How Do Dogs Get Fleas? Why Your Pooch is a Flea's Perfect Pad

How Do Dogs Get Fleas?

Dogs can catch fleas just about anywhere. Here are some of the most common ways your dog can pick up these pests.

Is your pup a walking flea magnet? In order to stop a future infestation, you’ll need to track down how your pet contracts these bloodsuckers in the first place. Here are the four most common ways dogs get fleas.

Dogs Get Fleas From Other Animals

Dogs’ social nature may work against them when it comes to flea control. The most likely way your pet will come in contact with fleas is through exposure to other animals. Fleas can easily jump onto your dog from carriers in close range and start up a new colony.

So which flea-infested animals are a danger to your dog? The variety is, unfortunately very wide-ranging. Dogs can contract fleas from feral animals, as well as other household pets, including cats. Though the dog flea, Ctenocephalides canis, prefers to subsist on dog blood, cat fleas do not discriminate and will happily start up a colony on your pup. Common house mice will also spread their fleas to your dog, if not directly, then by infesting areas around your home.

Outdoor animals that carry fleas include:

  • rodents
  • birds
  • ferrets
  • squirrels
  • skunks
  • opossum
  • rabbits
  • deer
  • raccoons
  • foxes
  • bovine

Dogs Get Fleas From Your Home

Fleas have a knack for hitchhiking from place to place, and they can enter your home in many ways. Animals, such as wild mice, can introduce fleas to your indoor environment, and just a single flea that sticks around can start up a nasty infestation. Humans can also bring fleas into the home via their clothing and shoes.

Fleas can also spread into your home through infested bedding, rugs, blankets, and plush toys. If you purchase these household items secondhand or receive them as hand-me-downs, make sure that flea eggs are not present before bringing them into your home.

Dogs Get Fleas From Dog Facilities

Indoor locations that other pets frequent can also be a flea-free-for-all. Be cautious when choosing a groomer, pet boarding, or doggie daycare. You can always ask about flea outbreaks and how they manage flea control before you expose your pet to their environment.

Dogs Get Fleas Outdoors

Fleas can survive outdoors for long stretches of time, especially during warm, humid weather. They tend to hang out in cool, shady places and can successfully lay eggs there. Whether it’s your yard or other places your pet visits, potential flea infestation is fair game wherever the parasites take up residence.

Here are some of the places your dog can come in contact with fleas outside:

  • Dog run or park
  • Backyard
  • Kennels
  • Dog houses
  • Under the porch
  • Neighboring yards

Fleas on your property may have appeared through wildlife or could be transients from your neighbor’s yard. You can easily check your own yard for fleas, but it might be more difficult to track down whether the dog park or a dog run is causing the infestation. Ask other pet owners if they’ve had issues with fleas after visiting the parks. That way, you can do your best to keep your pet flea-free all year round!

Got Dog Fleas? Here's What You Should Do

Dog fleas - a pairing that has been troubling pet parents for millennia. That moment when you realize, “My dog has fleas!” is always dreadful. It doesn’t matter how clean or even how well-protected some pets are. If the environment is right, fleas have a way of finding their way onto your pet and into your home. This is why taking monthly flea preventatives like Comfortis and Advantage Multi are so important. Here’s how to tackle and end a flea infestation

First Things First, Be Sure Its Fleas

Not all scratching indicates dog fleas. Scratching of the ears may indicate ear mites or another ear infection. Scratching or licking other parts of your pet’s body may indicate a food allergy or other irritation.

Fleas are about half the size of an apple seed but may be as large as the size of a grain of rice. They’re jumping insects with laterally flat bodies, and they have no wings. If you don’t see actual fleas, look for flea poop. Flea waste may collect on the skin of your pet and will look like tiny crumbles of dirt.

Two Steps to Managing dog fleas

Once you’ve established that you're definitely dealing with dog fleas, time is of the essence. There’s a chance that your home may have fleas, too. If your pet has been licking and biting at the fleas, it’s possible your dog will get tapeworms. Take things one step at a time. First, delouse your pet. Then tackle your home. Take care with the products you use and be sure to read all warning labels.

Step 1: Treat Your Pet

There are several pesticides on the market that will target adult fleas as well as their larvae. Killing the larvae is essential to become and remaining flea-free. When choosing a pesticide, see that the active ingredients list includes a larvae-killing chemical like pyriproxyfen or methoprene.

Dogs and cats should not be bathed in the 4-5 days before or after applying a spot-on flea and tick treatment like K9 Advantix II or Advantage II for dogs. This is because most spot-on treatments migrate into the subcutaneous fat layer on your pet, making their bodies inhospitable to fleas and their eggs. If you bathe them too close to the application, the natural oils that carry the medication into their subcutaneous fat will not be plentiful enough. Also, if you bathe them too soon following treatment, you may wash away the medication. This, however, does not apply if you administer an oral preventive such as Bravecto for dogs.

In the case of fleas, apply the medication right away. Over-the-counter flea killers, such as Capstar Flea Killer, will rid your dog of their infestation within 6 hours. Some medications such as Sentinel for dogs prevent both fleas and heartworms. After about a week, you can give your dog a bath with flea-killing shampoo. Don’t overuse the shampoo. Flea shampoo can be drying to your dog’s already tender skin. Remember, fleas are parasites that bite and suck blood. They’re bothersome and itchy for your pet. Be gentle on their skin while you treat them.

In the interim, between applying the medication and giving the bath, you may comb your dog’s fur with a flea comb. Keep a small bowl of soapy water on hands. If you scoop up a flea or eggs, drown them in the soap water, and keep going.

To save on Advantix, Advantage II for dogs, and Capstar Flea Killer head on over to PetPlus for a pet prescription plan! Members save 20% on all purchases here on PetCareRX and an average of $197 per year on flea and tick medication!

As soon as you’ve applied the spot-on treatment, you can begin treating your home.

Step 2: Treat Your Home

First, thoroughly vacuum the entire house, including hard surfaces. When you’re done, seal your vacuum bag in plastic and throw it away. Some folks recommend putting a flea collar into the vacuum bag to kill fleas and their eggs as you suck them up. Others argue against this practice, as flea collars are heavy with chemicals. It’s a matter of personal preference.

Before you vacuum, you may wish to sprinkle an even layer of borax onto carpets you suspect might be infested. Let it sit overnight, then vacuum. Some find that borax is an effective, non-toxic way to help suffocate the fleas, and to make them sluggish so they’re easier to collect.

Then, wash your pet’s bed in hot water, and if possible, dry it in a hot dryer. Be careful: some synthetic beds may melt in the dryer, in which case it may be easier to replace the bed.

If you continue to find more evidence of fleas, it might be time to call an exterminator. Exterminators are better at containing and controlling the chemicals they use to rid you and your home of fleas. If an exterminator is out of the budget, you may opt for a do-it-yourself fog kit or spray. Just be sure to read the labels. Some flea-killing chemicals can be hazardous to birds, fish, and of course, human children.

Prevent Future Infestations

All experts agree: the best way to be flea-free is to prevent infestations in the first place. Treat your pets monthly with a veterinarian-recommended spot-on flea repellent. In areas with an especially high flea population, you may consider allowing your pet to wear a flea collar while they’re cavorting outdoors. (Remove flea collars when indoors.)

Use flea shampoos, even when no fleas are present. If the flea-repelling shampoos appear to be too harsh for your dog, try adding a few drops of eucalyptus, lavender, tea tree, and citronella essential oils to some unscented castile soap. Essential oils may irritate cats, so only try this with dogs. Adding brewer’s yeast and garlic to your dog’s food may also help to repel fleas.

This information is for informational purposes only and is not meant as a substitute for the professional advice of, diagnosis, or treatment by, your veterinarian with respect to your pet. It has, however, been verified by a licensed veterinarian for accuracy.

Early Detection

The flea population can explode from a few bugs to hundreds in a matter of weeks. This is why early detection is of paramount importance. Be on the lookout for signs of fleas on your pet. Excessive nibbling and scratching is probably the most common symptom. Sudden hair loss and reddish patches on the skin can also be signs of an infestation. If you suspect a flea problem, then launch a thorough investigation by slowly combing your dog’s fur. Keep a lookout for flea poop, which looks like tiny black dirt. You can also set your dog down on a white towel and brush the fur downwards. You will easily be able to detect flea dirt and fleas against the white background.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can dogs get fleas from grass?

Yes, dogs can get fleas from grass. Fleas are small, wingless insects that feed on the blood of mammals and birds, including dogs. They can jump onto your dog from grass, bushes, or other outdoor areas where fleas are present. When a dog walks or plays in an area where fleas are present, the fleas can jump onto the dog's fur and begin feeding. Once on the dog, fleas can quickly multiply and cause irritation and discomfort.

How common is it for dogs to get fleas?

Fleas are a common problem in dogs, especially in areas with warm and humid climates. According to the American Kennel Club, nearly all dogs will experience a flea infestation at some point in their lives. Fleas are highly adaptable and can survive in a wide range of environments, including indoors and outdoors. They can easily jump from one host to another, making it easy for them to spread between animals. In addition to causing discomfort and irritation, fleas can also transmit diseases to dogs, such as tapeworms and bacterial infections.

How can I prevent my dog from getting fleas?

Preventing flea infestations in dogs involves a combination of regular grooming and cleaning of living areas, as well as the use of flea prevention products recommended by your veterinarian. There are many flea prevention products available, including topical treatments, oral medications, and flea collars. Topical treatments are applied directly to your dog's skin, usually between the shoulder blades, and provide long-lasting protection against fleas. Popular brands include Frontline, Advantage, and K9 Advantix. Oral medications are given to your dog orally and provide protection against fleas for several weeks. Some popular brands include NexGard, Bravecto, and Comfortis. Flea collars are worn around your dog's neck and release a chemical that repels fleas. Popular brands include Seresto and Hartz. Shampoos and sprays can be used to kill fleas on contact and provide temporary protection. Some popular brands include Adams Flea & Tick Shampoo and Vet's Best Flea and Tick Home Spray. Talk to your veterinarian about which products are best for your dog's needs. Fleas can live in bedding, carpets, and other areas where your dog spends time. Regularly clean and vacuum these areas to remove any flea eggs or larvae. Regular brushing and bathing can help prevent fleas from taking up residence in your dog's fur. Use a flea comb to help remove any fleas or eggs that may be present. Fleas can live in grass and other outdoor areas. Regularly mow your lawn, remove any debris or clutter, and consider using yard sprays to keep fleas at bay.

Will vacuuming every day get rid of fleas?

Vacuuming can be an effective way to help get rid of fleas in your home, but it may not be enough on its own. Vacuuming can help to remove adult fleas, flea eggs, and larvae from carpets, furniture, and other surfaces, but it may not be effective in removing all the fleas in your home. Fleas can lay eggs on your dog, on your furniture, or in other areas of your home, and these eggs can hatch and become adult fleas, even after you have vacuumed. Additionally, fleas can live in areas that are difficult to reach with a vacuum, such as cracks in floors and walls. To effectively get rid of fleas, it's important to take a multi-faceted approach that includes regular vacuuming, cleaning of bedding and furniture, and the use of flea control products. This can help to eliminate fleas at every stage of their life cycle and prevent re-infestations.

Will fleas go away on their own?

Fleas will not go away on their own. Fleas are persistent and can survive for long periods of time without a host to feed on. Once they have infested an area, they will continue to reproduce and multiply until the infestation is addressed. Flea infestations can be difficult to get rid of, and it's important to take a multi-faceted approach to eliminate fleas at every stage of their life cycle. This includes regular vacuuming and cleaning of living areas, as well as the use of flea-prevention products recommended by your veterinarian. Delaying treatment for a flea infestation can also put your pet's health at risk. Fleas can cause skin irritation, allergies, and other health problems and can also transmit diseases to both pets and humans. If you suspect that your dog has fleas, it's important to address the problem promptly to prevent it from becoming a more serious issue. Consult with your veterinarian to develop a treatment plan that is appropriate for your pet's needs.

Related Products

K9 Advantix
Advantage II for Cats
Advantage Multi
Frontline Plus

More Flea and Tick Control Advice

What Temperature Do Fleas Flourish In?
How to Kill Fleas in the Yard
Five Must-See Flea Videos

Was this article helpful?

You May Also Like

Image for Frontline vs Advantix for Dogs
Frontline vs Advantix for Dogs

Comparing Frontline vs Advantix for Dogs' Fleas and Ticks

Read More
Image for All About Fleas
All About Fleas

Pesky and Gross, Fleas Can Mean Big Trouble for Pets

Read More