How to Kill Fleas on a Dog in 3 Simple Steps!

If your dog has fleas then there is a 3 step process you need to take to kill the fleas on your dog

A dog with fleas is a really common problem and one of the most common causes of an itchy dog who starts to scratch suddenly.

Finding fleas is one thing, killing them can be quite another!


How to kill fleas on a dog: the 3 step strategy:

  1. Use a product that actually works!

  2. Treat the environment

  3. Continue treatment for at least 3 months

Use a flea treatment that actually works!

So jumping straight into my three-step process for how to kill fleas on your dog, at number one we have actually using a product that works!

The ideal flea treatment:

  • Kills fleas

  • Persists and keeps working

  • Safe

  • Reduces environmental flea population

  • Kills other parasites depending on where you live

So our ideal flea killing product needs to actually kill fleas in the first place. It also needs to persist so that it's still acting to kill fleas when all of the fleas in the environment decide it’s meal time. There's no use in applying a product that will only last for a few days because not all fleas live on the dog all the time. In fact, they spend the majority of their time off the dog.

The environment carries a huge flea population load. Most of the adult fleas will spend a lot of their time in the carpet, on the furniture, and in the vegetation around a pet's environment. There are also eggs and larvae in this environment that will then hatch out and start to cause problems. A scary thought is that for every adult flea, there are 20 eggs or larvae developing. You can see then how a few fleas can soon turn into a nightmare infestation!

All this means that we need a flea product to persist for as long as it takes to kill all of the adults (or at least works for the entire time between scheduled treatments), and also to kill all of the developing stages within the environment.

To that end, we would also ideally like a product that actually has an action in stopping the eggs and larvae developing into adult fleas.

Any flea treatment should also be safe as well. There are a number of different products out there that really aren't very safe at all. Where the amount of drug contained within that product is actually very close to the toxic dose and can cause problems with normal use. There are other drugs that are much, much safer.

Of course, any drug which actually does something carries a small risk of side effects. This is something that I've discussed in separate posts talking about allergic reactions to revolution and then the safety of Bravecto, Nexgard and Simparica.

Finally, the flea treatment you use should also kill or prevent any other parasites within your pet’s environment from biting and so cause disease. That could be something like sand flies spreading Leishmania, or ticks spreading Lyme disease. Different flea treatments have different activities against other parasites, and the need for this will depend on where in the world you live.

If all you want is a product that kills fleas effectively, you can’t go too wrong with Advantage. Prefer something that will last for 8 months and also kills ticks? The Seresto collar works very well, as long as it’s not put on too loose).

Treat the environment

The second step to killing fleas on your dog and tackling a flea infestation is to treat the environment. I've already mentioned that our flea product should ideally help prevent the eggs from hatching or kill the developing flea larvae.

There are also other actions you can take to reduce the environmental load of the flea population. And Remember that adult fleas only make up about 5% of the flea population!

So, to help reduce this juvenile flea population, you should hot wash your pet's bedding, or anything else possible that your pet spends a lot of time lying on. This will help kill those eggs and larvae.

You should also vacuum as you normally would, although increase the frequency if you do have a flea problem and concentrate on getting into all or the tight spaces and right up against the wall. If you have a steam cleaner or carpet cleaner then this will work even better.

Finally, you can use an environmental product that's designed to get into all the nooks and crannies as well as deep into the carpet and other soft furnishings. These products can also be known as flea bombs and are generally an aerosol or fogger that you set off in each room (this is the one I recommend to my clients).

Treating the environment is actually absolutely crucial if you want to quickly get on top of a flea problem on your dog. Neglecting this step is one of the big reasons that flea infestations can take so long to eliminate.

Maintain treatment

And then, once you've chosen the best flea treatment and tackled your dog’s environment, the third step to making sure that you're killing the fleas and you're preventing that problem for persisting is to maintain treatment for at least three months.

This might sound like a long time, but remember the eggs and larvae in the environment? Well, these can take a long time to all hatch out and then be killed.

You need to make sure you have something in place to kill any adult fleas that develop.

Depending on where you live, depending on the temperatures and humidity, how quickly a flea is going to go through its life cycle can vary considerably. When the weather's warm and humid, then the fleas will really love the environment. They will go through their lifestyle quite quickly (which also makes the risk of completely new infestations much higher!).

If it's a colder though, it might take much longer for those eggs to hatch, for the larvae to develop and for the adults to grow in number.

Either way, it's really important that for at least three months you maintain that treatment in your dog. You may also need to repeat the environmental treatment, although often they will last for a long period of time and you only need to do that once.

If you've not quite managed to kill all of the adults, and not removed or killed all of the developing flea stages and you stop all treatment, then the problem is only going to flare up and get worse again. And this is really also where a preventative strategy comes in as well.

If you're applying a flea preventative product every month, every three months, or whatever the interval is for the most suitable product for your dog, then you're going to prevent a flea infestation from ever happening in the first place!