Even a clean and well-groomed furry friend can get exposed to fleas at a kennel, at a dog park, or simply from spending time outdoors. That’s why sometimes being a dog owner means protecting against -- and sometimes getting rid of -- fleas on your dog.
If your dog does get fleas, you will want to get rid of the pests as soon as possible. Not only are fleas an itchy discomfort for your dog, but they can also jump to your bedding and your upholstery. Fleas are in no way an unusual issue, and there are lots of strategies and products you can use to get your dog flea-free in no time.
How to Get Rid of Fleas That Are Already on Your Dog
You might not have to do a lot of detective work to discover that your dog has fleas. Fleas that live on dogs are small but visible. If your dog is scratching more than usual, has red and patchy skin, is chewing and biting at their skin, or has visible scabs, fleas are a likely culprit. Flecks of brown at the base of your dog’s fur, also called “flea dirt,” are a strong confirmation that fleas are present.
You can use a fine-toothed flea comb to get some fleas and their eggs out of your dog’s hair. But that’s probably not going to be enough to completely rid your dog of fleas. A veterinarian can prescribe an oral or topical flea medication for your dog to take that will kill the fleas and their offspring quickly -- or, you can buy similar medications over the counter at your favorite pet store. Make sure that you are purchasing a product that is labeled for dogs, and follow all label instructions.
You can also give your dog a thorough bath with a flea shampoo designed to get rid of fleas. You cannot use regular pet shampoo to give your pup a “flea bath.” Flea and tick shampoos contain pesticides that are made for topical application on the skin of your dog. Flea shampoos are gentle on your pet’s skin and are safe when used according to the label instructions. If your dog has a lot of hair, you may need to repeat the flea shampoo treatment to completely rid your dog of fleas.
If you have several dogs, it’s best to give each of them a bath with flea shampoo, too, in case they’re harboring flea eggs that you can’t see. Take care not to use flea shampoos labeled for dogs on cats or other animals.
Deep-clean your home right after you treat your dog. This will help to get rid of any fleas that have already jumped to your bedding or furniture. Even if you don’t see any fleas, wash your bedding in hot, soapy water to kill fleas your dog might have brought to your bed. Once you’ve repeated the process with your pup’s favorite towels, blankets, and toys, you’ll be one step closer to flea freedom.
Give your home a thorough vacuum, making sure to use hot, soapy water to clean out the vacuum filter or throw away the vacuum bag afterwards. If possible, you may even want to have your carpets steam-cleaned. You may also want to apply a pet-safe pesticide to your yard to get rid of fleas that are hanging out outdoors. Watch carefully in the following 7-10 days to make sure that you’ve kicked the fleas to the curb completely.
Preventing fleas from making themselves at home on your dog is much easier than getting rid of them. Just follow these tips:
Over-the-counter flea and tick prevention products are available in pet supply stores and in most home supply stores. A flea problem that keeps coming back isn’t something to ignore. Fleas can even lead to skin allergies or infections for your dog if left untreated.
Bathing your dog with a flea and tick prevention shampoo is another way to keep your dog safe from fleas. Keep in mind that using too much of this type of shampoo can dry out your dog’s skin, so you don’t need to use it every week.
If there are other wild animals hanging out in the yard or area around your home, they should be trapped and removed, as these uninvited visitors can be a source of fleas. Using animal prevention products is also an option. In addition, apply a pet-safe pesticide to your outdoor space every 3-6 months as a preventative measure to keep fleas away.
Keep a flea comb handy at home. Use it to comb out tangles and brush out your pup whenever you know that your dog has been in a hot zone for fleas. As you use the flea comb, make sure to angle it away from your body so that you don’t transmit fleas from your dog to your own skin, hair, and clothing.
You should speak to the vet if fleas are a recurring problem for your dog. Armed with the right tools and information, you’ll banish fleas from Fido -- and be back to having a blast with your furry friend in no time.