Flea Collar vs Topical Drops

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Fleas are a real nightmare for any dog parent.

Once your dog is infested, it can take months of work to ensure your dog and home are free from fleas.

The best solution for dealing with fleas is to use preventative measures to avoid the issue altogether.

There are numerous flea preventative options available, and two of the most common options are flea collars and flea drops.

In this review, we will compare flea collars vs. flea drops and compare the benefits, safety concerns, effectiveness, and pricing.

Flea Collars

Flea collars are easy to use and require little work in putting it on your dog.

Plus, most are one size fits all and only need to be trimmed to fit your dog.

They are one of the oldest flea preventatives on the market and brands like Seresto are very popular (see our Seresto flea collar review).

How Flea Collars Work

Flea collars have specific chemicals that both kill and prevent fleas.

After fitting the collar on your dog, the chemicals are released from the collar and are transported using your dog’s natural oils, skin, and fur to spread the pesticide over the dog’s body[1].

Depending on the chemical used in the collar, most kill fleas and larvae on contact, meaning the fleas do not need to bite your dog for it to kill them.

Instead, fleas simply need to come into contact with your dog’s skin or coat for the collars to work. Most flea collars start killing fleas within 24-hours.

See how a flea collar stacks up against a chewable flea pill

Flea Collar Benefits

Flea collars offer protection around the clock.

Also, many flea collars help to kill and prevent other parasites; some even act as a mosquito repellent.

Plus, many flea collars last all summer, making them a cost-effective choice.

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Flea Collar Side Effects

All flea control products have potential side effects.

When appropriately used, side effects for flea collars may include:

  • Skin Irritation
  • Chemical burns
  • GI Upset
  • Seizures
  • Adverse effects on the central nervous system

How Effective are Flea Collars?

The efficacy of a flea collar depends on the collar itself.

Some collars will advertise they “ward off fleas,” and some will state they kill fleas at all life stages.

So, you must read the claims associated with each brand to know how the collar will work.

If your pup is already infested with fleas, then getting a collar that wards them off will not be the one to choose.

Additionally, though most collars claim they are effective over the entire body, the neck, and head region have the highest protection, and areas further away do not carry the potency.

Topical Flea Treatments

Topical flea treatments are also known as drops or spot-on flea treatments.

Some popular topical flea treatment are Frontline, Hartz, and Advantix.

However, regardless of how you choose to refer to them, they all work similarly.

Flea drops are applied between the should blades of your dog, directly to their skin.

See how one of the best selling topical flea meds, Advantix, compares against the popular Seresto flea collar

How Flea Drops Work

After applying the drops, the chemical is absorbed into the sebaceous glands[2], which are responsible for lubricating your dog’s coat.

And, as the gland naturally releases oils to keep your dog’s fur healthy, it also releases the chemical from the spot-on treatment.

In most spot-on treatments, the pesticide used impacts the flea’s nervous system, shutting down its internal organs.

Flea collars vs topical drops spot on flea preventative treatment

Flea Drop Benefits

The most significant benefit for flea drops is that once absorbed into the skin, it is no longer a danger to pets or humans through contact.

Also, flea drops are waterproof for thirty days, regardless of how often your dog goes swimming or takes a bath.

And most importantly, flea drops kill fleas during all life stages.

Topical Flea Treatment Side Effects

Some of the more typical side effects seen in topical flea treatment include:

  • Skin irritation
  • Itching
  • Excessive salvation
  • Loss of appetite
  • GI upset

How Effective are Flea Drops?

As long as the directions are followed, flea drops are very effective.

Plus, fleas don’t even need to bite your dog to be killed.

Once in contact with your dog’s skin, fleas will absorb the chemical effectively, killing them and any larvae or eggs.

Which Treatment is More Effective?

Flea drops are more effective than flea collars since it absorbs better into your dog’s system and transports the pesticide throughout the body more thoroughly.

See how the Seresto collar, Bravecto chews, and Frontline drops compared to each other.

Which Option is Safer?

They both carry similar side effects; however, flea drops are safer because there is a significantly less risk that your dog will ingest it.

Also, after absorbed into your dog’s skin, there is no longer a concern that casual contact will make others in the household sick.

However, flea collars do pose one safety benefit over flea drops.

If your dog is experiencing any side effects, you can remove the collar, which reduces or eliminates any adverse effects[3].

But once the flea drops have absorbed into your dog’s system, you can no longer remove the cause of irritation.

Are flea collars or drops more effective

Which Lasts Longest?

Flea collars last several months, some even a full eight months.

Whereas, flea drops only last 30 days.

Plus, since flea collars last as long as they do, there is less of a chance of forgetting to reapply.

However, some flea collars do lose their effectiveness if your dog happens to swim or get bathed frequently, causing the collar to lose its potency sooner than advertised.

Which is Cheaper?

Flea collars.

When you compare the monthly costs of flea drops and flea collars, flea collars are more economical.

Though the difference in price varies on the size of the dog, it was less than $4 per month.

Note: I based the average pricing on a flea collar that would last up to eight months.

Final Verdict

I choose flea drops over flea collars.

Though they are slightly more expensive and require monthly reapplication, there are more benefits to flea drops than flea collars.

Being in a multi-dog household, I use topical treatments so that I never have to worry about any of the dogs coming into contact with each other’s collars.

Also, I don’t have to be concerned about the residue from the flea collar getting on furniture or dog beds and causing health issues for the humans or four-legged family members.

And, though I don’t have children, my dogs are around kids from time to time, and with flea drops, I never have to worry that kids may come in contact with the chemicals on a flea collar.


  1. https://www.petcarerx.com/article/how-do-flea-collars-work/133
  2. https://www.petpoisonhelpline.com/uncategorized/four-things-know-flea-tick-topical-solutions/
  3. https://wagwalking.com/condition/flea-collar-allergies
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