You love your dog. Fleas do, too. Whether your dog is a puppy or a senior, new to the family or an established pack leader, the risk of fleas stays the same. Fleas feed off your dog’s blood and once they have found this tasty food source, they move in, reproduce and start their own families. Fleas are the number one skin parasite of dogs and cats and you are fleas’ number one enemy.
How to tell if your dog has fleas
Facing a flea infestation on your dog may make you feel like you’ve let them down. But fleas are stealthy, hitching a ride on your dog during neighborhood walks, puppy playdates, backyard business, even through human contact. And while they may start with a sneak attack, an infestation produces telltale signs:
- Increased scratching, biting and licking
- Loss of fur
- Flea dirt in fur that resembles black pepper or fine, dark dirt
- Brown parasites observed jumping or crawling in fur
- Pale gums
- Red bumps or scabs
- Behavior changes, such as restlessness or nervousness
Treat your dog
Fighting a flea infestation on your dog can be emotional and a lot of work. It’s important to first treat the existing fleas. Fleas are annoying, stubborn and determined to keep coming back. Simple actions on your part can help get rid of fleas on your dog and help reduce the risk of reinfestation:
- Treat your dog with a fast-acting oral flea treatment – dead fleas are easier to wash away.
- Use a flea comb — dip comb in a mixture of dish soap and water to kill remaining fleas on comb
- Bathe your puppy or dog with a specially-formulated flea shampoo
- Treat your dog with a flea spray
- Use a flea preventive year-round
- Continue to inspect and comb weekly to monitor a flea infestation on your dog
A critical component to help get rid of fleas on your dog – and even more importantly, discourage them from returning – is to use a flea preventive. Effective flea prevention can break the flea life cycle, be achieved through collars, topical or oral products, and can last anywhere from 30 days to 8 months. Choose the prevention method that works best for you and your dog. Keep in mind that preventives work best when used regularly year-round; simply applying for one or two months can leave your dog unprotected.
Treat all your pets
More dogs? Family cat? If one pet has fleas, they may all have fleas. Apply preventives to every pet in your home – both indoor and outdoor pets – to help keep an infestation from spreading and help reduce the risk of fleas coming back.
Treat your environment
If you have a flea infestation on your dog, there’s a good chance you will be fighting one in your home and yard. Fleas lay eggs on your dog that fall off when they sleep on your sofa, lounge in your bedroom or roam your backyard. Adult fleas are only a small portion of a flea infestation, so a few extra steps to treat your home and yard can help give you some extra peace of mind.
Ongoing vigilance combined with flea protection and prevention is the key to success. It may take up to 3 months in a row to adequately clear out the flea infestation. Be sure to set reminders to apply or administer treatment and prevention products and follow the products' recommended application schedules. Check your dog for fleas weekly and look for new signs of itching and scratching.
Related article: Why do fleas keep coming back?