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How to get rid of fleas on puppies

Laci Schaible, DVM, CVJ

There is no shortage of flea products for dogs, but puppies are another story. If you’ve been scanning the labels of commonly trusted flea medications for dogs, you may feel at a loss.

Although many flea products simply aren’t safe for younger puppies, don’t despair. Here are some safe and effective ways to get rid of fleas on puppies.

What Can Be Done About Fleas on My Puppy?

To fight fleas effectively, you’ll not only need to keep them off your puppy, but also out of your home and your yard.

Are Dog Flea Products Safe for Puppies?

Many flea control products that are safe for adult dogs are not safe for younger puppies. Check the labels for age restrictions before using dog flea products on your puppy.

Though it isn’t a long-term solution, one of the safest products on the market to kill adult fleas in puppies as young as 4 weeks of age and weighing as little as 2 pounds is Capstar. This product won’t have lasting effectiveness, but it has been used for years and is even safe for pregnant and nursing females.

Once a puppy is around 6 weeks of age, some products that work for longer periods of time can be applied. Revolution is one example, but check with your veterinarian for the best option for your puppy.

If your puppy is too young for flea products, you can follow these tips while using Capstar:

  • Use a fine-toothed, metal flea comb to remove adult fleas from your pet. Then put the fleas into a basin of soapy water, which will suffocate them so they can be safely disposed of.

  • Give your pet frequent baths to help control flea outbreaks, but avoid shampoos made specifically to treat fleas, as these can be too strong for young puppies.

Why You Need to Treat Your Pet’s Environment for Fleas

Environmental control is an essential component of controlling fleas on your puppy. If you just target the fleas on your puppy, you will never succeed in eradicating fleas completely.

After feeding, fleas will jump off and seek out their next meal. They will find another animal or look for a spot in your home or yard to make themselves cozy, reproduce, and continue their life cycle. Our climate-controlled homes make the perfect place for fleas to set up shop.

How to Get Rid of Fleas in Your Home

To treat your home for fleas, thoroughly vacuum your pup’s favorite spots—particularly where they sleep. Vacuum daily to reduce the chances of an ongoing infestation.

Be sure to treat baseboards, windows, doorframes, and other areas where fleas may try to hide.

Wash your pet's bedding, throw rugs and pillows to destroy fleas and eggs. Use foggers, powders, and sprays to kill fleas and inhibit their growth.

How to Get Rid of Fleas in Your Yard

If your puppy spends time outdoors, you will need to treat your yard for fleas, too.

Concentrate on dark, shaded areas, and as best as possible, remove dead plants and other debris where fleas can breed.

Spray a product containing an insect growth regulator (IGR) and repeat every 2-3 weeks with 3-5 applications. Active ingredients to look for are methoprene and pyriproxyfen. Use these products as directed on patios, along foundations, and under porches.

What Dangers Do Fleas Pose to Puppies?

Puppies in particular are at risk for developing anemia from heavy infestations of fleas, as their blood volume is so small to begin with, and their immune systems are not fully developed.

In addition, fleas can give your puppy tapeworms, which is one of the most common intestinal parasites in dogs. Puppies become infected with them when they bite at their skin and swallow fleas. The eggs of the tapeworm live inside the flea. The tapeworm egg hatches inside the pup’s gastrointestinal system and then anchors itself to their intestinal lining.

Dogs infected with tapeworms will pass small segments of the worms in their stool. The segments are white in color when freshly passed, though they darken to a cream or yellow color as they dry. They resemble grains of rice when dry up, or you may see them crawling on your dog’s stool or wiggling around your pup’s anus.

If you find tapeworm segments, your veterinarian will need to treat the tapeworms and the fleas as well, or the tapeworms are likely to reappear. While getting rid of fleas on your puppy will require a little bit more work, you can effectively eradicate the flea problem if you treat both the environment and your pup.

The best way to treat fleas is to prevent them altogether. Once your pup is old enough for commercially available flea products, this is the time to start and continue to ensure life-long protection from these biting parasites.


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