Ctenocephalides Canis, otherwise known as the common dog flea, will make a puppies skin itchy and irritable, and in the worst cases they can lead to anemia, long-term allergies, and may even transmit tapeworms. Fleas can lay between 20-40 eggs in 24 hours, and it only takes ten females to produce thousands more. They’re also pretty tough; newly produced fleas can survive up to 14 days without feeding, while older fleas can last for up to six months. Getting rid of them is a real challenge. But as we'll see, the best flea treatment for puppies requires a three-pronged approach: You need to treat the puppy. You need to treat the mother. And you need to treat and manage the environment.
The best flea treatment for puppies - Stage 1: Treating the puppy
First of all, it's important to know what not to do. A puppies skin and internal organs are too delicate for an anti-flea medication, and using them can lead to unpleasant side-effects including excessive salivation, vomiting, and even depression. Most of these products will state that they are not a suitable flea treatment for puppies. But even if they don’t, it’s still best to stay away from them, and especially if your puppy is less than four weeks old.
Alternatively, veterinarian and AKC Family Dog columnist Jeff Grognet recommends using a flea comb to remove the fleas manually. Start by filling a sink or basin with a few inches of warm water (the water should be the same temperature you would use for a baby). Place the puppy in the water, making sure you keep them fully supported at all times. Then gently scoop the water over your puppy’s coat. After a few minutes, place the puppy on a warm, dry towel, and begin running the comb through their fur. Unlike a regular comb, flea combs have finely spaced teeth that trap and remove fleas as you pull it through your puppies coat. Start at your puppies neck and work your way down, paying particular attention to the hind area. Then repeat a few times to make sure you haven’t missed any. The following video will show you how it’s done:
Once you've removed all fleas, keep your puppy away from any infected other animals or bedding. This will stop getting re-infected. Then, as they get a little older and stronger, you can start looking at safe anti-flea products. Generally speaking, you can start using these once your puppy is more than seven weeks old. But remember to always check the labels, and consult a local veterinarian for advice.
Flea treatment for puppies - Stage 2: Treating other pets
If your puppy has fleas then there’s a very high chance that any other animals in the house are also infected. If your puppy is still part of a litter, then it's almost certain that the other puppies and their mother will have them too. For the puppies, just follow the advice from stage 1. For older dogs and mum you can use anti-flea medications and prescriptions, but it's still important to be mindful of which ones you chose. If mum is still milking then some of the chemicals can be transmitted to the litter, so make sure you use products that are suitable for lactating. These include Revolution and Stronghold; they use a chemical called selamectin, which was approved by studies carried out at the Institute for Comparative Tropical Medicine and Parasitology.
Be careful of using any natural or herbal remedies. Speaking to the Natural Resource Defense Council, Dr. Karyn Bischoff, a toxicologist at Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine, states that “They may not work - and some aren’t safe.” A few have already been linked to allergies and health problems, and many others have not been researched properly. Stick with more reputable, branded products, and consult your local vet if you're ever unsure.
Flea prevention for puppies - Stage 3: Treating the environment
You’ve treated your puppy for fleas. You treated any other pets in the house. And now it’s time to treat and manage the environment. This is key to preventing fleas from returning. It's estimated that for every one flea on your pet, there's another twenty around the house. They usually hide in carpets, bedding, cushions, and their eggs can lay dormant for years.
Start by using an anti-flea insecticide on all of the dogs bedding, then put everything through the washing machine on a very high temperature. This will remove all traces of the insecticide, as well as dead eggs, larvae, and fleas.
Now its time to attack the rest of the house. Begin by vacuuming everywhere, and then vacuum again! And don't forget to throw out the vacuum bag! After that, spray an insecticide onto the carpet, sofa, and other furnishings. Remember to follow the label's instructions and always remove puppies, other pets, and children away from the areas being treated. Following treatment, ventilate the room for several hours, making sure it remains unoccupied.
It’s really important to work through each stage thoroughly. Treating your puppy for fleas is useless unless you treat their environment as well. It isn't easy. It will take time and effort, but the three-pronged approach is by far the best flea treatment for puppies.