How to Get Rid of Fleas on a Puppy Too Young for Normal Medication
Newborn puppies provide the perfect environment for fleas to feed and lay their eggs. These dog fleas (scientifically known asCtenocephalides canis) are very undesirable, as they cause the puppies' skin to become itchy and irritated. In more severe cases, the puppy can become anemic due to loss of blood caused by the parasites. Unfortunately, getting rid of fleas can be somewhat tricky when it comes to young puppies, as their bodies are not equipped to handle the strong insecticides most anti-flea products contain. Therefore, eliminating the fleas will involve keeping the puppy clean, while simultaneously treating the mother and any bedding or soft furnishings the puppy is exposed to. Start with Step 1 below for more detailed information.
Treating the Puppy
Understand why normal anti-flea products can't be used on puppies.Newborn puppies provide the perfect host for fleas — they are warm, produce moisture and provide blood for food. Unfortunately, there are no flea products that are safe for use on newborn pups. This is because puppies' internal organs are more delicate than those of older dogs and therefore more prone to adverse side effects caused by the anti-flea medications.
- Depending on the medication, these side effects may include excessive salivation, vomiting, respiratory issues and either over-sensitivity to stimulation or profound depression.
- Some anti-flea products will be clearly marked as unsuitable for puppies on the label. Other products have never been tested on puppies, so the manufacturers advise against using them.
- In particular, stay away from pet shop products that contain permethrins, as these are not safe for use in youngsters. Puppies' metabolisms are too immature and are unable to break down the permethrins, which can build up in the puppies' systems and cause neurological damage resulting in excessive shaking, drooling, paralysis or even seizures.
- Pet shop products that don't contain permethrin are unlikely to be effective and are a waste of money.
Bathe the puppy in warm water.As there are no commercial or prescription products suitable for use on young puppies, the only solution is to keep the puppy clean and try to remove any fleas manually. To bathe the puppy:
- Place a few inches of warm water into a sink or basin. The water should be approximately the same temperature you'd use to bathe a baby.
- Place the puppy in the water, using your hand to support its head and keep it above the water.
- Use your hand to scoop water over the puppy's coat until it is completely wet.
- Lift the puppy out of the water and place him on a clean, warm towel. Gently rub the puppy with the towel to remove excess water.
Use a flea comb to groom the puppy's coat and remove fleas.Place the puppy on a dry towel on a flat surface. Use a flea comb to groom the puppy's damp fur and remove any fleas.
- Flea combs have teeth that are very close together and work by physically pulling fleas out of the fur.
- Start at the puppy's neck and part the fur, combing a section at a time until you have covered his whole body and removed all of the fleas.
Kill the fleas by squashing them or putting them in boiling water.It's important to kill any fleas that you remove from the puppy's fur, otherwise they could find their way back and re-infest. You can kill the fleas by squishing them between your fingernails or by dropping them into a cup of boiling water.
- If you're using boiling water, make sure to place the cup where the puppy can't reach it, otherwise he could knock it over and burn himself.
Keep the puppy away from infected bedding and animals.Once you have physically removed the fleas from his fur, the puppy should be free of fleas. However, there is no residual insecticide on his coat to stop new fleas from jumping onto him. Therefore it is important to keep the puppy away from his mother and any infected bedding until they can be treated. This will help to prevent the puppy from becoming reinfected.
Know when it's safe to start using anti-flea products.Once your puppy grows older, his body will be able to handle the ingredients used in anti-flea products and they will be safe to use. Always follow the instructions on the label to find out when it's safe to start using a specific product. Of the licensed anti-flea medications:
- Revolution (active ingredient selamectin) can be used in puppies from 7 weeks of age onwards.
- Frontline (active ingredient fipronil) can be used at 8 weeks and over.
- Oral medications such as Comfortis (active ingredient spinosad) are only safe from 14 weeks of age onwards.
- Never use these products on pups below the recommended age.
Treating the Mother
Understand why it is necessary to treat the mother.If the puppies in a litter have fleas, then it's almost certain that the mother will have them too. As a result, it will be necessary to treat the mother in order to avoid reinfecting the puppies.
- Keep in mind that if there are any other animals in the house that have come in contact with the mother dog or puppies, they will need to be treated for fleas also.
Only use prescription products, avoid over-the-counter or "natural" medications.Although anti-flea products can be used on the mother, it is important to be careful about the products you choose.
- If the mother is still providing milk for her puppies, certain chemicals can be passed onto the puppies through the milk, which could make them sick. Therefore, it is essential that you only use prescription products designed for use in lactating mothers.
- Some store bought products may be marked as "natural" or "drug free", but this does not mean that they are safe for very young puppies. And even if they don't cause any negative side-effects, natural or herbal products are unlikely to be effective in getting rid of fleas.
Use selamectin-based medications on pregnant and lactating mothers.Prescription medications that contain an ingredients called selamectin (such as Revolution and Stronghold) are licensed as being safe for use in pregnant and lactating mothers.
- The medication should be applied to the adult dog's skin, according to the manufacturers instructions, and allowed to dry for several hours before the puppies are allowed to come in contact with the mother.
- Selamectin-based medications should only be given in the recommended dosages, and should only be administered topically. When given orally, selamectin was shown to cause foetal abnormalities in rats.
Avoid using medications containing fipronil and spinosad, as these are unsafe for lactating mothers.There are several ingredients used commonly in anti-flea medications that should never be given to pregnant or lactating dogs. Therefore, it's important to read the label very careful or consult with your dog's vet to avoid using products containing these ingredients.
- An ingredient called fipronil (which is found in an anti-flea product called Frontline) should never be used on pregnant or lactating mothers, as it has not been proven safe for puppies.
- An ingredient called spinosad (which is used in an oral flea treatment call Comfortis) has been shown to be excreted in the mother's milk. As it is uncertain whether spinosad causes negative side effects in puppies, you should avoid using this product to treat the mother.
Treating the Environment
Understand the life cycle of the flea.The adult flea only visits its host to feed, so for every flea you see on the pet, it is estimated that another 20 are living off the animal in her bedding, the carpet and the sofa.
- It is also important to be aware that the female flea lays her eggs on soft furnishings such as carpet and upholstery. These eggs are very hardy and, in the absence of a suitable host, can lie dormant for years.
- Once the eggs hatch, the flea larvae and pupae will develop in carpet or bedding, feeding off dirt in order to complete their life cycle and become adults.
- As a result, it is necessary to kill off any eggs or larvae hidden in the dog's bedding, or the carpeting and sofa, otherwise the mother dog or puppies could easily become reinfected.
Wash the puppy's bedding to kill any fleas.As explained in the step above, the environment in which the puppy lives is likely to be rich with flea eggs, larvae and pupae waiting to mature into the next generation of fleas. Therefore, this bedding needs to be thoroughly cleaned and disinfected in order to fully eliminate the fleas.
- Flea eggs have an extremely tough protective shell, so putting the bedding through the washing machine will not be enough to eliminate them.
- Use an anti-flea spray or bombs that contains insecticide. The insecticide will find its way into remote corners of the bedding where flea eggs, larvae and pupae may be hiding. Use the insecticide according to the instructions on the packaging.
- Once you have applied the insecticide and given it time to take effect, you will need to put it through a very hot cycle in the washing machine to remove any residual insecticide (that could harm the puppies) and wash away dead eggs, larvae and fleas.
Use spray insecticides to kill fleas in carpeting and other fabrics.Finally, you will need to kill any fleas living in carpeting or any other soft furnishings. To do this, you should use a permethrin-based insecticidal spray, such as Staykill or RIP fleas.
- The manufacturers of these sprays recommend vacuuming prior to spraying. This loosens up the pile of the carpet and helps the spray to penetrate more deeply. In addition, the vibration from the vacuum is likely to ‘wake up’ the larvae who will then wriggle towards light in the hope of finding a host.
- Spray the insecticide onto the carpet, sofa and other soft furnishings according to the instructions on the label. The permethrins in the spray work by paralyzing the insects' nervous systems, interfering with muscle function and eventually causing death. Insects are unable to breakdown pyrethroids in the same way mammals can and are therefore far more sensitive to their effects
- Always remove the puppies, along with any other pets (including birds and fish) or children from the room before spraying with insecticide. Following the treatment, ventilate the room for several hours by opening the window, making sure the room is unoccupied.
QuestionIs Dawn too strong for a nine week old pup?wikiHow ContributorCommunity AnswerNo. Dawn works perfectly with puppies. Just make sure to not get it in its eyes.Thanks!
QuestionIs it true that Dawn dish washing liquid can get rid of fleas?wikiHow ContributorCommunity AnswerYes. I always prefer dawn over puppy shampoos anyway. Make sure to not use the concentrated kind as it can leave a residue that ends up irritating the dogs' skin.Thanks!
QuestionHow do I bathe my dog with Dawn to get rid of fleas?wikiHow ContributorCommunity AnswerLet the soap (after you have scrubbed him) sit on him for 10 minutes. Then rinse him well and try to brush through all of his fur with a flea comb. You might have to do this one more time, but it should kill the fleas, larvae and eggs.Thanks!
QuestionHow to clear fleas from a puppy I found roadside if he has thousands of small red fleas?wikiHow ContributorCommunity AnswerYou can give him a bath in blue Dawn soap. Let the soap (after you have scrubbed him) sit on him for 10 minutes. Then rinse him good and try to brush through all of his hair with a flea comb. You might have to do this one more time, but it should kill the fleas, larvae and eggs.Thanks!
QuestionWhat do I do if I find a flea on myself?wikiHow ContributorCommunity AnswerYou can either crush it between your fingernails or drop into a cup of boiling water.Thanks!
QuestionCan I give flea medication to a puppy that has not been weaned?wikiHow ContributorCommunity AnswerNo, puppies and kittens can not tolerate any kind of insecticide or pesticides. If they are still nursing, do not treat the mother with anything either; the chemicals could leach into her milk, also her skin. Just be diligent in flea combing them several times a day and making sure the house/area they're in is clean, and that their bedding gets washed in very hot water.Thanks!
QuestionMy pit had her litter and I noticed that she had fleas. That means the pups have them too, but they are only a day old. Will I still be able to wash them and use a flea comb on them?wikiHow ContributorCommunity AnswerAfter the umbilical cords fall off, bathe the pups as described above, but use Dawn dishsoap instead of shampoo. Hold a pup in warm water, then lather him up with Dawn while he sits on a towel. Once lathered, put him back in the water and try to keep him there for a few minutes. Then dry him off and give him back to Mom.Thanks!
QuestionI have a puppy and I'm not sure if he has fleas or ticks. How can I tell the difference?wikiHow ContributorCommunity AnswerFleas move around and jump. Ticks burrow their head into the skin of a dog and stay in one place, swelling up as they consume blood.Thanks!
QuestionHow do I keep fleas from coming back when my dog goes outside?wikiHow ContributorCommunity AnswerTreat your yard, and then keep your pet on long-term flea prevention products. Keep treating your yard and house for a couple of weeks.Thanks!
QuestionCan I shave my dog to get rid of fleas?wikiHow ContributorCommunity AnswerNo - shaving won't get rid of fleas.Thanks!
Can use dawn dish soap for puppy 4 or 5 weeks?
How old should a puppy be before you are able to use the flea sprays?
Can I use baby shampoo on a puppy?
I have a 2 month old puppy and he has little bumps on his but bc of fleas what shampoo could I use on him?
Is it normal that the fleas/ticks eat their skin and leave a big bold spot?
To get rid of fleas on a puppy too young for normal medication, bathe it in warm water and use a flea comb to pull all of the fleas off of it. Squish the fleas or drop them into boiling water as you go to prevent them from re-infesting. Then, treat the mother with a prescription flea treatment that is safe for lactating mothers. Finally, wash the puppy’s bedding to kill any fleas on it, and use spray insecticides to kill fleas living in the carpet so the puppy won’t get re-infected.
- If the mother dog, puppies, or other flea-infected animals have recently traveled in the car, don't forget to spray the car's interior with an insecticide spray too.
Sources and Citations
- Efficacy of selamectin administered topically to pregnant and lactating female dogs in the treatment and prevention of adult tapeworm (Toxocara canis) infection and flea (Ctenocephalides felis felis) infestations n the dams and their pups. Yanye-Johnson, Maitland et al. Veterinary Parasitology. 2000 Aug 23:91 (3-4):347-58
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