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How to Apply Flea Treatment to Dogs: Everything to Know

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Application of flea treatment depends on the product. Spot-on pipettes for fleas are the most popular antiparasitic products. They are applied to the dog’s skin on the neck. Small and medium breeds only need one drop, while large dogs can have more.

It is good to know how to properly apply flea products to your dog. This is the only way to make sure your pet is not at risk of becoming intoxicated with the product.

Improper application of the product or the use of an inappropriate concentration for your dog’s weight can lead to poisoning. 

This can have a severe impact on your pet’s health.

In this article, you will learn how to tell if your dog has fleas, what to do in this case, how to apply flea treatments, and more.

How to Tell if My Dog Has Fleas

If your dog has fleas you may notice symptoms like itching, scratching, licking, or biting at various areas, especially behind its ears or on its abdomen. You can also see small red bumps all over your pet’s body.

The most common symptom of fleas in dogs is scratching. Some pets scratch so violently that they end up self-mutilating.

In some dogs, you may notice small red bumps on their skin. These look like mosquito bites, only they are smaller in size.

Other dogs can also be sensitive to flea saliva, developing dangerous allergies, such as flea allergy dermatitis (FAD). Symptoms for FAD usually begin shortly after your dog has been bitten by a flea. Red spots can appear on your dog’s skin that cause it to itch intensely.

Although fleas can hide anywhere on your dog’s body, especially if it has thick fur, they have favorite spots:

  • The base of the tail
  • Behind the ears
  • Feet
  • Neck
  • Abdomen
  • Groin area

Related: How to tell If your dog has fleas

How to Tell if My Dog Has Fleas

If your dog has fleas you can notice the following symptoms:

  • Intense itching
  • Excessive scratching, chewing, biting, and licking of various areas of the body
  • Self-mutilation in some cases
  • Hair loss, especially at the base of the tail and the sides of the abdomen
  • Small red bumps on your pet’s skin
  • Skin sores
  • Scabbing or redness
  • Restless behavior
  • The appearance of dirty fur that is given by flea droppings

Related: Flea Bites on Dogs

What to Do if My Dog Has Fleas?

If you find fleas on your dog, the best treatment is to use flea medication and prevent future infestations. You can use antiparasitic products such as shampoos, powders, sprays, spot-on pipettes, collars, or chewable tablets.

No matter how many fleas your dog has, your pet should be treated with flea medication. A flea or two on your dog can result in a massive infestation. They can also spread throughout your home.

To get rid of your fleas on dogs, use products specifically designed for dogs according to their weight. Antiparasitic products of an inappropriate concentration can have no effect or intoxicate your dog. 

If you have a large dog and use products for small dogs, the concentration of the product will be insufficient and therefore inefficient. If you have a small dog but use a product for large breeds, you risk intoxicating your dog.

Always read the instructions on the label and do not use more than one product at a time without consulting your veterinarian first. 

Is Flea and Tick Medicine Toxic for Dogs

Some dogs are sensitive to the active ingredients in antiparasitic products and can develop mild to severe allergic reactions. This is even if you follow the instructions on the label.

Call your vet immediately if you notice your pet is behaving strangely after applying flea treatment.

How to Apply Flea Treatment to Dogs

Applying flea medication to your dog depends on the type of product you intend to use. When you buy a flea product, your veterinarian will usually show you how to apply it.

Most antiparasitic products begin to take effect within 48 hours. During this time, the active substances in the product mix and dissolve in the natural oils on your dog’s skin and hair, forming small reservoirs.[1]

Throughout the action, the active substance is released from these reservoirs and the fleas that come in contact with it become paralyzed and die[2].

Related: How Soon Can I Give My Dog Another Flea Treatment?

Spot-on Pipettes

Spot-on pipettes are currently the most widely used antiparasitic products to control fleas and ticks on dogs. This treatment can be applied at home without the help of a veterinarian. These products act on the surface of the dog’s skin, but some pipettes have an internal action as well (for intestinal parasites).

A single administration of this product has an effect for up to four weeks or more, depending on the type of pipette chosen.

Spot-on pipettes are also effective in the case of ticks or other pests and can be purchased depending on the age or weight of your dog.

How to Apply Spot-on Pipettes

For small and medium to small dogs

  1. Part your dog’s hair on the neck, between the shoulder blades.
  2. Pour all the contents of the pipette into one place.
  3. Do not touch the area after application.

For medium and large dogs

  1. Part your dog’s hair on the neck, between the shoulder blades, and along the spine, including the base of the tail.
  2. Pour the contents of the pipette in several places.
  3. Keep your dog busy for 20-25 minutes until the substance dries, so it doesn’t lick it.
Spot-on Pipettes

Collars

An antiparasitic collar protects your dog from flea infestations and kills the fleas that infect your dog’s skin. Collars are generally used as a method of preventing fleas and other pests and not as a treatment, especially in the case of a serious infestation.

These products are made in several sizes, depending on the weight of the pet, and must be changed about twice a year.

The collar must come into close contact with your dog’s skin. Otherwise, it will have no effect. Tighten the collar around your dog’s neck until you have room to insert two fingers. This way, it is neither too tight to strangle your dog nor too loose.

Related: Flea Collar Poisoning in Dogs

Flea Collar Poisoning in Dogs

Powders

Antiparasitic powders are ideal for hard-to-bathe pets. They have a double effect: 

  • Protection against external parasites.
  • Cleaning the fur without irritating the skin.

Evenly distribute the product throughout your dog’s fur, making sure it reaches the skin. Insist on areas infested with fleas, such as the base of the tail, abdomen, or legs.

Leave it on for five minutes and watch your pet to make sure they don’t lick the product. Then brush its fur thoroughly. 

For maximum effectiveness, repeat the application once a month. If the infestation is severe, repeat the application once a week.

Related: Baking Soda on Dogs for Fleas: Does It Work?

brushing dog's fur

Sprays

Antiparasitic sprays have an immediate effect, and, depending on the brand, they can also offer long-term protection.

Apply the spray to your dog’s fur, making sure the product reaches the skin.

Sprays can also be applied before taking your dog for a walk. Spray a few times on the fur, especially on the feet, avoiding the head area. Repeat after a few hours or when necessary.

Antiparasitic spray for pets

Chewable Tablets

Chewable tablets are handy and easy to administer. They can be administered directly to your dog or by mixing the tablets into your dog’s food. Adverse reactions to these products are rare and not considered clinically relevant.[3]

In the case of fleas, chewable tablets generally work for at least 5 to 12 weeks, depending on the brand. For these products to work, the fleas must be fixed and have already begun the feeding process on the dog’s skin.

These products should also be administered according to the age, weight, and size of your pet.

Conclusion

Pay attention to changes in behavior if your dog has already come in contact with a flea and act as soon as possible.

Seek the advice of your veterinarian before applying flea treatment, and they will teach you how to apply the product properly.

Try to prevent fleas to make sure your pet leads a full, happy, and healthy life.

About Iulia Mihai (DVM)

Dr. Iulia is a certified veterinarian with more than 10 years of experience in the field. With extensive knowledge of diet, care, and medication, she helps Misfit Animals provide readers with accurate knowledge on technical topics.

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