If you've ever experienced a flea infestation, you know the threat is real! While small and seemingly innocent, fleas can do a lot of damage in a short amount of time. These blood-sucking parasites fearlessly feast on their victims and often cause irritation and severe itching.
Because fleas can lay up to 50 eggs in a given day,1 it doesn't take long before one to two fleas develop into an explosion of flea activity. (That's a lot of eggs!)
So, how do you kill fleas? And can you kill fleas on dogs fast? Yes, you can kill fleas quickly, but before we get into how to kill these unwanted pests, it's essential to know what you're looking for—especially if you've never encountered fleas before.
How to Spot Fleas
Your pup may or may not show typical signs of scratching, so the only giveaway might be to spot active flea activity on your dog—which requires a closer look. When looking for these nasty insects, take note of anything small and dark reddish-brown that moves on your dog's skin. Be on the alert because adult fleas tend to hide in dark areas such as your dog's inner thighs and belly. However, a flea will unapologetically forage anywhere on your dog's skin—no spot is truly safe.
Another sign your dog might be suffering from a flea infestation is the presence of flea dirt. Flea dirt is a nice way to describe flea feces. This "flea dirt" resembles dark flecks of pepper (or black dandruff).2
Now that you know what signs to look for, it's time to deal with the situation one step at a time.
How to Get Rid of Fleas Fast
Thorough removal of fleas from your home will take time and patience—not to mention the help of a reliable product or two. The initial removal of fleas from your precious pup shouldn't take long, but remember that's just the first step in ridding your home of these unwanted irritants. The following steps will guide you through the removal process.
- Comb your pet with a fine-tooth flea comb. Flea combs help remove flea dirt as well as adult fleas easily with their close-fitting tines.3 You want to immediately kill any fleas removed from your pup's fur by dunking them in hot, soapy water. If you try to crush or flush these sneaky insects, they might surprise you with their jumping expertise—they're amazing escape artists.
- Bathe your pet with warm water and mild soap. Because your dog could be allergic to fleas (aka flea allergy dermatitis), you may want to consult your family vet before using a flea and tick shampoo—especially if your pup has raw areas or open wounds. A warm, soapy bath should instantly kill any missed fleas left after combing.
- Use a shampoo designed to soothe your pup's itchy skin if dermatitis isn't a concern. Shampoos like Adams Plus Flea & Tick Foaming Shampoo & Wash for Dogs & Puppies will kill fleas on contact and offer relief with the addition of aloe vera and oatmeal. Adams Flea & Tick Cleansing Shampoo is also a great way to kill fleas. These products should only be used on a dog that's over 12 weeks old. For younger pups, it's best to consult your veterinarian before using a flea and tick shampoo.
- A topical treatment like Adams Flea & Tick Spray is essential if you have an overwhelming flea infestation. This product should only be used on puppies 10 weeks and older. It's essential to follow the instructions listed on the flea and tick product and not apply more than instructed.
- Wash and clean your home to remove any remaining flea residue. Fleas need a host, but flea eggs, larvae and pupae can live almost anywhere—including bedding, upholstery and carpets.4 You'll want to do a thorough cleaning of your entire house. While it doesn't kill fleas on contact, Adams Flea & Tick Carpet & Home Spray will begin to kill fleas and other pests within five minutes.
- Don't forget to treat your yard. If you have fleas on your pet and in your home, it's likely they're in your yard too. Treat your yard with a product that kills fleas to prevent them from coming into your home and starting the cycle all over again. Adams Plus Yard Spray kills fleas, ticks, mosquitos and 60 other pests in your yard and offers up to four weeks of pest control.
Break the Flea Life Cycle
No double your loving pup will thank you with licks and energetic tail wags once you've removed the adult fleas. However, killing adult fleas is merely the first step in removing fleas from your home. If there are adult fleas in your home, you likely have all stages of the flea life cycle present—you just can't see them. To break the flea life cycle, you need to remove all the stages. The flea life cycle includes four stages:
- Egg. After an adult flea lays eggs, the eggs quickly fall off the host (your pet) and onto your home's surroundings.
- Larva. During the larva stage, the larva survives on the droppings of adult fleas and any organic material it finds. Larva seeks out dark and moist spaces like carpets, floor cracks and upholstery.
- Pupa. The pupa stage is the most difficult to destroy because the larva produces a cocoon that shields it from insecticides.
- Adult fleas. Adult fleas require a host to survive; they only survive a few days without a host's blood supply.
The amount of time it takes to complete a flea's life cycle depends on environmental conditions like light, temperature and access to organic materials, so it's important to stop the cycle as soon as possible.
The Importance of Flea Prevention
Creating a barrier between your pet and annoying fleas is the best way to defend your family against a full-blown flea invasion.5 Flea prevention is also crucial to keeping your little tail-wagger happy and healthy.
Now that you've killed the adult fleas and stopped the flea life cycle, you need to create a barrier between fleas and your pup, home and yard. To protect your pooch, try the Adams Flea & Tick Collar for Dogs & Puppies or the Adams Plus Flea & Tick Prevention Spot On for Dogs. Both are great deterrents against fleas, and they're easy to use. The collar lasts up to six months, and the topical treatment lasts up to 30 days. To guard your home, try the Adams Flea & Tick Home Spray, which starts to kill fleas within five minutes and offers up to seven months of protection from fleas. And to keep the biting pests out of your yard, use a product like Adams Yard & Garden Spray that kills fleas and other bothersome pests and lasts up to four weeks.
Be Alert and Watch for Signs
If you want to avoid a flea invasion, spending quality time with your dog is an excellent place to start. Noticing new flea activity during a petting or grooming session can alert you before the problem gets out of hand. You don't want a situation where you walk into your home and get assaulted by fleas attacking your ankles and legs. (Yikes!) It's always easier to combat fleas before they become an infestation.
Fleas may be tiny, but they're remarkable blood-suckers. The good news is, while they may be tenacious, they're not indestructible. With a bit of focus and determination, you can rid your pet, home and yard of fleas for good.
- 1-800-Pet Meds. "Flea and Tick: FAQs about Fleas." 1800petmeds.com, https://www.1800petmeds.com/education/faq-fleas-dog-cat-7.html
- Pet MD. "How to Handle Fleas on Dogs." PetMD.com, 05 June 2019, https://www.petmd.com/dog/care/evr_dg_fleas_on_dogs_and_what_you_can_do_about_them
- Animal Medical Center of Southern California."Flea Control." Animalmedcenter.com, 2018, https://animalmedcenter.com/flea-control/
- Meyers, Harriet. "How to Get Rid of Dog Fleas." 30 March, 2021, https://www.akc.org/expert-advice/health/how-to-get-rid-of-fleas/.