When it comes to getting rid of fleas, it’s understandable you’ll want to kill the little nasties as quickly as possible. We’ve explored all the options below so you can choose the best one to suit your dog.
Use veterinary approved dog flea treatments to kill fleas quickly:
- Spot-on treatments
- Flea tablets
- Use flea removal shampoos
- Natural remedies to get rid of fleas
- Check other places your dog has been
- Clean your house (remember that only 5% of fleas actually live on your dog)
If you’ve discovered fleas on your dog or in your house, it’s important to treat your dog first to remove the infestation as quickly as possible. Remember, fleas are skilled at crawling very quickly away through a dog’s hair and don’t drown easily. Studies have shown that grooming alone does not kill all the fleas living on a host – so the best way to get rid of fleas is by using a veterinary-approved medication.
Here are Dr Will Woodley’s top tips for what to do after discovering fleas on your dog:
“You should treat the dog first and then immediately treat and clean the house. The correct veterinary-strength medications continue to kill fleas until the next treatment, so your dog won’t immediately become re-infested after treating the house. This is exactly why vets recommend keeping to the regular preventative treatment schedule.
The treatments kill the adult fleas so there is no need to clean them off, but a bath with flea shampoo can’t hurt! Totally removing a flea infestation from your house is a big job and you should follow the instructions provided by the flea spray manufacturer.” – Will, Veterinary Surgeon and founder of VetBox
Don’t let the scale of the job overwhelm you, though! It may be hard work but it’s worth it to keep your pooch healthy and flea-free.
Use veterinary approved dog flea treatments to kill fleas fast
We surveyed more than 1,440 UK dog owners to discover what approach they take to prevent their pooches from getting these pesky parasites. Here’s what we learned:
- The majority of dog owners (96%) use veterinary approved preventative measures such as spot-on treatments or tablets.
- Of those, 20% of dog owners are extra vigilant – they use products such as flea combs, sprays and shampoos to stop fleas in their tracks.
How to use spot-on treatment
Spot-on flea treatments are available from vets, online pet stores and other retailers. They’re a good, popular option because they work as both a treatment and prevention. On application of the spot-on solution, any fleas living on your dog will be killed and any new fleas jumping onto your dog will also be killed. Here’s how the application of a spot-on treatment works. Remember to always follow your vet’s advice!
- Ensure you have the right size pipette or spot-on treatment for the size of your dog. If you have a Great Dane, the quantity of the solution you will need will differ greatly than if you have a Chihuahua. Check with your vet and manufacturer’s product information if you don’t already know which size you require.
- Remove your dog’s collar so that you can easily access the neck area.
- Holding the pipette or tube (depending on the brand) upright so the narrowest part is at the top, remove the cap. In some cases you can actually snap off the end.
- Position your dog so they’re standing up; if your dog is fidgety, you may need to enroll the help of your partner, family member or friend – and some treats if necessary.
- Parting your dog’s hair at the shoulder blades, apply the correct amount directly to your dog’s skin. Makes sure you follow the directions on the product for your dog’s weight and size. For example, for a smaller dog you may only need to apply in between the shoulder blades, but for a larger dog you may need to apply in the middle of their back and above their hips, too.
How to use flea tablets
Here are our top tips for treating your dog for fleas using tablets:
- Pick the right type of tablet – some will last only 24 hours whilst others will continue working for up to a month.
- Make sure you give your dog the correct dosage; this will depend on your dog’s weight and you can find the information inside the packet of tablets. If in doubt, check with your vet.
- If your dog doesn’t enjoy taking medicine orally, perhaps try and hide the tablet in their food.
How to use flea removal shampoos
Here are a few top tips before you begin using a shampoo:
- Ensure you use a vet-approved flea shampoo, specially formulated for dogs and ensure you read and follow the manufacturer’s instructions to find the correct quantity to use.
- For flea shampoos that actually kill the fleas, you need to look for a product that contains pyrethrins (naturally occurring and extracted from chrysanthemum flowers) or pyrethroids (a synthetic, lab-produced chemical compound).
- Important: some Pyrethroids, such as Permethrin, are safe to use with dogs but are toxic to cats.
Here’s our recommended process for using a flea killing shampoo on your dog:
- Pick your location; if you have an outside hose and a garden this could work, but a bathroom may be better! It depends on how you would usually bathe your dog.
- Use lukewarm or room temperature water; remember dogs cool down primarily by panting, so be careful not to overheat them. The shampoo is doing the work to kill the fleas; the water is primarily to lather and rinse.
- Begin at your dog’s neck, wetting your dog’s hair right down to the skin. Apply shampoo and work into a thick lather. Avoid direct contact with eyes and ears; the thick lather at the neck should kill any fleas further up your dog’s head.
- Leave the lather in place for about 2-3 minutes, while you wet the rest of your dog’s body, then add shampoo and work into a thick lather.
- Rinse thoroughly. Flea shampoos can dry out your dog’s skin so you may find it useful to also wash using a conditioner following the shampoo wash.
You should never bathe your dog immediately after applying a spot-on treatment because the product takes around 24 hours to absorb into your dog’s skin. If you would like to bathe your dog to remove flea dirt and any dead fleas, we would recommend that you wait at least 24 hours after applying spot-on.
Alternatively, you could also bathe your dog immediately after discovering signs of fleas. But since most spot-on treatments need to be applied to dry dogs, your priority should be to kill the fleas and protect your dog as quickly as possible, we’d always recommend using spot-on as a first step.
Remember, only a veterinary approved medical solution has the active ingredients required to completely remove fleas from your dog – any other shampoo should primarily be used to remove any dead fleas and flea dirt from your dog’s hair and to ease your dog’s itchy skin.
It’s important to remember that water on its own won’t kill fleas. Even though fleas don’t tend to thrive in overly damp areas, they can survive even if submerged in water for hours at a time. So, when selecting a flea shampoo for your dog it’s important to find a product that is specifically designed for killing adult fleas.
Dogs with sensitive skin and allergic reactions
There may be reasons that you don’t want to use a dog flea shampoo containing chemicals. For example, if your dog has had an allergic reaction to flea bites, known as flea dermatitis, you may want to consider using a particular type of shampoo.
What’s more, if your dog has experience of sensitive skin and has had reactions to some shampoos in the past, you may want to consider using an alternative, easy-on-the-skin shampoo. You can find homemade recipes on our blog. Please note that natural shampoos aren’t as effective at instantly killing and removing fleas as vet-approved products.
However, please bear in mind that natural shampoos aren’t specially designed to kill fleas upon contact – only
Natural remedies to rid your dog of fleas
There are several natural, homemade remedies you can try. However, remember that simply washing your dog isn’t enough; fleas can hide and survive even when submerged in water. Also, remember that 95% of fleas are in the environment (your home) – only 5% are actually on your dog. So unless you use a treatment (such as spot-on) which kills any new fleas jumping on your dog, and also follow the necessary steps to kill larvae and remove eggs from your carpets, floors and other soft furnishings, you run the risk of your dog becoming reinfested.
In the majority of cases, it’s better to use a chemical solution to get rid of the fleas and kill any new fleas coming into contact with your dog immediately. These are veterinary approved medicines which kill fleas and are not usually harmful to your dog. You should always check with your vet if you have any concerns about your dog’s health.
However, if you don’t want to use chemical solutions, there are other ways to get rid of fleas that you might like to know about.
Here are the homemade and natural remedies for getting rid of fleas:
- Flea comb and homemade shampoo
This method is painstaking and certainly not straightforward if your dog is one of those pooches who doesn’t enjoy bathtime. It can take a bit more time to thoroughly check your dog’s entire coat, plus fleas can survive even if submerged in water.Mix equal quantities of lemon juice, your dog’s shampoo, and water – keep this in a bottle use this for regular bathing of your dog.
- Diatomaceous earth
Diatomaceous earth is a fine powdery substance that some people swear by! It’s a naturally occurring type of sedimentary rock that’s formed from the fossilised remains of algae.You can use this natural substance to rub into your dog’s coat and sprinkle on furnishings. Be sure to purchase a food grade product which will be safe for your dog to lick and ingest. Diatomaceous earth kills fleas by cutting apart their exoskeletons and dries them out.
- Apple cider vinegar added to your dog’s drinking water
Cider vinegar isn’t poisonous, but the smell and taste of it is off-putting to fleas and it means they’ll be less likely to make themselves at home in your dog’s coat or continue feeding on their blood.Simply add a teaspoon of cider vinegar to your dog’s drinking water (prepare the quantities before pouring it into your dog’s water bowl – about one teaspoon to a quarter litre of water).
You may find that your dog dislikes the taste, so gradually introducing your dog to this flavour might be helpful.
- Make a natural flea collar
Use eucalyptus oil, tea tree, citronella, lavender or geranium and apply to your dog’s neck or collar. Repeat weekly. Be careful to only use products with 1% or less of essential oil and keep out of reach of your dog – if ingested they can cause vomiting and lethargy. More is not necessarily better in this case.
As we’ve said, however, these solutions are either limited in their longevity, or any only effective at repelling fleas. If you can kill them using vet-approved medicines – why not simply kill and remove the threat altogether?
Check and alert other places your dog has been recently
After you’ve taken care of the fleas living on your dog, you may find it useful to mentally retrace your steps. Make a list of anywhere your dog might’ve been since the last time you checked your dog. This is one reason why we would advise regular checks of your dog’s hair and skin; it’ll make it easier to remember all the places your dog has been in the last four weeks than the last eight weeks!
This might seem like common sense, but if your dog has been for a drive in your car recently, you’ll want to follow steps to ensure your car is a flea-free zone, too. Follow the same steps for any cushions, chair covers and blankets in the car, ensuring to wash on high temperatures. Vacuum the floors and use a flea spray containing IGR (Insect Growth Regulator).
If your dog has recently been to a day care or boarding service such as with a dog sitter or at a boarding kennel, you may need to let them know you’ve discovered fleas on your dog. There’s a good chance your dog’s flea burden may have deposited flea eggs whilst they were there.
Similarly, if your dog has been to a friend’s or relative’s house, even just for a few minutes, there’s a chance that house now has fleas living there, too. Help stop fleas in their tracks everywhere!
If your friends or family need advice on how to kill any potential fleas living in their house, why not share this guide with them? If you’d like to learn more about fleas and how to prevent them from making themselves at home in your house, check out our full guide.
Once you’ve made sure your dog is free from fleas, your next step should be to ensure your house is clean and free from a flea infestation. Check out our article on how to remove fleas from your house.