What to do if your pet has fleas

A beautiful black and white mixed breed dog smiles softly at the camera

What are fleas, and why does my pet have them?

Fleas are tiny wingless parasites that commonly infest cats, dogs, and other mammals. Fleas can jump from one animal to another during close contact and live on wildlife such as squirrels and other rodents. Flea eggs, larvae, pupae, and adult fleas can be present in the environment, such as your home, yard, or areas where your pet spends time.
Fleas can survive for extended periods in carpets, bedding, furniture, and outdoor areas where pets frequently roam. Fleas are particularly adapted to infest pets due to their fur, which provides an ideal environment for fleas to live and reproduce. Additionally, pets often spend time outdoors, where they can come into contact with fleas more easily.

How to Check if Your Pet Has Fleas

Check your pet’s fur for signs of fleas, such as tiny dark brown insects moving quickly or black specks (flea dirt) that turn red when wet. You may also notice your pet scratching excessively or experiencing red, irritated skin.

What to do if your pet has fleas

Schedule a veterinary visit.

Your veterinarian can recommend the best treatment and preventatives for a flea infestation. Additionally, your veterinary team can evaluate for any flea-borne illnesses, such as tapeworm and anemia.

Administer Treatment Recommended by Veterinarian

Your veterinarian may recommend a topical flea treatment, oral medication, or a combination of both to eliminate the fleas. Follow their instructions carefully and administer the treatment as directed.

Start Flea/Tick Preventative Medications

Flea/tick preventatives are crucial to prevent future infestations and keep your pet healthy. Various options are available, including monthly topical treatments, oral medications, or flea collars.

Treat the Environment

Fleas and their eggs can be found in your pet’s bedding, carpets, and furniture. Treat your home – inside and out – to remove and prevent flea infestations.

How should I treat my house if my pet has fleas?

  • Vacuum your entire home thoroughly, paying special attention to areas where your pet spends most of their time. Dispose of the vacuum bag or clean the canister to prevent re-infestation.
  • Wash your pet’s bedding, blankets, and any other fabric items they frequently use in hot water to help kill fleas and their eggs. If possible, dry the items on high heat as well.
  • Consider using a flea treatment designed for your home and yard. Flea sprays, powders, or foggers can help eliminate fleas in your living environment. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions and ensure the products are safe for use around your pets.

Can my other animals get fleas?

Yes, other animals in your household can get fleas if one of your pets is infested. Fleas are highly mobile insects and can easily jump from one animal to another. They are not species-specific, which means they can infest different types of animals.

If one of your pets has fleas, checking and treating all other animals in your home is essential. This includes dogs, cats, rabbits, guinea pigs, and any other furry pets that may be susceptible to fleas.

Even if you do not see fleas on the other animals, they may have been bitten or are carrying flea eggs or larvae in their fur. Flea eggs can fall off the infested pet and accumulate in the environment, hatching into larvae that can plague other animals.

Can a human get fleas?

Fleas can bite and infest humans but prefer animals as their hosts. Fleas may bite humans when other preferred hosts, such as pets or wildlife, are unavailable or in abundance.
Flea bites on humans typically result in small, itchy red bumps, similar to mosquito bites. Fleas tend to bite in clusters, often around the ankles and lower legs, but they can bite anywhere on the body. Some people may also be allergic to flea bites, leading to more intense itching and discomfort.

Fleas cannot live or reproduce on human hosts alone. Humans lack the dense fur or hair that provides an ideal environment for fleas to thrive.

Signs that my pet is getting better

If your pet shows improvement, stay consistent with their treatment plan and preventatives. Signs your pet’s flea infestation is improving include:

  • Less scratching
  • The condition of their skin is improving
  • Reduced number of fleas, eggs, and larvae present
  • Pet seems more comfortable

Signs that my pet is getting worse

If your pet’s flea infestation is worsening, contact your veterinarian. Signs the infestation is worsening include:

  • Increased scratching
  • More noticeable fleas, eggs, and larvae present
  • Hair loss and thinning
  • Increased skin irritation and inflammation
  • Development of secondary infections (such as skin infections) and flea-borne illnesses (such as tapeworms and anemia)


Flea infestations can be persistent, so it’s essential to be thorough in your approach and follow up with your veterinarian if necessary. You can treat your pet’s flea infestation with proper preventative care, treatment, and deep cleaning.