoo
Active Ingredient: Oatmeal and neem oil/rosemary and peppermint oils | Life Stage: 12 weeks and up | Scent: Citrusy, fresh scent
No chemicals or added fragrances
Lathers and rinses easily
Doesn’t kill or repel fleas
This itch-relief shampoo doesn’t repel fleas but it helps with irritated skin caused by the pests. It contains oatmeal and neem oil which helps soothe itchy from flea bites and flea allergy dermatitis.
This works best when used with other flea relief products like monthly preventatives or other shampoos like the company’s Advanced Strength Flea and Tick Shampoo (view on Chewy). That formula relies on rosemary and peppermint essential oils to naturally kill fleas, flea larvae, flea eggs, and ticks on contact. There’s no added fragrances; the shampoo leaves your dog with a fresh peppermint and rosemary scent.
Best for Puppies: 4-Legger Revitalize Dog Shampoo
Active Ingredient: Neem oil | Life Stage: All ages | Scent: Orange
Moisturizes and calms skin
Watery and hard to lather
This USDA-certified organic gentle shampoo features organic aloe juice, organic oils, and organic essential oils. It’s specifically made to calm itchy skin caused by allergies, environmental conditions, or flea bites. The ingredients moisturize, clean, and deodorize skin. Because they are so gentle, they are safe for puppies; just be sure to keep all shampoos out of your pet’s eyes.
Natural shampoos with essential oils like neem may not be as effective as deterring fleas long-term, so be sure to talk to your vet about managing pests on your puppy. If you’re used to traditional shampoos, know that natural products don’t lather as much. Just use a little product and keep adding water, then rinse well.
Best Natural: Pure and Natural Pet Flea & Tick Canine Shampoo
Active Ingredient: Cedar and peppermint oils | Life Stage: 12 weeks-up | Scent: Peppermint, cedar, and rosemary
No harsh chemicals, parabens, sulfates, or dyes
Made with certified organic oils
Gentle enough for puppies
Repels pest for just 1 week
This natural shampoo is made with certified organic oils and no parabens, sulfates, dyes, or chemicals. It kills the fleas and ticks on your dog, and continues to repel pests for up to one week after bathing.
The formula contains organic castile soap for cleaning. Organic rosemary oil works to disinfect and moisturize while organic cedar and peppermint oils are natural insect repellents. The product is Leaping Bunny-certified and made in the United States.
The best overall product is Adams Plus Flea & Tick Shampoo with Precor (view at Chewy). This is a great all-around flea shampoo that kills pests and repels them for up to 28 days. Pure and Natural Pet Flea and Tick Canine Shampoo (view at Thrive Market) is a good natural alternative. There are no harsh chemicals in this all-natural pest shampoo.
What to Look for in Flea Shampoos
"I would recommend one labeled for use in cats and dogs to prevent any accidental cat toxicity problems," says Lisa Tanner, DMV, a veterinarian based in Alpharetta, Georgia. "I would also recommend reading the directions carefully to make sure that they can be completely followed."
There are basically two types of flea shampoos: those that use synthetic chemicals and those that use essential oils. Look for essential oils if you want more natural products, but formulas with ingredients like pyrethrins or permethrin are stronger and last longer. Pyrethrins are derived from the chrysanthemum plant and permethrin is the synthetic version. Pets can have allergic reactions to pretty much anything so talk to your vet for advice.
Most of the flea shampoos we researched said they were safe for puppies 12 weeks and up, but be sure to check the label. Don’t use a product on a younger puppy because it could be too harsh on growing and developing young skin.
Does flea shampoo work?
Yes, medicated flea shampoo will kill fleas in the short term. Choosing “all natural” shampoos that have essential oils or Dawn dish soap (a favorite of some animal shelters and rescuers) just kills the fleas that are currently on your pet, says Dr. Lisa Tanner. They won’t provide any residual protection.
What should you look for when choosing a flea shampoo?
"I would recommend one labeled for use in cats and dogs to prevent any accidental cat toxicity problems," Tanner says. "I would also recommend reading the directions carefully to make sure that they can be completely followed."
Is flea shampoo good for cats?
“Yes, flea shampoo can be used in cats, but many of them do not care for bathing so there may be easier ways to treat a cat,” says Tanner. Your vet will likely recommend a topical flea product that is applied monthly to your cat’s fur to treat fleas.
“At a minimum it takes three months of treatment for fleas to go through their lifecycle to be eliminated, and we recommend a full six months of monthly topicals along with treating the environment and all pets (dogs, cats, rabbits, ferrets, etc.),” Tanner says.
Will lice shampoo kill fleas?
You may be tempted to grab another product if your pet is itching, but why bother? Lice shampoo, for example, can kill fleas, but it’s not labeled for animals and therefore it isn’t recommended when there are so many approved animal products available says Tanner.
Why Trust The Spruce Pets?
To find the best flea shampoos, we consulted with veterinarians and professional groomers about what to look for when deciding on how to use a product and selecting the right one for your pet.
This article was researched and written by Mary Jo DiLonardo who has covered animals and pets for several decades. Mary Jo has fostered more than three dozen puppies and dogs and is always searching for the healthiest and most effective products to use on them.