At one point or another, every pet owner has wondered how to get rid of fleas on their dog. There is a common misconception that fleas are merely a nuisance; however, fleas can cause serious health problems and discomfort for dogs. These pesky parasites can be eradicated with the proper flea treatment for dogs.

In this article, we'll provide step-by-step instructions on how to get rid of fleas on your dog and tips on what to do afterward to prevent re-infestation. 

What Exactly are Fleas?

Fleas are tiny, ubiquitous parasites of all mammals, common in both dogs and cats. Although they may seem harmless, fleas thrive off blood from their host (your dog) by biting the skin. When fleas bite their host and suck its blood while injecting saliva into the skin, the host animal is at risk for serious health symptoms and discomfort.

Lifecycle Stages of Fleas

Understanding the flea lifecycle stages is imperative to treatment and prevention. When you notice an adult flea on your pet, this is the only life stage you can see with the naked eye. Adult female fleas can lay hundreds of eggs per day, which then fall off your pet and into the environment. Think of your pet as a little salt shaker, sprinkling eggs all over your furniture, into cracks in your floorboards, and throughout your home.

In optimal conditions, eggs can hatch within a few days or remain dormant for months to years, waiting for the right temperature and humidity levels. This is how severe flea infestations can arise from seemingly thin air, especially in previously occupied apartments and condos. The larvae and pupae are juvenile stages that hatch and develop into adults in the environment.

What Health Problems Can Dogs Develop from Fleas?

Flea infestations can pose serious health risks to dogs. Flea bites can cause mild to severe itchiness in dogs and can even lead to Flea Allergy Dermatitis, a condition characterized by the following symptoms:

  • Rashes
  • Severe Itching
  • Skin infections
  • Hair loss

In addition, small flea-infested dogs may suffer from anemia due to the blood loss caused by flea bites. When dogs ingest fleas, they are also at risk for tapeworms, which attach themselves to the intestinal lining. If your dog is infected with tapeworms, you might even see them in your pet's stool or stuck to the fur around their back end.(the worm segments closely resemble grains of yellow rice).

Fleas can cause dogs to bite or chew frantically due to the itch they cause. If you notice your dog biting and licking their paws and/or body, it could be a sign of fleas. 

How to Get Rid of Fleas on Dogs

Once fleas are found on your dog, it's important to act quickly to treat not only your pet, but also the environment (see below for more information). If even a few eggs are left behind, the infestation can quickly return. 

  • If any pet is left unprotected, it will serve as the reservoir for the infestation, making it nearly impossible to get rid of.
  • If needed, bathe your dogs using regular pet shampoo to remove most of the fleas. (Avoid flea shampoos as they can be irritating to the skin, and they do not provide additional protection.) Then, use a fine-toothed comb to remove them from the coat. 

Types of Flea Prevention

Every pet in your household must be on good-quality, long-lasting flea preventatives. Often, we see pet owners treat their dogs but not their cats, which will allow the infestation to continue. Failure to treat all animals in the home is a common mistake that can make removing fleas difficult.

Your veterinarian will walk you through the best flea treatments for dogs that are available, such as:

  • Seresto 8-month dog/cat flea collar is an excellent choice. Avoid other types of flea collars, which often do not work.
  • Topical monthly gels such as Frontline and Advantage
  • Flea pills for dogs/heartworm combo prevention pills
  • Long-lasting flea injections (shots) for cats only

Clearing Out a Flea Infestation in Your Home

If you've discovered your home has a flea infestation, there are several important steps that must be taken. In addition to the methods listed above on how to get rid of fleas on dogs, take the following steps to clean your home:

  • Launder all bedding throughout the home.
  • Vacuum all floors and cracks in sofas and furniture.
  • Wipe down surfaces that your pet has frequented.

These steps should be performed daily for at least a week after discovering a flea infestation. There are also many commercial flea sprays and "bombs" that can be useful for cleaning your home. Some severe infestations may require professional treatment.

Managing Pesky Dog Fleas

Need help managing or preventing pesky fleas for your dog? Book an appointment with BetterVet today. During your appointment, BetterVet veterinarians can help you determine which flea treatment for dogs is best for your pet's unique needs.

Additionally, veterinarians can help you ensure your pet's vaccinations are up-to-date and provide routine blood work to ensure your pet is as healthy as can be.

Frequently Asked Questions

Do fleas bite dogs?

Yes, fleas do bite dogs. Flea bites are small, red, raised dots on your dog's skin. Due to the itchiness of flea bites, you may notice your dog excessively scratching or licking its fur.

What kills fleas on dogs instantly?

Prescription medications available from your BetterVet veterinarian are the fastest way to kill fleas on your pet.

Can my dog pass fleas to my cat?

Yes, your dog can pass fleas to your cat. This is one of the most common ways that indoor cats get fleas. If you suspect your cat may have gotten fleas from your dog, be sure to schedule an appointment for a cat wellness exam. Please be aware that many flea medications for dogs are extremely toxic to cats. Always be sure your product is feline-safe.

Not only can dogs pass fleas on to cats, but dogs can get fleas from cats too.  Taking measures to prevent fleas can be beneficial to both cats and dogs in the household.