Does My Dog Have Fleas?
Fleas pose a serious threat to your dog or cat’s health. Besides causing skin irritation, scratching, lesions and hair loss, fleas can also cause anemia, especially in puppies or kittens, and give your pets tapeworms.
The best way to determine if your pet has fleas is to find the adult fleas on the animal. Use a flea comb to detect fleas around the hindquarters and the head of the pet. Also examine these areas for “flea dirt,” which is the feces that a female flea will deposit along with the eggs.
My Dog Has Fleas!
Getting control of your flea problem will require a three-pronged attack. You’ll want to treat your pet, treat your home and your outdoor pet area.
1. Treat Your Pet
Pet flea control on your pet will involve patience. First, you will need to bathe your pet with a flea shampoo or use a dip to eliminate as many fleas as you can. Then begin a flea control program to keep them from coming back. There are many good products to choose from, and it’s a good idea to rotate your products every two to three years to ensure efficacy.
- Topicals are flea products applied directly to the pet’s skin, between the shoulder blades so the pet can’t lick it. Dosage is usually one time each month. Some topical flea applications, such as Fiproguard™ and Advantage II®, contain an Insect Growth Regulator (IGR) which breaks the flea life cycle for long-lasting protection.
- Oral Flea Control is administered by feeding a tablet orally either by placing directly into the mouth or hiding it in food. Capstar® has a dosage designed to initially kill flea infestations on your pet, as well as a once-a-month dosage to prevent them from coming back. There is no messy application, it won’t rub or wash off, and there is no odor.
- There are four other oral flea control products in the isoxazoline drug class. These include Bravecto, Credelio, Nexgard and Simparica. Only Bravecto is labeled as safe for use in breeding dogs. Remember, a breeding dog is any dog intended to be including in your future breeding plans. Bravecto will give your dog nose to tail protection against fleas and ticks in a way the topical preventives cannot.
- Collars are simply placed around your pet’s neck and offer the same protection as a topical. Most are water-resistant and can offer anywhere from four to eight months of protection if used properly. Many are not labeled for use in breeding animals.
- Sprays quickly kill, repel and prevent re-infestation and are quickly applied. Ideal to use when bathing isn’t an option. Do not use flea sprays on lactating female dogs.
- Don’t rule out the flea comb and a safe shampoo as it is the best method for sick, pregnant or infant pets. In these cases, flea shampoo is not the safest choice. A pet shampoo such as Vet Basics Oatmeal Protein shampoo that will mechanically remove the fleas is fine.
Remember, as a rule of thumb, do not use dog flea products on cats.
2. Treat Your Home
Many people forget to get rid of the fleas in the home. Fleas and flea eggs can fall off your pet anywhere your pet roams, and fleas love to hide in carpets and furniture. You must vacuum daily, especially in high-traffic areas. Be sure to enclose your vacuum bag in a plastic bag and discard immediately. Use carpet powders, foggers in large open areas, and sprays on your baseboards, moldings, cracks and under furniture where foggers can’t reach.
Wash your pet’s bedding weekly and treat the area with a spray, such as Cederside Original Biting Insect Spray. If you prefer natural methods of flea control, dust pet bedding and surrounding areas with Diatomaceous Earth. D/Earth is made of fossils that scratch the insect’s outer shell, causing death by dehydration. Be sure to clean and treat all areas where your pet spends time: the car, the pet carrier, the garage, etc. For items in your home you cannot launder, toss them in the dryer or hang them outside.
3. Treat Your Outdoor Pet Area
Be sure to treat under bushes, decks, trees and other places where untreated wildlife frequently visit. Your outdoor flea treatment should focus on these areas. Rake your yard to eliminate leaves, straw and grass clippings as fleas like warm, moist, shady places. Spray or fog your yard and kennels regularly with an insecticide premise spray or wash.
Flea Prevention for Dogs and Cats
The best flea control for dogs and cats will always be prevention. Regular and consistent use of repellents indoors, outdoors and on your pet will reduce the risk of recurring flea problems.
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Article originally written by Donald Bramlange, DVM, Revival’s former Director of Veterinary Services.
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Written by: Marty Greer, DVM
Director of Veterinary Services
Marty Greer, Doctor of Veterinary Medicine, has 40+ years’ experience in veterinary medicine, with special interests in canine reproduction and pediatrics. She received her Doctor of Veterinary Medicine from Iowa State University in 1981. She’s served as Revival’s Director of Veterinary Services since 2019. In 2023, Dr. Greer was named the Westminster Kennel Club Veterinarian of the Year.