How to Safely Get Rid of Fleas on Dogs and Puppies

Flea Infestation on Dogs

You aren’t the only one to love your dogs. Fleas, unfortunately, love dogs and puppies just as much as they provide a perfect feeding environment to get their blood meals from. The fur and coat also offer a flea a good warm place to hide when they aren’t feeding.

There are four general steps to getting rid of fleas on your dogs and puppies. The first step involves identifying the extent of the flea infestation, the second step is to contain the fleas as much as possible, the third step is to treat your dog with flea control remedies, and the fourth step is to prevent future infestations.

Step 1: Identifying the Flea Infestation

Unless it’s a severe infestation, fleas aren’t necessarily easy to identify due to their tiny size. In a severe situation, you will most likely see the fleas jumping and moving around your dog’s coat. For less-severe situations, you can rely on the following signs and symptoms to help you understand the extend of the problem.

Behavioral Changes

Dogs affected by fleas will most likely show some behavioral changes, such as frequently licking or scratching certain parts of their body. They may act restless and shake their head often due to the itchiness caused by the flea bites. When a flea feeds on a dog, they inject a small amount of saliva into the dog’s skin. This saliva, unfortunately, creates an itchy response for a lot of dogs. The specific name of this condition is flea allergy dermatitis (FAD).

Visual Signs of Fleas

You will need to carefully examine every inch of your dog’s body to identify where the fleas are settling. There are certain parts of the dog’s body that fleas tend to like such as the ears, armpit, and groin. These areas generally offer fleas a lot more warmth and protection in comparison to other parts of the body.

Dogs affected by fleas may also suffer from tiny red dots around their body. The size of these red dots depends on how sensitive the dog is to the flea bite. As mentioned earlier, dogs with flea allergy dermatitis are likely to suffer from having larger red dots. Some of these red dots may eventually turn into scabs.

Environmental Signs

Fleas don’t always spend time on your dog’s body. They may also be found in certain areas of the house. This may include your dog’s feeding area, his bedding, or other locations where your dog spends a lot of time. You may come across dark specks (flea dirt) in these areas. It may not be easy to identify the flea dirt if your floor isn’t bright in color. One suggestion to counter this is to walk around your home in white socks. Some of the flea dirt may get picked up by the fibers of the sock.

Step 2: Containing the Flea Infestation

It’s time to contain the infestation once you have a good understanding of how severe the problem is. There are certain steps to help contain the flea infestation on your dogs and puppies.

Wash Your Dog’s Bedding

The first step is to wash your dog’s bedding as well as any other fabric-based items (e.g. dog toys, clothes) that your dog gets into regular contact with. Make sure you set the washing machine to the highest water temperature that the laundry item can handle. Most if not all the fleas and flea eggs will die after you take the laundry item through a high-temperature wash and dry cycle.

Check Your Dog After Every Outing

A flea infestation doesn’t necessarily mean your dog has to be quarantined at home. You can still take your dog out for a walk but with a few caveats. For example, keep the dog away from grassy areas where more fleas could be in hiding and waiting for their next victim. You should also do other dog owners a favor and let your dog play in a secluded area so that the fleas don’t transfer to the other pooches.

Last but not least, do a careful examination of your dog before you let him back inside the house. Get a flea comb and brush it through your dog’s coat to catch any fleas that are lingering on your dog’s body.

Limit Your Dog’s Space at Home

Until the flea infestation is completely gone, it may be a good idea to keep your dog or puppy in one area of the house to prevent the fleas from spreading to all areas of the home. It would be better to keep your dog in a space that’s open with little furniture and household items within it. This will prevent the fleas from easily finding a hiding space that’s not easy for you to reach.

Step 3: Treating Your Dog and Puppy

It’s time to treat your dog once you feel you have the flea infestation reasonably contained. The main steps to treating your dog involves bathing and combing.

Bathing Your Dog

Giving your dog a flea bath isn’t all that different from giving him a regular bath. One of the main differences may be the starting point of your dog’s bath. You will want to work your way downwards by first rinsing or wetting your dog’s neck area. The idea behind this is to prevent the fleas from escaping towards your dog’s face.

Once your dog has been given a rinse, thoroughly massage every part of the dog’s coat with flea shampoo. Don’t forget the areas that are more discrete such as the area under your dog’s limbs. One common question that pet owners have about flea shampoo is to know which shampoo is good to use and to understand how often your dog should be given a flea bath.

The answer to the above questions won’t be the same for every dog so we strongly recommend getting the advice from your vet. He or she may have a good recommendation based on the sensitivity of your dog’s skin. In terms of bath frequency, it should be okay to give your dog a flea bath once every two weeks. More frequent baths may be required for dogs suffering from a serious infestation.

Combing Your Dog

A flea comb is an inexpensive but highly effective tool for getting rid of fleas. Unlike regular combs, a flea comb has a lot of narrow metal teeth to help you easily pick out the fleas and flea eggs on your dog’s coat. We recommend having a bucket of warm soapy water to easily kill any fleas you find on your pet.

When combing, first start from your dog’s ears and head and gradually make your way towards his tail. After every comb, check the teeth to see if any fleas get caught in it. If you do see fleas in the comb then quickly dunk the comb into the bucket of soapy water and pull them out. We suggest combing your dog at least once a day to keep the fleas on their toes.

Flea Medications for Dogs

Some vets may prescribe your dog with medication if the flea infestation is fairly bad. The medications may help in several ways, such as preventing a flea’s ability to lay eggs on the dog’s coat. Some flea medications are available over-the-counter but we suggest you get a prescription instead as your vet will know all the different side effects associated with each medication.

Flea Treatment for Puppies

Flea treatment must be dealt differently for puppies. Their body may not be ready to handle certain topical or oral medications, especially at an early age. A general rule of thumb is that you should hold off on applying any flea treatment on your puppy if he is less than six weeks old. Always talk with your vet first.

Step 4: Preventing Future Infestations

Prevention is the most effective form of pest control. As a pet owner, there are several things that you should do on a regular basis to prevent your dog from getting affected with fleas again later on.

Clean Your House Regularly

Cleaning can help nip a flea infestation at an early stage. Make sure you vacuum your home on a regular basis. Pay special attention to the carpet, bedding, and upholstery furniture when you vacuum.

Effectiveness of Flea Collars

Some people may suggest getting a flea collar for your dog but our experience with these products have been a hit-or-miss. The flea collar tends to be only effective for providing protection around the dog’s neck and face. Fleas, however, may settle in other parts of your dog’s body where the scent released from the collar may not reach. This is another question where your vet can help.

Common Questions About Flea Treatment for Dogs

Handling flea treatment for dogs and puppies, especially if you plan on doing it on your own, leads to a lot of questions for pet owners. After all, your pet’s health is at stake so you want to make sure you are using the right method to handle the flea infestation.

When Can Dogs Get Fleas?

Unfortunately, every trip with your dog outside offers a chance for fleas to latch themselves to your dog or puppy. Your dog may have gotten fleas when he was playing around in a grassy area, or it may have happened in the dog park when a flea from another dog transferred over to yours.

How Long Does It Take to Get Rid of Fleas on Dogs?

This depends on how bad the infestation is. Flea infestations identified at an early stage may take up to a few weeks to eliminate. More severe cases may take up to a few months to handle as you need to take into account all the different life stages the fleas go through.

Does Coconut Oil Kill Fleas on Dogs?

Coconut oil is one of several natural remedies that may help eliminate fleas. The oil can kill the fleas by suffocating them. You, however, shouldn’t rely on coconut oil alone to handle the flea problems on your dog. Coconut oil may also lead to a smelly and odd-smelling coat so we would suggest looking at other flea control methods first.