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Help – my dog has fleas! Preventing fleas on dogs reading-time-icon 3 min read

It’s almost as bad as having your child sent home from school for having head lice – your dog has fleas. Gah! Having a dog with fleas can be a menace – and prevention is far better than cure. Let’s start by how to identify dog fleas and move on to some top flea treatment tips to help you get rid of the nasty critters – fast.

Fleas on dogs

Fleas are the most common cause of scratching and skin irritation in dogs and puppies. They’re nasty, irritating creatures that can make your dog very uncomfortable. Once they’ve nestled into your dog’s fur and made themselves at home, they bite into the skin and feed on your dog’s blood – yuk!

Chances are the first sign that your dog has fleas will be the itching – also known as as pruritus – but fleas on dogs can cause a range of symptoms.

Dog fleas symptoms include:

  • Chewing
  • Hairloss
  • Restless behaviour
  • Biting
  • Licking
  • Sores on the skin
  • Visible adult fleas in the fur, or on your dog’s skin
  • Excessive grooming

Potential problems caused by dog fleas

Once a flea’s saliva enters the bite wound, your dog may have a mild reaction. Some dogs develop sores on their skin that become infected. A small proportion of dogs are hypersensitive to flea saliva, and become intensely itchy, while old or sick dogs, or young puppies, can become weak and anaemic as a result of the resultant blood loss – occasionally with fatal results.

Fleas can also carry and spread some pretty nasty diseases, and are a common cause of tapeworms, which enter the dog while he or she is grooming.

Though complications caused by dog fleas are reasonably rare, it’s best to visit your vet to get treatment for dog fleas fast, to reduce the risk of infection.

Common conditions for dog fleas

Fleas are common in hot, damp climates, and are most often found in pet-friendly homes during the winter, when central heating creates the conditions fleas need to thrive.

Fleas can’t fly, but they’re well known for their jumping ability – leaping up to 100 times their body length. This incredible jumping ability means they can hop from one dog or puppy to another, so if you have one dog with fleas, other pets are at risk of catching them.

With female fleas capable of laying up to 50 eggs a day, you’ll need to act fast, as flea infestations are quick to take hold. It’s vital to treat your home with a suitable flea prevention product, as fleas and their larvae can survive without a host animal for months.

Did you know… Fleas can leap up to 100 times their body length!

Effective flea treatment for dogs… and your home

The best cure for dog fleas is prevention. Your local vet will happily advise you on the most effective barrier method to prevent dog fleas – including flea collars, spot-on liquid prevention methods, flea tablets, or longer-lasting flea prevention vaccinations.

How to treat fleas on dogs

If it’s too late for prevention, you’ll want to know the most effective treatment to fight those pesky pests, before dog fleas make themselves too comfortable in your dog’s coat – and your carpet!

Your vet will talk you through the best ways to treat your pet and your home. In the meantime, combing your dog with a fine-toothed metal flea comb several times a day will help to remove adult fleas.

Experts estimate that 95 per cent of flea eggs, larvae and pupae live in the environment, so it’s vital to treat your home with a suitable flea prevention product. Vacuum furniture and floors, clean skirting boards and wash bedding regularly to help destroy fleas at each stage of their lifecycle. Your vet will advise you on the best products to do this.

Dog fleas advice and treatment

For advice and treatment on dog fleas, contact your local vet.

Find your nearest vet using our Find a Vet page, or speak to a vet online using Online Vets.