Written by Vet Tech

How To Get Rid Of Fleas On Dogs Fast And Safe

Amber LaRock
Written by: Amber LaRock, Vet Tech
Keeping your dog's coat clean is imperative if you want to keep fleas away from your dog. They're tricky to get rid of. Here is the ultimate guide on how to get rid of fleas on dogs.

Fleas are tiny critters that can wreak havoc on you and your dog’s life. Fleas can not only cause a large amount of discomfort for your furry friends but can result in serious health complications if left untreated.

Once fleas make their way into your home, they will quickly make themselves known. In this article, we’ll dive into the basics of fleas, health conditions they can cause, and ways to banish them from your home.

What Are Fleas?

Fleas are tiny wingless parasites that survive off the warm blood of their hosts. Since they don’t have any specific requirements when it comes to hosts as long as they carry warm blood, virtually any kind of furry creature can be impacted by fleas.

This means that once your furry companion brings these critters into your home, they can bite you as well.

Since fleas survive by ingesting the blood of their hosts, they often nestle into a hidden spot on their “victim” and ingest their blood by biting the skin.

Flea bites can result in severe itching, agitation when they move across the skin, and flea-borne disease that they can pass on with their bites.

Signs That Your Dog Has Fleas

Fleas can cause a number of concerning symptoms once they make themselves at home in your dog’s fur. Some of these symptoms include:

1. Itching And Scratching

The feeling of fleas crawling around your dog’s skin can be extremely irritating, leading to their need to constantly itch and scratch their skin.

Fleas can also cause flea dermatitis, which is a skin reaction to the presence of fleas. These dogs will become incredibly itchy, and you may even see redness and irritation on the skin.

2. Biting And Gnawing

When it comes to relieving their itchiness, dogs only have their nails and their teeth.

Because of this, you will often see dogs gnawing and biting at their skin in an effort to relieve their itching.

3. Flea Dirt

Fleas leave behind wastes that look like pepper grounds or flakes of dirt. You will often see flea dirt right as the base of their fur as you comb through your dog’s hair.

Serious Complications Of A Flea Infestation:

1. Sores on the skin

Due to the constant scratching and biting that the presence of a flea will cause, dogs often get sores on their skin.

These sores are typically called hot spots and are created by the constant scratching, biting, and licking of irritated areas on the skin.

These sores are not only painful but can become infected. Fleas can also cause flea dermatitis, which is a skin infection due to scratching and biting fleas.

2. Pale gums

In severe cases of a flea infestation, some dogs will experience pale gums due to the amount of blood that is being consumed by fleas on their body.

Fleas are a nuisance, but if left untreated they can lead to severe anemia and flea-borne disease.

3. Weakness

Severe cases of flea infestation can lead to weakness and lethargy due to severe anemias or exposure to flea-borne disease.

If your dog is experiencing sores on the skin, pale gums, or weakness, make sure you see your vet ASAP.

Treating the fleas at this point will not resolve a skin infection or severe anemia that was already created, so it’s best to see your veterinarian for proper treatment.

How Did My Dog Get Fleas?

When it comes to learning about fleas and their prevention, it’s important to realize that fleas can be present in any outdoor setting. Even the most well-kept yard can carry fleas, especially in warm climates.

The most common places that dogs acquire fleas include:

  • Your yard
  • Dog parks
  • Dog kennels
  • Playing with other dogs

Fleas are known to hitch a ride on your dog at any given opportunity, so even short trips to the dog park or to the public outdoor settings can result in your dog getting fleas.

What Medical Complications Can Fleas Cause?

The list of complications that fleas and ticks can cause is endless. Some health concerns that they bring along with their presence include:

1. Itching

Fleas and ticks can cause extreme discomfort in your furry companion. The feeling of having fleas move around through their fur, and having ticks clung to their skin can drive them absolutely crazy.

Dogs with fleas or ticks use scratching and biting as their only defense, which can cause problems of its own.

2. Skin Infections

Dogs with fleas or ticks rely on scratching and biting to relieve the itch they leave behind. When a dog has to scratch at their skin constantly, this can result in self-mutilation.

Dogs will often scratch themselves raw, bite their skin to the point of discomfort, and continue to irritate these areas until they are infected.

Fleas can also cause a skin reaction in some dogs that will cause them to scratch to the point of injury.

3. Intestinal Parasites

Flea and tick collars not only control fleas, but they help to prevent intestinal parasites as well. The common parasite known as the tapeworm is actually acquired through the flea.

It is extremely common for dogs to get tapeworms since so many fleas carry tapeworm eggs. If your dog has this intestinal parasite they can experience diarrhea, weight loss, itching, and you often see these rice segmented parasites alive in their stool.

If that isn’t enough to convince you to prevent fleas, tapeworms are also zoonotic, meaning humans can acquire these parasites as well.

4. Flea-Borne Disease

Fleas and ticks are a vector for multiple blood diseases that can cause your dog and you to become extremely ill.

For example, your dog can suffer from Hemobartonellosis, Babesia, Anaplasmosis, Lyme disease, Ehrlichia, Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, and the complications that come along with these diseases.

Not only can these diseases cause severe illness for our pups, but some are even zoonotic, meaning we can suffer from them as well.

These diseases can cause you or your dog to become so ill that each of you can require intensive treatment and hospitalization due to their effects. If the presence of fleas and ticks aren’t enough to gross you out, then the threat of disease should be enough.

5. Anemia

Fleas can lead to severe anemia, which is an inadequate number of red blood cells circulating. Anemia is a serious condition that can cause respiratory distress, pale gums, weakness, collapse, and even death.

Anemia from fleas or tick-borne disease can be so severe that dogs require blood transfusions and hospitalization.

Anemia from flea infestations are actually quite common in emergency medicine, and often result in a hefty hospitalization bill with blood transfusions, or result in dogs losing their lives.

Fleas may seem like a small problem, but they are extremely capable of turning your pup’s world upside down.

How To Get Rid Of Fleas

If your dog has brought fleas into your home, you’re likely seeking the best way to banish these critters from your dog’s life. Luckily, there are a few ways to help rid your dog of their itchy friends and keep them away for good!

Some of the most common ways to get rid of fleas include:

1. Dawn Dish Soap Bath

Flea shampoos can be dangerous, and some are known to cause tremors and seizures in dogs when used incorrectly. To completely avoid these risks, a safe and effective option to remove fleas is a bath using dawn dish soap.

Dawn is proven to kill all living fleas on the body and is the method used in veterinary clinics to kill fleas in flea-infested patients. Make sure to really lather your pup and massage to the skin to make sure you are saturating every surface of the skin.

Once you have removed all the loving fleas, their new flea and tick collar can go to work to prevent future infestations.

2. Capstar

Capstar is a medication that can kill all living fleas on your dog in just a few hours. With just one oral dose according to their weight range, the pill will distribute a chemical in the bloodstream that will kill the fleas when they bite your dog’s skin.

In the first hour after giving Capstar, you may notice your dog becoming itchier.

This is because the chemical that the fleas ingest affects their nervous system, causing them to move erratically on your dog’s skin, which will, in turn, cause them to itch more during this first hour.

This is completely normal and will end once all the fleas have died. You may also see fleas jumping from their fur, but keep in mind that these fleas will die since they have ingested the chemical.

Keep in mind that this pill can only be given once every 24 hours, and is not a suitable replacement for flea prevention itself. Long term daily use is NOT recommended.

3. Treating Your Home

If your dog has suffered from fleas at some point, they likely brought them into your home. Since fleas can reproduce so quickly, it’s important to rid your home of fleas before it turns into an infestation.

There are several flea treatments that you can find in pet stores that are sprinkled on your carpet, distributed as a mist throughout your home, or used as a fog bomb to help eliminate fleas.

Most people choose to turn to a pest control professional if they are facing serious flea problems, as working with professionals is more likely to rid your home of fleas.

Keep in mind that many of these products can be toxic to dogs, so you’ll need to read the instructions clearly and determine how to keep your dog away from the area that you’re treating.

4. Flea Prevention

While flea prevention may not solve your dog’s flea problem itself, it can help prevent these critters from making your dog’s fur their home.

Once you have successfully killed the living fleas that are on your dog skin, make sure to get them started on a recommended flea prevention to keep them free of these pests in the future.


Fleas are a pest in every sense of the word and cause your beloved companion great discomfort.

Make sure to check your pup for the common signs of fleas, and get them started on a recommended flea prevention for future protection!