How to get rid of fleas

Fleas can be a problem even in the most spotless homes or on the cleanest pet.

Flea treatment 

  • Prevent and get rid of fleas by regularly using flea treatment for your pets. See your vet for advice on the best flea products that work for your pet
  • Flea treatment can easily be done at home
  • If you spot fleas on your pet treat quickly, as they can give your cat or dog tapeworms and diseases (make sure you worm your pet as well)
  • Using flea treatment on dog © RSPCA
    Treat your home as well, fleas can survive without a host for many months
  • Clean bedding regularly and vacuum furniture, floors and skirting boards to help destroy fleas at each stage of their lifecycle
  • Throw away the dust bag from your vacuum after each use

Only give your pet flea treatment that has been recommended for them. Products suitable for one species may not be suitable for another. Some dog flea treatments contain permethrin, an insecticide that is safe for dogs but highly toxic to cats.

Signs your pet might have fleas

Ginger cat scratching © IStock Photos / Derausdo

There are a few things you can look out for with your pet that could mean they have fleas.

  • Is your pet scratching?
  • Areas of hair loss, bald or sore patches?
  • Spots or scans?
  • Redness and irritation?
  • Thickened skin in areas (e.g. around ear edges)?
  • Can you see tiny dark specks in its fur, or small browny-black insects scurrying about?
  • Do you have any unaccounted for insect bites yourself?

If you've answered 'yes' to any of these questions - it could mean fleas.

Comb your pet to check for fleas

Groom your pet with a fine-tooth comb held over a white surface - any fleas or droppings will be deposited on the surface. Add a few drops of water and if the droppings turn reddish brown it's very likely your pet has fleas.

If you're still unsure if your pet has fleas or want to know what product to use, speak to your vet for the best advice.

Grooming helps spot fleas and ticks

Grooming your pet regularly has many benefits and will improve the bond between you. Even if, for example, you have a dog with short hair, you should still groom your dog regularly. Making this a regular routine will keep their fur cleaner and will show if your pet has any fleas or ticks.

Grooming your cat that has long hair will also prevent matting and improve their circulation.

Flea bites and what they do

Flea bites can make your pet uncomfortable and itchy but they can also bring a host of other problems.

  • Pets can be hypersensitive to flea saliva and suffer an allergic reaction
  • Fleas feed on blood, so young or frail animals can become weak and even die as a result of blood loss
  • Flea larvae can become infected with tapeworm eggs. If your pet eats an infected flea it can become host to this parasite. If your pet has fleas you should also make sure your pet is treated for worms
  • Fleas can also pass diseases to your pets. For example, myxomatosis is a serious disease in rabbits which can be spread by fleas. 

Flea facts

  • Fleas are a parasite and there are different species such as dog fleas, cat fleas, rabbit fleas and even human fleas! Many species can infest more than one host species
  • What a flea looks like © IStock Photos / Olikim
    Fleas only suck blood from their hosts as adults. A flea can live from between 14 days to one year and a female can lay up to 50 eggs in one day - that's 1,500 in a lifetime!
  • Some types of flea can leap more than a hundred times their own body length
  • It is estimated that 95 percent of flea eggs, larvae and pupae live in the environment, not on your pet
  • Prevent fleas becoming a problem by regularly treating both your pet and your home. This may need to be done all year round if your home is centrally heated.
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How to get rid of fleas and ticks

Learn how to treat pets for fleas and ticks with our handy infographic How to get rid of fleas and ticks.

RSPCA Fleas Infographic


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