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Fleas in Dogs

Fleas in dogs are probably one of the most common health issues and irritants to dogs.

Not only do they make your dog itchy, but they can also quickly invade your home making all pets and humans very unhappy!

The best thing you can do for your dog (and you) is to catch the fleas before they start.

While most flea bites aren’t dangerous, if left untreated, they can lead to secondary infections or even skin lesions if your dog is allergic to fleas.

Puppies can even develop anemia if they have an abundance of flea bites.

How To Know When Your Dog Has Fleas

Some of the most common symptoms if your dog has fleas are the following:

  • Excessive scratching
  • Excessive licking
  • Areas of hair loss
  • Presence of flea dirt
  • Weakness and pale mucous membranes in severe cases
  • Hair loss
  • Scabs and hot spots
  • Pale gums

Live fleas may or may not be seen.  Dogs with a high sensitivity to flea bites often remove the insects via scratching and licking before you or even your vet has a chance to see them.

That is why it’s important to see the signs.

Fleas are about the size of a grain of rice.   They jump on and off pets and have no wings. They can be observed by the veterinarian or owner.

Dogs often accidentally ingest fleas, which can cause infection with tapeworms.

If you can’t find any fleas, they can also be identified by their poop.

Allergic Reaction to Fleas

Some dogs can even have an allergic reaction to fleas.

If a dog has an increased sensitivity to the saliva of fleas, a flea bite can cause an allergic reaction.

This condition is called flea dermatitis and the symptoms are typically the following:

  • Intense itching
  • Hair loss
  • Red skin, scabs, and hot spots.

Flea allergy dermatitis can often lead to secondary skin infections.

Why Did My Dog Get Fleas?

There isn’t a specific reason why a dog will get fleas, but if a pet in your home has fleas that haven’t been treated, there is a strong likelihood that your dog and other pets can get fleas too.

If you live in a warm or humid climate, like Florida or Texas, fleas tend to be more rampant there and monthly flea prevention treatment is usually recommended.

All outdoor dogs are even more susceptible to fleas.

Flea Treatments

vet giving dog flea treatmentIf you think your dog has fleas, make sure to see your veterinarian to confirm that they are fleas and to recommend the best treatment.

Your dog’s itching could be indicative of some other ailment, like hot spots or ear mites.

Depending on your dog, your veterinarian can discuss the best treatment option to treat the fleas and also prevent the fleas from re-occurring.

Most of the common treatments are liquid or even topical treatments that are placed at the back of your dog’s neck.

There are many over-the-counter non-prescription flea preventative medications that are very effective and should be given to your dogs’ monthly.

Some dogs with increased susceptibility or higher than average exposure to fleas may require preventative care more often.

The typical cost of treating fleas ranges from $40 to $50 a month.

When treating fleas on any pet in your house, it is important that all are other pets including indoor and out cats.

Natural Flea Remedies For Dogs

There are many natural home remedies you can try to see if they help get rid of and prevent fleas on your pets.

Most can be very effective and are chemical free.

Flea Collar Made With a Bandana and Natural Oils

A flea collar is a great way to ward off fleas without always having to reapply something topically, and it keeps the flea control constant and steady.

You can make a home-made flea collar with olive oil and water mix – 3 – 5 drops of cedar oil and 1- 3 tablespoons of water.

Mix and put the oil on a bandana or even your dogs or cat’s collar and re-apply weekly.

Apple Cider Vinegar

Apple cider vinegar is a great addition to your pets’ diet for so many reasons. It can be used to get rid of fleas as well.

To get temporary relief, you can mix apple cider vinegar and water in a proportion of 2:1.

Mix it well and fill it in a spray bottle. It can help the fleas to jump off of your pet.

You can also drench your dog or cat’s fur with this solution and comb it gently. Generally, this remedy works for almost 3-4 days.

As a preventative, add it to your pup’s water – or even cat’s (if they will drink it).

Flea Comb

A flea comb is a great way to get rid of fleas. Slowly drag the comb across the hair close to the cat’s skin.

Comb more in those areas where fleas are likely to hide such as base of the tail, armpits and groin.

Keep a bowl of soapy water close to you. As you remove fleas, drown them in this water.

White Vinegar

White vinegar is also one of the best remedies to remove fleas from dogs and cats.

Use white vinegar while cleaning or giving a bath to your pet. Add some white vinegar to water and pour it on the body of your pet to prevent flea infestations.

Cedar Chips

Cedar chips are used to keep fleas away. You can place cedar chips on pet’s bedding.

You can also place it around outside spaces to control the growth of fleas.

Lemon Spray

Lemon with its citrus properties kills fleas. Cut lemons and put them in boiling water. Steep it overnight.

Pour the solution into a spray bottle. Squirt the solution on the flea affected areas of your dog or cat behind the ears, head and at base of the tail.

Or else, you can soak a piece of cloth in the solution and rub it gently on the infected regions (especially for cats who aren’t always fond of citrus).

Dawn Dishwashing Liquid

Dawn dishwashing liquid is also effective for repelling fleas.

Just add a few drops of blue-colored dawn dishwashing liquid in regular bathing water of your pet.

This kills fleas and provides relief to pets. Use it as a shampoo for your pet.

Ensure that you rinse it thoroughly to prevent irritation on the skin.

Can Pet Insurance Help With Fleas?

While most pet insurance plans do not offer flea or parasite prevention on their basic policy.

However, if the dog insurance plans offer wellness and routine care coverage, there is generally an annual allowance to help pay for flea and other parasite prevention.

Pet insurance companies like Embrace and Pets Best offer wellness plans if this is of interest to you.


There are many ways you can prevent fleas and include the following:

  • Always keep your house clean and thoroughly vacuumed.
  • Watch for fleas by using a flea comb on your dog and washing your dog’s bedding weekly.
  • If you have a yard, you will need to treat it as well as your house if your dog developed fleas.
  • Use flea shampoos even if there aren’t any fleas present.  If they are too harsh, brewer’s yeast and garlic added to your dog’s food might also help repel fleas.
  • Apple cider vinegar added to your dog’s drinking water has been known to not only deter fleas but improve your dog’s skin and coat condition.

As always, the best way to treat fleas is to prevent them from occurring by having your dog on a monthly treatment at the first site or onset of fleas.

If you think that fleas are not the culprit and another dog health issue, our dog health glossary can give you some other ideas of what might have occurred.

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