How to get rid of fleas on your dog

Well, I have finally found the culprit to Brutus and Rufus’s itching and Rufus’s nasty under tail hotspot… Flea Dermatitis (aka flea bite hypersensitivity. It is the most common dermatologic disease of domestic dogs in the US). OMG, they have fleas! I have never had fleas, ever, in the 10+ years of owning dogs and I saw one on Rufus’s rump!!! Like many Americans this year I have fallen victim to the evolution of the super flea. I normally don’t put the monthly Frontline Plus treatments on in the winter months, because it’s cold here in Ohio. But we have had a very wet and warmer than usual fall which is perfect for breeding the little buggers and the poor boys managed to pick up fleas somewhere, I’m pretty sure I know from where too grrrrrr! I guess I will be treating monthly year round from here on out!

Fleas are the most common ectoparasite (An organism that lives on the outer surface of another organism, its host, and which does not contribute to the survival of the host) in dogs and cats. They spread intestinal parasites, as well as causing painful dermatitis, skin infections and “hot spots”. The fleas that you see on your dog represent less than 1% of the flea population in your home – the rest are growing and breeding in the environment (that means your carpets, furniture, bedding – GROSS). Fleas spend the majority of their life cycle in the environment, only jumping on your dog or for that matter you, to take in a meal. By the time your dog shows symptoms of fleas, the problem isn’t the fleas you can see… its the vast numbers you can’t!

Dog Flea removal

Preventing flea infestation is much easier than treating one. It is recommended that flea preventions such as Frontline Plus, K-9 Advantix II, Interceptor, Program, Advantage, Revolution, Sentinel or Comfortis (FYI flea collars DONT WORK) be used monthly from April to November. Dogs with flea allergies (like Rufus) or households that have experienced a flea infestation over the winter months should be treated all year round. An ounce of prevention is worth more than a pound of cure!

So… now you are coming to grips that there is a bigger problem than you had realized, what next? How do you get rid of them?

How to Treat Your Dog

I used Frontline Plus, it is a topical flea and tick treatment as well as preventative for both cats and dogs over 8 weeks.

Frontline Plus kills 100% of fleas on the dog within 12 hours of application.

Long-lasting, continues to kill fleas and ticks all month long.

Approved for use on puppies and kittens 8 weeks of age and older and on breeding, pregnant or lactating cats and dogs.

Waterproof: effective even after swimming, bathing, and grooming.

Dog Flea treatment
Dog Flea treatment

It comes in multiple sizes for dosing. Make sure you choose the one closest to your dog’s weight for proper coverage. The largest size covers up to 132 pounds and since my dogs are much larger than that, I combine two vials – 1 of the 89-132 vials AND 1 of the 23-44 vials for my saints to make sure they have enough of the active ingredient to be effective. Apply directly to dry skin on the back between the shoulder blades. It is important to apply to dry skin and allow the product to completely dry for 24 hours before allowing them access to swimming or bathing.

Fleas and ticks do not have to bite your pet for Frontline to work. Frontline kills fleas and ticks even if they simply come into contact with your pet’s coat. The fleas will die within 12 hours of contact with your treated pet, and ticks will die within 48 hours.

Capstar is an orally administered tablet that provides fast flea relief and starts working within 30 minutes. A single dose should kill the adult fleas on your pet. If your pet gets reinfested, it is safe to give another dose as often as once per day. They claim “you will literally see fleas falling off your pet”. I’m not so sure about that… but hey, sounds good.

Make sure you treat all infested pets in the household. Fleas can reproduce on untreated pets and allow infestations to persist. I used both Frontline Plus AND Capstar to try to nip any issue in the bud. Their itching went into overdrive for a few hours. Frontline will make fleas hyper-excited, causing them to become more frenzied and head to the “surface of the coat” before dying, making them more visible to you and can causing significant itching in dogs that are sensitive to fleas.

How to Treat Your Home

Treating the environment is one of the most effective ways to reduce the number of fleas you see on your dog. House treatment sprays that contain ingredients to kill adult fleas and insect growth regulators are the most effective. They break the flea life cycle by preventing flea eggs from hatching. My vet recommended Siphotrol Plus II Area Treatment. Siphotorl Plus II:

100% Knock Down For Adult Fleas In 10 Minutes

Kills Both Adult And Immature Fleas & Ticks

Safe for humans and animals as soon as it dries

Treats 2,000 Square Feet

Leaves No Lingering Odor, No Stains, No Sticky Mess

Prevents Reinfestation And Flea Build-up For 30 Weeks

Easy To Apply Water-based Aerosol

First, vacuum thoroughly, including rugs and under furniture. The vibrations from the vacuum cleaner encourage the flea eggs to hatch, (adults = easier to kill you, my dearies). Remove the contents of your canister or your bag outside into an outside dumpster or trash can. Spray the new bag or your canister lightly with your treatment spray (this will stun/kill the live fleas you vacuum up – a cheap flea collar in the bag or canister will also work). Launder all bedding, yours too if your dog gets on the bed, to remove any fleas or juvenile life stages. Make sure you cover or preferably move any aquariums, birds or reptiles from the area while spraying.

Spray all the areas of your house with a light mist, soaking. If you miss an area, the fleas will move to the unsprayed area and set up shop there. Even hardwoods and linoleum floors should be treated. It is safe to spray furniture and pet bedding as long as the spray is dry before humans or pets use them. Always check for Colorfastness before spraying. Most fabrics are safe from coloring/decoloring but its always better to be safe than sorry.

Vacuum Cleaner
Vacuum Cleaner

Wait 24 hours before vacuuming then vacuum daily for at least 14 days. Make sure you dispose of the bag OUTDOORS and treat the replacement bag with your Siphotrol Plus II spray. If you are treating a flea infestation, repeat treatments in the house every 14 days until you see no fleas on your dog for 2-3 weeks. Retreating your house is very important in preventing re-infestation of the house from the pupal stage fleas that sprays can not kill. The little bloodsuckers can lie dormant in the environment for as long as s-i-x months!!!

Sprays are more effective than bombs or foggers. You will need at least one fogger per room The mist from the bomb will go straight up, mushroom out a bit then fall straight down. The chemicals won’t travel through the walls, around corners nor will it make it up under furniture.

I’ve seen advertisements for ultrasonic pest repellers but haven’t gotten any feedback on whether they actually work.

One final, yet disgusting, note…

Fleas can carry “Dipylidium caninum”, a particular species of tapeworm must use the flea as an intermediate host in its own life cycle. Egg packets deposited by the adult tapeworm are shed into the environment where they are consumed by the flea larvae. If a pet ingests an adult flea that consumed the tapeworm egg pack as a larvae, the tapeworm parasite is passed on. Although tapeworm in pets usually doesn’t cause serious disease, it is particularly annoying to pet owners. Tapeworms are easily detected by the pet owner. Small rice-like objects are seen clinging to the hind end of the animal near the base of the tail. In addition, people can become infected if they inadvertently ingest infected fleas.