How To Treat Fleas on Dogs and Cats |

How To Treat Fleas

Your essential guide to protecting your pets and home from fleas and ticks

The Facts About Fleas

Fleas are the most common external parasite that regularly target dogs and cats – don’t worry though, it’s not a reflection on the cleanliness of your home or your pet. There are lots of different types of fleas too, so make sure you are a savvy pet owner and learn all about these pesky critters and how you can prevent them with our handy guide!

What Are Fleas?

Fleas are very small, dark brown, wingless, blood sucking insects.

Did you know?

• They have long hind legs that help them jump.

• They can live on their host for up to two years.

• A female flea can lay up to 50 eggs in one day!

• There are over 2,000 different fleas! Fortunately only a few can affect your pet!

The Flea Lifecycle

Fleas are really only obvious when they are adults – towards the end of their lifecycle – and represent less than 5% of all the fleas that might be in your home!

To help you understand fleas better, let's look at their lifecycle.

Adult Fleas

Adult fleas start to lay eggs within two days of landing on your pet.

Flea Eggs

The eggs fall off your pet, together with “flea dirt” which feeds the larvae when they emerge 2 to 5 days later.

Flea Larvae

The larvae move away from the light into soft furnishings, under furniture and into the carpet and develop into pupae after 7 to 14 days.

Flea Pupae

The pupae can remain dormant for up to 2 years. They emerge when they can detect the presence of a host – your pet – via changes in their environment such as changes in temperature, noise and movement. The adult flea hatches and jumps onto your pet.

Fleas In The House

Only 5% of fleas are living on your pet

The other 95% are living in your home!

Did you know?

A flea can jump more than 100 times its length (up to 7 inches vertically and up to 13 inches horizontally).

That's equivalent to you jumping around 250 feet vertically and 450 feet horizontally.

Flea Bite Symptoms

If your pet has fleas you might see the following symptoms:

Risk To Pets

If left untreated your pet could develop a serious illness, such as;

Flea Allergy Dermatitis (FAD)

The most common veterinary dermatological condition


Especially in very young or very old pets.

Tapeworm infection

From flea larvae, which have fed on tapeworm eggs.

Risk To Humans

Fleas can also transmit serious diseases to humans, such as;


The bacteria that causes “cat scratch disease”


If a human receives a bite from an infected flea.

And in very rare cases

Bubonic plague

Pneumonic plague


How to Detect Fleas

Apart from the signs and symptoms, you can also detect fleas by doing the following:

1. Check Your Pet Visually

If you are quick, you might see an adult flea but you are more likely to notice dark specks like pepper in your pet’s fur – this is “flea dirt”. The base of the tail and between their shoulder blades are the best places to look.

2. White Paper Towel Test

1. Take a sheet of white paper towel and moisten it (cotton wool, a towel or even toilet paper are fine too!)

2. Using a flea comb, comb your pet, paying particular attention to the areas your pet is scratching.

3. Collect the debris on the paper towel.

4. If the debris dissolves and produces red/brown patches in the damp towel you can confirm the presence of fleas.

3. White Sock Test

1. Walk through the effected environment wearing white socks.

2. The pressure and vibrations that you create as you walk will cause the adult flea to jump.

3. Some fleas will jump on your socks and because they are white and the fleas brown you will notice them immediately.

4. You will also see “flea dirt” - black or brown specks.

How To Get Rid Of Fleas

Fleas have been around for millennia, it is unsurprising then, that there are a great many ways to treat for fleas, from alternative remedies to prescription only medications and everything else in between.

You don’t need to go to the vet for a prescription to get rid of fleas, there are lots of non-prescription medications such as Frontline and Advantage that are clinically proven to eradicate fleas.

Non-prescription methods for treating your pets for fleas:

There are several different methods of treatment for treating your pet and they include:

Spot on liquids

This is the most common and effective treatment method. The liquid is applied to the skin between your pet’s shoulder blades so they cannot reach around to lick it off. The liquid is absorbed into the body and protects your pet for around 30 days. Your pet is protected from all parts of the flea’s lifecycle.

Flea Collars

This treatment is rather old fashioned and has been somewhat superseded but there are many pet owners who choose to use this method over others. There are several types of collar and can serve one, or both, of the following functions;


This collar emits a substance that repels the flea – the flea must bite the animal before being affected by the substance.


This collar has medication embedded within it and seeps into the neck of your pet. This type can kill the flea on contact before they bite your pet.


These treatments kill only the adult flea and so aren’t a long term solution, particularly if your pet spends a lot of time in water. In addition, they can be hazardous to the person applying the spray and can be difficult to apply if a pet is nervous or uncooperative.


These are used like any other bath product, although most require the product to be applied to the skin for several minutes before rinsing it off. Shampoos aren’t preventative so you should use them in conjunction with another product.

Flea Combs

This method is particularly useful for newborn and very young pets where treatments could be toxic. However, flea combs tend to remove less than 50% of the fleas, even so they can be useful in conjunction with other treatments to confirm that the infestation has cleared.

Oral Treatments

Oral treatments do not kill the adult flea; rather they prevent the eggs from hatching. There are different types of tablets which act for different lengths of times, so don’t forget to read the instructions before treating your pet!

Treating your home

Once your pet is affected by fleas, it is important to treat your home. This is because fleas can remain dormant for up to 2 years and because adult fleas only make up 5% of the fleas in your home;

This means if you don’t act straight away they will keep on breeding!!

A flea can lay up to 2,000 eggs in her lifetime which are easily spread throughout your home on clothing, shoes and, of course, your pet! Once they hatch, flea larvae crawl into all sorts of places including;

Within and under soft furnishings

In and around your pet’s bedding

Your clothes, bedding and even luggage

In and under carpets

How To Treat Your Home

Household Flea Spray

There are various household sprays available that can be used on carpets and furnishings. Fleas tend to hide in dark places so it is important to treat under furniture and in crevices.


Foggers can treat your home for over 6 months. Foggers are similar to smoke bombs and should be used in every room and left for up to 8 hours.


Vacuum thoroughly, especially in areas where your pet frequents.


Wash your pet’s bedding thoroughly at a high temperature – 60 degrees C or more – and keep on doing so in case of re-infestation.


Delicate clothes, children’s toys etc that cannot be put in a hot wash can be frozen! Just pop them in a bin bag and leave them for a few days!

Be Crafty

Trick the remaining fleas in your home to come out of hiding by;

Keeping the heating on

Fleas will hatch when the environment is warm.

Keeping your pet around

Make sure your pet is around because their presence is sure to encourage the fleas to emerge. But remember to make sure your pet is safely away from any dangerous chemicals!

Keep on vacuuming

Not only will the vibrations encourage fleas to hatch, it is estimated that vacuuming can remove up to 50% of flea eggs! In severe infestations, make sure you discard the vacuum bag straight after use.

Flea & Tick Product Comparison Guide

Cat Flea Treatment

Dog Flea Treatment

Treatment for small pets

How to treat your home


I can still see fleas on my cat after having treated her with a spot on, what do I do?

Don’t worry, the flea treatment that you are using won’t act as a repellent but any fleas that do find their way on to your pet will probably die within 24 hours. Even if you regularly treat your pet, fleas can find their way into the house, so remember to treat your home as well as your pet!

How long will the treatment last, do I have to keep on treating my dog?

Unfortunately there is no permanent treatment method, so you will have to keep on treating your pet regularly. In general, you should re-treat every 4 weeks, however, this depends upon your treatment method. See our treatment guide for more details on specific treatments.

My friend told me that fleas are becoming immune, which is why there are so many fleas around at the moment.

There is no scientific evidence that fleas are becoming immune to treatments. The increase in flea populations are simply due to the weather conditions being perfect for fleas. Flea treatment should be used all year round – including in the home – in order to be effective!

Will the treatment still last if my dog has been in the rain or swimming.

If you can keep your pet away from water for at least 48 hours it should not affect the treatment. Do make sure that your pet is thoroughly dry before treating them too.

What is FAD?

Flea allergy dermatitis, or FAD, is one of the most common skin diseases in cats and dogs. It is an allergic reaction to flea bites where you will see your pet scratching and chew excessively at an affected area. If left untreated they will suffer skin trauma, hair loss and even infections. Unfortunately, the only treatment is to treat the affected areas and make sure that fleas don’t bite!

How often should you treat your dog for fleas?

Quality flea treatments can protect pets from fleas for up to 8 weeks, and ticks for up to 4 weeks. But it’s always best to regularly check and reapply if necessary

What does IGR mean?

IGR stands for Insect Growth Regulator; IGRs are chemicals that inhibits the growth cycle of the insect. Depending upon the chemical the treatment contains, the development of the insect will be stopped at specific stages of the lifecycle, or will prevent reproduction etc.

My cat doesn’t go outside, so why did she get fleas?

Fleas are opportunists, they can come in to your home on something you have brought in from the garden, or even hitch a ride on your clothes or shoes, particularly if you have been in contact with someone who has a pet of their own!