There’s nothing better than cuddling with your pet dog, especially if yours has soft and cuddly fur. Unfortunately, what makes your pet dog’s fur irresistible to hug and cuddle also makes them irresistible to live in for fleas.
Fleas are one of the most common parasites your pet dog will end up contracting, and the worst part of it is that they spread quickly, and when they do, they have the potential to take over your home.
Lucky for you though, we’re here to help you out. Having fleas on your furbaby might be bad, but it’s not the end of the world, especially if you know what to do about it.
Does my Dog Have Fleas?
Naturally, the first step to solving a problem is by checking for signs of whether you have them at all. One of your biggest weapons against a flea infestation is observation. It’s very important to learn the routines and habits of your dog, as well as familiarizing yourself with what is normal for them and what isn’t. This is so when something bad comes up, no matter how small, you’ll know right away, and you can easily step in.
Here are a few things you need to watch out for if you suspect your dog has fleas.
Odd Scratching, Biting or Itching Behavior
One of the biggest giveaways that your dog is suffering from a flea infestation is when they start scratching continuously. The reason behind this is because fleas consume blood, and your dog’s skin tends to react poorly to the protein in the flea’s saliva, which gets passed on whenever they feed. The reaction is very similar to when your skin gets inflamed around the area of a mosquito bite, or when you are having skin allergies.
Fleas are also known to be opportunistic feeders, so they prefer to feed in places that are dark, damp, and generally very hard to reach or see. This means that they tend to gather around the top of the head, the tail, between toes, inside armpits, in the groin, inside the ears or in and around the tail. If your dog is scratching or biting in any of these areas, then there’s a good possibility that they have fleas.
Patches of Irritated Skin
Because flea bites or flea saliva cause a bit of an allergic reaction to dogs, you can also tell if your pet is suffering from fleas if you notice redness or irritation on their skin, not even necessarily where they were bitten. If you don’t seem to catch your dog scratching for whatever reason, but do notice rashes or even lesions under their fur, then it’s very likely that you have an unwanted tenant in your pet’s fur.
Alopecia, or hair loss is also a common reaction to flea bites. This can be because of the allergic reaction caused by the bites themselves or because of the continuous scratching or biting done by the dog. If you’ve noticed that your pet has been losing an uncanny amount of fur, and they’re not the type of breed to shed a lot, then fleas could be the culprits.
In severe cases of flea infestation, your pet may start suffering from anemia. This happens when they are unable to produce enough red blood cells to replace the ones they’ve lost to the fleas. A good way to check whether your dog is becoming anemic is by checking whether their gums are becoming pale, instead of a healthy pinkish-red color.
How Do You Check Your Dog for Fleas?
If your dog is suffering from one or more of the signs of flea infestation, then you should start checking their fur to confirm. There’s plenty of ways for you to find out, and most of them are fairly easy to do. Confirming the presence of fleas is a definite must before you could even start with flea treatment.
Here’s a few ways you can check your dog for fleas:
Do a Visual Check
One of the fastest ways to check for fleas is by simply doing it by hand. You can do this by having your dog lie on their side and start checking the common areas where fleas might hang out. Start with the thinly-furred areas, such as the abdomen or along their groin.
Checking the places that are normally hidden away, like the ears or between the paws can also help. Be thorough about it, and make sure to keep a bowl of warm, soapy water handy, in case you do find any fleas, so you can drown them. This technique shouldn’t be too stressful for your dog, and can actually be relaxing for them, so just take your time.
Check for Flea “Dirt”
Another way to confirm the presence of fleas is by checking for flea dirt. Flea dirt is basically the droppings they leave behind, and will look like light-brown particles that resemble grains of sand. A good way to check for flea dirt if you can’t see them on your dog’s skin yourself is by using the white towel test.
Just have your dog stand on a white paper or cloth towel and start brushing their fur like normal. If you see particles that resemble dust on the towel afterwards, then that might be flea dirt.
Use a Flea Comb
You may also use a flea comb to confirm whether your dog has fleas. Flea combs basically work the same way as combs, but they are fine-toothed, which can be used to “strain” your pet’s hair of fleas. You can buy them from pet shops or from your preferred vet.
Simply run the flea comb along your pet’s hair, with just enough pressure to come in contact with their skin, but not too much that would cause them discomfort. Make sure you have a bowl of warm, soapy water nearby where you can put the fleas in so they don’t hop back into your pet’s fur.
What Do I Do if my Dog Has Fleas?
Once you’ve confirmed that your dog really is carrying them, you should start considering to get rid of fleas immediately. The first thing you’ll need to do is to get a grip on how bad the infestation is, so you know how much work needs to be done. Take them to the vet if you have to, since their expertise can be very helpful here.
Next, you’ll need to quarantine your dog while you undergo flea treatment. This is to make sure that your dog doesn’t spread the fleas to your other house pets or your entire house, for that matter. Just keep them in a separate area where they can hang out comfortably while you treat them. Once that’s done, you can start getting rid of the fleas.
How to Help Get Rid of Fleas on Your Dog
There are plenty of commercial anti-flea medications you can use to help you keep your dog free of unwanted tenants. Before you give them the proper items to get rid of fleas, make sure that you bathe them thoroughly. Bathing them can also help minimize the number of fleas before actual treatment, and you can also use the opportunity to use some anti-flea shampoo.
Here’s a few products you can look into that can help you get rid of fleas:
Oral Flea Treatment
Unlike most flea medications, these flea treatments take the form of pills or tablets and are meant to be taken orally. Oral flea medications tend to be more effective than the ones you apply topically, though they can be very specific in how they do their jobs. Some pills will only work with killing adults, whilst leaving larvae and eggs intact, while others only work with the larva. Other brands also have the effect of sterilizing adult fleas, preventing them from producing eggs.
Before you decide which pill to get for your dog, make sure that you’re familiar with the life cycle of fleas you’re targeting and make sure to read the label of whatever product you plan on getting. These flea pills do come in various flavors, so they wouldn’t be too hard to administer to your dogs.
Here are a few oral flea treatments you can check out:
This flea pill is specifically designed to target adult fleas. Its active ingredient is Afoxolaner, which kills the adult fleas while they attach and feed on your pet dog. It’s not very effective against eggs and larvae, though the effects of one pill will last an entire month, which should be enough time for the eggs and larvae that are left behind to mature and eventually be killed off as well.
Capstar Fast-Acting Oral Flea Treatment (Nitenpyram)
Unlike most flea pills, Capstar acts much faster, thanks to its active ingredient, Nitenpyram. This compound is absorbed through the bloodstream, and shows immediate effects within 30 minutes of ingestion. After about 4 hours of taking it, more than 90% of the adult fleas on your dog should be dead. The effects only last anywhere between 24 – 48 hours, making it an excellent option for fast relief, but not such a good option for the long term. Much like Afoxolander, this pill is only effective against adult fleas, and not much help against larvae and eggs.
Bravecto Chews (Fluralaner)
Bravecto is a relatively new flea pill that has gained a lot of popularity recently. Its active ingredient, Fluralaner, has the same fast-acting effects of Nitenpyram, which allows it to kill both adult and larva fleas within 8 hours of ingestion. Unlike Nitenpyram, however, this particular pill will continue to take effect for about three months, making it a good long-term treatment as well as for fast relief.
Another good way to get rid of fleas, and certainly one that doesn’t have as many side effects as the pills, is by using anti-flea shampoo. Flea shampoo can be a convenient alternative to treating fleas and one that you can use in tandem with other treatment options. Bathing your dog is an essential part of grooming and hygiene already, and it doesn’t take too much of a huge step to use a different shampoo than usual when you do so.
Here are a few flea shampoos you can try out:
Wahl Dry Skin & Itch Relief Pet Shampoo
Although it can be tough on fleas and ticks, this flea shampoo is made from natural ingredients, and is specifically designed to be gentle on your pets, as well as people, so no need to use gloves when applying it. It’s strong enough to repel fleas for at least 1 week, so using this product on a weekly basis is fine.
Adams Plus Shampoo with Precor
Unlike most other flea shampoos, Adams Plus works on fleas on every stage of its life cycle, including larvae and eggs. It can be a bit irritating to some dogs, but thanks to its active ingredients, it’s very effective at clearing out your dog of fleas. It’s also effective at keeping fleas at bay for just under a month, making it great for long-term treatments.
Sentry Flea & Tick Shampoo with Oatmeal
This particular brand’s effectiveness peaks at around one week to 10 days after it’s been used. Fleas generally drop dead after rinsing it off, as its main ingredients act as both medication and insecticide. It also has good deodorizing components, so it should keep your dogs smelling nice for a good while.
Much like flea shampoos, flea sprays are generally used directly on your pet’s fur, but some brands can also be used on surfaces within your home, in case you need to remove fleas from your carpet or upholstery. Flea sprays can be used both for immediate relief and long-term treatment.
Some of the top flea spray products in the market are as follows:
Frontline Flea and Tick Treatment, Cat and Dog Spray – Though it’s a bit pricey, Frontline’s flea spray is a reliable brand if you want to control fleas on your pets, which can also be used to clear beddings of fleas and ticks. It’s effective up to about a month after usage, which makes it great for preventative uses as well.
Vet’s Best Flea and Tick Home Spray
A much cheaper alternative to Frontline, Vet’s Best not only kills fleas on contact, it can also repel mosquitoes. It’s safe to use and is long-lasting. If you own a cat, however, this product may end up repelling them as well, so keep that in mind when you use this on your dog or your furniture.
Virbac Knockout Area Treatment
Unlike other spray products, this one is too harsh to use on pets, but is very effective on furniture. If you’ve used other products to clear fleas on your pets, this is a good supplement to use around your house so they never return again. The odor can be off-putting, so make sure to use it sparingly.
Another alternative to using sprays, shampoos or flea pills is by using flea collars. Flea collars, unlike the other products above, work passively, basically repelling fleas without you doing much aside from putting it on your pet. Though they’re effective at keeping fleas away from your pets, it’s a better idea to use them as a supplement to whatever treatment you are using. Flea collars are effective from anywhere between 6 months to a year, depending on the brand.
Here are just some of the more popular flea collars currently in the market:
A popular brand all around, the Seresto offers 8 months of protection for your dog, and comes in different sizes, depending on the breed of your dog. It acts pretty quickly, killing fleas within 24 hours of applying it. It can be a bit pricey, but a lot of people swear by it.
Rolf Club 3D FLEA Collar for Dogs
This particular collar is well known for its fast-acting effects, and is able to kill fleas of all life stages within hours of application. It’s also effective against other pests, such as mosquitoes, ticks and worms. It’s also odorless. Unlike Seresto, however, this item lasts only half a year, so you’ll need to replace it more often.
Petsmont Premium Flea Collar
Unlike other collars, PetsMont offers more natural ingredients, and is effective for about a year after putting it on. It’s effective against fleas of every stage in their life cycle, though it takes a while to kick in. It is hypo-allergenic and is environmentally-friendly, for people who are concerned for the environment.
How to Get Rid of Fleas From Your House
Now that you’ve cleared out the fleas from your pet, it wouldn’t do you any good if your furniture has their own colonies that can just jump off of them and re-infest your pet, or worse, you. The best way to permanently be rid of fleas is to completely clean your home, and do so thoroughly.
Here’s a checklist of what you need to do to clear out fleas from your home:
Sweep and Vacuum
The first step to clearing your house is by making a run through with a broom and vacuum cleaner. Doing so should clear out the majority of the fleas on your carpets and furniture. Always be thorough. Fleas thrive in dark and damp places, so make sure you check under your furniture as well.
After you are done vacuuming, make sure you throw out the bag each time. Flea pupae can still hatch from the bag and are small enough to crawl out of the machine and into your freshly-cleaned house.
Wash You and Your Pet’s Stuff
Fleas can take refuge on your clothes, pillows, your pet’s bedding, and their toys. They can also make their homes inside the stuffing as well. Make sure you wash everything thoroughly. You should also soak them in hot water before you put them in the washing machine. If for whatever reason you are unable to wash your dog’s toys, it’s best to simply throw them out and buy another one.
Use a Fogger
For especially heavy infestations, you will need to use a fogger. Foggers can be effective for as long as 7 months, though you may need a few, depending on the size of your home. The gas these foggers produce are both toxic and flammable, so before you use them, make sure that all the appliances are unplugged and that any pets are taken out of the room.
You may also need to stay somewhere else when you use a fogger, as a treatment session can take an entire day. You should also protect certain surfaces with newspaper if you don’t want the chemical sticking unto them.
Don’t Forget the Yard
It wouldn’t do you much good if you end up clearing your house with fleas only for your pets to track them in whenever they are outside. There are commercial insecticides on the market that can help you a lot with this, but make sure you read the instructions as they can be toxic to you and your family, including your pets.
How Long Will It Take to Get Rid of Fleas From Your House?
Now that you’ve taken the necessary steps at clearing your home of fleas, it can take a while for the results to bear fruit. Depending on the methods you’ve used and how thorough you are, your house can be free of fleas anywhere between a couple of weeks to as long as a year. Of course, though your dog is the one suffering the most from a flea infestation, it’s not always their fault. The environment can have a huge role in this, and you need to keep your home pristine.
In order to completely eradicate the fleas in your home, you’ll need to understand that this can be an ongoing project, where you’ll need to apply flea treatment to your pets and home for at least once to thrice a month. If done aggressively enough, your home and yard should be free of infestation, at least for a while.