The best way to cure dog fleas is with a multi-pronged approach. In addition to treating your dog, you have to treat the environment.
Symptoms of Dog Fleas
If you see your dog scratching, shaking, and biting as if it is trying to get rid of an irritant, it is likely he has fleas.
Look for fleas in areas that are hard for your dog to reach, like behind the ears, along the back, at the base of the tail, and the belly. You are looking for tiny brown bouncing specks.
Another sign of fleas is black-and-white particles resembling sand. These are the flea eggs and waste material.
Treating Your Dog
- Begin with a bath. Fleas don’t hang on very tight, so giving your dog a bath and lathering him up with shampoo will send a lot down the drain. For extra protection, use a flea shampoo, preferably one that contains pyrethrins-a natural insecticide made from chrysanthemums. You can also try flea shampoos that contain another natural ingredient called d-Limonene. If you don’t have flea shampoo in the house, make your own. Mix equal parts apple cider vinegar with dish detergent.
- Comb them out. Run a fine-toothed flea comb through your dog once a day. After each stroke, drown the fleas by submerging the comb in a bowl of hot soapy water.
- Choose flea collars carefully. Traditional flea collars can’t always handle heavy infestations and can be irritating to your dog’s skin. A better bet is to buy a collar that contains a synthetic flea-controlling hormone like methoprene. Make certain the dog never chews the collar and that the collar never becomes wet. Wet collars must be replaced. Puppies should never wear flea collars
- Immerse in flea dip. This is the most effective way to treat your dog. It is more potent than sprays or powders and has longer lasting protection. Do this about twice a month until you are certain there are no more fleas in your dog’s coat.
- Use powders or sprays. Pet stores sell a variety of sprays and powders. The best products contain both an insecticide (kills adult fleas) and an “insect growth regulator” (destroys eggs). Sprays are good for short hair breeds, while powders are better for long-haired dogs. Powders can be messy because they have to be rubbed through the fur down to the skin.
- Prevent future fleas. The latest products in the war against fleas include Program, Advantage, and Frontline. These products are used once a month and usually beats the flea problem for good.
- Program is given orally and it contains a chemical called lufenuron that prevents flea eggs from maturing. When a female flea feeds on a treated dog, she becomes sterile. This medication doesn’t eliminate the need for other forms of flea control, but it will make the flea problem easier to manage.
- Frontline and Advantage kill fleas outright.
Treating the Environment
- Vacuum your house weekly. Play close attention to areas where your dog spends a lot of time, like around his bedding. Be sure to vacuum cracks, crevices of couches and chairs, and other hard to reach places. When you’re done vacuuming, throw out the bag. Otherwise, the fleas inside will creep back out. For extra protection, sprinkle a flea control carpet and upholstry powder on surfaces before vacuuming.
- Wash your dog’s bedding, pillows, blankets, and toys. Use hot water and clean on a weekly basis.
- Don’t forget about your car. If you take your dog on car trips, cover the area where he sits with a sheet that can be washed regularly. Vacuum the car frequently. You may have to bomb it periodically with a household flea spray.
- Treat entire house with a fogger. Why pay an exterminator, when you can do it yourself. Use products containing methoprene or fenoxycarb. Insecticides containing pyrethrins are also safe and effective.
Foggers, like this one, kill fleas and their eggs for up to 7 months. It also kills cockroaches, spiders, ants and ticks.
- Treat your yard with nematodes. Nematodes are microscopic worms that prey on the larvae and pupae of many insects, including fleas. It is available at pet and garden stores. Following the directions on the label, put them into a garden sprayer and aim at damp, shaded areas where fleas thrive. Once their flea food source runs out, nematodes simply biodegrade and disappear.