Fighting Fleas: How to Get Rid of Fleas on Your Dog

Fleas Are a Year-Round Problem

While we hope that your dog never gets fleas, knowing how to get rid of fleas on your dog is a useful skill. Even the most careful dog owner who practices year-round flea prevention may find that one of these pesky parasites is hitch-hiking on her dog. And unfortunately, if you see one flea, there are plenty of eggs, fleas, and pupas that you can’t see.

In the Pacific Northwest, fighting fleas is a year-round problem. We don’t get the deep frost necessary to kill fleas every year, and fleas can survive unexpectedly cold temperatures. So, it’s helpful to set a routine to make your home and dog as inhospitable to fleas as possible. That way, you’ll be able to reduce the risk of regular flea problems.

Dogs That Are at Higher Risk for Fleas: Dogs that regularly go to areas where other dogs congregate are at higher risk for fleas. So, if your dog goes to doggie daycare or dog parks, she might be at higher risk for getting fleas. Dogs that live in apartment buildings, condos or cities are also at higher risk than dogs that live in single-family, suburban or rural homes.

How to Eliminate Fleas Using Natural Methods

Traditional topical flea treatments are effective and safe for many dogs. But if you want to avoid these traditional insecticides in favor of natural methods of flea prevention and eradication, you have plenty of options.

Natural products can still produce harmful side effects, so it’s important to make sure that every flea product is used according to the manufacturer’s directions. Usually, if your dog has visible fleas, you’ll need to use a flea shampoo to remove existing fleas and repel new ones. Then, you’ll have to vigilantly use a natural flea repellent to ward off fleas during flea season. Typically, natural flea repellents contain cedar, neem, geraniol or tea tree oil.

Identifying Flea Allergy Dermatitis (FAD) in Your Dog

Dogs with flea allergy dermatitis have actual allergic reactions to flea bites. Within 15 to 20 minutes of being bitten, a dog with flea allergy dermatitis will severely itch in all areas where she’s been bitten. If your dog has FAD, you may see her itching furiously after being bitten.

The most difficult symptoms of FAD occur within 24 hours after being bitten. Dogs with FAD develop bumps around the back, abdomen and tail area of the dog. These pustules break open and later scab. During this time, there’s also a significant risk of a secondary skin infection that could cause even more problems for the dog.

If you ever see your dog with any of these symptoms, it’s important to book an immediate appointment with your veterinarian. Your veterinarian will be able to provide treatment to reduce symptoms, as well as discuss ways to prevent the skin infections that often occur after flea allergy dermatitis.

Once your dog is diagnosed with flea allergy dermatitis, it pays to be aggressive when constructing your flea bite prevention plan. Even a single flea bite can trigger an allergic response in your dog that can lead to significant itching and pain.

blue coiled nylon leash and collar

When to Talk to Your Veterinarian About Flea Prevention

For many years, traditional topical flea treatments were only available by prescription. This precaution allowed dog owners to discuss the pros and cons of each particular treatment with your veterinarian. While over-the-counter products are safe for most dogs, Mud Bay still recommends that you talk to your veterinarian before using a topical flea treatment.

Having a conversation about fleas with your veterinarian ensures that you’re using the best option for your dog. Your veterinarian will also be able to offer alternatives if your dog is too young or too old to use topical products. For dogs with chronic health conditions, your veterinarian may also want to discuss alternative methods of flea control.