Dr. Mark, U of Missouri Veterinary Medicine grad with 40+ years working with dogs, exotics and livestock
Will a Bath Kill Fleas?
All dog owners have encountered fleas: the most annoying, frustrating, time-consuming "skin disease" (if we may call it that) of all. Fleas feast on our pets but aren't too picky and will feast on humans, too!
Yes, fleas do not hesitate to attack us humans or any other blood source. This is where the more severe problems arise: flea allergy dermatitis (FAD), tapeworms, and stomach flu/fevers that affect humans as well as pets.
Of course, aside from medical reasons, there are many reasons to want to rid your pet of fleas. Here's how to make your dog more comfortable with a bath! Keep in mind that this is only part of the solution to flea problems. Read on to learn more!
Do I need special medicated soap to get rid of fleas?
No, any regular skin-safe soap (or shampoo) will do!
How to Use a Bath to Get Rid of Fleas
The quickest and easiest way to get rid of fleas without spending much money is by bathing your dog with any bar of soap or dish soap, such as Dawn.
Does Just Any Soap Actually Work?
Keep in mind the reason this works is not due to the chemicals in the soap but because lack of oxygen sends them to their soapy death.
You don't have to use any special type of flea soap. If using a type of soap that hasn't been tested for animal use is not something you want to do, you're welcome to spend extra, but it's not necessary.
Many pet owners use the soap they use on their own bodies on their dogs. There have been no reports to my knowledge of the negative side effects of using regular soap, but perhaps an organic chemical-free flea shampoo is an option you might want to look into.
- You want to be sure you begin at the top from the head/ears (being very careful not to pour water inside the ears). If you begin in the middle of the dog's body, the fleas will all flee to higher ground in an attempt to avoid the soap and water, and since the head is the hardest part to soak thoroughly, it's best to start there and work/chase the fleas down.
- Scrub and soap Fido up enough that you can see the suds.
- Once you've done that, massage from head to toe for about 10 minutes to get rid of the eggs.
- Rinse your pet off. Be careful not to get water into the ears, eyes, or nose.
- Repeat this process every two days until you've bathed your dog three to four times.
Note on Human Shampoo and Soap Use
Human shampoos and soaps (such as Dawn) can be extremely irritating and dry a dog's skin. For dogs with allergies, Dawn may trigger dermatitis. Consider using this technique minimally to avoid over-drying and discomfort.
One way to help avoid too much skin irritation is to alternate using human shampoo/soap and a regular dog shampoo since this entire process will require at least a few bathings. If you notice increased redness/inflammation of your dog’s skin or hair loss, you might want to stop using human shampoo/soap and switch to a dog shampoo for sensitive skin.
Make Sure Fleas Don't Come Back
Now, to give your dog (and home) a fighting chance at removing fleas once and for all, you'll need to do some more leg work.
First of all, you will absolutely need to repeat the bathing process described above a few more times. It's also vital to note that only shampooing your dog with Dawn and/or pet shampoos multiple times is not going to take care of a flea problem. To banish a flea infestation for good, you'll need to effectively treat your dog's environment. This is absolutely necessary to rid your dog of fleas once and for all.
You can use some good old fashion borax from the laundry room (or a flea powder) to apply onto carpets and any upholstered furniture these little vampires may have been hanging out in.
If you decide to use borax, put your dog in a separate area first due to borax being untested for toxicity in pets. Sometimes they are just a little too curious! After borax/flea powder has been applied, let it sit for about three hours. Then, go ahead and vacuum everything the substance was applied to. Repeat this process every day for three days. On the fourth day, vacuum once more without using borax/flea powder.
After this, wash everything the dog plays with, lays in, and wears. Even the leash needs to be washed in a hot water cycle to kill fleas and eggs. Plain old laundry soap will get the job done. You'll want to wash everything twice and use a hot dryer cycle after each washing. Keep in mind fleas can live without a host for several weeks, but the eggs may survive for months!
Further Treatments to Try
For superior results, you might want to try some of these other flea treatments simultaneously with the processes described above.
Conquer Residual Insecticide Concentrate
Try using Conquer Insecticide to further treat your home and yard/patio. You'll want to also treat your yard or patio, especially where your dog relieves itself outside, to ensure that your dog doesn't pick up any residual fleas and track them.
Mix one part Conquer Insecticide and one part water into a spray bottle, based on the ratio given in the instruction sheet in the sources section below. When you finish vacuuming the borax/flea powder process described above, mist the treated area with your Conquer-water solution. Then, mist the area outdoors where your dog goes potty. You may want to do this every month or so to help deter future flea infestations.
Wash Loose Human Fabrics
It can be helpful to wash all loose fabrics not covered in your earlier washing, such as any human fabrics your dog touches, including bed linens, blankets, small rugs, and so on. Use the same approach as you did when washing your dog's bedding, leash, etc.
Natural Ways to Keep Fleas Away
Once the bloodthirsty parasites are gone, there are many things that can be done to keep them out. Simply by taking a few precautions, the possibility of a future flea infestation can be reduced.
- Keep your dog away from other pets! Many owners are unaware of a flea infestation until it's already out of control.
- Check regularly for any signs of fleas.
- Vacuum your home weekly.
- Wash and change your dog's bedding once a week.
- Bathe your dog once a month. It not only reduces the chance of fleas, but they'll be clean, smell fresh, and will thank you for it! When doing normal, routine bathing, you can use a dog shampoo that is appropriate to your dog's skin type.
- Fleas hate lavender, so anything that contains lavender (soaps, lotions, or perfumes) may help deter them. Just be sure not to directly apply these chemicals to your pet. Simply using them in the home may help.
Sources and Further Reading
- Can You Use Dawn Dish Soap to Kill Fleas on Pets? | PetMD
Dawn dish soap can clean oil off wildlife, but does it kill fleas on pets? See what vets have to say about using Dawn dish soap for fleas.
- Conquer Insecticide Instructions
A PDF describing how to use Conquer insecticide safely and in what ratio.
- How to Get Rid of Fleas: A Combination Approach
If left untreated, a flea infestation can stick around indefinitely. Here's how to get rid of fleas in your home, yard, and on your pet.
This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. It is not meant to substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, or formal and individualized advice from a veterinary medical professional. Animals exhibiting signs and symptoms of distress should be seen by a veterinarian immediately.
© 2011 luisj305
Jose junor on May 24, 2020:
Goodnight, quick question could i use apple cider vinegar for fleas on my dog ..and if yes how would you recommend the application
luisj305 (author) from Florida on August 24, 2016:
My best tip would be to use a flea comb to get as many as you can out and somewhat of a light sponge bath on the rest of the body.
Do this slow being EXTRA careful not to bother the sensitive area recently worked on.
The young puppy is surely very uncomfortable and this will soothe the irritated skin effectively and allow relief. Good luck!!
RS2154 on August 22, 2016:
Any ideas on how to get rid of fleas on a recently spayed 8 week old puppy? It cant be bathed for 10 days due to the stitches from the spaying? Also any medication I've found says only for dogs 12 weeks or older?
Isabel on July 13, 2016:
Very helpful an quick to the point
luisj305 (author) from Florida on March 03, 2015:
Marcela thanks for reading! I knew you would solve your pets flea problem with this guide!
Marcela Barrios on February 26, 2015:
This is easy to follow for me and works good for my dog and for my cat too. Thank you luis.
luisj305 (author) from Florida on January 04, 2015:
Your welcome Wolfs Paw, they'll surely be gone for good now! Soap is the way to go, chemicals should always be avoided.
Wolfs Paw on January 04, 2015:
Great hub and tips. I always use dish soap and feel it gets rid of fleas. I feel it's better than using chemicals on your dog as well. Thank you for sharing!
luisj305 (author) from Florida on July 22, 2013:
Really? That's interesting and would probably leave your dog smelling better than regular soap, or lemon scented dish soap!
Lois Ryan from Upstate NY originally from Long Island on July 21, 2013:
Excellent hub abd I hear Skin So Soft by Avon works wonders as well
twig22bend on May 24, 2013:
Great information on fleas and alternative methods of getting rid of them. I wish I had of known about your hub earlier. Thanks for sharing.
pestcontrolproduc on May 17, 2013:
Great article! May I make a suggestion? After you get fleas off your dog, make sure you keep fleas off yourself. It works out better when you put the clothes you were wearing while you were smothering fleas in doggie shampoo into the laundry just as quickly as possible after you finish with your dog's bath. Hot water washing will kill any fleas that jumped off your dog and onto your clothes.
tebo from New Zealand on March 19, 2013:
Some very good ideas to keep fleas at bay. I have a dog and seem to be doing alright on the flea front, but some of these ideas do make the problem a little easier to deal with.
Susan Bailey from South Yorkshire, UK on March 18, 2013:
What a very odd looking dog! Highly unusual and caught my eye straight away. Lavender sounds like a great idea, will get rid of the doggy smell too. Great hub.
Jean-ette on March 18, 2013:
Thanks for this Hub. Flea medication is so expensive. I hate to have to buy it every year and my dog goes crazy when I put it on him. I love the smell of Lavender and will give that a try this year. Hope my dog likes it too!
Ruth McCollum from Lake Oswego, Oregon on March 17, 2013:
THANKYOU! You know what's funny ? i LOVE lavender I have it everywhere and my husband said the other day the cats weren't "chewing" as much. My dog just passed but I'm going to show my mom and friends this article. :) Following you now.
luisj305 (author) from Florida on March 17, 2013:
Hi Shanmarie, I think Dawn is usually mentioned because it is one of the leading brands in dish soap and most are familiar with it. I've used Dawn, and Palmolive, they've both worked and I stick to them.
John Paolo Magdaluyo from Philippine on March 16, 2013:
Great hub! My dog once suffer from hundreds of fleas and I spent lot of anti fleas soap but never been effective. Anyway I tried something which is similar to your advice (I did used bar soap for cloths) and just one bath they are all sent to their peaceful sleep.
Voted up and shared!
Shannon Henry from Texas on March 16, 2013:
Do you have a specific dish soap you recommend? I've always been told that Dawn is good for flea removal.
luisj305 (author) from Florida on March 16, 2013:
Hi Shai, using chemicals are tricky even if they mention being safe. Some pets will be fine after using them, but others can have serious irritation that can go unnoticed if we don't pay close attention.
For the picture, thanks to Beverly & Pack for taking an awesome photo, of a great idea.
Chen on March 16, 2013:
Great hub. I really hate using the chemicals on dogs. Lavender and cedar oil is a good tip I did not know about. But I have to say what really caught my eye is that beautiful looking dog photo-- so unique.
Jmillis2006 from North Carolina on March 15, 2013:
Interesting hub. Hopefully fleas will stay off of my pets this summer as I treat them monthly with spot on treatment.
luisj305 (author) from Florida on March 14, 2013:
No problem, Beth. Your dog will love the massage technique!
Beth37 on March 14, 2013:
Good to know with summer coming up, thanks. :)
luisj305 (author) from Florida on January 26, 2013:
I have yet to see Amitraz around in pet shops of my area, maybe if it shows up I'll give it a try. Thanks for the comment!
Jef from Philippines on January 03, 2013:
Tick and Fleas have always been my dog's problems. What I use is a solution called Amitraz. I have used Frontline before but Amitraz is a lot cheaper! :)
luisj305 (author) from Florida on July 31, 2011:
Thanks a lot everyone, your comments really let me know im off to the right start here at hubpages. Thanks for the warm welcome!
fashion on July 31, 2011:
This is very interesting and informative article.Thanks for this useful hub.
Susan Zutautas from Ontario, Canada on July 31, 2011:
I never realized that you could use dish soap or bar soap for getting rid of fleas. Interesting article.
Welcome to HubPages.
maddot from Northern NSW, Australia on July 30, 2011:
Good interesting hub Luis. It's coming into flea and tick season here in Australia and your washing technique is great.