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Published: Jan 31, 2024 6 min read

Fleas are not only a nuisance, but they also represent a threat to both dogs and dog owners if not dealt with promptly and effectively. There are different measures you can implement to both treat your dog once infested and prevent future flea infestations, some of which we cover below. Read on to learn what you can do to get rid of dog fleas in all of their life stages.

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Signs your dog might have fleas

If their behavior doesn’t tip you off to the possibility of them having fleas, your dog’s skin definitely will. Aside from making dogs and other pets itchy, fleas will leave a trail on your dog’s coat. Signs you should look out for include:

  • Hair loss (bald spots)
  • Redness
  • Hot spots
  • Scabs
  • Dark specks (also known as flea dirt or droppings)
  • Flea bites

Some of the listed symptoms could indicate flea allergy dermatitis, which is caused by the insects’ saliva and affects dogs and other animals with more sensitive skin. In cases where fleas have gone untreated, parasites such as tapeworm could be present in a dog’s feces. That is why once you’ve determined your dog in fact has fleas, you need to act immediately.

Supplies and tools you might need

Whether you decide to go the natural route or the traditional route, some of the supplies and tools you will need include the following:

  • Topical or oral dog flea treatment
  • Flea comb
  • Flea shampoo or dish soap
  • Flea collar
  • Flea spray
  • Apple cider vinegar
  • Warm water
  • Insecticide-based or natural home flea treatment

How to treat fleas in dogs

The flea life cycle — comprising the flea egg, larvae, pupae and adult flea stages — spans approximately 18 days. Getting rid of fleas in their egg and pupae stages could prove the hardest because of the layer of protection provided by both the eggs and the cocoons wrapped around the insect and because they can be found in pet bedding and anywhere a dog lays down. That is why flea prevention should be incorporated into every dog’s routine.

However, in the case your dog becomes infested with fleas, you can start by bathing them with either a medicated flea shampoo or with dish soap to get rid of any flea larvae, eggs or adults that might not be attached to your dog’s fur or skin. Next, you should comb your dog’s fur with a flea comb and safely discard all fleas that come out. You can choose to use a medicated over-the-counter treatment or a natural remedy to either kill or repel the fleas that linger or have not yet hatched.

The next part of your pest control measures should be to treat your entire home and get rid of all remaining insects, including all places where your dog lays down and where fleas can hide.

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How to get rid of fleas on dogs naturally

Some pet parents might prefer to learn how to get rid of fleas at home through natural flea remedies rather than treating them with products that have harsh harsh active ingredients. A home remedy that could help with flea control involves spraying your dog with apple cider vinegar diluted with water. This method will not kill fleas, but instead will make your dog’s fur taste and smell bad to them.

Medicated flea treatments for dogs, on the other hand, are usually topical or oral (tablets or chewables) and can provide protection for months at a time. These sometimes target certain stages within the flea life cycle, can also target other parasites like heartworm and are proven to actually kill fleas.

What to do with the fleas

Although you might be tempted to crush them, this is not the best approach to getting rid of fleas. Because fleas are fast and can jump long distances, it’s best to not give them the opportunity to. Discarding them in hot water mixed with soap kills fleas by suffocating them and prevents them from getting lost in your home.

How to get rid of fleas on dogs when nothing works

When all other methods to get rid of fleas fail, it might be time to seek veterinary help. This is especially true considering the dangerous disease-carrying nature of parasites like fleas and ticks. And because female fleas can lay thousands of eggs at an alarmingly fast pace, it would be wise to get vet help if the situation has already gotten out of your hands.

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Summary of Money’s How to Get Rid of Fleas on Dogs

  • Fleas and ticks can be both uncomfortable and detrimental to a pet’s health, as well as their owners’.
  • Pet owners should be vigilant for signs of fleas and act swiftly once they identify a flea infestation.
  • Oral and topical treatments are available over the counter and have a higher probability of killing fleas than natural remedies.
  • Dog owners should have year-round flea and tick prevention measures in place in order to protect their dogs from infestation.
  • It’s imperative to seek help from a veterinarian when home treatments and remedies don’t work.