Help! My Pet Has Fleas

Updated June 6, 2021

‘At A Glance (Details Below)’ Emergency Care

How To Get Rid Of Fleas

  1. Use modern flea killers recommended by vets and pet stores
  2. Remove fleas from the house and especially pet sleeping areas
  3. Keep dogs and cats on good flea control to prevent new infestations

Now dive deeper…

Do you keep finding fleas on your dog, cat, rabbit or ferret despite your best efforts? Frustrating isn’t it? It seems so simple and yet so many people have the same problem.

Why Is It So Hard To Get Rid Of Fleas?

Here are a few reasons:

  • Failing to kill every last flea
  • Heavy house & garden infestation
  • Catching fleas again

I’ll now explain each of these points…

How To Get Rid Of Fleas On Dogs

Using flea products recommended by vets is the most important step to having a flea-free pet. In many cases, it’s the only thing you need to do. The same applies for catsrabbits and ferrets.

The reason most people can’t kill every last flea is that they are using outdated products. Until the mid 1990s the only products available could not eliminate fleas. Pets with flea allergy kept on suffering. The shocking news is that these products, mainly shampoos, sprays or rinses, are still widely sold, and resistance has only grown.

However, these products aren’t perfect either. Some, like Frontline or Nexgard have been shown to kill fleas more slowly than others (or not at all in the case of Sentinel) and resistance is suspected for others. I haven’t even mentioned Capstar as it’s far too short-acting. Nowadays I get best results with the flea tablets Simparica, Bravecto or Comfortis, and Advantage still works well.

Although the new flea controls are very safe, they remain unpopular with people wanting to get rid of fleas naturally. If you want to do this, it is possible and we’ll support you, but you have to have lower expectations of success.

How To Kill Fleas In The House And Garden

Fleas on the animal are no more that 5% of the total. That other 95% comprises eggs, larvae, pupae and adults waiting to jump. These are found wherever your pet, or any other dog or cat with fleas, has been.

You don’t have to kill all the fleas in the environment to eliminate them. The weak point in the flea life cycle is the need for adults to get a blood meal in order to lay eggs. Therefore if you’re not in a hurry, all you need to do is use a good flea killer on your pet and wait.

However your pets or children may disagree. If infestation levels are high, they will keep getting a lot of bites, even if each flea then dies. You or your family may also be getting nasty itchy welts on the ankles and legs.

To learn more please visit our separate page on treating fleas in the household and garden.

Help! My Pet Keeps Catching Fleas Again

That famous jump is how fleas get on passing animals, so unless you keep your dog or cat in a glass box they will keep getting flea hitch-hikers and bringing them home for everybody to enjoy.

The good news is: once you’ve eliminated fleas from your pet and home almost any good flea control will stop reinfestation. You’ve just got to remember to do it. Here’s some suggestions:

  • Set a monthly recurring reminder on your phone
  • Use Bravecto (dogs) so you only need to remember once every three months
  • Buy from friendly local places that send reminder messages (OK, you got me there- that’s a shameless plug!)

Have something to add? Comments (if open) will appear within 24 hours.
By Andrew Spanner BVSc(Hons) MVetStud, a vet in Adelaide, Australia. Meet his team here. The information provided here is not intended to be used as a substitute for going to the vet. If your pet is unwell, please seek veterinary attention.

4 Replies to “Help! My Pet Has Fleas”

  1. My dog has been treated for fleas. We saw one on his stomach but moving slow. I’m assuming it was dying. But he is itching like crazy! He is a cocker spaniel and yes I did give him baths, three in total within a few weeks apart. All animals have been treated an are wearing flea collars. How do I know if they are gone?

    1. Hi Tanya. If it is flea collars you have used, then it’s likely that your pets still have fleas. They generally are not very good at completely eliminating them, despite reducing the visible evidence. You’ll notice a link in this article to better products, and specifically I recommend the newer tablet forms. These have been excellent for animals like yours.

  2. If my dogs have annual heartworm injections is it OK to also give them monthly flea tablets which also include treatment for heartworm ?

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