How to Get Rid of Fleas on Dogs

How to get rid of fleas on dogs header
1 May 2024

How to Get Rid of Fleas on Dogs

Dog fleas (Ctenocephalides canis) are perhaps the most likely parasite any dog owner will need to contend with. These tiny, wingless insects can be hard to spot since many don’t grow much bigger than 3mm, so your dog may have fleas long before you notice any of the symptoms of a flea infestation in dogs.  

Without the proper prevention and treatment, a flea infestation can quickly spread to other pets both inside and outside your home as well as infesting your house itself. Fleas can also cause a number of health problems in your dog, including flea allergy dermatitis, tapeworms, anaemia, and more.  

In this blog, we’re going to talk you through how to effectively get rid of fleas on a dog and how you can make sure they stay gone.

Are Fleas Bad for Dogs?

Fleas are a problem to any pet they inhabit, regardless of species. Since they can’t fly, they’ll use their powerful legs to jump up onto your dog, where they can burrow down closer to the skin and make themselves at home to feed on your dog's blood.  

Fleas reproduce rapidly with just one mature female flea laying up to 50 eggs per day. As the flea lifecycle itself takes between 17-26 days, you could be faced with a full infestation within a month. Not only is an infestation far harder to tackle than just one insect, but it also increases the risk of the fleas (or the secondary parasites they may be carrying) causing discomfort, pain, or even illness in your pet.  

How Do Dogs Get Fleas?

he most common place dogs will pick up fleas is from another infested animal, particularly other household pets. Fleas can also be brought into the home by mistake if you’ve been in contact with an infested animal as these pesky little bugs can grip onto your shoes or clothing to make their way into the house.  

Flea pupae can be particularly patient and can even stay dormant in carpets, furniture or bedding for up to 100 days, which can increase chances of reinfestation, even if you’ve previously gotten rid of the fleas on your pet. This is why treating your home for fleas is as important as your pet, but that’s a whole other problem to tackle. 

Fleas can also drop off local wildlife while in your garden where they can bide their time until another viable host comes sniffing around. Despite being wingless, fleas never struggle to find a way onto your pet and can jump up to feet in order to latch onto your dog’s fur.  

Dog scratching their ear | signs your dog has fleasDog scratching their ear | signs your dog has fleas

Signs of Fleas on Dogs

There are several signs that your dog has fleas, most notably the persistent itchiness they cause in your pet. This isn’t restricted to your dog scratching themselves. You may notice they enjoy receiving scratches or tickles from you as it relieves the itch.  

Other symptoms of fleas in dogs include:  

  • More frequent grooming 
  • Biting themselves more or stopping quickly to turn and itch themselves.  
  • Patches of hair loss 
  • Wounds or areas of infected skin 
  • Visible fleas in their fur (which are easier to spot on short-haired breeds) 
  • Evidence of flea dirt (dark-red spots that look like dirt on your pet’s skin or coat) 

Depending on the severity of the infestation, your dog may also be suffering from a condition called flea anemia which occurs when a great number of fleas are feeding on your dog’s blood causing blood loss.  

How To Tell If Your Dog has Fleas

As mentioned above, there are a number of signs a dog has fleas, but if you want to be certain before treating them or taking them to the vet, then there are some checks you can do yourself to find out.  

First, have your dog sit comfortably and part their fur. If you don’t want to do an all-over check, then aim for areas your dog fleas love most, particularly in their armpit and groin areas, as these offer the best conditions for fleas to grow and thrive. 

Fleas in dogs furFleas in dogs fur

While doing this check, you may notice some adult fleas moving through your dog’s fur or the flea dirt they leave behind. Flea dirt is another term for flea poo and appears on your dog’s skin and coat as tiny, reddish-brown spots that can easily be mistaken for ordinary dirt.  

You can test whether what you’ve found on your dog is flea dirt by doing the following: 

  1. Find the dirt spot in your dog's fur 
  2. Wipe the area with a damp, white paper towel.  
  3. If the dirt bleeds a reddish colour, then it’s flea dirt, meaning there are fleas present on your pet.  

Remember, just because you don’t see any active fleas on your pet, does not mean they’re not there.  

How to Treat Fleas on Dogs

Once you’ve confirmed your dog does have fleas, it’s time to tackle the problem. Depending on the severity of your dog’s infestation, you may not need to speak with a vet to find an appropriate treatment, but it is recommended so you can be sure your dog’s overall health hasn’t been affected by the parasite. Plus, prescription flea treatments tend to be more effective at fighting an infestation, but can only be purchased once you’ve had your dog examined by a find.  

1: Kill The Adult Fleas

Killing the adult fleas on your pet is as simple as finding a flea treatment that contains an effective insecticide ingredient. The most popular flea killing ingredients include fipronil, which can be found in FRONTLINE® spot-ons for dogs and imidacloprid which is the active ingredient in Advantage flea treaments for dogs. These ingredients kill fleas on pets within 24 hours and you can often buy these flea treatments without a vet prescription, which makes them a popular choice. 

These types of flea treatments tend to remain effective against adult fleas for up to 4 weeks (depending on the manufacturer), meaning any eggs or larvae that mature into adult fleas in that time will be killed immediately on contact with your dog, or as soon as they drink your dog’s blood.  

2: Break the Flea Lifecycle

Depending on the flea treatment you choose for your dog, you may also be able to break the flea lifecycle with a single treatment. That’s because some treatments contain a secondary active ingredient known as an insect growth regulator which stops flea eggs from hatching on your pet. The most common of these ingredients is (S)-methoprene in FRONTLINE PLUS® Spot-Ons for dogs or Pyriproxyfen in EFFIPRO® DUO Spot-On for dogs.  

When treating a dog for a flea infestation, it’s recommended to choose a dog flea treatment that tackles each stage of the flea lifecycle to ensure rapid and effective treatment against fleas

3: Treat Your Home for Fleas

Finally, you’ll need to target the final and most difficult of the flea life stages, the pupae stage. In this stage, fleas develop from larvae to adult fleas in a sticky cocoon that latches onto fabrics with ease and may be able to evade vacuuming.  

The best way to kill off flea pupae in the home is to use an effective home flea spray like Indorex® Defence Household Flea Spray. This spray is specifically developed to kill adult fleas on contact for up to 2 months and prevent the development of both eggs and larvae for up to 12 months.  

Other ways to treat your home for fleas include:  

  • Washing your pet’s bedding (or wherever they like to sleep) on a hot wash (60°C) 
  • Washing your curtains and furniture covers on a hot wash (60°C) 
  • Vacuuming your carpets and furniture that can’t be washed once a day and empty the vacuum outside to prevent them from re-entering the home.  

How to Stop Dogs Getting Fleas

After treating your dog and your home for fleas, it’s time to think properly about how to prevent your dog from getting infested again. The best way to do this is to ensure you stay up to date with your dog’s routine flea treatments. These treatments are typically applied once a month and will kill any fleas that land on your pet in time, preventing them from feeding on your pet or reproducing.  

Routine dog flea treatments are the same treatments you might choose to use while fighting an infestation so that initial treatment is only the start. To provide the best possible protection against these parasites, the treatment should be applied monthly (depending on the manufacturer) to ensure a flea-free pet.  

How to apply spot-on flea treatments for dogs

Customers Also Ask

Are flea treatments safe for dogs?   

Yes! Most commonly available flea treatments available are well tolerated by pets and very rarely cause any side effects. Just make sure that you’re aware of the ingredients used in the treatment and avoid any your dog is allergic or intolerant to.  

When using topical flea treatments, also be sure to apply the solution to a spot on your dog’s skin that they can’t reach while grooming (the back of the neck and between the shoulder blades are typically recommended) so they don’t accidentally ingest the solution as this may cause side effects like increased salivation.

How long between flea treatments for dogs?

The length between flea treatments for dogs varies depending on the manufacturer, but they typically need re-applying once every 4 weeks for over-the-counter treatments.  

Flea collars will offer longer protection against fleas (typically up to 8 months) because the active ingredients are contained inside the collar and are released much slower.   

Prescription flea treatments may offer longer lasting protection, but you will need to speak with your vet before you can buy any of those.  

How long does flea treatment for dogs take to work?

Most flea treatments get to work immediately, killing all the adult fleas on your pet within 24 hours and ticks within 48 hours. Flea treatments that kill on contact will also remain active in your pet’s fur after they shed, killing fleas in the home instantly upon contact.  

If you’re not sure what the best flea treatment is for your dog, it’s always best to speak with your vet who can provide you with suitable recommendations for both prescription and non-prescription flea treatments for dogs. Or why not browse our complete range of dog flea treatments and find the perfect flea-fighting formula for your pet today?  

flea treatments for dogs without vet prescription