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Dog Flea Treatment & Prevention


Last Updated: August 18, 2023 | 5 min read | Leave a Comment

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Everyone dreads seeing these tiny unwanted guests or some flea dirt in their dog’s fur, as fleas can mean the whole family (human and four-legged) getting itchy bites and a battle to try to get your dog and home flea-free.

So, how do you treat fleas in dogs, and what is the best method of flea prevention?

We’ll cover the basics you need to know about fleas. We will also cover how you can prevent your dog from getting fleas and treat them quickly and effectively if it does happen.

At A Glance: Our Top Picks For Flea Treatment For Dogs

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Vet’s Best Indoor Flea & Tick Home

Vet's Best Indoor Flea & Tick Home Spray
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Wondercide Peppermint Flea & Tick For Dogs

What Are Fleas?

Up close of a flea on a dog's skin with person holding fur back
Fleas are one of the many parasites that can affect our pets.

Whereas many parasites are internal, like tapeworms and roundworms, fleas are external parasites that live on the outside of a dog’s body. They are very small (around 1 or 2 mm) wingless insects that feed on the blood of humans and animals. Surprisingly, they can also jump incredibly high in comparison to their size.

There are different types of fleas, including dog fleas, cat fleas, and rabbit fleas. However, despite their names, fleas don’t tend to stick to biting just one species, so it’s quite common for both dogs and cats to be affected by cat fleas.

Why Are Fleas A Problem For Dogs?

While it’s not pleasant thinking that fleas are crawling around on your dog, there are more serious concerns regarding fleas.

Flea Bites

First, when a flea bites, it causes itchiness and inflammation. This is a reaction to the flea’s saliva, and the irritation can be intense for both pets and humans. Of course, humans will know not to scratch excessively, but dogs may go overboard with scratching and nibbling, leading to self-trauma, infection, and a vicious cycle of itching and scratching. This is the case for any dog, but some dogs are allergic to fleas, meaning the reaction is even more severe.

Flea Allergy

If your dog has a flea allergy, you might notice hair loss around the rear end, the base of the tail, or along the back. You might also notice that the skin is very red, scabby, or oozy. In more severe, long-term cases, you might notice that the skin has become thickened, wrinkly, or dark due to pigmentation.

Fleas Can Transmit Other Diseases

In addition to these problems, fleas can also transmit tapeworms and other pathogens. Therefore, it’s best to prevent your dog from getting fleas rather than treat them when they do.

What Types Of Dog Flea Treatments Are Safe & Available?

Person showing how to fit a flea collar on a dog's neck
Make sure your dog’s flea collar fits properly. You should be able to put two fingers between it and their throat.

If you are looking for flea treatments for your dog, there are plenty of different options available. These days, tablets, chews, medicated collars, spot-on treatments, and sprays can all be effective. However, the most important thing is that the product is licensed for use in dogs (or whichever pet you are intending to treat), and the product’s package includes “Approved by the FDA” or an “EPA Reg. No.” While these government registrations can’t ensure the product’s safety in every situation, it does ensure that it contains adequate amounts of the active ingredient to work effectively.

Which Type Of Flea Treatment Is Right For Your Dog?

The type of flea treatment that you choose will depend on your dog. If you find giving your dog tablets a struggle, or if they’re fussy and turn their nose up at most treats, you might not want to choose an oral flea treatment. On the other hand, if you struggle to keep your dog from taking a dip in the local water source on every walk, you might want to avoid a topical spot-on or spray treatment in favor of something oral.

If your dog has previously reacted to a particular flea treatment, make sure you choose one with a different active ingredient. Similarly, if one flea treatment hasn’t seemed to be effective in the past, try a different active ingredient next time. As always, if you’re struggling to decide what’s best, your veterinarian will be able to offer advice.

Always make sure that the treatment is designated for your dog’s age, weight, and breed since treatments for young puppies won’t be the same as those for adult dogs, and certain breeds should avoid certain active ingredients. For example, Collie-type dogs should avoid treatments containing ivermectin, and even a spot-on isn’t completely safe if there is a chance they could consume some.

How Can You Prevent Your Dog From Getting Fleas?

When it comes to fleas, prevention is better than cure – once fleas make their way into your home, it takes a great deal of time, effort, and stress to get rid of them.

The best way to keep your dog flea-free is to keep up with regular flea treatments by adding a reminder to your calendar. Most flea treatments are licensed for monthly use, but individual products will vary, so it’s important to check the label or leaflet.

Don’t forget: you need to treat any other pets in the house with an appropriate product regularly too.

How Do You Get Rid Of Fleas In Your Home?

If your dog has fleas, it’s likely that there are also some in your home. The best way to get rid of fleas from your home is to put all removable, washable, soft furnishings through a hot washing machine cycle.

Next, you’ll want to use a pet-safe household flea spray throughout your home, ensuring that you follow the instructions regarding application and allow adequate ventilation. You’ll also need to treat all household pets with appropriate flea treatment and continue this monthly to ensure that any eggs that hatch don’t jump straight on your dog and begin the process again.

Frequently Asked Questions

Do I need to treat my house if my dog has fleas?

If you spot fleas on your dog, it might be tempting to try just treating them with a flea treatment first. However, the likelihood is that they have already brought fleas into your home. To ensure a quick and complete resolution of a flea problem, treating the home and all pets is very important.

What is the first thing to do if your dog has fleas?

If your dog has fleas check whether their skin is inflamed or infected. If their skin looks okay, they may not need additional medication aside from treatment for fleas. If you have an appropriate flea treatment, you should apply that right away, as well as treating any other pets. You should also consider treating your home with a pet-safe household flea spray.

How long does it take to get rid of fleas on a dog?

Many flea treatments work very rapidly, killing any fleas that contact or bite your dog almost right away. However, your dog’s flea treatment won’t kill flea eggs, and fleas in the environment won’t be killed unless they jump on your dog after they’ve been treated. Therefore, using a household spray and treating all pets regularly for at least three months should help to ensure the fleas are gone for good.

Final Thoughts

Fleas are such a nuisance! They cause itchy bites on humans and their furry friends, and they can take a lot of effort to remove from your home. Thankfully, if you follow the advice above, you can help to keep your dog and home free from fleas so that they (and you) can keep enjoying life.

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The information provided through this website should not be used to diagnose or treat a health problem or disease; it is not intended to offer any legal opinion or advice or a substitute for professional safety advice or professional care. Please consult your health care provider, attorney, or product manual for professional advice. Products and services reviewed are provided by third parties; we are not responsible in any way for them, nor do we guarantee their functionality, utility, safety, or reliability. Our content is for educational purposes only.

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