How to help remove fleas on your dog

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Whether your dog is a puppy, a senior, or new to the family fleas are always a risk. In fact, more than 50% of skin disease cases reported to vets are flea related. Here are some suggestions to help get rid of fleas on your dog and how to help break the flea life cycle to prevent reinfestation. 

How do dogs get fleas?

Facing a flea infestation on your dog can make you feel like you’ve let them down. But remember it's not your fault because fleas are stealthy; they can hitch a ride on your dog during neighbourhood walks, puppy playdates, backyard business or even through human contact. 

And even if you’ve regularly treated your dog for fleas, fleas can still jump onto your dog because unfortunately no flea treatment acts like an invisible force field around your dog, preventing fleas from jumping onto them. 

Why are fleas on your dog?

Fleas feed on your dog's blood, and once they have found this reliable food source, they move in and start rapidly reproducing. As soon as you've determined your dog has fleas, it's time to take action to stop the infestation. 

How to tell if your dog has fleas

While you may not know exactly where the fleas came from, your dog may have fleas if they show any of these signs: 

  • Increased scratching, biting and licking 
  • Loss of fur 
  • Flea dirt in fur, which resembles black pepper or fine, dark dirt 
  • Brown parasites jumping or crawling in fur 
  • Pale gums 
  • Red bumps or scabs 
  • Behaviour changes, such as restlessness or nervousness 

If you’re unsure if your dog has fleas, talk to your vet clinic.

Treat the fleas on your dog and ALL your other pets

As soon as you see a flea on your dog, you should treat your dog with a quality flea treatment, such as Advantage™, Advocate™ or Seresto™. 
These quality flea treatments all kill fleas through contact, which means fleas don’t have to bite your dog to die, which means less bites for your dog, which your dog will love you for. 
Each flea treatment has their own benefits and its best to check with your vet clinic to see which flea treatment is right for your dog.  
After the flea treatment, use a flea comb to remove dead and dying fleas from your dog's coat. Continue to inspect and comb your dog regularly to keep tabs on the flea infestation. 
To discourage fleas from returning, you should use a quality flea treatment ALL year-round.  
Simply applying a flea treatment for one or two months can leave your dog at risk of fleas.

Also ensure you protect ALL of your pets against fleas, because if one pet has fleas they are all likely to have fleas as cats and dogs share the same flea species. Even if your dog never goes near your cat, forgetting to treat your cat for fleas means that flea eggs are shed around your house, which then develop into adult fleas that can then jump onto your dog!   

Please ensure the correct flea treatment is used for the species i.e. only use a dog flea treatment on your dog.

If you're still seeing fleas this does not mean that the flea treatment is not working.  Remember no flea treatment acts like an invisible force field around your pet, so it is entirely possible to see fleas on a treated pet even when you have followed the label instructions.  

Treat your environment (home and back garden) for fleas

If your dog has fleas, there's a good chance you will also be fighting them in your home and back garden. Fleas lay eggs on your dog which fall off when your dog sleeps on your couch, lounges in your bedroom or roams your back garden. Adult fleas are only a small portion of a flea infestation as they make up 5% of the total flea infestation problem. The other 95% are invisible to the naked eye.1 so the adult fleas we see are actually just the tip of the flea iceberg! 

So it's important to treat your home with a flea bomb to help get rid of all flea life cycle stages. 

What to do if you can't get rid of fleas on your dog

Battling a flea infestation can be a long process; as it can take several weeks or months to fully tackle a flea problem, so don't get discouraged and repeat the above steps for as long as necessary to break the flea life cycle. 

Make an ongoing plan to treat and prevent fleas on your dog 

To prevent re-infestation, it’s important to treat ALL of your pets with a trusted and quality flea treatment ALL year round. 

Be sure to set reminders to administer treatments and always follow the flea treatment’s recommended application schedules. Check your dog for fleas weekly, and be on the lookout for new signs of itching and scratching.

Staying alert and maintaining a regular flea prevention schedule can go a long way towards helping to keep your dog protected from fleas.

1. Grace SF. Fleas. In: Norsworthy GD, Crystal MA, Grace SF, et al, eds. (2006). The Feline Patient. 3rd ed. Ames, IA: Blackwell Publishing; 106-107.

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