How to Get Rid of Fleas on Puppies and Adult Dogs (Prevent and Treat)

Fleas are a real pest on your dog’s coat. They bite, cause irritation and itchiness, and can even leave your dog or puppy with health issues. Luckily, you can get rid of these blood-sucking parasites and save your pet from the itch and scratch.

We thought you’d appreciate a complete guide on how to get rid of fleas on dogs and puppies, which is why we put this article together. Here, you’ll read everything you need to know about how dogs get fleas, how to prevent and treat fleas on dogs, the best natural and drug remedies for fleas, and a few other practical tips. Let’s get right into it!

How Do Dogs Get Fleas

If you are wondering how house dogs get fleas, you should know that dogs get fleas from interacting with other pets and animals, from an infested home, from the outdoors, from infested dog facilities, and from grass.

A close up view of flea on a dog skin
Photo Credit: tammys_tailwaggers

Dogs get Fleas from Other Pets and Animals

Fleas are not just a dog thing. They live on other pets like cats and rabbits, birds, and wild animals like raccoons, squirrels, deer, and rodents. If you are near a ranch, your dog could also pick fleas from livestock.

Fleas can jump from these animals to your furry friend if they come into your compound, interact with your pet during your daily dog walks, or when you go to parks.

Dogs get Fleas from an Infested Home

Your dog could be the medium that transports fleas from other pets, animals, or the environment to your home. However, fleas may find their way into your home through cats, birds, visiting pets, people’s clothing, or uninvited mice. Once in your home, fleas will multiply quickly; 40 to 50 new fleas, according to ENTOMOLOGY at the University of Kentucky. They’ll then hide under carpets, on sofas, on other pets’ fur, and in other favorite spots in your home. Your dog will then pick them from these spaces.

Dogs Get Fleas from Infested Dog Facilities

Dog training and grooming facilities, canine daycare, and dog boarding kennels are frequented by a large number of dogs daily. Though these services have precautions about handling or keeping away flea-infested dogs, some dogs may pass unnoticed and leave fleas around, passing them to other dogs.

Dogs get Fleas from the Outdoors

Any healthy dog loves a good outing and amusement with other dogs. Unfortunately, your dog’s fun time can turn into a flea-piking adventure if the environment has fleas or any of the playmates is infected with fleas. 

Watch the animals your dog plays or interacts with during outdoor walks and in parks, and notice any of the signs of fleas we’ll be telling you about later.

Dogs get Fleas from Glass

A lot of dog owners wonder if dogs can get fleas from grass. Unfortunately, the answer is a resounding yes!

Grass can serve as a dwelling for adult fleas if they jump from animals. Flea eggs can also fall from an animal’s coat onto the grass.

If your dog lies on grass harboring fleas or their eggs, it will pick them with its coat and provide a new home for the fleas.

7 Ways to Prevent Fleas on Dogs

When it comes to fleas on dogs, the best remedy is always prevention. For this reason, every dog owner should know the most effective natural and drug-based ways of keeping pesky fleas from their dog. 

We give you 7 of the most effective flea prevention remedies.

1. Give Your Dog a Flea Preventative Pill

A dog getting the medicine from its owner

As a disclaimer, you should always consult a vet before giving your dog any type of medication. 

That said, giving your dog a monthly flea preventative pill is the most recommended and effective way to keep fleas off your pup’s skin. Here’s why.

Oral flea drugs have been scientifically tested for safety and efficacy, and they are also approved by relevant bodies like the food and drug administration. Besides, these drugs are under continuous regulation and monitoring, which means they do not pose any risk for your dog.

Here are 3 of the most common and recommended flea preventative pills for dogs:

Bravecto (Fluralaner)

This is one of the flea drugs in the Isoxazoline class. They are among drugs that kill fleas on dogs instantly by working on the parasite’s nervous system. 

Bravecto is given to dogs every 12 weeks (Not after three months and not monthly).

Trifexis

Trifexis is an anti-flea drug in the Spinosad (Insecticide) category. It acts on the parasite’s nerve cells and kills them within 30 minutes. 

Trifexis is given once every month and is also used for the treatment of heartworms.

Sentinel (Lufenuron)

An anti-flea drug that prevents flea eggs from hatching, thereby controlling the infestation of the parasite. 

This preventative pill does not kill adult fleas and must be combined or replaced with other products like Capstar if your dog already has adult fleas. Sentinel is given once every month.

2. Maintain an Anti-Flea Habitat around Your Home

Maintaining an anti-flea environment around your home is one of the best ways of preventing fleas on dogs. Fleas flourish in surroundings with tall grass, plenty of leaf litter, and dark and damp places. Dogs will easily pick fleas from such surroundings.

To create an anti-flea habitat:

  • Mow your lawn to get rid of tall grass. However, do not mow the grass too low as spiders and ants need a bit of grass to flourish, and these are flea predators.
  • Clear leaf litter and any dead twigs around your home.
  • Trim any shrubs around your home as these create a damp and dark ambiance that’s good for fleas.
  • Spray your yard with natural anti-flea scents like lavender and citronella to deter fleas from breeding in your compound.
  • Apply cedar mulch in your garden as fleas find cedar repulsive.

3. Use Essential Oils Flea Deterrents

If you are wondering how to keep fleas off your dog naturally, using essential oils is one of the best natural remedies for repelling fleas. However, you need to know which ones are safe, not just for your dog but also other pets in the home, like cats.

The safest bet when using essential oils to deter fleas is to speak to your pet’s vet for professional advice. 

Any veterinarian will point out these safety precautions when advising on using essential oils as flea repellents on dogs: 

  • You should not use essential oils on or around your dog in their concentrated form.
  • Unless your dog’s vet allows it, you should never use essential oils on or around expectant dogs.
  • Your dog should never ingest essential oils. Instead, the oils should be used for DIY spray-on repellents, applied and brushed into your pet’s coat, or added to your pup’s shampoo.  

Here’s a summary of some of the essential oils you can use on your dog as flea deterrents and how to use them.

Lavender oil

Add 5 to 10 drops of lavender oil to your dog’s shampoo and use it during your pet’s baths to keep fleas away.

Citronella oil

Add 15 drops of citronella to a spray bottle and fill it with water. Shake to mix, and spray on your dog’s coat, inside your home, or in the yard.

Eucalyptus oil

Add 3 drops of Eucalyptus oil to every tablespoon of dog shampoo. Use it regularly when bathing your dog to deter fleas.

Cedar oil

Add a few drops (around 3) of Cedar essential oil to a carrier oil (used to dilute essential oils) and use it on your dog’s coat to keep fleas away. Alternatively, add drops of Cedar oil to your dog’s shampoo for use during baths.

Rosemary oil

Add 5 to 8 drops of Rosemary oil to your pet’s shampoo and use it during your dog’s baths to repel fleas.

Lemongrass oil

Citral and geraniol, which are found in lemongrass, repel fleas. Add 5 drops of lemongrass oil to a spray bottle filled with water and use it to spray your dog and the flea-prone areas in and outside your home.

4. Use Homemade Anti-flea Shampoos/Body Wash

You can use ingredients you already have in your home to make anti-flea dog shampoos or wash. Vinegar shampoo and Lemon wash are two easy-to-make DIY options.

How to make vinegar anti-flea dog shampoo

  1. Pour 1 cup of apple cider vinegar or white vinegar in a mixing jar.
  2. Add ¼ cup of water.
  3. Pour 1 cup of non-toxic dishwashing liquid or baby shampoo into the mixture and stir to thoroughly mix the ingredients. 
  4. Use the vinegar shampoo for bathing your dog. This will not only repel fleas, but it will also kill them if present.

How to make anti-flea lemon wash

Lemon is an effective natural flea deterrent. It is used in its natural form to apply on your dog’s coat or made into a wash following this process:

  1. Pour 6 cups of water into a small pot and bring to boil.
  2. Add 4 slices of lemon.
  3. Put a tablespoon of salt.
  4. Leave the mixture to boil for another couple of minutes.
  5. Remove the mixture from the heat and let it steep for a day.
  6. Bath your dog and apply the mixture to your dog’s fur. You can repeat the application for a few days. This will keep fleas at bay.

5. Plant Flea Repelling Plants in Your Garden

Many essential oil scents mentioned earlier can be used as plants in your garden or as potted plants to repel fleas. These include:

  • Fleawort
  • Chamomile
  • Lavender
  • Citronella
  • Fleabane Daisy
  • Mint
  • Lemon Grass
  • Catnip
  • Sage
  • Marigolds
  • Sweet Bay
  • Chrysanthemums
  • Rue
  • Eucalyptus
  • Wormwood
  • Rosemary
  • Tansy Ragwort

6. Regularly Use a Household Flea Spray

Whether made from chemical or natural ingredients, regularly using a household flea spray can help keep fleas away. 

When buying a household flea spray, check first the directions to determine if it is a good choice for your home situation; if you can use it on your dog, on furniture, carpets and couches, and in the courtyard. A good example of a household flea spray is the Vet’s Best Flea and Tick Home Spray from Amazon.com. This flea spray is made from natural ingredients (Peppermint oil and Eugenol from cloves). It can prevent and kill flea by regularly spraying on furniture, carpets, dog beddings and crate, as well as the outdoors.

7. Maintain High Hygienic Standards

Fleas can thrive in spotlessly clean homes and a clean dog coat. But maintaining high hygienic standards is one way of ensuring fleas do not find a ready habitat in your home. 

To ensure the conditions in your home are not favorable for fleas, follow these cleaning guidelines:

  • Bathe and brush your dog’s coat regularly. Find out how often you should bathe your dog according to breed requirements.
  • Wash your dog’s beddings regularly. A hot wash will eliminate any flea eggs lurking on your pet’s beddings. 
  • Regularly vacuum your home, especially under carpets and couch cushions and those places that tend to be hot and humid. These are favorable habitats for flea larvae. Ensure you empty the canister or litter bags soon after vacuuming.

Yikes! 4 Types of Fleas That Live on Dogs

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there are around 2,500 species of fleas in the world. About 300 of these occur in the United States, and some are especially common in dogs. 

Here are four of the types of fleas that live on dogs:

Cat fleas (Ctenocephalides felis)

You would imagine that cat fleas are so-called because they live only on cats. Paradoxically, cat fleas are the most common type of fleas found on dogs and other pets. Apart from being bloodsuckers, cat fleas also spread bacteria among dogs.

Dog fleas (Ctenocephalides canis)

These are common in dogs and humans, cats, livestock, and other wild animals like raccoons. Like cat fleas, dog fleas are also carriers of diseases such as tapeworms.

Rat fleas (Xenopsylla cheopis)

Even though they would rather live on rats, the rat fleas will find a host in dogs when the rat is unavailable. Rat fleas are carriers of the bubonic plague, which may not make dogs ill, but dogs can bring it to humans through infected fleas.

Human fleas (Pulex simulans and Pulex irritans)

These fleas prefer human hosts but also live on dogs. Sometimes, both species can be found in the same host at the same time.

Signs of Fleas on Dogs You Should Know

If your dog has fleas, it will show some typical signs of discomfort and irritation. These can be severe in some dogs more than others. Dogs with allergic reactions will be the worst hit.

Look out for these signs and behaviors that show your dog has fleas:

  • Scratching and biting due to itching from flea bites or the resulting allergic reaction.
  • Flea dirt or the copper-colored feces fleas leave on your dog’s coat or beddings and on other places where the pet lies.
  • Moving fleas, which are small and dark with a somewhat oval shape and tough shell.
  • Irritated skin due to flea bites and consistent scratching. The skin may present sores, bumps, redness, and in severe cases, Flea allergy dermatitis (FAD).
  • Hair loss from consistent scratching and biting, especially in areas of the dog’s body where fleas love to stay most: the belly, shoulder blades, neck, base of the tail, and the back of the legs.
  • A general restless behavior due to flea bites and the aftermath of consistent scratching and biting.
  • Paleness, which is a sign of anemia in rare cases where the dog has had fleas feeding on their blood for a long time. Paleness can be noticed by checking the inner side of the eyelids or the gums.

What do Fleas and Bites Look Like on Dogs?

The way fleas and flea bites look like on dogs can be hard to describe in words. But let’s break that down into 3 questions.

How do Fleas Look Like on Dogs? 

Adult fleas are tiny and brown. Even though they move quickly and often jump, you can easily spot them on your dog’s skin or fur with your naked eye. It’s easier to spot fleas on light-colored dog fur than on a darker dog coat.

Flea eggs and larvae are hard to spot. The off-white-colored flea eggs are laid on your dog’s fur but often fall off and land on carpets, grass, or soil. They then hatch into larvae awaiting to find a new home in a host. You may be able to see flea larva looking like tiny white worms.

How Do Flea Bites Look like on Your Dog’s Skin?

Isolated flea bite spots are inconspicuous on your furry friend’s dense coat. To tell out flea bites, check areas of your dog’s skin that have less hair, like the armpits or groin. You’ll notice tiny red bumps caused by flea bites. 

Unlike the sporadic bites from insects that do not dwell on your dog’s body, flea bites will often be concentrated in the targeted areas of your dog’s coat.

In severe cases of flea allergy, you’ll notice a rash or patches of irritated skin, sometimes with bleeding.

How Do You Look for Fleas on Your Dogs Coat? 

To find fleas on your dog’s skin, comb your dog’s fur with a fine comb or brush. Combing from back to front and targeting areas where fleas easily hind like the neck folds works best. 

If adult fleas are on your dog’s fur, you’ll find some in the fur that stays on the comb. Alternatively, the comb will pick flea dirt, which you can test by wetting it and noticing that it turns red because the copper color flea dirt is digested blood.This quick video is a quick demonstration of how to check for fleas on your dog.

Natural Ways to Treat Fleas on Dogs 

The natural anti-flea preventative measures discussed earlier also apply as treatment options. You can refer back to the use of essential oils, the homemade vinegar anti-flea shampoo, and the lemon wash as natural ways to treat fleas on dogs.

A few additional ways of treating fleas on dogs naturally are discussed here.

Using Coconut Oil to Treat Fleas on Dogs

The use of coconut oil for canine health issues has gained lots of popularity. Even though studies are still ongoing, many dog owners will swear by the efficacy of coconut oil in resolving plenty of dog issues, among which, the treatment of fleas.

According to healthline.com, coconut oil has anti-inflammatory and antibacterial properties associated with preventing and eliminating ectoparasites like fleas, ticks, and mange in dogs. In fact, a study found that virgin coconut oil shampoo was highly effective in eliminating fleas, lice, ticks, and mites. Virgin coconut oil with 80% concentration was found to be the most effective.

How to Use Coconut Oil to Treat Fleas on Dogs

You can use coconut oil to deter and eliminate fleas by applying it to dog fur. It will also treat sores caused by flea bites. Use virgin coconut oil.

Alternatively, you can make a homemade coconut oil dog shampoo following these steps:

  1. Pour ¼ cup of virgin coconut oil into a container.
  2. Add ¾ cup of distilled water.
  3. Pour in a ½ cup of Castile soap.
  4. Add 5 drops of Lavender oil and 5 drops of Rosemary oil.
  5. Mix the ingredients thoroughly and place the cap.
  6. Use the homemade shampoo to wash your dog to deter or treat fleas.

Using a Flea Comb to Treat Fleas on Dogs

A flea comb is a dog grooming tool with extremely fine teeth so that it collects fleas and their eggs as you work your dog’s fur. It is a natural and safe way to treat your dog for fleas since no chemicals are involved. However, treating your dog with a flea comb is best followed by some form of home remedy or vet-proposed flea treatment.

Using a Homemade Flea Collar to Treat Fleas on Dogs

Homemade flea collars are the natural version of commercial flea collars that you can purchase. They are made with flea-repellent natural ingredients like lavender and cedar.

To make a DIY flea collar for your dog, simply use a clean piece of a scarf and apply a few drops of cedar or lavender essential oils diluted with water. Then tie the scarf around your dog’s neck to deter or eliminate fleas

Using Homemade Anti-flea Drinks to Treat Dog Fleas

Some natural ingredients are known to treat fleas in dogs by ingestion. The most common are apple cider vinegar and brewer’s yeast.  

  • Apple cider vinegar: add one teaspoon to four cups of clean drinking water and have your dog drink the mixture.
  • Brewer’s yeast: add a teaspoon of brewer’s yeast to your dog’s meal to get rid of fleas.

REMEMBER you should always consult your dog’s vet before treating your dog with any home remedy.

Topical and Oral Flea Treatments for Dogs

Topical and oral flea treatments are common among dog owners. However, you should always use these treatments with the prescription of a veterinarian. 

We base our recommendations on the most popular treatments on Amazon.com. You can choose from these with your vet’s guidance.

Best Oral Flea treatments for Dogs

Oral flea treatments come as pills or chewable that you can add to your dog’s food or give as a treat. Their active ingredients are transmitted to the flea when it bites your dog.

A dog gettingn the medicine from its owner

Here are 3 of the best flea dog pills.

  1. Capstar Fast-Acting Oral Flea Treatment (For Large Dogs, 25+lbs)

This fast-acting treatment kills fleas in 30 minutes after the administration of a single 57mg pill. It is FDA approved and can be administered without prescription, but following the instructions on the pack and check with your pet’s vet first. 

Simply hide it in food and let your dog ingest it. If you have a smaller dog, go for Capstar Fast-Acting Oral Flea Treatment that’s made for puppies and dogs with 2-25lbs.

2. Advantus (Imidacloprid) Flea Chews

This flea treatment (not for prevention) comes in chews that you can give to dogs from 10weeks and older. You can give a single chew every 24 hours, and fleas will start dying within an hour. 

The chews are tasty and soft, and your dog will have no trouble chewing their daily dose.

3. CapAction Oral Flea Treatment (For Small Dogs, 2-25lbs)

CapAction comes in tablets that your puppy or dog can ingest once a day. The pack has 6 doses and will start killing fleas 30 minutes after the first dose.

It is safe for puppies after 4 weeks and for pregnant and nursing dogs. Hide the tablet in your dog’s food to ensure the pet ingests it. You can get CapAction Oral Flea Treatment for dogs with 25+lbs if you have a larger dog.

Best Topical Flea Treatments for Dogs

Topical flea treatments are applied directly on the dog’s skin, usually along the upper spine for even distribution or on a single spot, depending on the directions.

They work by spreading through the dog’s fur or the skin’s natural oils to kill fleas without the parasites needing to bite. 

Some topical treatments are absorbed into the dog’s bloodstream so that the active ingredients get to the fleas when they bite. You should apply these to a single spot. 

These are our top 3 recommended topical flea treatments for dogs.

  1. Frontline Plus (For Large Dogs, 45-88lbs)

Frontline Plus flea and tick treatment for dogs is a topical flea medication effective for its fast-acting, long-lasting, and waterproof qualities.

Frontline Plus kills adult fleas as well as their eggs and larva.

To apply, use the applicator to directly place the medication on a single spot of the dog’s skin, preferably at the spine. Be sure to read the complete application guidelines on the package.

You can get the same products for dogs of other sizes:

2. K9 Advantix II (For Extra Large Dogs, 55+lbs)

This broad-spectrum flea treatment is also good for the prevention of ticks and repels mosquitoes. 

It kills fleas by contact without the parasite needing to bite. Once applied, it will start killing fleas in 12 hours and remain active for 30 days. 

To apply, use the included applicator to distribute the contents on 4-6 spots of the dog’s body: along the dog’s back, the base of the tail, between shoulders, and other spots where flea love to hide.

You can purchase these other options depending on the size of your dog:

3. TevraPet Activate II (For Large Dogs, 21-55lbs)

This vet-quality flea and tick prevention and treatment drug has the same active ingredients as K9Advantix II (Imidacloprid, Pyriproxyfen, and Permethrin).

The pack has a four-month supply applied once each month. The topical medicine is also waterproof and will remain active even after swimming or bathing.

To apply, press the applicator tip to the dog’s skin (not fur) skin between the shoulder blades and apply the contents in a single spot.

You can get appropriate doses for other dog sizes:

TevraPet Activate II for medium dogs – 11-20lbs

TevraPet Activate II for small dogs – 4-10lbs

Is Flea Shampoo Safe for Dogs?

According to the AKC, many veterinarians are wary about using flea shampoos on dogs because they are often ineffective. Besides, some shampoo ingredients can be invasive to your dog’s skin, which is why you should go for plant-based and veterinary formulas that are professionally tested for pH balance. 

However, according to PetMD, flea shampoos are an effective way to kill fleas and their eggs and prevent new adult fleas from returning and the eggs from hatching.

To strike a balance when using flea shampoos, here are some tips you should keep in mind:

  1. Follow the instructions on the shampoo bottle to the letter when bathing your dog.
  2. Ensure you rinse your dog’s coat and skin thoroughly after using a flea shampoo.
  3. Combine flea shampoos with other treatments or preventatives, as shampoo is not exactly a flea cure.
  4. Treat your home and your dog’s beddings and cage to prevent the return of fleas once the flea shampoo is rinsed off your dog’s coat.
  5. Opt for flea shampoos when treating pregnant or nursing dogs that may not use topical or oral flea treatments to avoid exposing the chemicals to their puppies. 
  6. Always talk to your dog’s vet before using any flea shampoo.

How Often Can You Bathe Your Dog with Flea Shampoo

In most cases, you can use a flea shampoo every one or two weeks. The active ingredients in flea shampoo won’t last beyond the rinse, which is why you need to use it more often. Using flea shampoo more often than this could irritate your dog’s skin.

That said, there are two more precise ways you can know how often you should bathe your dog with flea shampoo:

  1. Talk to your vet about the safety of a flea shampoo you intend to use on your dog and about how often you should use it.
  2. Read the instructions of use on the shampoo bottle carefully and work with that.

Should You Use Dawn Dish Soap to Kill Fleas

Many dog owners have banked on Dawn dish soap to kill fleas on their dogs and have sworn on its efficiency. See this thread of comments on reddit as an example.

Despite the popular vote for Dawn soap and its actual fatal action on fleas, using Dawn soap is not the most effective method as it won’t prevent future infestations.

Most significantly, the kitchen soap washes away your pet’s natural skin oils, causing the dog’s skin to be extremely dry. This is a good enough reason not to use it. Healthy skin is crucial for your dog’s overall health.

So, if you decide to go the Dawn way to kill fleas on your dog, consider it a temporary fix and follow it with other more effective flea prevention and treatment methods.

How to Get Rid of Fleas on Your Puppy?

Fleas on puppies below 8 weeks of age can be hard to handle. Most flea treatments are not safe when administered to puppies before this age. 

The safest bet when dealing with fleas on puppies is to work with your veterinarian. Your vet may recommend some of the common treatments that you can use on puppies before the age of 8 weeks. 

Here’s a quick list.

ProductMinimum Age/WeightMode of Administration
Capstar4 weeks/2lbsTablet
Sentinel Flavor Tabs4 weeks/2lbsTablet
Revolution6 weeksTopical
Advantage Multi7 weeks/3lbsTopical
K9 Advantix II7 weeksTopical
Seresto7 weeksCollar

You can also choose to adopt routine grooming for flea control on your young puppy following these steps:

Step#1: Bathe your Puppy (optional)

If you think your puppy can handle it, you can bathe it with lukewarm water and mild soap. This can get fleas off your pet’s skin. Avoid using a flea shampoo unless the vet approves of it. 

Step#2: Use a Flea Comb

The fine teeth of a flea comb will trap fleas and flea dirt. Focus on areas preferred by fleas, such as the neck, tail, and under the shoulders.

Step#3: Kill the Fleas

It’s easy to notice the tiny brown parasites on the flea comb or on your puppy’s skin while you comb the fur. Dip the comb with fleas in a bowl of soapy water to kill them. You’ll need to be swift, as fleas jump fast and can easily escape.

Step#4: Clean the Home and Dog’s Beddings

Fleas move quickly to other parts of the home like on and under carpets, under couch cushions, and on your puppy’s beddings. Give the beddings a hot wash and vacuum the carpet and cushions to ensure the puppy does not pick adult fleas or their eggs from these spaces.

Step#5: Do Regular Checks

If your puppy is prone to flea infestation, regularly use the flea comb at least once every week until you are sure the pet is free of fleas.

Conclusion

What do you do if your dog or puppy has fleas? The one time we had to deal with fleas, giving our dog a flea bath with a homemade coconut oil shampoo did the job for us.

However, the best way to deal with fleas is to prevent them before they infest your dog. Our dog consistently uses oral prevention, and we combine that with a topical treatment in the hot months when pets are most prone to fleas. 

But don’t adopt our approach unquestioned. Instead, you should always work with your veterinarian, as every dog is different.

Sources

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