There are few things as disconcerting as running your fingers through your dog’s fur and finding fleas — especially since, once you’ve spotted a single flea, you know there are likely hundreds more on him (not to mention in your house).
But what’s the best way to get rid of fleas? Giving your pup a bath with a special flea shampoo is a great start, but a quick scan of the pet aisle will show you that there are quite a few options out there — and unfortunately, they don’t all work.
We know you don’t want to take any chances when it comes to getting rid of fleas, so in the reviews below, we examined some of the top flea shampoos on the market to see which ones were most effective at terminating the nasty little bugs — and which ones were little more than smelly placebos.
After using one of our top picks, you’ll have your beloved dog back — without any little critters along for the ride.
A Quick Comparison of Our Favorites
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The 10 Best Flea Shampoos for Dogs – 2020
1. Adams Plus Flea & Tick Shampoo – Best Overall
While it’s great to kill every flea you can see, that’s not always enough to solve the problem. They often leave behind eggs and larvae that you can’t see, and so you’ll think the problem’s solved until the next generation pops up.
You don’t have to worry about that with Adams Plus, as it kills adult bugs plus any eggs or larvae it comes in contact with. Not only that, it includes a growth regulator that will prevent any fleas from developing for 28 days after application.
You might think a shampoo capable of killing that effectively would be incredibly harsh on your dog’s skin and coat, but Adams Plus is great for mutts with sensitive skin. It contains aloe, lanolin, coconut extract, and oatmeal to soothe and rejuvenate your dog’s skin.
The smell isn’t bad, but it is pretty overpowering. Your dog (and your bathroom, if you wash him inside) will smell like flea shampoo for at least a couple of days. Of course, hugging him and smelling shampoo is a lot better than hugging him and getting infested with fleas, so that’s hardly enough to push Adams Plus from the top spot.
2. Hartz Flea & Tick Shampoos – Best Value
Hartz is one of the more recognizable names in flea control, and their products tend to be rather inexpensive. This flea and tick shampoo is no exception, but don’t let the bargain price fool you, as we feel this is the best flea shampoo for dogs for the money.
You get a generous amount (18 ounces) in each bottle, allowing you to wash multiple dogs or provide multiple treatments if necessary. While it kills fleas, it also helps prevent them from latching on in the first place, so it’s fine to use even if you haven’t spotted any creepy-crawlies in your pup’s coat.
The consistency is the biggest sticking point most people have, as it feels very runny. That makes it easier to apply, although you will have to use more than you would with some other shampoos.
It leaves your pet’s coat feeling soft and fluffy, and it doesn’t smell half bad, either. You wouldn’t expect a product this inexpensive to work as well as this does, and if Hartz can manage to improve the consistency a bit, this will be a strong contender for the top spot.
Many owners are understandably squeamish about rubbing powerful pesticides all over their pooch’s fur, and for them, there’s Lillian Ruff. It uses essential oils instead of toxic chemicals, relying on ingredients like lavender, peppermint oil, citronella, and more to eradicate fleas.
That makes it a much gentler formula than some other options listed here, although it likely limits its effectiveness a bit, too (while also driving up the price). The manufacturer includes a flea comb with every purchase, though, so you can always manually remove any bugs the foam misses.
One of the ingredients inside is rosemary oil, which acts as a natural antiseptic. This helps to soothe any discomfort from bug bites, which should put a quick stop to the incessant scratching and biting you’ve had to put up with since the fleas attacked. There’s aloe in it as well to prevent dryness.
Anyone whose primary concern is the use of harsh chemicals will love Lillian Ruff; however, since this list is dedicated to the most effective flea shampoos, we can’t justify putting it any higher than third.
4. Sentry Flea & Tick Shampoo
Like Hartz, Sentry is another brand that you’ve probably seen in your local big-box store. However, that doesn’t mean it doesn’t work — quite the contrary, in fact, as this is one of our favorite shampoos, even if it’s not quite good enough to crack the top three.
This stuff kills all manner of parasites, including the deer ticks that carry Lyme disease. That makes it a smart choice for users in rural areas, as it’s strong enough to kill the serious bugs that city dwellers don’t often encounter. However, it does little to prevent them from coming back.
While it’s undoubtedly powerful, it does take a few minutes to work, so you’ll have to convince your dog to stand still and let the suds do their thing. Of course, anyone who has ever bathed a dog knows this is easier said than done, so prepare for a rodeo.
It’s one of the best-smelling flea shampoos we found, so feel free to shove your face in your dog’s fur after his bath. Until they figure out how to include a way to prevent further outbreaks, though, it will be tough for this shampoo to rise any higher on this list.
5. Wahl Flea & Tick Repelling Dog Shampoo
Wahl 820007A is intensely concentrated, so you only need to use a small amount to completely lather up your dog. That, combined with its low price tag, makes it a good value, and each bottle should last quite a long time indeed.
Dogs that suffer from allergies will love the formula as well, as it’s free of alcohol, parabens, and other ingredients that can irritate sensitive skin.
Despite its gentle formulation, the smell is powerful and off-putting. It certainly reminds you that your dog recently suffered through a flea treatment, and may cause you to forego petting him for a few days.
As for its effectiveness, that’s a mixed bag. It will certainly kill and remove any fleas hanging around your dog’s coat, but the ones that have truly dug in will likely still be there after the bath. This makes it a poor choice for dealing with ticks as well.
Ultimately, Wahl 820007A is a good choice for dogs that are sensitive to chemicals or light infestations. If you have a big problem on your hands, though, you’ll likely need bigger guns to deal with it.
6. OSTER Flea & Tick Shampoo
This offering from OSTER gives Hartz a run for its money in terms of pure budget-friendliness; unfortunately, it’s not in the same league when it comes to effectiveness.
The good news is that it’s capable of killing fleas in any stage of their life cycle, so it can also take care of eggs and larvae. However, notice we said “capable” — it’s rather hit-or-miss when it comes to actually killing them, and while there will certainly be dead fleas in the water when you’re done, you’ll likely find some on your dog that are still alive and kicking.
There’s oatmeal extract inside to soothe irritated skin, and the Mandarin Violet smell is faint and pleasant.
While not strictly related to our purposes with this list, it’s nevertheless extremely important to note that this shampoo uses ingredients known to be toxic to cats. So, if you live in a multi-pet household, you’ll need multiple shampoos as well.
The OSTER certainly has its charms, but the negatives are compelling enough to knock it out of the top five entirely. It’s hard to imagine it rising much higher without a thorough reengineering of the formula, either.
7. Veterinary Formula Flea & Tick Shampoo
Veterinary Formula uses pyrethrin, the same ingredient found in OSTER that’s toxic to cats, so that’s a big negative right off the bat. However, this list is dedicated to dog shampoos, so that’s not enough to disqualify it.
Pyrethrum is harmless to dogs — which is good, because there’s a lot of it in here. That makes it effective at murdering fleas, although it may dry out your pooch’s coat. It’s not as good at removing eggs and larvae, though, so expect to need to reuse it every few weeks until the problem’s solved.
It takes a lot of shampoo to work up an effective lather, as it has an extremely thin consistency, and you need to leave it on your dog for 5-10 minutes for best results, so bath time can be a chore. The smell is fairly neutral, and shouldn’t irritate you or your pet.
All in all, Veterinary Formula’s weaknesses are glaring, and its strengths can also be found in some of our higher-ranked shampoos, making it difficult to justify ranking it any higher than this.
8. Paws & Pals Natural Flea & Tick Dog Shampoo
As you might expect given the name, Paws & Pals Natural is free of toxic chemicals and pesticides, relying instead on natural ingredients like rosemary, cedarwood, and clove to repel fleas.
It seems heavily weighted towards repelling fleas, too. It may kill a few, but that almost seems incidental. You’re much better off using this to prevent an infestation rather than to deal with an existing one, so don’t expect miracles if your dog is covered with bugs.
The pump bottle is a smart idea, as it allows you to get the proper amount of soap without accidentally covering your dog in the stuff. This makes it easier to rinse your dog clean once the bath is over, too.
It may dry out your pup’s skin as well, especially if he’s on the sensitive side. That, combined with all the leftover fleas, may leave him scratching even more than he was before you bathed him.
Paws & Pals Natural isn’t without its uses, but unfortunately, you’ll likely be better off using a more effective killer first and then just using this to prevent future breakouts.
9. TropiClean Natural Flea & Tick Shampoo
TropiClean Natural is yet another “pesticide-free” option that relies on essential oils to do the trick; however, its ultimate purpose may be to underscore just how necessary pesticides are when creating an effective flea treatment.
The shampoo may knock a few fleas off your dog’s fur, but you could do that with your bare hands. It’s difficult to work into a lather and needs to be left on for quite some time, so it takes a lot of effort for not much in the way of results. Don’t expect it to kill eggs or larvae, either.
That said, it’s a nice shampoo. It smells good and will leave your mutt’s fur looking thick and luscious. It may even soothe his skin, helping to reduce some of the itching. To effectively cure the problem, however, you’ll need something stronger.
TropiClean Natural may have some value as a repellant, but it’s not very helpful for killing existing fleas (although it may make them smell better, at least). As a result, it’s relegated to the near-bottom of our list.
10. Zodiac Oatmeal Flea & Tick Dog Shampoo
The third entry on our list to use pyrethrin, Zodiac can be a real killer if used on cats. It’s strange, then, that it would struggle so much to kill fleas.
Don’t get us wrong: this will kill some fleas. But it clearly doesn’t get them all, as their population levels tend to bounce back within a few days. That’s almost more frustrating than it not working at all, as it can cause you to bathe your dog over and over in hopes of getting them all, which could ultimately dry out his skin and coat.
The cap doesn’t stay on the bottle very well, either, so don’t be surprised if it leaks everywhere. This makes it difficult to transport, and requires you to be very careful with it while washing your dog.
On the positive side, Zodiac has oatmeal in it, so it should soothe any existing bites and bumps. Of course, we’d much rather it prevented future bites and bumps by killing off fleas, but you can’t have everything.
If you’ve noticed your dog is suffering from a flea infestation, Adams Plus is your best bet for solving the problem fast. Not only does it kill adult fleas, but it also gets rid of eggs and larvae as well — and it keeps killing them for up to 28 days after application.
Hartz Flea & Tick Shampoo is another excellent option, and it’s one that won’t put a dent in your pocketbook. In addition to killing existing fleas, it works to prevent future infestations — and it also leaves your dog’s coat feeling and looking its best.
If you’re dealing with a flea problem on your dog, the last thing you want to do is bring home an ineffective shampoo. After reading the reviews above, we hope you’ll have all the information you need to find the perfect shampoo for your pet.
And don’t worry — if your scalp starts to feel a bit itchy, we won’t judge you for trying a little bit yourself.
Featured Image Credit By: OSTER Flea & Tick Shampoo, amazon
Emily started this blog out of pure passion. She LOVES her 3 dogs; Chew Barka, Cooper & Nelson, and spends countless hours every day playing with them.
When she’s not nerding out on dogs, you’ll find her on a snowboard or in the kitchen baking chocolate brownies.
She’s been featured in PetAware, Dogtime, and ModernDog.
- A Quick Comparison of Our Favorites
- The 10 Best Flea Shampoos for Dogs – 2020
- 1. Adams Plus Flea & Tick Shampoo – Best Overall
- 2. Hartz Flea & Tick Shampoos – Best Value
- 3. Lillian Ruff Flea & Tick Shampoo – Premium Choice
- 4. Sentry Flea & Tick Shampoo
- 5. Wahl Flea & Tick Repelling Dog Shampoo
- 6. OSTER Flea & Tick Shampoo
- 7. Veterinary Formula Flea & Tick Shampoo
- 8. Paws & Pals Natural Flea & Tick Dog Shampoo
- 9. TropiClean Natural Flea & Tick Shampoo
- 10. Zodiac Oatmeal Flea & Tick Dog Shampoo