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How to Get Rid of Fleas on Dogs

By Kara Bednarik

Dog Scratching

Dogs don’t have many natural enemies, but fleas are at the top of the list. Dogs can catch fleas just about anywhere, so don’t be too hard on yourself if you’ve just found out that your dog picked up a couple of these pesky hitchhikers. We’ll tell you a little bit about how dogs get fleas, what fleas look like on dogs, and how to kill fleas so you’ll be rid of them in no time.

How did my dog get fleas?

Fleas exist in the environment and can travel on other animals. They have super-powered legs that allow them to jump up onto their target from the grass or soil. And because fleas thrive in temperatures between 65-85 degrees, they’re a problem for much of the year. Warm, humid climates make for especially tough flea seasons.

How do I know if my dog has fleas?

If you notice your dog scratching a lot, it’s time to do some investigating. Make sure to check the darkest, furriest, areas of your dog first – around their ears, pits, stomach, and groin. Look for something small and dark, about the size of a pinhead, that is crawling or jumping. You may want to get a flea comb to help you check these hard to reach spots.

You may have heard that you can check for flea eggs, but they’re clear and smaller than a grain of sand which makes them pretty hard to find. Occasionally, they can be found with a fine comb, but they tend to fall off, so look around your dog’s bed for eggs.

You’ll also want to look out for dark specks of “flea dirt,” which is actually flea poop. If you’re wondering how you can tell if it’s regular dirt or flea dirt, get the specks onto a wet paper towel. If they start to look like a bloodstain, it’s digested blood which indicates flea dirt.

How do I spot flea bites?

Flea bites are often the first thing pet parents notice when it comes to fleas – and are the most common cause of skin disease for pets. When a flea bites, it passes saliva into your dog’s skin, causing stinging, itching, and irritation. This irritation can cause redness, hair loss, scabbing, and can even lead to skin infections. A flea bite is uncomfortable for any creature but can be especially harmful for those with a flea allergy or sensitivity. A single flea bite can cause full body itching and discomfort for some dogs.

How to Get Rid of Fleas on Your Dog

Some medications are available over the counter, but most vets find the prescription medications to be more effective. There are many options, each with pros and cons to discuss with your vet, including:

  • How long does it take for the medication to be effective?
  • How long will it protect my dog from fleas?
  • Does the medication kill just the eggs, or will it kill adult fleas and protect my dog from bites and stop an infestation?
  • Is this flea treatment safe for my puppy or adult dog with other health issues?

How to eliminate fleas from your environment?

Killing fleas in your home is trickier, but with time and effort (and maintaining your dog’s flea prevention) you can get rid of them. Because the life cycle of a flea can range anywhere from 14 days to a year, you’ll need to keep treating your home.

  • Vacuum regularly, paying close attention to carpets, dog beds, and cracks where small eggs and flea larvae may hide. Empty the vacuum canister or bag outdoors.
  • Frequently wash all bedding with hot soapy water and dry at a high temperature. If your dog is suffering from an infestation, consider replacing their bed.
  • Consider having carpet and upholstery steam cleaned.
  • If you’re struggling with the methods mentioned above, consider a chemical treatment (aerosols work better than foggers or bombs) or contact an exterminator.

How can I prevent or get rid of fleas naturally?

Fortunately, there are many home remedies for fleas, both for prevention and treatment.

Natural treatment remedies include:

  • Letting your dog soak in a warm bath with dog-friendly soap or shampoo can kill fleas.
  • Citronella, eucalyptus, peppermint, and rosemary can be diluted in water and sprayed on your dog’s fur, paying close attention to the thickest, furriest areas.
  • Apple cider vinegar (ACV) can be used in a solution with water (3 parts ACV to 2 parts water) and applied to the coat – be sure to avoid their eyes.
  • Coconut oil can be applied to their fur which kills and repels fleas.
  • Add a small amount of sea salt to any of these treatments to further dehydrate fleas, but make sure to rinse it off before it becomes irritating to your dog.

Natural prevention remedies include:

  • Placing small saucers full of dish soap into corners throughout your home each night, which will lure and trap live fleas.
  • Place lavender and spearmint plants around your home to repel fleas.
  • Rosemary can be used to repel fleas, whether as a live plant, ground up and sprinkled onto the carpet, or in your dog’s bedding.
  • Cedar filled dog beds can help – and they keep your dog’s bed area smelling nice.

I have personally had success using the Alzoo brand of natural flea repellent collars, which were recommended to me by my vet. I’m also happy to see they now offer products to help treat your environment with natural substances, like geranium oil instead of hazardous insecticides.

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