"Flea dip" refers to both the process and product used to eliminate fleas, typically from dogs, as cats tend to be more difficult about the process. A flea dip involves immersion in water treated with either natural or synthetic insecticides. The animal is essentially “dipped” and then the product dries on their skin, rather than being rinsed away like shampoo. Common insecticide ingredients found in flea dip products are similar to those found in other flea products like sprays and powders, and include pyrethrin, carbaryl, and limonene.
Most dog groomers offer flea dips as a grooming service. Though it is entirely possible to purchase a dip product and attempt the procedure at home, those with excessive or unnatural aversion or fears of bugs may find the process unnerving. Many times when a dog is immersed in a flea dip, the fleas begin jumping off the animal and onto every other surface, including the "dipper." This is most evident in severe infestation cases, but some people find the process a little disturbing and would prefer it be performed by a groomer.
Squeamishness aside, a dip can be an effective flea elimination process. If performing the process at home, be sure to use a product that kills all stages of flea life – adult, larvae, pupa and egg. Most products will address all stages and are effective because they coat the dog’s skin in pesticide. Some products are also labeled effective against ticks and other pests as well. Keep in mind that this can be a harsh treatment from a chemical perspective and dogs with sensitive skin may not do well. Irritation caused by dryness and itching is always possible and even dogs that appear unaffected should not be dipped more than two or three times per year.
While flea dips are an effective way of dealing with fleas, they are not recommended for flea prevention. Most dips are effective for only 30 to 35 days and should not be repeated at frequent intervals. Therefore, other measures should be taken to prevent fleas. Effective measures include topical flea prevention medicine, pills, and collars. You can discuss flea prevention options with your veterinarian or a reputable groomer.
If a flea dip is in your pet’s future, you can find products for at home use at a pet supply retailer. Be sure to follow the manufacturer’s directions and do not use on puppies 12 weeks or younger. For flea prevention or elimination on puppies, consult a veterinarian or groomer for safe products and procedures.