Maybe your dog won’t stop scratching. Or you’ve seen specks of flea dirt on your pet’s belly, maybe even a vaulting flea! Fleas can cause itching, irritation, and hair loss. They can carry a variety of diseases, which can sicken both animals and humans.
It’s time to tackle the pests with a good flea shampoo, formulated for dogs. It’s best to choose a shampoo based on ingredients and the age of your pet. Flea treatment should also be conducted in consultation with your veterinarian, as some dogs have sensitivities to active ingredients found in some flea shampoos. Keep in mind that these shampoos help deal with an immediate infestation, but are best when followed with a flea prevention product—like monthly topical or chewable treatments—to keep fleas at bay long-term.
“Be sure the product selected is safe for your age of pet and does not interfere with other medications currently being given,” Chris Roth, in-house veterinarian at Pets Best, told The Spruce Pets. “Follow labeled instructions, and keep in mind that more is not necessarily better!”
We considered dozens of flea shampoos, looking at their active ingredients, which life cycles of the flea they address, and how long their effects last. We consulted veterinarians and groomers, as well as dog owners and fosters, and sifted through loads of reviews.
Our best overall pick is Adams Plus Flea & Tick Shampoo with Precor. It kills adult fleas, eggs, and larvae, as well as ticks and lice. The long-lasting formula only has to be repeated about once a month and it contains aloe, lanolin, and oatmeal to soothe and moisturize skin.
Adams Plus Flea & Tick Shampoo with Precor
Kills adult fleas, eggs, and larvae
Also kills ticks and lice
Contains aloe vera, lanolin, and oatmeal to soothe skin
Lasts for up to 28 days
Thick lather can take a while to rinse
This is a popular and effective all-around flea and tick shampoo. It kills adult fleas, as well as their eggs and larvae, and is effective in getting rid of ticks and lice. The active ingredient is pyrethrins, which are pesticides found naturally in chrysanthemum flowers. The formula also contains aloe vera, lanolin, and oatmeal to help relieve and moisturize irritated, dry skin. They also leave your pet’s coat shiny and soft.
The long-lasting shampoo typically only has to be used about every 28 days. Thoroughly wet your pet then apply about 1 1/3 teaspoons for every 5 pounds of your pet’s weight. Massage and work up a lather and let it sit for 3-5 minutes. Then rinse well. The lather can be thick and can take a while to rinse out completely.
The shampoo has a fresh, light coconut scent. It comes in three sizes and can be used in dogs and puppies over 12 weeks old. It is not safe to use on cats.
Price at time of publish: $15
Active Ingredients: Pyrethrins | Life Stage: Over 12 weeks | Scents: Coconut | Sizes: 12 ounces, 24 ounces, 1 gallon
Best Overall Runner-Up
Vet’s Best Advanced Strength Flea and Tick Dog Shampoo
Kills fleas, eggs, and larvae
All natural ingredients
Also kills ticks
Strong herbal scent
Can irritate sensitive skin
Vet’s Best offers a line of natural products from shampoos and supplements to home flea sprays and dental products, all without potentially harmful chemicals and added ingredients. This plant-based flea and tick shampoo features rosemary and peppermint as active ingredients. The shampoo kills adult fleas, as well as eggs and flea larvae. It also kills ticks on contact.
The manufacturer says this extra-strength formula is twice as strong on adult fleas as other plant-based flea shampoos. It can safely be used on dogs and puppies that are at least 12 weeks old. Unlike some shampoos, it lathers well and rinses out easily. Although natural, the scent can be strongly herbal and somewhat medicinal.
Price at time of publish: $13
Active Ingredients: Rosemary and peppermint oils | Life Stage: 12 weeks and up | Scents: Rosemary and peppermint | Sizes: 12 ounces
Best with Essential Oils
TropiClean Maximum Strength Natural Flea & Tick Dog Shampoo
Light, citrus scent
Contains essential oils
Has cocoa butter to soothe skin
Kills fleas and ticks immediately
Repels fleas and ticks for just 1 week or less
This lightly scented natural shampoo kills fleas and ticks on contact, then continues to repel fleas for as long as a week. The formula contains an essential oil blend of clove, lemongrass, cedarwood, sesame seed, and cinnamon that work together naturally to fight pests. It also has cocoa butter to relieve and moisturize irritated skin.
The shampoo is safe to use on dogs and puppies that are at least 12 weeks old. To use, wet your pet’s coat thoroughly and then work shampoo into a deep lather, starting at your dog’s head and moving down their body. Leave it on for 5 to 7 minutes before rinsing completely, then towel dry. Because it only repels fleas for a short time, it’s recommended to use about every two weeks.
Price at time of publish: $16
Active Ingredients: Clove, lemongrass, cedarwood, cinnamon, and sesame seed oils | Life Stage: 12 weeks and older | Scents: Citrus | Sizes: 20 ounces
Sentry Pet Care Flea and Tick Shampoo With Oatmeal
Fresh ginger scent
Kills all flea stages, and ticks too
Only lasts about 7-10 days
Not safe for cats and kittens
This cost-effective mild shampoo contains oatmeal to soothe and condition skin that has been irritated by pests. It works to kill fleas, eggs, and larvae, as well as ticks on dogs and puppies from age 12 weeks and up. The formula is pH balanced specifically for a dog’s skin and is designed to clean, deodorize, and condition your pet’s coat.
The shampoo kills fleas quickly and ticks within 1-2 days. It only works for about 7-10 days, so you’ll need to bathe your dog regularly (perhaps as often as weekly) to get rid of all the fleas throughout their life cycle. The shampoo has a fresh, ginger scent. It is not safe to use on cats and kittens.
Price at time of publish: $8
Active Ingredient: Permethrin | Life Stage: 12 weeks and up | Scents: Ginger | Sizes: 18 ounces, 63.5 ounces
4-Legger Revitalize Dog Shampoo
Moisturizes and soothes itchy skin
Natural ingredients like oatmeal and aloe
Very watery and hard to lather
Natural but strong scent
This USDA certified organic shampoo contains all natural ingredients like oatmeal, shea butter, and aloe to moisturize skin. These soothing and gentle ingredients work together to calm itchiness and relieve dryness. The active ingredient is organic neem oil. There are no preservatives, parabens, phthalates, or artificial colors and fragrances.
The shampoo is concentrated, so you don’t need to use a lot, but because it has no sulfates, it can be watery and difficult to work up a sudsy lather. The scent is citrus, but it can seem a bit strong to some people. 4-Legger focuses on creating products with only clean ingredients that are made with real plants, sustainably sourced, and cruelty free.
Active Ingredient: Neem oil | Life Stage: All ages | Scents: Orange | Sizes: 8 ounces
Best Anti-Itch Treatment
Vet's Best Flea Itch Relief Shampoo
Soothes skin itchy from fleas
Lathers and rinses well
Leaves fur soft
Doesn’t kill or repel fleas
More expensive than many
Flea bites can make your pup’s skin very itchy and can cause them to scratch and scratch as they try desperately to get some relief. This isn’t an actual flea shampoo—it doesn’t kill or repel fleas— but it helps soothe that irritated skin caused by annoying pests. Natural ingredients include oatmeal and neem oil which help ease the itchiness.
Because the shampoo doesn’t affect fleas, it’s best to use this in conjunction with monthly flea preventatives (topical or oral) or consider alternating with another flea-killing shampoo. This has no added chemicals or fragrances. It lathers and rinses easily and leaves your dog’s fur very soft.
Price at time of publish: $21
Active Ingredients: Oatmeal, neem oil, citrus oils | Life Stage: 12 weeks and up | Scents: Citrus | Sizes: 16 ounces
Natural Chemistry De Flea Shampoo Concentrate Flea and Tick
Kills fleas, eggs, and larvae
Effective on ticks and lice
Very strong smell
Has to be mixed
If you have a lot of dogs or give a lot of flea baths, this concentrated shampoo can save space and money. Mix up one part shampoo to three parts water in another container, then shake well before each use. Don’t rinse your pet before shampooing. Instead, soak their fur thoroughly with the product, rub it in—making sure to include areas like paws—and then wait five minutes before rinsing well.
The shampoo works to kill fleas immediately on contact, as well as their eggs and larvae. It’s also effective when used on ticks and lice. Some users say the shampoo smells medicinal and has a strong chemical scent.
Price at time of publish: $42
Active Ingredients: Dioctyl Sodium Sulfosuccinate, Undecylenic Acid | Life Stage: 12 weeks and up | Scents: Medicated/chemical | Sizes: 1 gallon
kin+kind Flea and Tick Relief Shampoo
No sulfates, parabens, or artificial fragrances
Safe for cats too
Heavy lavender scent
Kin+kind focuses on natural and organic pet grooming and wellness products. The company uses plant-based clean ingredients with no sulfates, parabens, or artificial fragrances. The active ingredients in this flea and tick shampoo are peppermint, rosemary, and cedarwood oils. The shampoo is certified cruelty-free.
To use, apply shampoo throughout your dog’s coat, starting at the head. Massage deeply, let sit for about 2 minutes, and then rinse well. It should kill fleas within 2 minutes or less and kill ticks within 4 to 24 hours. The scent is natural lavender with peppermint, but can be heavily floral. The shampoo is made in the United States in a USDA-certified organic facility.
Price at time of publish: $19
Active Ingredient(s): Peppermint, rosemary, and cedarwood oils | Life Stage: 12 weeks and up | Scents: Lavender | Sizes: 12 ounces
Our favorite flea shampoo for dogs is Adams Plus Flea & Tick Shampoo with Precor. It kills adult fleas, eggs, and larvae, as well as ticks and lice. The long-lasting formula only has to be repeated about once a month and it contains aloe, lanolin, and oatmeal to soothe and moisturize skin. Another great option is Vet’s Best Flea and Tick Advanced Strength Dog Shampoo. It uses all-natural ingredients like rosemary and peppermint oils and kills fleas at every stage.
What to Look for in Flea Shampoos
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. TropiClean Maximum Strength Natural Flea & Tick Dog Shampoo, for example, has a blend of five essential oils. However, 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.
“If using over-the-counter medications, you should ask your veterinarian if it is safe to use on your pet,” says Roth. “Certain ingredients are not safe or pose a risk for young or older pets with health concerns.”
Dog Life Stage
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. When in doubt, check with your vet.
Flea Life Cycle
Most flea shampoos kill adult fleas on contact or within a few minutes. Some like our overall best pick, Adams Plus Flea & Tick Shampoo with Precor, also kill flea eggs and larvae, as well as ticks and lice. Check a shampoo to see how often it should be used. “Most will only kill the adult fleas,” says Roth. “Some have a residual effect that is variable in time of effectiveness.”
Always talk to your vet to make sure you are using the best product for your dog. Follow directions on the label and make sure you rinse thoroughly, keeping shampoo and lather away from your dog’s eyes.
“Active ingredients are all pesticides, so all have the potential for some toxicity and/or adverse effects,” says Roth. “Make sure to use products that are endorsed by your veterinarian and follow all labeled instructions. Don’t mix and match products.”
Some shampoos will repel fleas for just a week or so, while others like Adams will be effective for nearly a month. Read the label to see how often the shampoo should be used. “It really depends on your individual pet, their age and health status, and also what ingredients are in the shampoo,” says Roth. “In general, avoid using multiple products at the same time.”
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, DMV, a veterinarian based in Alpharetta, Georgia. 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 life cycle 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 told The Spruce Pets.
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. We considered shampoos based on characteristics such as active ingredients, ease of use, and flea lifestage they treat.
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 60 puppies and dogs and is always searching for the healthiest and most effective products to use on them.