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Getting Rid of Fleas on Your Pet

Updated on December 2, 2015

As a veterinary technician, I have clients ask me (almost daily) why they are seeing fleas on their pet and in their home, and how they can get rid of them fast. Unfortunately, fleas as a great nuisance to many, but educating yourself on how to get rid of them and keep them away is the best thing you can do.


What Are Fleas?

Simply, fleas are parasites.

They live on your pet as an external parasite and feed by biting and sucking the blood from your pet, which is known as a "blood meal". Fleas will continue to reproduce on your pet's skin, which is the start of this vicious cycle.

Fleas go through a life cycle, like any other creature. They are laid as eggs, hatch into larvae, grow into pupae, and finally they become adult fleas.

Life Stage
Time in Stage
Percent of Population
2 days - 2 weeks
depends on diet
1-2 weeks
Adult Flea
>1.5 years

When they reach the adult stage, they are capable of living by feeding strictly on your pet's blood supply. This can be highly irritating to your pet and can even lead to the transmission of parasites. Symptoms of fleas includes constant itching, hair loss, red skin, and the presence of tapeworms (the parasite they can transmit), and the obvious sighting of fleas.

How to Get Rid of Fleas

There are a variety of drugs and treatments out there that state they can cure your flea problem. Some work, many don't.

  • Capstar -- Capstar is a tablet that is ingested orally. It acts as a 24-hour flea treatment by killing all of the live fleas on the pet.
  • Flea dips -- The most common treatment people ask me about is flea dips. This is a chemical treatment performed on your pet to kills fleas, by use of pyrethrin (an insecticide). For whatever reason, I haven't found these to provide much luck with flea infestations.
  • Flea shampoos -- This is pretty self-explanatory, but this is a shampoo built to kill fleas through the same method as flea dips. This also falls into the "doesn't-work-well" category.
  • House bombs -- This is another method that is not terribly effective. They, again, work by releasing pesticides into the house.
  • Flea preventatives -- This is my favorite of the listed methods! Flea preventatives are your best bet, because they kill adult fleas as soon as the flea bites. Keep reading to learn more about these preventatives!


Flea Preventatives (Including How to Keep Fleas Away)

Flea preventatives are the best method to get rid of fleas and keep them away. These are topical or oral medications that work to kills fleas through a variety of active ingredients. Below is a list of some of the most popular options.

Cats or Dogs
Topical or Oral
Active Ingredient
Fipronil + S-methoprene
Spinosad + milbemycin oxime
Milbemycin oxime + lufenuron

All of the above preventatives behave to kill fleas in their own way, but the basic idea is to make the fleas "sick" and kill them. Flea preventatives are meant to be given every thirty days to be effective, and some preventatives work better with some pets than others.

The best combination of preventatives, in my professional opinion, is the combo of sentinel/sentinel spectrum (which is classified as a heartworm prevention) and nexgard or any other flea and tick preventative. The sentinel products act as birth control for fleas by rendering the eggs laid incapable of hatching, while the flea and tick preventative kills live fleas. This hits the generation cycle from both ends!

When everything is said and done, you should find a product that works well for you and your pet and stick with it religiously. The greatest problem people seem to have in keeping fleas away is not dispensing the preventatives correctly. Commonly, people assume that if it's the middle of winter then they don't need to give preventative, because the cold will kill the fleas. This is true of the fleas outside, but the ones in your house are nice and warm.

The most common situation I seem to be presented with is...

Pet owner: My dog has fleas, and I don't know why or how to get rid of them. What do I do?

Me: Is your dog on a flea preventative, and have you been giving it every thirty days?

Pet owner: Yes, but sometimes I forget to give it, so they get it a couple weeks late. Also, I don't give it in the winter time, because the freeze will kill the fleas, right?

Me: In order for the preventative to work, you need to give it every thirty days. You should try marking it in a calendar or somewhere that you'll see the reminder regularly. And no, the freeze won't kill the fleas. Any fleas in your house will stay alive, because they aren't exposed to the cold.

Pet owner: Okay - then how do I get rid of the fleas. I've tried flea baths and house bombs, and they just won't go away.

Me: You need to stick with the preventative and make sure you give it correctly. I know fleas are a pain, but it's going to take anywhere from three to four months for the fleas to be completely gone.

*Cue the disappointed look from the pet owner.*

It's important to understand that when getting rid of fleas, you have to kill each and every flea in each and every generation. This typically can take anywhere from three to four months, so don't get discouraged when you're not seeing instant results. Keep going with the treatment, and the fleas will go away.


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      Michelle B- Grand 2 years ago

      wow that is awsome