By the time you’re perusing the Internet for information on how to get rid of fleas on dogs, you can bet your dog has been asking this very same question for a very long time.
The poor thing may not have had the words to express his misery, but having his body used as free flea housing and food supply is seriously traumatic.
And that doesn’t even begin to cover the damage fleas can do to your dog. Truth is, fleas aren’t just an itchy nuisance. They breed like crazy and the more fleas there are, the more blood your dog is losing. For older, weaker canines, fleas can even be life threatening.
The good news is that getting rid of fleas on dogs is a fairly simple process: you kill the fleas and then you prevent future fleas from moving back into your dog’s fur.
The bad news, of course, is that this takes work. Getting rid of fleas on your dog permanently is not a one-off process; instead, it requires a consistent, multi-pronged approach. This means that in order to be completely flea-free, you must go beyond clearing your dog of fleas and also focus on clearing your entire home of fleas.
Why? Even after you kill the fleas currently living on your dog, they can come right back if there’s a flea population left to roam free in your house. And nobody wants to deal with a second – or third – round of fleas.
So let’s do it right the first time and nip this pesky problem in the bud, shall we? Roll up your sleeves and get ready to annihilate the fleas on your dog – for good!
How to Get Rid of Fleas on Dogs: The Pre-Game
Before you begin your dog flea massacre – there are a few things to do to make the process easier for yourself and your dog.
Check for fleas
The very first thing you want to do before you start killing fleas is to…make sure your dog has fleas in the first place. Your dog may be scratching due to skin conditions, allergies or a host of other reasons that may have nothing to do with fleas.
The last thing you want to do is to launch a full out war against dog fleas when your dog is really suffering from dry, itchy skin, right? So take a moment to find out for sure. Here are 6 ways to tell if your dog has fleas.
Okay, you’ve done the inspections and you’re dog has fleas. What’s next?
Quarantine your dog
Once you’ve established that your dog has fleas, the very first thing you want to do is to keep him away from other pets in your home. Fleas can easily jump from host-to-host and you don’t want all your pets to be infected!
Also, keep your flea infested dog away from the furniture and especially your bed – although flea eggs are laid on the host itself, they often fall off and can wind up on the carpets, the furniture or your bed. You really don’t want that.
De-flea your pet’s belongings
The next thing you want to do is throw absolutely everything that your dog sleeps on and lounges on – all blankets, pillows, cushions – into the wash. Your dog’s bedding can be harboring loads of flea eggs and pupae so you don’t want to risk them hatching and adding to the flea infestation.
In fact, go a step further than throw everything you own in the wash: your own bedding (especially if your dog often hangs out in your bed, with or without your approval), sofa cushion covers, towels and every other type of fabric you can easily wash.
Fortunately, fleas at all life stages can’t survive temperatures above 95 degrees so the washer and dryer will take care of everything from adult fleas to flea eggs. It’s an easy way to get rid of fleas and cross laundry of your to-do list.
Okay, now that your bases are covered, let’s kill those fleas on your dog, shall we?
How to Get Rid of Fleas on Dogs: Kill, Kill, Kill
When it comes to killing fleas on dogs, the very first thing you’re going to think of are flea treatments. And if you’ve ever looked around for flea treatments for dogs, you already know that there are a lot of flea treatment products out there.
So what’s the best one to use?
Well, each flea treatment has its own pros and cons, which is why we recommend combining a few of them for the best results. You can check out our complete list of flea treatments for dogs to see how each one works and how they stack up…or you can simply follow the below step-by-step process for getting rid of fleas on dogs!
Administer oral flea meds
Please note that this step is completely optional. If the flea infestation is really bad, your dog is suffering immensely, and you want to give him immediate relief, a good option is to use oral flea meds. Oral flea medication is the fastest way to massacre most of the fleas living on your dog – it’ll kill off over 90% of adult fleas within just 4 hours.
But that doesn’t mean oral flea meds are a one-time cure-all for dog fleas – these only work for around 24 hours and only kill adult fleas, not flea eggs or larvae. So they’re not perfect, but they do allow you to instantly accomplish within a few hours something that can take weeks.
Overall, oral flea meds are totally optional flea treatment that you can use to quickly wipe out fleas that are torturing your dog, but they’re not a standalone solution so whether you use them or not, make sure to combine it with other flea treatments that may not be as instantaneous but last longer.
Soak and lather in a flea bath
There’s good reason why a flea bath is the first line of defense against a flea infestation – it allows you to quickly and easily kill off a good chunk of fleas living on your dog and it provides your dog with some immediate relief from the pain and itchiness of flea bites.
To do it, you’ll just need to choose a flea shampoo. Here are your options:
- DIY flea shampoo. If you prefer a natural – and immediate – flea solution, you can make your own flea shampoo using what you’ve got in your kitchen. One option is to mix a 1/2 cup of water + 1/4 cup of apple cider vinegar and 1/4 cup of Dawn dish soap. Lather the mixture into your dog’s coat just like a shampoo and let is sit for at least 5 to 10 minutes before rinsing it off.
- Flea shampoo. The best flea shampoos for dogs contain a combination of ingredients that kill fleas and soothing ingredients to alleviate the irritation from flea bites. The best thing about them, though, is that they can effectively wipe out the majority of fleas living on your dog in one, easy go.
We recommend opting for one of the best flea shampoos simply because they are more effective, formulated to be pH-appropriate for your dog’s skin and will also kill flea eggs and larvae along with the adult fleas. On top of that, Dawn is much harsher than dog shampoos and will remove the natural protective oils on his skin, risking further dryness and irritation.
Quick Tip: Before you begin shampooing your dog, wet and lather up the neck first, making a sort of “flea shampoo collar” around your dog’s neck. This will prevent the fleas from running up to your dog’s face when you start lathering up the rest of your dog’s body.
Use a flea comb
Sure, it’s time-consuming but it’s a great, all-natural way to get dead fleas – as well as the fleas that didn’t die from the flea shampoo – off of your dog. Plus, it’s oddly gratifying to catch a flea this way and either pop them with your nails or flush them.
Thoroughly going over your dog’s coat with a flea comb also allows you to remove other yuckies like flea poop that you don’t want hanging around in your dog’s fur.
Treat your home
The final step to get rid of fleas on your dog is to get rid of fleas in your home. You’ve already done the laundry and wiped out all the adult and baby fleas living in your fabrics but now it’s time to go where the majority of the flea infestation lives: the carpet.
When your home becomes infested with fleas, most of the flea eggs eventually wind up in the carpet, which is why this is a crucial step to getting rid of fleas for good. Even if you eliminate all the fleas on your dog and his bedding, if there are still fleas lurking in the carpet, it’s only a matter of time until your dog is infested again.
And nobody’s got time for that. So here’s the game plan…
Vacuum, vacuum, vacuum
The vacuum cleaner is one of the most important flea-fighting tools you have in your arsenal so use it wisely and consistently to suck fleas, eggs and larvae out of your carpet and furniture.
A smart tip? Place a flea collar inside the vacuum cleaner so any fleas that get sucked inside die asap.
Steam it up
Fleas at all life stages can’t survive temperatures above 95 degrees. And even if the steam doesn’t reach deep enough to kill all the fleas hidden in the carpet, the heat alone could be enough to stimulate dormant flea pupae to leave their cocoons.
It’s also a totally natural, non-toxic way to kill fleas and sanitize your space at the same time. We recommend McCulloch’s Heavy Duty Steam Cleaner – it heats water to over 200 degree Fahrenheit, produces strong steam and you can use it on both your upholstered furniture and carpets.
Bust out the flea killers
A smart thing to do is to constantly rotate the vacuum and steaming with flea killers. When it comes to things that kill fleas, you have an array of options, ranging from natural flea killers like Diatomaceous Earth to more potent solutions like insecticides, which is best for severe infestations.
If you go this route, we recommend looking for a flea pesticide that combines an adulticide like Permethrin, Phenothrin, or Deltamethrin with Insect Growth Regulators (IGRs ) like Methoprene or Pyriproxifen. While the adulticides kill the adults, the IGRs kill off the larvae.
Hartz UltraGuard Spray is a good combination; Ultracide Spray is another potent combination. Whatever you use, make sure to get the product deep into the carpet ’cause that’s where the flea babies are lurking.
How to Get Rid of Dog Fleas Forever: Prevention
If you’ve given your dog a flea bath, removed leftover fleas with a flea comb and even administered oral flea medication, most of the fleas that were living on your dog are dead.
But the battle doesn’t end here. After all, there are most likely fleas still lurking around your home, yard and other places your dog roams and it’s just a matter of time until your dog picks up another batch of fleas. Which is why it’s crucial that you take measures to protect your dog further.
So what is the best flea prevention for dogs? Here are your best options!
Spot-on flea treatments
These are our favorite way to both repel and kill fleas. Why? They’re easy to apply, kills 100% of fleas in all life stages (the babies, too!), and it’s also preventative – it’ll keep fleas off for up to 30 days per application.
These spot-on treatments work by depositing into the sweat glands of the dog’s skin, where the active ingredient can be released over several weeks’ time. The treatments are waterproof so they’re suitable for outdoorsy dogs and they apply directly on your dog’s fur, between his shoulders, so there’s little risk of dogs licking off and ingesting the treatment.
Don’t want to remember to re-apply every 30 days? Makes sense, especially when there are highly effective alternatives like flea collars. Check out the best flea collars for dogs! These collars work via a sustained release technology that gradually and steadily releases non-greasy, odorless flea and tick prevention insecticide.
Keep in mind that flea collars are not fast-acting and are best used as a flea repellent rather than a quick fix to instantaneously rid your dog of fleas. That being said, these are a great set-it-and-forget-it flea repellent option since they’re waterproof and will provide up to 8 months of flea and tick protection.
Note: Spot-on treatments and flea collars should not be used together. Choose one or the other and stick to it as using them both at the same time is both unnecessary and potentially harmful.
Okay, that about covers pretty much everything you need to know about getting rid of fleas on dogs and keeping them off for good. If you follow all the instructions, you’ll hopefully never have to re-visit this post. Good luck and don’t let the suckers bite!