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How to Get Rid of Fleas on Dogs (Remedies & Removal Methods)

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Apply anti-flea spray to your dog to get rid of fleas immediately or use other antiparasitic products regularly to prevent them. Other ways of removing fleas include washing your dog with flea shampoos or combing it with a flea comb.

Has your dog been scratching for too long, biting its skin, and being constantly agitated? 

It can be a reaction to heat, certain substances that have come in contact with your dog’s skin, or it can be because of fleas.

There are several flea treatments you can buy at the vet’s office that will help you get rid of fleas. Similarly, many people use home remedies to protect their pets. 

No matter how you go about removing them, it’s important to check your dog’s fur for fleas regularly instead of waiting until your pet starts scratching and biting.

In this article, you will learn where fleas like to hide on dogs, what they look like, what causes them, how to get rid of fleas on dogs, and more.

Where Do Fleas Hide on Dogs?

Fleas like to hide in warm, protected areas, such as the belly, under the chin, or groin area. They usually don’t stay on the head, but can be seen roaming in this area or on other hairless and unprotected areas during massive infestations.

Fleas like to hide in a dog’s thick fur, where they feel protected and warm.

Here are the most common areas fleas hide and feed on dogs:

  • Under the chin and neck.
  • Between the shoulder blades.
  • On the sides of the back.
  • Armpits.
  • Groin area.
  • Legs.
  • The base of the tail.

In massive infestations, you will find fleas all over your dog’s body, without exception.

How to Tell if My Dog Has Fleas

What Do Fleas Look Like on Dogs?

Fleas look like small, black dots on your dog, typically 1-2 mm long. It is difficult to spot fleas on dogs with dark fur and/or pigmented skin, or long hair.

Fleas are dark brown insects 1-2 mm long.[1] Males are smaller and blacker than females (half their size).[2] Females have a larger, yellower abdomen, being easier to notice.

Fleas have four stages of development: 

  1. Egg
  2. Larva
  3. Pupa
  4. Adult

Larvae look like small, off-white worms (2-5 mm long)[3]. Larvae can accidentally parasitize your dog, so you can occasionally notice them on your pet. They do not feed on blood; larvae eat dead cells and adult fleas’ feces (flea droppings).

In massive infestations, when many fleas gather to feed in the same area, dogs can appear dirty.

It is difficult to see fleas on a dog with dark fur and/or pigmented skin. Long-haired dogs make a good shelter for fleas because they are hard to spot.

What Do Fleas Look Like on Dogs
Image Source

How to Get Rid of Fleas on Dogs: Treatment & Prevention

Apply antiparasitic substances or other natural products regularly on your dog to keep fleas at bay or kill them as soon as they infest your pet. Prevention is always better than treatment, so use preventative measures regularly.

The most popular methods of flea prevention and flea treatment for infestations are:

  • Spot-on pipettes
  • Collars
  • Sprays
  • Powders
  • Shampoos
  • Chewable tablets

Pipettes and collars are among the most widely used antiparasitic products by dog owners around the world.

Spot-on Pipettes

Powders are usually recommended for puppies but are not as effective as pipettes and collars.

Antiparasitic shampoos are used only as a treatment; they do not help prevent fleas, even if this is what the product promises. They can help your dog get rid of fleas in case of minor infestations.

Chewable tablets are recommended for sensitive dogs or those who do lick and bite after the application of topical products.

Make sure you apply or administer the right concentration for your dog’s age and weight. Applying the wrong concentration can cause intoxication or result in ineffective treatment.

Natural Methods to Get Rid of Fleas

You can also try natural methods to get rid of fleas if you are not a fan of chemicals. This is commonly done using essential oils.

Not all essential oils are safe for pets. Make sure you use the right oils, and use them in the correct concentrations.

Here are some safe essential oils to get rid of fleas:

  • Lavender
  • Citronella
  • Peppermint
  • Cedar wood
  • Eucalyptus
  • Tea tree
  • Basil
  • Rosemary

You can use these essential oils in your dog’s regular shampoo, on its textile collar, or spray them on its body. It’s important to always dilute essential oils before using them on your dog. These can be diluted with water or carrier oil, such as coconut, olive, or jojoba.

Use 2-3 drops of essential oil in 30 ml of water or a tablespoon of carrier oil.

Other natural ways to get rid of fleas on dogs include the following:

  • Apply baking soda.
  • Apply coconut oil.
  • Make a mixture with lemon peel and water.
  • Use lemon juice in your dog’s shampoo.

These methods are not as effective as antiparasitic products. Antiparasitic products are specifically designed for parasite removal on pets and are the most effective in terms of both removal and prevention.

Essential Oils for dog tick and fleas

Best Way to Get Rid of Fleas on Dogs

The best, cheapest, and fastest way to get rid of fleas on dogs is to apply antiparasitic spot-on pipettes regularly (once every 4-5 weeks) to the base of your pet’s neck and between the shoulder blades. Apply the product in 2-3 more spots along your dog’s spine if it is a large breed.

These products start working after a maximum of 48 hours. Fleas that have already parasitized your dog die.

Do not panic if your dog scratches intensely after applying a spot-on pipette. This intense itching should go away within 48 hours of applying the product.

How to Catch Fleas on Dogs

Catching fleas with your hands or with a flea comb can be another way to get rid of them on your dog. That is if you are not grossed out by fleas and manage to catch them quickly.

It is recommended to use these methods when you return from a walk or when your dog has a light infestation.

Catching Fleas With Your Hands

It is said that fleas don’t die when you crush them between your fingernails due to their hard body. Instead, put them in soapy water, as they will die from drowning.

How to catch fleas with your hands:

  1. Inspect and check the areas where fleas like to hide.
  2. Run your fingertips slowly over your dog’s fur to expose its skin (against the grain).
  3. Quickly put your finger on the flea when you see it (they run very fast).
  4. Take the flea between your fingers.
  5. Crush it between your fingernails or on a hard surface and put it in soapy water.
  6. Continue like this all over your pet’s body.

Catching Fleas With A Flea comb

Flea combs are a useful tool when you want to catch fleas on your dog. It is a more effective method than using your hands. Flea combs have short and thick teeth, used to both catch fleas and clean your dog’s fur from flea droppings.

How to use a flea comb:

  1. Pass the flea comb slowly over your dog’s body.
  2. Put the fleas in soapy water after catching them with combs to kill them.
dog Flea Combs

What Causes Fleas on Dogs?

Dogs often catch fleas from other dogs, other animals, or the environment. Dogs can also become reinfested with fleas from the environment they live in, catching fleas from their bedding, cage, shelter, house, etc.

Fleas do not have wings. They cannot fly or jump too high, so the only method of transmission is through direct contact. 

Dogs can get fleas in the following ways:

  • From the park or anywhere outdoors where there are fleas.
  • When it gets in contact with other animals (especially wild and stray animals).
  • From indoors – from the house, bedding, cage, etc.

If your dog does not have fleas and you take it to the park where it plays with a pet that has fleas, your dog will likely become infested.

Your dog can also get fleas from his bedding or your house. 

Once the flea larvae have hatched from the egg, they will hide in the carpet, floors, furniture, etc. They stay there until they enter the pupae stage, from which the adult flea emerges. The adult flea will look for a warm-blooded organism to feed on, which is either you or your dog.

What Causes Fleas on Dogs

Signs & Symptoms of Fleas on Dogs

Signs of fleas on dogs include intense scratching until it self-mutilates, bites at various places, flea dirt, and yelping. You can also see fleas roaming on your pet’s skin, especially in massive infestations.

Here are the most common symptoms[4] of flea infestation in pets:

  • Intense scratching, which can lead to self-mutilation.
  • Biting different areas of the body when fleas bite.
  • Hair loss.
  • Dry skin due to scratching.
  • Small, red bumps, especially in the areas where fleas like to feed (groin, back, base of the tail).
  • Flea dirt (feces) in your dog’s fur.

Check your dog for fleas if you notice these symptoms. Turn your pet on its back, belly up, to inspect the armpits, abdomen, groin area, and under the chin for any scratches, redness, or flea dirt.

Flea dirt is digested blood. It is dark red to black, irregular in shape, and as thick as the tip of a needle. Place the dirt on a damp piece of paper to check if it is flea feces; moist flea feces leave a red, bloody stain.

Related: How to tell if your dog has fleas

Common Symptoms of Flea Bites on Dogs

Side Effects of Fleas on Dogs

One of the most common side effects of fleas on dogs is flea allergy dermatitis.[5]

This allergic reaction most often occurs in sensitive dogs that have been exposed to repeated flea bites. In this situation, the dog experiences an allergic reaction to components in flea saliva.[6]

Flea allergy dermatitis symptoms include:

  • Reddening of the skin
  • Intense itching and scratching
  • Hair loss: especially in the lumbosacral area, sides of the abdomen, or base of the tail
  • Skin crusts and bumps: On the lower back, near the base of the tail, inner tights

FAQs

Are Fleas Visible on Dogs?

Yes, fleas are visible on dogs, especially on dogs with light fur and skin. Fleas like to hide in the armpits, groin area, the base of the tail, legs, and under the neck. You should be able to see fleas in these areas if your dog has been parasitized.

What Kill Fleas Instantly on Dogs?

Antiparasitic sprays kill fleas on dogs instantly. Spray the product all over your pet’s body, avoiding its face. Don’t let your pet ingest the product. Fleas die within minutes. Some products also have a preventive role, their effect lasting up to 4-5 weeks.

Can Dogs Get Rid of Fleas on Their Own?

Dogs can get rid of fleas on their own if they have a few. They will grab them with their teeth and ingest them. Dogs that have a massive infestation can only get rid of a few; they cannot get rid of all fleas.

Are Fleas on Dogs Common?

Yes, fleas on dogs are very common and can be found all over the world. It is normal to find 1-2 fleas on your dog after a walk. While 20 fleas indicate an infestation, over 200 represent a massive infestation.

Is There a Permanent Flea Treatment for Dogs?

There is no such thing as a permanent flea treatment for dogs. The best you can do is to apply preventive measures regularly on your dog, in your garden, and keep your house clean all the time. This way, you minimize the risk of your dog getting fleas as much as possible.

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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