When Your Dog Needs a Flea Bath
It’s never a great start to the day if you find a flea (or multiple fleas) on your dog, but how do you know if they need a flea bath right then and there? If you find one or two fleas on your dog, and they are on some sort of flea control, you may not have to treat them with a flea bath.
When you spot a flea on your dog, the first thing you should do is check their fur and bedding thoroughly; this is the best way to get an understanding of how bad the flea infestation is. In addition to fleas, you should look for flea dirt (small black specks left by fleas).
How do you know if it’s flea dirt or not? Put them on a damp paper towel; if the specks are flea dirt, they will turn rust-colored.
To search for fleas in your dog’s fur, you can either use a flea comb or part their coat section by section to look at their skin. Fleas are typically found at the base of their tail and their lower back; if you find more fleas, it’s time to give your dog a flea bath and get rid of them for good.
What You Need to Make a Flea Bath for Dogs
Here’s what you’ll need to get ready before giving your dog a flea bath:
- A source of water (faucets or hoses)
- A basin (bathtub or sink)
- A towel
- Flea shampoo
- Lubricant for your dog’s eyes
Related: Shampooing Your Dog
The first thing you need to get is a dependable flea shampoo. If you’re not sure which one is best for your dog, you can ask your vet for recommendations. Make sure to always read the bottle! You want the flea shampoo you choose to be specifically for dogs (if you have a puppy, check that it is suitable for young dogs). It’s also important to check the ingredients to be sure that none of them are an allergen for your pup.
Getting mineral oil or an eye lubricant for your dog’s eye is important when using flea shampoo; it will help protect them from the chemicals that kill the fleas on their coat. It’s a good idea to protect their eyes anytime you bathe your dog, but it’s essential for flea baths since the shampoo is much harsher. Wearing gloves can protect you from the chemicals which may cause dry skin or minor irritation.
Giving Your Dog a Flea Bath
Now for the fun (okay, maybe not the most fun thing you’ll do today) part. Giving your dog a flea bath isn’t much different from a regular one. If they do good during normal bathtimes, they should do fine with a flea bath as well. Here’s how to give your dog a flea bath:
Note: every flea shampoo is different; read all of the instructions thoroughly for the one that you choose to make sure you use the proper amount.
- Get your dog into the bathtub or sink, and lay down a towel along the edge to help prevent water from going everywhere.
- Apply a few drops of mineral oil or eye lubricant to both of your pup’s eyes.
- Use room temperature or slightly warmer water to gently soak your dog’s fur all the way through. It’s important not to use too hot of water -- it can burn your dog’s skin or make the overheat, causing heat exhaustion.
- Apply the recommended amount of flea shampoo to your dog’s fur and gently massage it into their skin to create a lather.
- Check the directions again -- there’s probably a specific amount of time that your flea shampoo is supposed to sit before you rinse it out.
- After that set amount of time, thoroughly rinse their coat.
- Let your dog shake and dry them off the best you can.
- Offer them a treat for being such a good sport about the flea bath!
A flea bath for dogs will remove the fleas and flea dirt from them, but not from the rest of your home. Wash all of their bedding, and vacuum your home to ensure that you get rid of all of them. After this experience, you probably want to do everything you can to prevent fleas in the future. Here’s what you can do:
Preventing Fleas on Your Dog
- Oral Flea Medication
Flea pills are a popular choice among pet parents. You can use them alone or with other flea prevention treatments depending on how severe your dog’s risk is. Usually, all you have to do is give your dog the medicine once a month. Oral medication will disrupt the fleas’ life cycles but will not do anything to adult fleas already in their coat.
- Flea Collars
Flea collars are another prevention option, but their effectiveness depends on the number of fleas in the environment, and the collar must be in contact with your dog’s skin. Also, some dogs genuinely dislike wearing these collars, and you’ll have to watch them carefully to make sure they don’t chew on them.
- Trimming Your Yard
Keeping your lawn and landscape consistently trimmed down will help reduce the flea population in your yard. If your dog regularly picks up fleas in the yard, you can find granular treatments and sprays to get rid of them, but be careful -- these can be harmful to pets, other animals, and humans.
- Regular Bathing and Brushing
Bathing and grooming your dog regularly can help prevent them from attracting fleas, and it will get rid of them early if they pick up a few out of the blue. By keeping your home, yard, and dog clean, you can help prevent flea infestations in the future.
Related: Dog Grooming at Home
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Flea Infestation Signs
In some situations, you can see adult fleas with the naked eye, but that is not always the case. You will usually notice the symptoms of a flea infestation before you spot any fleas.
These common flea infestation symptoms include:
- Inflammation of the skin
- Tiny red dots on the skin
- Intense itching around the shoulder and neck area
- Hair loss
- Scabbing on the skin
Another sign of a flea infestation is feal dropping, which has a similar appearance to dirt. When you look at your dog's skin, the "dirt" will look like a speck of black pepper. Run a comb through the dog's hair to reveal any droppings. Collect some of the flea dirt, and wet it. If it turns into a red color, it is flea dropping - the red color is because of the digested blood.
Can Bathing My Dog Affect Their Flea Treatment?
When you place the flea treatment on your dog, the medication spreads through the hair by using those natural oils. It is not good to put flea treatment on your dog right after a bath. After being cleaned, the natural oils are washed away from the skin. As a result, the natural oils are not present to properly disperse the treatment on the dog's coat. That will mean that the flea treatment is not effective as you want it to be for your dog.
How To Calm Your Dog Before and During a Bath?
Some dogs are petrified of heading to the tub for a bath. You can do a couple of things to help keep your dog calm during the bathing process. If you want your furry friend to stay calm, consider giving a CBD treat before he gets into the tub. By doing this, you can teach your pooch that bathing is rewarded with good things.
Never shove your dog into the water. That can be traumatizing, causing your dog to avoid baths in the future. Make sure that you wet your dog slowly. Many dogs will become startled when they become wet, even at the right temperature.
Don't forget to give your dog a bit of reassurance. As you bathe your dog, make sure to provide constant praise. Your pup will look towards you for comfort. If they are petrified of water, take this time to reassure them that it will be okay.
If your dog has a toy that can get wet, add it to the bathtub. Having happy, funny distractions will help take your dog's mind off the bath. Plus, as they are occupied, you can work to get them shampooed, rinsed, and dried off.
Finally, a few dogs are scared of the sounds coming from the shampoo bottle. The squirts could be enough to send your dog running for the door. Before you start rubbing the shampoo, take some of it and apply it to your hand. With that, you can control the amount of shampoo used and prevent your dog from becoming too scared with a strange bottle heading in their direction.