How to Get Rid of Fleas on Dogs: An In-Depth Guide

How to Get Rid of Fleas on Dogs: An In-Depth Guide

July 01, 2024

Fleas are a typical problem for dogs that can cause health issues. Although they are small, they can cause significant discomfort to your pet in just a short amount of time.

These blood-sucking parasites leave itchy bites and can multiply fast. In fact, a single adult female flea can lay up to 50 eggs daily, quickly creating an active flea problem.

Dog fleas can become a significant issue not only for pets but for the entire household as well.

As such, pet parents should learn how to identify signs of fleas on dogs and how to get rid of them.

This guide will help you understand how to tackle a flea infestation effectively, ensuring your dog's health and comfort.

Understanding Fleas

Fleas are tiny jumping insects that feed on the blood of animals, including dogs.

Getting rid of them needs a multi-pronged approach, and understanding the flea life cycle is the key to kicking them out for good.

The Four Stages of a Flea’s Life

Dog fleas undergo a complete metamorphosis, meaning they have four distinct stages in life.

  • Egg: A female flea can lay dozens of tiny eggs on your dog's fur. These flea eggs fall off easily, landing on your carpet, bedding, or anywhere your dog goes.
  • Larva: The flea eggs hatch blind, worm-like larvae. These flea larvae do not live on your dog but thrive in dark, humid areas, feeding on flea dirt (adult flea poop) and other debris.
  • Pupa: After a few weeks, the larva turns into a cocoon and enters the pupal phase. Depending on the environment, this stage can last for weeks or months.
  • Adult: Finally, an adult flea emerges from the pupa. These are the ones you might see hopping around on your dog. Adult fleas feed on your dog's blood and start reproducing.

Understanding the flea life cycle is crucial because a flea treatment typically targets and kills adult fleas only.

If you do not address the flea eggs, larvae, and pupae hiding in your house, new adult ones will keep emerging, making it difficult to completely eradicate fleas.

Flea Species Affecting Pets

Several flea species can affect pets, but the most common type is the cat flea (Ctenocephalides felis), which infests cats and dogs.

Aside from cat fleas, other species include the dog flea (Ctenocephalides canis) and human flea (Pulex irritans), although these are less common.

How Dogs Catch Fleas

There are several ways your dog can become host to these pesky parasites.

  • Animal Buddies: Dog fleas can quickly jump from one animal to another during playtime at the park or a cuddle session with an infested friend.
  • Flea-Filled Environments: Fleas tend to live in areas with tall grass, damp soil, or under porches. A walk through a flea-infested environment can leave your dog with unwanted hitchhikers.
  • Hitching a Ride on Humans: Fleas can even hitch a ride on your garments or shoes, entering your home and finding your dog when you come into contact with them.

Health Risks of Flea Bites

Aside from being itchy and annoying, flea bites can also pose health risks. Let us explore what fleas can leave behind when your dog gets them.

  • Itchy Rashes: Fleas leave a small red bump at the bite site, which can be very itchy. Scratching too much can lead to infection.
  • Allergic Reactions: Some individuals are allergic to flea saliva, which can cause a more intense reaction. This might include swelling, redness, and intense itching around the bite.
  • Disease Transmission: In rare cases, fleas can transmit diseases like tapeworms to humans and pets. This is also more likely if fleas are ingested accidentally.

You might think fleas only target pets, but that is untrue. Fleas are drawn to warmth and movement, so they will jump on humans too — especially if your pets bring them indoors.

Signs That Your Dog Has a Flea Problem

Fleas can be a nuisance for your dog since they cause itching and irritation. In this section, we will talk about signs to watch out for to spot fleas.

Behavioural Signs

These signs indicate that your dog is trying to find relief from something irritating their skin.

  • Intense Scratching, Biting, or Licking of the Skin: This is one of the most common signs of fleas. Dog flea bites are very itchy, and your dog will try everything possible to relieve the discomfort.
  • Restlessness: Fleas can make your dog feel itchy and agitated. You might notice them pacing around or having trouble settling down comfortably.

Physical Symptoms

These signs appear on your dog's skin and fur, giving you a physical clue that something is bothering them.

  • Red Bumps: The bites typically appear as small, red bumps on your dog's skin. These bumps may be clustered together or scattered in a line.
  • Scabs: If your dog scratches at the bites excessively, they may break open and form scabs.
  • Fur Loss: Fleas can cause hair loss in the areas they bite most often, such as the base of the tail, belly, and legs.
  • Flea Dirt: These are flea droppings that look like tiny black specks. You might see them on your dog's skin or fur or in their bedding.

If you notice any of the aforementioned signs, you should start a dog flea treatment immediately.

Immediate Action Steps to Take

If you suspect your dog has fleas, there are immediate actions pet parents can take to prevent the problem from getting worse. Below are steps you should do right away.

  • Isolate the Infested Dog: To prevent fleas from jumping onto more people and things, keep your pet away from everyone else in your household. You can limit their access to certain rooms or temporarily use a crate or carrier.
  • Clean the Environment: Dog fleas live in carpets, furniture, and bedding sometimes, so you should focus on cleaning these up too.
    • Vacuum Thoroughly: Utilise a powerful vacuum cleaner to clean carpets, rugs, and upholstery. Pay close attention to areas where your pet spends a lot of time. Vacuum the furniture (especially along the seams and cushions) as well.
    • Wash Bedding: Toss your pet's bedding, blankets, and toys in the washing machine using the hottest water setting that is safe for the material.
    • Consider Using Household Flea Sprays or Foggers: These products are good at killing adult fleas hiding in cracks and crevices. Read the instructions carefully and follow all safety precautions before using them.


The best treatment for your dog depends on the severity of the flea infestation, your dog's age and health, and your personal preferences.

Topical Treatments

Topical treatments like Frontline and Advantage come in small tubes and are applied to your dog's skin at the back of their neck. The medication spreads through their fur and kills fleas on contact.

Below are the basic steps for applying topical flea treatments effectively.

  1. Read the topical treatment label carefully and follow the dosage instructions based on your dog's weight.
  2. Part your dog's fur at the base of their neck to expose their skin.
  3. Apply all the contents of the tube directly onto the skin, avoiding contact with your dog's eyes or mouth.
  4. Let the medication dry completely before allowing your dog to interact with furniture or other pets.

Oral Medications

Prescription flea medications like Bravecto and NexGard are pills given by mouth. These medications can kill adult fleas and ticks for several months, offering long-lasting protection.

Consulting your veterinarian is crucial before using any prescription flea medication. They will consider your dog's age, health, and any existing conditions to choose the safest and most effective option.

Natural Remedies

Chemical remedies might sometimes be too potent because of the chemicals they contain. Fortunately, there are natural solutions that can be bad for fleas but safe for your dog.

Herbal Shampoos and Sprays

Herbal shampoos and sprays can be effective flea repellents. Ingredients like neem oil and eucalyptus are known for their flea-repelling properties and can be a gentler option for sensitive dogs.

Our Herbal Flea Repellent is vegan-friendly and can be used on puppies too.

Diatomaceous Earth

Diatomaceous earth is a raw powder that can kill fleas by dehydrating them. To use it safely, follow the steps below.

  1. Lightly sprinkle the powder on your dog's coat.
  2. Rub it in gently, avoiding the eyes and nose.
  3. Leave it on for a few hours before brushing it out.

Flea Collars

Flea collars offer long-lasting protection by releasing a pesticide that kills fleas and ticks. They are convenient and easy to use but may not be as effective as other dog flea treatments.

Shampoos and Dips

Flea shampoos and dips provide immediate relief by killing fleas on contact. They are a good option for treating a sudden outbreak or alongside other flea control methods.

Preventative Measures

Fleas can quickly jump from dog to furniture to human. Fortunately, there are several things you can do that can help in preventing fleas from entering your home.

In the Home Environment

Below are some key cleaning strategies to eliminate fleas and prevent them from getting into your home.

  • Vacuuming Is Key: Vacuum carpets and furniture regularly to get rid of fleas and their eggs. Pay special attention to areas your dog frequents, and empty the vacuum outside to prevent flea eggs from hatching indoors.
  • Wash the Beddings: Your dog's bedding and any soft furnishings it uses, like blankets or throws, need regular cleaning. Wash them in hot water (at least 140°F) to kill fleas or eggs hiding there.
  • Use Flea Sprays and Foggers: Consider using a flea spray or fogger in your home, but be cautious as these contain harsh chemicals. Read the instructions carefully before using.


Preventing a flea infestation should extend to taking the necessary measures outside your home as well.

  • Yard Maintenance Matters: Fleas love tall grass and shady areas. Keep your yard tidy by mowing the lawn regularly and trimming overgrown bushes. Removing debris like leaves and wood piles also helps eliminate hiding spots for fleas.
  • Outdoor Flea Treatments: Products are available specifically for treating fleas in your yard. These can be granules, sprays, or even yard foggers. Always choose a product safe for pets and read the instructions to ensure proper application.

For the Pet

Of course, you should also take preventative measures on your pet to ensure they remain flea-free.

  • Regular Flea Preventatives: Talk to your vet about year-round flea and tick prevention for your dog. Options include chewable tablets, topical liquids, or collars to reduce the risk of infestations.
  • Routine Grooming: Regular baths with vet-recommended flea and tick shampoo and regular brushing with a fine-tooth flea comb can help remove fleas and eggs from your dog's fur. Look for signs of fleas like flea dirt and bites when grooming your pet.
  • Vet Check-Ups: Your vet can suggest the best flea prevention product for your dog and monitor their progress to ensure they stay flea-free. They can also suggest other measures for your dog and your home.

When to Seek Professional Help

Even with your best efforts, getting rid of fleas can sometimes feel like an uphill battle. Below are some signs that tell you it is time to schedule a visit with your veterinarian.

Persistent Infestations

If your flea treatment is not working on your dog despite how reputable it is or no matter how long you have been using it, then it is time to consult your vet.

Your vet can help identify why your flea treatment is not working on your dog and recommend a more targeted approach.

Severe Reactions

Signs to watch for include intense itching, red, inflamed skin, hair loss, or even hot spots.

If your dog is experiencing any of these symptoms, it is essential to seek professional help immediately to prevent further discomfort and potential infection.

Tailored Advice

To create a personalised flea control plan, a veterinarian can examine your dog's overall health, breed, and lifestyle.

This plan might involve a different type of flea medication, a combination of flea treatments, or addressing underlying health issues that could make your dog more susceptible to fleas.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Our FAQ section tackles common questions so you can get your pet back to feeling itch-free as soon as possible.

Does Vinegar Kill Fleas on Dogs?

An apple cider vinegar solution does not kill adult fleas. However, its smell and taste can deter them.

Combine water with apple cider vinegar in a spray bottle to make a spray. If your pet dislikes spraying, you can dip a brush in the mixture and run it through their fur during grooming.

What Kills Fleas Immediately on Dogs?

Capstar, a single-dose chewable tablet containing Nitenpyram, can provide quick relief. It eliminates fleas within 30 minutes of administration.

For best results, confine your pet in a small, easy-to-clean area after giving them Capstar. This helps trap and eliminate any fleas that jump off.

Key Takeaways on How to Get Rid of Fleas on Dogs

You can use natural or chemical flea treatments to get rid of fleas on dogs. However, remember to also wash pet beds, isolate your dog, and take other immediate steps once you suspect your dog of having fleas.

It is also important to take preventative measures like regular grooming and vacuuming the house. Keep your dog on a monthly flea prevention programme and consult with your vet for the best products.

Trust The Dog Doctors for top-notch products to keep your pet flea-free and happy.