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How to Prevent Fleas on Dogs: Best Ways of Prevention

This is not medical advice. For medical advice regarding pets, see your veterinarian.

Preventing fleas on dogs is the best way of eliminating the risk of fleas and flea-born diseases. There are several products that can prevent fleas on dogs, including spot-on pipettes, collars, or sprays. 

Fleas can negatively impact the lives of pets and their owners. 

These parasites can cause severe itching and intense scratching in dogs, which can lead to fur loss and skin rash. Some dogs are more sensitive to flea saliva and can even develop severe allergies.

Preventing external parasites is important. It is the first step to having a healthy and happy dog. 

Prevention is not only important for our pets but also for us. A dog with fleas and ticks can infest our entire home. These parasites can transmit severe diseases to us and our family members.

In this article, you will find out what fleas are, how to prevent fleas, what the best methods of prevention are, how to tell if your dog has fleas and more.

What Are Fleas?

Fleas are external parasites that feed on the blood of their host. Fleas can suck so much blood that it can lead to anemia in extreme cases. Dogs that are sensitive to flea saliva can also develop severe allergies.

Fleas are small, hematophagous insects that parasitize mammals and birds.[1] 

There are over 2,500 species of fleas, but those that cause problems to dogs and cats are:

  • Ctenocephalides canis (dog fleas)
  • C. felis (cat fleas)

Fleas can transmit various diseases to pets and humans, including tapeworms (Dipylidium caninum) and plague (Yersinia pestis).[2]

They have four biological stages: egg, larva, pupa, and young flea.

Adult fleas are 1.5-3 mm long and are reddish-brown. These insects do not have wings but have a posterior pair of legs developed for jumping, being able to jump 10-18 cm vertically. The mouthpiece is tubular, adapted to feed on blood.[3]

What Are Fleas

How to Prevent Fleas on Dogs

Prevent fleas by using antiparasitic products on your dog. The most popular methods of prevention are spot-on pipettes or collars. You can use chewable tablets if your dog is sensitive to the active ingredients in topical products.

There are many antiparasitic products you can use to prevent fleas on dogs:

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

The most popular and effective are spot-on pipettes and collars.

Pipettes can be applied once every four to eight weeks, depending on the product. 

For dogs up to 55 pounds, spot-on pipettes are applied to the skin at the base of the neck at a single point. 

For dogs over 55 pounds, the product should be applied in several areas: at the base of the neck, down the spine, and at the base of the tail. Avoid petting your dog in these areas until it dries (20-25 minutes).

How to Prevent Fleas on Dogs

The next most commonly used product is the antiparasitic collar. Although very effective, there have been cases of intoxication in dogs. Collars leave a residue to the dog’s skin and fur that can be ingested. These products are also a threat to children, as they can ingest the residue and become intoxicated.

If you live in a rainier area, ask your veterinarian if you should apply topical products earlier than recommended as fleas become aggressive after it rains.

Dogs that are sensitive and develop allergies to the active ingredients in topical products, should be administered chewable tablets. They are as effective as topical products and give very rare adverse reactions.[5]

Regardless of the product (except shampoos), you must apply or administer them depending on the weight and age of your dog. Otherwise, there is a risk of intoxication if you use higher concentrations than recommended.

Best Ways to Prevent Fleas

The best way to prevent fleas is to use multiple flea treatment products. Ask your vet for recommendations. You should also use pesticides in your garden, dog’s cage, and home.

Although fleas prefer warmer and rainier months, they can survive all year round if they have an animal to feed on. Dogs should be treated for fleas all year round to limit their multiplication.

No product can guarantee 100% effectiveness. Regardless of the product you use, you might still find fleas on your dog after application. 

Here’s how to best prevent fleas on dogs:

  • Limit the time your dog spends outside, especially in the hot season.
  • Limit its contact with other pets, wild, or stray animals.
  • Check your dog for fleas and ticks after each walk.
  • Brush and bathe your pet regularly. 
  • Use antiparasitic shampoos and flea combs.
  • Use pesticides in your home, yard, and the places your dog stays the most.
Best Ways to Prevent Fleas

Talk to your veterinarian about flea control products that are right for your pet. They may recommend that you use several products at the same time.

These are common combinations of flea treatment products:

  • A spot-on pipette and an antiparasitic collar.
  • An antiparasitic collar, shampoo, and a spot-on pipette.
  • Antiparasitic powder and a collar.

Related: How to Prevent Ticks on Dogs

How to Tell if My Dog Has Fleas

If your dog has fleas, it will scratch more than usual, self-mutilate, develop small red bumps on the skin, and have flea droppings in its fur. 

Although fleas are found all over the body, there are certain areas where they prefer to feed:

  • Armpits
  • Groin
  • The base of the tail
  • Neck
  • Under the chin
  • Between the shoulder blades
  • Legs

Fleas usually leave small red bumps after feeding that look like small mosquito bites. Some bites can be discolored and can become inflamed if the dog scratches intensely.

Dogs sensitive to flea saliva can develop flea allergy dermatitis, a medical condition that manifests through:

  • Intense itching.
  • Excessive scratching, chewing, biting, and licking of various areas of the body.
  • Self-mutilation, especially around the face, the base of the tail, and legs.
  • Alopecia, especially in the flank area (the sides of the pet) and above the tail.
  • Tiny red spots.
  • Flea droppings that make the fur look dirty.
How to Tell if My Dog Has Fleas
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Symptoms of Fleas on Dogs

You can’t always see flea bites or fleas on your dog, so it is important to recognize the symptoms of fleas on dogs.

Common symptoms to look for if your dog has fleas are:

  • Itching
  • Scratching
  • Irritated skin
  • Biting, licking, and chewing at various areas of the body
  • Fur loss
  • Scabs
  • Small red bumps all over its body
  • Flea dirt (droppings)
  • The presence of fleas – small moving black dots

Related: Flea Bites on Dogs: Identification & Symptoms

Are Fleas Dangerous to Dogs?

Fleas can cause anemia in puppies and transmit tapeworms and different bacteria to humans and pets. This is why it’s important to prevent fleas before they infest your dog.

Besides irritating your dog’s skin and causing it to itch and scratch intensely, fleas can also cause anemia. In massive infestations, there are so many fleas that they can suck the life out of a puppy. Anemia usually occurs in very young or sick and weakened pets.

Fleas can transmit various pathogens through their bite or feces to humans and pets:

  • Bartonella spp. (causes cat scratch disease)
  • Rickettsia spp. (causes typhus)
  • Yersinia pestis (responsible for the plague)

These external parasites can also transmit tapeworms to humans and pets. Tapeworms (Dipylidium caninum) are transmitted by ingesting whole infected fleas.[4] 

When a dog bites and scratches itself, it can swallow a flea that is infected with tapeworm eggs. The tapeworm hatches from the egg and attaches to the dog’s intestine, growing in size as it feeds. The infected dog eliminates proglottids (small segments of the tapeworm full of eggs) when defecating. 

It is very important to deworm your pets regularly, as they can transmit tapeworms to humans.

Are Fleas Dangerous to Dogs

How to Treat Your Home for Fleas

Complete prevention involves treating your home for fleas too. If fleas get into your house, your dog can reinfest, and you will never get rid of fleas.

Adult fleas live on your pet, but they can lay eggs all over the house as long as your dog has access. Larvae hatch from these eggs and hide in the floor, sofas, carpets, bedding, lining, etc. 

The larvae eventually turn into pupae that can survive for months in your house or garden.

If your dog has fleas, and you apply antiparasitic solutions to your pet, but not the places where it sleeps, your house, or the garden, you risk re-infestation.

Here’s what to do if you’re dealing with an infestation in your house:

  • Vacuum daily (flooring, carpets, and furniture).
  • Use a steam vacuum for sofas, beds, and carpets.
  • Use special household pesticides in the form of sprays or nebulizers (instead of pesticides you can use essential oils).
  • Treat all pets with antiparasitic products.
  • Call an exterminator if the situation overwhelms you.

Conclusion

Many products can prevent fleas. You can even use a combination of them if your veterinarian recommends it.

Ask your vet for help, at least the first time you buy antiparasitic products. They can recommend the best product and show you how to apply it.

If your dog shows signs of intoxication by antiparasitics or symptoms of flea allergy, contact your veterinarian immediately.

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.