Puppy with fleas scratching

How To Get Rid Of Fleas On Dogs & In The House

Written By Eloisa Thomas | Canine Coach, Double M.A in Anthropology.
Edited & Fact Checked By Renae Soppe | B.A Journalism & Science. 
Last Updated: 18th January 2024

Do you think winning the war against fleas is impossible? Wondering how to finally get rid of fleas on dogs? No worries: we’ve reviewed the science to make it easy to finally banish the little pests from your life.

Here’s what you should know about it!


Do you have fleas? How To Tell If Your Dog Has Fleas

Fleas and other external parasites are very common among pups. However, if you’ve never owned a dog before, it might be difficult to figure out whether or not you’re dealing with a flea infestation. Here are the main tell-tale signs your pup has fleas:

  • Your dog is scratching and biting themselves constantly
  • Their skin is looking red and inflamed
  • You find small black particles near the hair root and over the skin. These are probably flea droppings.
  • Check the base of the tail and the place between the shoulder blades for crusty spots, redness or black droppings

PRO TIP: If you don’t know if a black particle is a flea dropping, take a damp paper towel and pick up the droplet. If it stains red, it’s flea droppings

The problem with fleas is that they are very difficult to completely eliminate. Plus, they are so common that pretty much everywhere where dogs or other mammals gather, you can expect to find them.

No worries, today we’re covering how to kill fleas on dogs… and never again deal with an infestation.

What You Should Know About Fleas

If your battling fleas, it’s important to understand what you’re up against. This is a smart parasite, and years of evolution have made them very hard to eradicate. Here are the basics you should know about these little pests:

  • Fleas have four life stages: to get rid of fleas, you need to understand their life cycle. Simply put, they have four life stages – egg, larvae, cocoon, and adult flea. Adult fleas generally do not leave their dog unless forced off by grooming or insecticides. Even if only the adult fleas are the ones feeding on your pup’s blood, to eliminate the infestation you must fight against all four stages.
  • Timing is essential: when adult fleas jump on your dog, they mate after feeding. Then, they will take 1 or 2 days to start reproducing.  The problem is that a single female flea can create up to 50 eggs per day and about 2,000 in her lifetime. Check your product and make sure it will target both adult fleas and other life stages. Some sprays can also prevent fleas from mating.
  • Eggs will get everywhere: This is what makes flea infestation so hard to deal with. The hundreds of tiny eggs will get into every nook and cranny of your home. Flea eggs on dogs fly off as your dog scratches themselves, spreading eggs that will hatch whenever the environment is warm enough. This means in summer or when your dog lies somewhere with flea eggs, larvae will come out and get onto your dog.
  • Flea larvae are the hidden enemy: contrary to eggs, flea larvae are mobile, meaning they can live on their own and feed on organic debris found on the floor. They can move up to 1 metre on their own, and shelter inside carpet fibres, grass, leaves or soil to stay damp. If larvae dry out, they die, but they can live like this for up to 3 weeks.
  • Flea cocoons can survive up to a year: yes, after they’ve eaten enough, flea larvae will make themselves a cocoon that can be viable for up to a year. Then, whenever your dog passes nearby, the fleas will hatch and hop on.

So, what should you do with this info? This just means that a flea infestation will last for as little as 2 weeks… to up to a year after the last egg has been released. This is why consistent cleaning and product use is essential, since most products only target one or two out of the four stages of life.

PRO TIP: Check on the back of your product to know how fast it acts. Some products work in minutes, but most take at least one day to fully spread.

Are fleas dangerous for dogs?

On their own, fleas aren’t much of a threat unless your dog has a flea allergy. However, fleas are carriers of many dangerous infections, so keeping your dog from getting bitten is the best preventative measure that could save you thousands at the vet. Fleas can transmit infections such as tapeworms, rickettsia, and other very serious threats to their health.

On top of this, prolonged flea exposure can worsen your dog’s allergies, even if they weren’t sensitive to flea saliva in the past. In turn, this irritates their skin and cause troubles with their coat health.

How To Treat Fleas On Dogs

Ok, so your dog has fleas? You need to target both your dog and your home. This will slowly decimate the flea population until you’ve eliminated them completely.

Related: Best Flea Treatment For Dogs.

Step 1. Choose your product

When your dog already has fleas, you need products that act directly against the parasite and not only act as a preventative. Generally speaking, you’ll have to pick an external product that will coat your dog’s fur.

Related: Best Dog Flea Collar.

Step 2. Avoid bathing your dog

While there are flea shampoos, you should stick to a single product and use it as directed. If you’re choosing external sprays or pipette, you should avoid using them 2 days before and after application.

Step 3. Reapply as needed

This is where many owners fail. It’s easy to use flea treatments once and then forget, but this won’t work to control your flea infestation. Remember that most products only target adult fleas, so reapplication is necessary. Check the back of the product to make sure you know when you should apply the second dose.

How To Get Rid Of Fleas In The Home

Once you’ve treated your dog, it’s time to target fleas at all life stages in the environment. Most owners find this part to be the most daunting, since fleas can be pretty much everywhere. Here’s what you should do:

Step 1. Treat all animals in the home

If your dog has fleas, all the others are at risk as well. If you only treat one, the fleas will just jump to another dog! This applies to all furry pets in the home, including cats, bunnies or rats. Just treat them all at the same time to avoid issues.

Step 2. Clean your dog’s bed

This applies to any place where your dog spends time and lies down in. so their bed, but also the couch and your bed if you like to take naps together.

Pro tip. Use hot water to clean every item you suspect has been contaminated. Heat will kill flea eggs and larvae.

Step 3. Spray anything you can’t wash

You’ll probably find some furniture that doesn’t have any cover to wash, or it doesn’t fit in your washer. In those cases, grab a flea spray designed for furniture -not dogs!- and spray over everything you need to keep flea-free. Make sure you do a small spot test to avoid discolouration or unwanted reactions.

PRO TIP: Do you have a steam iron? Use it to steam your furniture before applying flea products. The heat from steaming will also help kill any lingering eggs and larvae.

Step 4. Vacuum every day

Vacuuming is generally a good way to keep flea infections in check, but if you’re dealing with an active one a vacuum will be your best friend. Vacuuming will remove eggs, cocoons and larvae from your furniture and floors. Remember to change the filter every 2 days at most to prevent fleas from hatching inside your vacuum!

Step 5. Don’t forget your backyard

Contrary to popular belief, fleas can survive outdoors with ease. Once you’ve tackled your home, move on to your backyard at the same time. Get dedicated outdoor flea treatments, and make sure to only use them at dusk to avoid harming honeybees and pollinators in the morning.

PRO TIP: Repeat these steps every month after you’ve detected a flea infestation. Since the cocoon stage can last so long, you need to keep removing fleas from the environment until there are zero left.

Final Thoughts

Managing fleas and getting rid of fleas in the home can seem like a daunting process, because they’re everywhere! But don’t worry, using different products that target every flea life stage will make the whole thing easier.

Of course, remember this is an ongoing process, especially since you can’t control fleas at the dog park or in other pets your dog meets. In general, vets recommend focusing on preventative flea treatment to keep the issue from getting worse.

  1. Dryden, M. W. (2009). Flea and tick control in the 21st century: challenges and opportunities. Veterinary dermatology, 20(5‐6), 435-440. https://europepmc.org/article/med/20178481
  2. Chin A, Lunn P, Dryden M. Persistent flea infestations in dogs and cats controlled with monthly topical applications of fipronil and methoprene. Australian Veterinary Practitioner 2005; 35: 89–96. https://www.researchgate.net/publication/279588820_Persistent_flea_infestations_in_dogs_and_cats_controlled_with_monthly_topical_applications_of_fipronil_and_methoprene

Eloisa Thomas

Eloisa Thomas is Gentle Dog Trainers Canine Coach & Anthropologist.

With a double master's degree in Anthropology and awarded a Chancellor's International Scholarship to pursue a PhD in History at the University of Warwick (UK), she's well equipped to write well written and factual canine information that will actually help people understand their dogs better.

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