How To Get Rid Of Fleas On Puppies
Stop your dog from itching 😣
You just adopted an adorable new puppy, and everything’s going great. But there’s just one (huge) problem — she’s covered in fleas.
You may have even treated your puppy with a low-cost over-the-counter treatment, only to realize it’s not doing the job it promised.
If these situations sound familiar, you’ll definitely need a veterinarian’s recommendations for treating and preventing fleas on puppies.
You should always speak with your own vet to find the best treatment for your puppy, but in the meantime, it doesn’t hurt to do some research.
The Dodo spoke with Dr. Hanie Elfenbein, a veterinarian and part-time surgeon for the Humane Educational Society in Tennessee, and Dr. Lucas White, a veterinarian at Sunset Veterinary Clinic in Oklahoma, to find out how to get rid of fleas on puppies — for good!
Are fleas dangerous to puppies?
Fleas are much more dangerous to puppies than they are to adult dogs.
While flea treatments are obviously important for adult dogs — they can mean life or death for puppies. “Fleas are more than just annoying,” Dr. Elfenbein told The Dodo. “They can be dangerous to puppies.”
This might sound scary, but the truth is that fleas and ticks are like the vampires of the pet world: They feed on blood. And since puppies are small, they really don’t have much to spare. “Puppies can’t afford to lose blood and easily become anemic due to fleas,” Dr. Elfenbein said.
“Severe infestations can lead to severe anemia as the fleas feed on the puppy's blood,” Dr. White told The Dodo. “A few fleas are not likely to cause a problem other than itchiness and skin irritation, but a lot of fleas can severely deplete a puppy's supply of red blood cells and make them very sick. If left untreated, death is a possibility.”
Fleas can also carry tapeworms, which can steal nutrients from a puppy and cause blockages in the stomach of an infected puppy. These can be fatal if not treated.
Additionally, tapeworms can sometimes cause gastrointestinal symptoms, such as:
- Weight loss
That’s not to mention the awful skin irritation that fleas cause on dogs. And if the fleas get really bad, a full-blown skin infection is likely to follow.
That’s why putting your puppy on an effective flea and tick treatment is simply a no-brainer.
When can puppies start flea treatment?
The most important thing is to put your puppy on a flea and tick preventative — but only if they’re at least 8 weeks old. “Most flea treatments are labeled for dogs starting at … 8 weeks of age,” Dr. Elfenbein said.
“Some [treatments] have weight requirements as well and may not be safe for small-breed puppies until they get bigger,” Dr. White said. “Applying flea preventives to the mother and all the other dogs in the house can reduce the risk of the puppies becoming infested.”
If your puppy’s too young or small to start a flea treatment, the best thing to do is bathe your young puppy with some good old Dawn dish soap. “Very young puppies should be bathed if you suspect fleas,” Dr. Elfenbein said. “Dawn dish soap, the same stuff used to save oiled wildlife, will also kill fleas and is safe for pets.”
Keep in mind that you shouldn’t bathe your puppy with Dawn soap more than every two weeks, and you shouldn’t use it as normal shampoo if your pup is flea-free. Overuse can cause your puppy’s skin to become irritated.
How to get rid of fleas on puppies
If your puppy is dealing with a lot of fleas, an effective treatment is key, but most of them will take a few hours to start working. To give your puppy relief ASAP, consider flushing out the fleas with a flea comb and puppy-safe flea and tick shampoo (though again, check the age and weight limits on any shampoo and use Dawn if your pup is too small).
A flea comb has fine teeth that grab fleas, flea eggs and flea dirt from your pet’s fur — which helps to remove a lot of the pests.
And after combing out the bugs, lather on a puppy-safe shampoo in a warm bath to get rid of anything you may have missed.
“Be careful with flea shampoos as most are not labeled for dogs younger than 3 months old,” Dr. White said. “Consult with your veterinarian to determine which treatment would be best for your pet.”
(Note: This shampoo is for puppies at least 3 months old. If you need something for younger puppies, consult with your veterinarian).
But keep in mind, a flea preventative for puppies (along with a thorough deep clean in your home — more on that below) is truly the only way to keep the fleas from coming back.
Best flea treatment for puppies
When it comes to choosing the best flea treatments and prevention for puppies, stick with prescription products, Dr. Elfenbein said, which means reaching out to your vet for help.
“The prescription products are the most effective,” she said. “Many of the over-the-counter flea treatments don’t work, or at best don’t work well enough.”
Here are four products she recommends:
Age/weight limit: For puppies who are at least 8 weeks of age and older, and weigh 4.4 pounds or more
How soon does it start working?: Starts killing fleas in four hours, kills 99 percent of fleas in eight hours and kills 100 percent in 12 hours
Why vets like it: This monthly prescription kills a lot of fleas, fast.
Age/weight limit: For puppies who are at least 8 weeks of age or older, and weigh 4 pounds or more
How soon does it start working?: Kills 100 percent of fleas in 24 hours
Why vets like it: It’s the only FDA-approved product for the prevention of Lyme disease infections.
Age/weight limit: For puppies who are at least 6 months of age or older, and weigh 4.4 pounds or more
Frequency: Every 12 weeks
How soon does it start working?: Starts killing fleas within two hours and kills 98.7 percent of fleas in 24 hours
Why vets like it: It lasts three times longer than other common flea preventatives.
Age/weight limit: For puppies who are 6 months of age or older, and weigh at least 2.8 pounds
Frequency: Once a month
How soon does it start working?: Starts killing fleas within three hours
Why vets like it: It works quickly and can be used on very small puppies.
Preventing fleas in the home
The last thing you want to do is go through the trouble of treating your dog, only for the fleas to come back after treatment. A (really) deep clean of your home is the only way to truly keep fleas away.
“Flea eggs and larvae make their way into every seam, every fold, everywhere,” Dr. Elfenbein said. “Environmental decontamination is the most effective way to keep fleas from coming back.”
To start decontaminating, throw everything you can through the washing machine to be washed and dried.
For items that can’t go through the washer, like couch pillows, they should be vacuumed and, if possible, tossed in the dryer for a few minutes “to kill any flea eggs and larvae that remain,” Dr. Elfenbein said.
Vacuum everything else (like window curtains, rugs and mattresses) every day for at least two weeks.
When all is said and done, you’ll want to treat your home with a pet-safe flea and tick home treatment to cover all your bases. Just be sure to keep your pets away from any treatments before they dry completely.
If you want to be really sure nothing survives, give your local exterminator a call. They can help get rid of the fleas for you if the infestation gets out of hand.
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