Fleas on a puppy can cause serious health problems, but the typical remedies for fleas used on adult dogs cannot be used on puppies because they are too harsh. There are, however, a number of milder remedies that can be used for puppies with fleas. Bathing the puppy in a mild dishwashing soap is helpful, followed by combing. Also, the puppy’s surrounding environment should be disinfected.
It is easy to spot fleas on a puppy. They are visible as small, brown, flat insects with three sets of two legs. Fleas survive by biting their hosts and sucking their blood. Their bites cause redness and itching on most dogs, yet some dogs have little or no reaction to them.
It is not uncommon for puppies to have fleas. In fact, fleas are more of a problem for puppies than for adult dogs. While adult dogs may experience itching and discomfort from fleas, too many fleas may cause small puppies to become anemic. Anemia can lead to a number of health problems, as it weakens the immune system, which causes the puppy to be more susceptible to all kinds of illnesses.
Puppies under eight weeks of age, must be treated for fleas differently than grown dogs would be. They are more sensitive to the harsh chemicals and pesticides that are used to treat larger dogs. Fleas on a puppy should be treated with a lukewarm bath in a dishwashing detergent that is mild enough not irritate the puppy’s skin and does not contain any dangerous pesticides. After the bath, the puppy should be gently combed with a flea comb, which should remove any remaining fleas. Any live fleas that are removed with the comb should be put into a bowl of hot water to kill them.
A bath and a flea comb may kill the fleas on a puppy, but measures must be taken to be sure the puppy does not become infected again. If a puppy with fleas is still with its mother, it is most likely that the mother dog also has fleas and should be appropriately treated. All dog bedding should be washed in hot water, and the house should be thoroughly vacuumed, especially in corners and around floorboards where fleas like to live. All measures to eradicate fleas should occur on the same day. Fleas reproduce quickly, so a disinfected area may easily become infected again within a matter of days.
Once the puppy is eight weeks old, a flea infestation may be remedied in other ways. Commercial flea treatments such as Frontline® or Advantix® are widely recommended. These products are administered about once a month and kill and repel fleas and ticks. Flea killing products such as powders, shampoos, or collars are not recommended, as they are strong and may irritate a pet’s skin and are less effective than the monthly medications.