My Dog Has Fleas. How Do I Get Rid of Them?

fleas on dog

It’s an unfortunate fact of life that fleas like dogs. At best, these insects are an itchy nuisance. At worst they can cause a nasty allergic reaction, anemia, and complications related to tapeworms. 

Once they’re in your home, fleas can be hard to get rid of. Unwelcome infestations can happen in almost the blink of an eye. So, what’s the best flea treatment for your dog and how do you keep these pests at bay? Read on for the lowdown.

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Some Flea Facts

  • These small dark insects prefer warmer, more humid conditions
  • Dogs can pick fleas up from other pets or from the environment
  • Fleas don’t have wings and move by jumping
  • A flea’s lifecycle is typically a few weeks but can be several months

How to Spot Fleas on Your Dog

It’s usually possible to see fleas scurrying along the surface of the skin with the naked eye. This is in contrast to mites which tend to burrow. Fleas are about the size of a pinhead and are a dark coppery color. 

Fleas don’t like light. The best places to spot them on a dog are within furry areas, especially on the belly and inner thighs. Flea feces, typically referred to as flea dirt, looks like dark specks sprinkled on the skin’s surface. 

If you see any, pick some off your dog and put it on a damp paper towel. If the specks spread out in a similar way to a small bloodstain, the chances are that it’s flea dirt which means your dog has fleas.

Complications From Fleas

The 3 major concerns are:

Flea allergy dermatitis happens when a pet develops an allergic reaction to flea saliva. The consequences are scaly skin, irritation, itchiness, hair loss, and subsequent skin issues.

Fleas can ingest more than 14 times their own weight in blood each day. This can lead to anemia, particularly in puppies.

Dogs also ingest fleas. They can do this when biting an itchy spot or grooming another dog or themselves. The fleas can carry tapeworm eggs that can get into your dog’s small intestines. Here, they hatch and grow into adults. 

Flea Treatments for Dogs

It’s always best to talk to a vet about the most effective long-term methods of flea control. There’s a wide variety of products that can help and you may need a combination of several of them to get the job done properly.

Oral and Topical Flea Treatments

Using flea tablets or pills and spot-on products is typically fast and effective. Some products may only target adult fleas. Others may just kill off flea eggs. There are also products designed to prevent both fleas and heartworm.  

Some products may require a prescription. These tend to be newer and can be highly effective. They can start killing off the fleas in a matter of hours and can carry on working for up to 3 months. 

Other products prevent fleas from hatching their eggs. As a result, they break the life cycle of the flea and ideally, the flea population will eventually die off.

For dogs that have an allergy to flea saliva, it’s best to go for a product that gets rid of adult fleas along with their eggs. This is because even if they can’t hatch their eggs, the fleas would still be capable of biting. Flea collars can also be useful in these instances.

As a rule, non-prescription products tend to be less effective. They include spot-on products as well as flea powders, specialist shampoos, sprays, and collars. 

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Flea Shampoos for Dogs

You’ll find a variety of flea and tick shampoos for dogs and cats on the market. Remember that you should only bathe small puppies with a shampoo formulated specifically for them. For these kinds of products to be effective, you tend to have to leave them on your dog for several minutes before rinsing them off. 

After bathing, use a dog flea and tick comb to remove the dead fleas from your dog. Flea shampoos will not give your dog lasting protection so you will need to use another product as well. Be mindful that tea tree oil is toxic to dogs. Herbal remedies tend to be ineffective.

How to Get Rid of Fleas in Your Home

Part of a flea’s lifecycle is as an egg and larva in the environment before it sets up home on its host. Indoors, you must wash all bedding in hot, soapy water. You’ll need to vacuum your floors regularly and often.

Always remember to empty the vacuum canister and get rid of the contents immediately. Steam-cleaning carpets will help can kill off the larvae as well. Using some sort of chemical treatment may be advisable.

Once you’ve cleaned the house thoroughly, you could use one of the many highly effective foggers available. Boric acid-based products tend to be a safer choice in homes where children live. 

The most effective products contain an ingredient to kill adults as well as fleas in their other life cycle stages. Another way to control fleas indoors is with a sodium borate product used on carpeting. You could consider using a pest-control company but always ask for a guarantee before committing.

Outdoor Flea Control

Once dog houses or kennels are clean, you could try sprays and pelleted insecticides. Some are more stable in sunlight and last longer outdoors. Check for non-toxic options that are safe for pets and that you can use in vegetable gardens and on children’s outdoor play equipment. 

There’s also a particular type of worm often used in warm and moist places. These feed on the flea larvae. Check with a vet about which methods and products will be most appropriate for your circumstances.

Check With a Vet About Flea Control

Vets tend to know about all the latest flea control products for dogs on the market. They can advise you about which are going to be most effective for where you live. 
If you need advice about flea treatment for dogs, we have a team of highly qualified vets available to talk you through the options. Book a timeslot with one of them today.

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