Rid Your Pet of Fleas

Fleas can live on the blood of mammals and birds. There are many different species of flea, and though some of them can live on the blood of more than one species, many are species specific.[1] Even though there is a flea that specializes in humans, you are susceptible to more than one species. Your pet's fleas can also make you their host, potentially spreading disease and parasites.


Seeking Professional Help to Treat Fleas

  1. Be wary of flea collars. Many flea collars are ineffective and some contain organophosphates which are potentially toxic to the pet. The only collar that is both effective and safe is the Seresto collar, available from your vet.
  2. Ask your vet for a spot-on medication. “Spot-on” treatments are applied directly to your pet's skin to kill fleas quickly. Many of these monthly treatments should be used year round as a preventative treatment. Be aware that just because a product is a 'spot-on' doesn't mean it is effective. It is essential to use a flea product with is licensed to kill fleas, which means that it is proven to be beneficial. If in doubt speak to your veterinarian. Make sure that the product you choose is labeled for your pet. Cats can get very sick (or even die) if they are treated with a flea medication that is meant for dogs. Frontline will kill rabbits.[2] Some common flea medications include:[3]
    • Permethrine: Many products for dogs contain permethrine alone or in combination with other drugs, to effectively treat fleas in dogs.[4] It is not safe for use with all pets, and it can cause health problems in both humans and dogs.
    • Dinotefuran and pyriproxyfen (known as Vectra) is used to treat fleas in cats. Be careful: Vectra 3D is a product for dogs. Vectra 3D contains permethrin, which is harmful to cats.[5]
    • Fipronil and (S)-methoprene (known as Frontline Plus for Cats): This product kills flea larvae, eggs, and adult fleas. It also kills ticks and chewing lice.[6]
    • Imidacloprid and pyriproxyfen (known as Advantage II): This product kills fleas of all life stages. Be sure not to get a similarly named product, Advantix II, which is a product for dogs. It contains permethrin, which is harmful to cats.[7]
    • Selamectin (known as Revolution): Apply this once a month. It also kills ticks, heartworms, ear mites, and sarcoptic mites.[8]
    • Be careful about what chemicals you are using. Products like Advantage manufactured by Bayer contain neonicotinoids which have been shown to have serious ecological impacts including contributing to the wide spread loss of bees around the world.[9]
  3. Consider getting an oral flea medication from your veterinarian. Oral products usually act quickly and don't leave any residue. They're only available through your vet, who can recommend the best product. Many of these monthly treatments should be used year round as a preventative treatment. These medications may include:[10]
    • Lufenuron (known as Program): This comes as tablets, an oral suspension liquid, or injections. Give this medication with food once a month. Be aware that Program does not kill fleas but sterilizes them, making them incapable of breeding. If you have a heavy flea infestation then this is not the best product for you, as you will have to wait for the fleas to die of old age. It's best use is in a clean household when you don't want the odd visiting flea to establish a family.[11]
    • Nitenpyram (known as Capstar): This comes as a pill. Give it to your pet according to your veterinarian's directions to kill adult fleas and their eggs.[12]
    • Spinosad (known as Comfortis): This comes as chewable tablets, which you should give your pet with food once a month to kill fleas.[13]
  4. See if your local groomer or vet will do a flea bath for your pet. Many veterinarians and groomers will provide this service. For smaller pets, it is recommended that you see a veterinarian and not a groomer. A groomer is unlikely to be equipped to help treat a bird with fleas. Be aware that after the bath, once the pet is dry, there is nothing to deter more fleas from jumping back on the pet.

Bathing Pets to Kill Fleas

  1. Use just water. For some pets, such as guinea pigs, it is not possible to use many of the flea treatments available. In this case, a simple bath may be your only option. By bathing the pet in warm, not hot, water, you're trying to drown the fleas. This won't likely kill any eggs left, and it may be necessary to comb your pet, as well as repeat this bath.
    • Since the fleas will run to the head and face of your pet once you start wetting them, it is best to wet and lather up only the neck first then the rest of your pet. This will create a barrier to prevent the fleas from invading your pet's face and ears.
    • Use room temperature or slightly warm water, so as not to shock or harm your pet.
    • Stop the bath with small pets that get too stressed out. Animals like rabbits and guinea pigs can die from fear-induced heart-attacks.[14]
  2. Use dish soap in a bath to kill fleas. Though it may cause some skin dryness and/or irritation, dish soap can be effective at killing fleas. The soap is toxic to fleas, and can be used as a way to control the infestation. Make sure to rinse your pet thoroughly.
  3. Get a flea shampoo. These are shampoos that are specially designed to treat fleas in specific animals. Find one formulated for your pet. Make sure to follow the instructions provided exactly, to prevent any injury to your pet.
  4. Rinse thoroughly. Always rinse thoroughly. Residue from flea treatments can irritate your pets skin, and possibly lead to harm. By taking the time to rinse all the soap, shampoo, or herbal treatment from your pet, you will help to remove fleas, as well as ensure leftover residue doesn't cause your pet more discomfort.

Dusting Pets to Control Fleas

  1. Get an insecticidal powder from the veterinarian. A variety of powders are available for different animals, using different chemicals at different concentrations. It is important to talk to your vet before using these products, so as to be sure it is safe for your pet. These have largely been superseded now by other options for flea control. One disadvantage of powders is that they can be inhaled, which is not healthy for you or the animal. These powders can be useful when a bath is not possible.
  2. Use food-grade diatomaceous earth. For birds with fleas, this may be a good option. Mixing diatomaceous earth with sand and providing it to birds can encourage them to dust themselves with it. You may also dust the bird yourself. Make sure to use a mask when handling DE. Though it is not harmful to birds, it can cause skin and lung irritation to humans.[15]
  3. Make sure the products you're using are safe for your pet. Because there are a variety of dusting products available, not all will be suitable for use on all animals. Some may kill or injure your pet. Each animal will have different tolerances to different products, so make sure ask a vet about the active ingredients in your treatment.

Combing Pets to Remove Fleas

  1. Get a flea comb or tight-toothed comb. Because fleas grip tightly to hair and fur, and their eggs can be tightly attached as well, a tight comb must be used to remove them. There are combs specially designed for this purpose. Make sure the teeth of your comb are the right length and tightness for your pet.
  2. Keep a bucket of water nearby. This will allow you to drown any fleas you comb out. It will also help to wet your pet as you comb, helping to control the movements of any fleas. Make sure the water is warm, but not hot.
  3. Comb out the fleas always in the direction of fur or hair growth. Go from root to tip, and from head to tail. This is an especially important technique when combing out fleas. Fleas like to hold on by the root. If you do not comb up the entire length of the hair, you are likely to miss some.[16]
  4. Take your time. It may seem tedious, but the time you put into manually removing the fleas can pay off. This can be a very effective measure in controlling and eliminating your pet's flea problem. Don't rush through combing your pet, or it might lengthen the treatment process.
  5. Repeat this every couple of days. Comb your pet for fleas more than once. It will give you an opportunity to monitor you pet for new fleas, as well as check the condition of their skin. Look not only for fleas, but check for signs of irritation or injury from treatment.
  6. Be aware that the fleas only hop onto the pet to feed and mostly live in the environment - thus it takes a long time to bring an infestation under control by combing.

Cleaning Everything

  1. Act quickly. The speed of kill is very important to managing and eliminating fleas. Don't let a flea problem run unchecked. The longer you wait to treat it, the worse it will become, and the harder it will be to remove all the fleas. Taking care of a flea problem as soon as you notice it is vital to treating your pet's problem.[17]
  2. Treat your pet's environment. Carpets and area rugs are the areas inside the home that are most likely to become infested. Look for an environmentally friendly borate-derivative powder to apply to your carpets that will prevent fleas from infesting. Clean their crate or bed. Treat any area they spend time in. For small animals, clean the cage or tank and any toys with hot, soapy water. Dispose of any bedding such as wood shavings or newspaper.
  3. Vacuum and/or steam clean. Because fleas can survive in your house, away from their host, for quite some time, it is important to vacuum frequently. Steam cleaning is also an excellent way to treat your home for fleas, as the steam will kill them. Make sure to do one or both of these things the entire length of treatment and after.
    • Keeping everything cleaned and washed will help prevent fleas. If you do, the fleas won't have the time or space necessary to live and breed.
    • Dispose of the vacuum bag afterward to prevent reinfestation.
    • Vacuum cleaners can kill fleas as well as chemical treatments.[18]
  4. Wash all linens. Fleas can hide in bedding, towels, and clothing. Make sure to wash everything in hot water, to kill fleas and their eggs. Wash drapery and pillows too, as these can also harbor fleas. Soak your pet's bed in hot, soapy water for at least 15 minutes; wash, rinse, and let dry, or dry with a towel. This breaks down the fleas' waxy coating, and they will dehydrate and die.
  5. Avoid letting your pet on the furniture. If your pet gets fleas, you do not want them to spread it to your entire house. Remember, fleas can live for several months in your furniture, and will quickly 'invade' your pet again given the chance. By keeping your pet off the furniture, you can help control the spread of fleas.
  6. Spray floors and bedding with an Insect Growth Regulator (IGR). IGRs, such as Nylar, stop the fleas from developing, thereby breaking the reproduction cycle. This is a blessing when attempting to bring large infestations under control. The most economical method is to buy a concentrate and mix according to the directions that come with the product.
    • Typically, the application will need to be done twice, at a minimum—about three and a half weeks apart. Often it is advantageous to spray the areas of the house frequented by your pets on a monthly basis during flea season.
    • IGRs are not poisonous to mammals. This makes IGRs a good option around a house that has kids or small animals such as hamsters.


  • If you have caught a flea, flush it down the toilet or dunk it in alcohol. Also see How To Make A Flea Trap
  • Fleas carry tapeworms. Watch your animals carefully after an infestation. They may have picked up stomach parasites as well. There are finally over the counter tapeworm pills that are the generic form of Droncit that was prescribed by vets.
  • Many flea shampoos have age limits, meaning some puppies and kittens can't use them. Make sure to rinse, too -- you don't want your pet to be uncomfortable because of soap residue.
  • Remember that "all natural" products from the pet store can be toxic to pets. "All natural" doesn't mean safe; arsenic and nightshade are all natural!
  • Once you see the fleas, it's best to catch them with tape.
  • If your pet likes to sleep or sit somewhere that doesn't have a washable bed or blanket on it, put one there. This way you can wash it more often..
  • There are products you can buy to treat lawns for fleas, so they won't continue to re-infest your pets and home. Most important is to use an Insect Growth Regulator that stops the fleas from developing. Insecticides only kill the adult fleas. Fleas only spend 15% of their lives as adults. The other 85% is just waiting to hatch out into biting adults. Stop them before they do.
  • Treating outside areas with beneficial nematodes for fleas is a natural way to control fleas.


  • Fleas can jump right back on your pet after using flea shampoos.
  • If your pet develops a rash or any other type of allergic reaction, and is still scratching after about two weeks, call your veterinarian.
  • Severe cases of fleas may need to be treated by a vet.

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