How to Remove Fleas From Your Pet

If your dog or cat has fleas, medication is a must. Getting the bugs off your pet is important, too. It cuts down the number of itchy, irritating bites your pet gets -- and helps keep fleas out of your home.

How do you do it?

1. Give Your Pet a Bath

Just lukewarm water, or water and a mild soap, can help get fleas off your pet’s fur and skin. If you’re thinking about using a flea shampoo or something similar, talk to your veterinarian first. If your pet is allergic to fleas (your vet may call it flea allergy dermatitis), its skin might be especially sensitive. That’s also true if your pet has any other open wounds or “raw spots” on its skin. Some of the chemicals in flea products can make irritation and infections worse.

While a bath can help your pet, it’s not a must. If you’re worried about how your pet will react, it’s OK to skip this step.

2. Comb Your Pet’s Hair Using a Fine-Tooth Flea Comb

The teeth on a flea comb are spaced to trap fleas while they allow your pet’s fur to pass through. Flea combs also help remove flea poop, sometimes called “flea dirt” -- dark brown or black specks that look like pepper flakes. Be sure to take special care while you comb around your pet’s neck and tail areas. That’s where fleas tend to feed.  

3. Kill the Fleas

The little buggers are usually between the size of a poppy seed and a sesame seed, and they're brown or reddish brown. If you see a flea on the flea comb, dunk the comb into hot, soapy water to kill the flea. Don’t try to crush fleas. They jump quickly and can be hard to kill by hand.

4. Do Regular Checks

If your pet has a history of fleas, comb your friend with a flea comb at least once a week until you’re sure that your home and pet are free of fleas. 


5. Let Your Pet Groom Itself

Cats clean themselves more when they have fleas. They’re not just itching. Researchers say the extra work helps cats get rid of fleas. Many dogs also groom themselves more often when they have fleas. In most cases, that’s OK. But if your pet is nipping, chewing, or scratching at itself enough that you notice hair loss or red, inflamed, or bloody skin, call your vet right away. Your animal may have an infection or a flea allergy. 

Keep in mind that you may not find fleas on your pet, even if your vet has confirmed your pet has been bitten by fleas. They live in carpets, bedding, and other surfaces in your home. They jump onto pets (and sometimes humans) to eat, but they usually don’t stay once they’re done eating.

If you're not sure if your pet has fleas, see your vet to make sure. 

WebMD Veterinary Reference Reviewed by Amy Flowers, DVM on April 19, 2021



Elizabeth A. Layne, DVM, clinical instructor of dermatology and allergy, University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Veterinary Medicine.

Ari Zabell, DVM, veterinarian and client advocate, Banfield Pet Hospital, Portland, OR.

Applied Animal Behavioral Science: “Grooming and control of fleas in cats.”

Merck Manual: Veterinary Manual: “Flea Allergy Dermatitis.” 

Natural Resources Defense Council: “Nontoxic Ways to Protect Pets.” 

American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals: “Fleas and Ticks.”

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency: “Controlling Fleas and Ticks Around Your Home.”

© 2021 WebMD, LLC. All rights reserved.


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