dog

Puppy Care 101: What Should I Do If My Dog Has Fleas?

by Desirée O

If the word “fleas” fills you with dread, that’s totally understandable. The little blood-sucking critters aren’t only a pain for your pets; they’re also nasty creatures that can infest your home and be difficult to get rid of. And, unfortunately, they’re pretty darn common. There are plenty of ways that your dog can get fleas, which means that most pups will have at least a few of the bugs at one point or another. Dogs can get fleas off other animals, run into them at their doggy day care or vet’s office, or simply pick up the bugs while outside at the park, in a neighboring yard, or running through the forest. And once your dog has one or two fleas taking up residence in her fur, you can quickly find yourself battling hundreds of the tiny monsters. But don’t worry! If you do suspect that your puppy has fleas, here’s what you need to know.

Get Over the Gross-Out Factor

Get Over the Gross-Out Factor
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Yes, fleas are gross. Yes, they look like something straight out of an Alien film. And yes, you more than likely will have to squash the creepy-crawlies with your bare hands if your pup is, in fact, infested. However, fleas are pretty tiny, with most adults measuring around 1.5 to 3 mm in length. So take comfort in knowing that you’re not fending off tarantula-sized parasites.

Also, if you’re lucky enough to have never seen a close-up image of fleas, you can ignore what they actually look like. To the human eye, they resemble minuscule beetles. That’s not so bad, right?

All in all, you need to get tough when dealing with fleas, so push past the grossness and tackle them head-on.

Don’t Be Embarrassed

Don’t Be Embarrassed
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Even if you take every precaution and follow a strict preventative regimen, your pet could still get fleas. It doesn’t mean that your dog is dirty or that you don’t properly take care of your animal friends. Fleas are tricky little things and have a knack for finding a way to thrive. Again, the resilient bugs are an issue that most pet owners will face, so there is nothing to be ashamed about if your pup gets fleas.

Know What You’re Dealing With

Know What You’re Dealing With
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To be victorious over these tiny terrors, it helps to have info about your new foe. Fleas are small parasites that feed off the blood of animals. They love a humid environment and can spend up to 90% of their lives waiting around for a suitable host. The life cycle of a flea can be anywhere from two weeks to several months, from egg to adult. Once they are full-grown, fleas can lay 50 to 100 eggs per day, so it’s important to start your attack right away.

Know the Signs

Know the Signs
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To catch a flea infestation early on, be aware of the symptoms. A sure sign of discomfort from your dog is excessive itching and scratching. Is your dog nibbling and biting at certain areas of her body? Then look for fleas or small red bumps on her skin in that particular spot.

Also, know that just because you can’t spot the signs of fleas right off the bat, it doesn’t mean that your puppy isn’t infested.

Give Your Puppy a Thorough Check

Give Your Puppy a Thorough Check
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To give your dog a more thorough inspection, run a flea comb through your pup’s fur and see if it catches any of the nasty bugs. Fleas love humid areas on an animal’s body, so make sure to check around your dog’s neck, belly, paws, and ears.

You can also place a white paper towel under your dog and give her fur a good rub. Check for black spots (i.e., fleas) on the towel afterward.

Give Your Puppy a Flea-Testing Bath

Give Your Puppy a Flea-Testing Bath
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Fleas hate water — like, a lot. If you suspect that your dog has some unwanted guests, then pop the pup in a bath. Fleas are very good at hiding, and normally finding them can be a bit tricky, but getting them wet drives the fleas to move around to escape the newly soggy conditions.

Work Quickly

Work Quickly
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It’s important to work quickly when you notice your dog has fleas. The horrible creatures tend to get down to business as soon as they find a host, so it is always advantageous to get to the problem early and stop them from spreading not only throughout your pup’s fur but also to the rest of your house. Once eggs have been laid on your dog, they can easily fall off your pet and onto your carpets or make their way into nooks and crannies, quickly spreading the infestation.

Not only does late prevention increase the risk of the fleas multiplying and infecting other pets, it can also lead to health problems for your dog. To avoid any complications, it is always a good idea to start treatment right away.

Choose Which Kind of Products to Use

Choose Which Kind of Products to Use
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There are both chemical and natural ways to eliminate fleas on your pet and in your home, but which is right for you? Some chemical treatments out there include flea collars, drops, ingestible tablets, and shampoo; however, there are plenty of natural products you could opt for that might be a little more gentle on your furry friend. Brewer’s yeast, apple cider vinegar, and even nematodes can be used to fight fleas.

Give Your Puppy a Flea-Killing Bath

Give Your Puppy a Flea-Killing Bath
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If your puppy is dealing with an infestation, consider a flea-killing bath. Keep the temperature of the bath water warm and get your pet wet around the neck first, applying any flea-fighting bath products to your dog and scrubbing them right down to the skin. Then soak the rest of your dog and work the treatment over your pup’s entire body. Wait about five minutes before rinsing, and when you do, be thorough. Make sure all of the treatment product is washed away and that no fleas remain. Then towel-dry your dog.

The idea of the bath treatment is to kill both the fleas and their eggs while also (hopefully) making your puppy’s skin less desirable to other critters that come along.

Brush Your Puppy

Brush Your Puppy
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After your dog has fully dried from the flea bath, run a regular dog brush through her fur to untangle any knots. You could also use a flea comb. These specialized products have teeth that are finer than a normal dog brush, which helps to catch fleas, eggs, and (ew!) flea dirt.

Try a Flea Collar

Try a Flea Collar
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Flea collars are an effective way to ward off the unwanted bugs as well as to help get an active infestation under control. Newer collars release flea repellent that spreads through the oils in your pup’s fur and over the skin. You can also choose a more natural flea collar for your pup in case you worry about skin irritation or other side effects.

Flea collars can be a great tool, but just like any other treatment method, if you’re unsure it’s a good fit for your dog, consult your vet for expert advice.

Track Down the Source

Track Down the Source
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Channel your inner Sherlock and try to find the source of your flea infestation. Was your dog playing with a new friend at the park? Is your backyard populated by a high volume of vicious buggy visitors? Were you recently given a secondhand couch or rug? Maybe the fleas traveled into your home on one of your friend’s socks. In any case, it helps to find the source so you can target the problem area and prevent a future (or reoccurring) infestation.

How to Rid Your Home of Fleas

How to Rid Your Home of Fleas
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Fleas like to hide. For an effective attack, make sure to wash your dog’s (and family’s) bedding in hot soapy water. Vacuum your furniture and carpets thoroughly, every day, and immediately throw out the vacuum bag after you’re done to ensure that the fleas don’t escape. Carpet powders can be a useful tool to kill the larvae and eggs left behind. For a more natural carpet treatment, use lemon spray or baking soda. Clean around the baseboards and any crevices like the space between floorboards. Mop and clean tiled or wooden floors. Clean any other areas where your dog spends time, like outdoor dog houses, corners of the backyard, or a favorite place in the basement. Repeat (and then re-repeat) the cleaning routine along with treatments for your pet, and it will get you closer to a flea-free home.

What to Do If Cleaning Your Home Doesn’t Work

What to Do If Cleaning Your Home Doesn’t Work
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If the flea problem has gotten out of control and all the methods that you’ve tried on your own aren’t working, there is still hope. You can contact an exterminator to assess your home and recommend services to remedy your unfortunately tricky situation.