How to Give Your Dog or Cat a Flea Bath

Flea Bath Essentials from Shampoo to Drying

Wet dog peeks over blue bathtub
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A flea bath is the start of a good flea control program. Not every itchy dog or cat has fleas, though. Before starting a treatment or doing a flea bath, you should consult with your veterinarian if your pet is itching and scratching, especially if you do not see any fleas, or if your pet has inflamed skin.

Keep in mind that a shampoo is a good starting point for flea control, but in the long run, it should be used with other forms of flea control to be effective.

Steps for Bathing Your Pet

There are several steps to bathing your pet, from the purchase of the correct shampoo to drying your pet. Read through the instructions and make sure you have everything you need to get started, including water source (hose or sprayer, preferred); shampoo; and towels.

Flea Shampoo

The first step is to purchase a flea shampoo recommended by your vet or local pet supply store. Before you buy it, read the instructions carefully, and use the shampoo only on ​the type of animal(s) that the product is intended for. For example, some dog products are considered toxic to cats. Dosing and proper usage may be different for the size and species of animal.

Washing Area and Water Temperature

The water temperature should be slightly warm or even cool. Dogs can overheat easily and temperatures used for most human baths are too warm. As for where to wash your dog or cat, you can use a tub, sink, or outdoor space (leashed would be easiest if you are outside). If you are outdoors, then a hose with a trigger or an on and off switch would be the obvious choice.

Technique for Washing

Start by getting the neck fully wet, down to the skin. Leave the rest of the body dry at this point. Apply shampoo and lather thoroughly around the neck. This prevents fleas from gathering at the ears, eyes, and face, where it is difficult to shampoo safely. Get the rest of the body wet, shampoo thoroughly, and let the shampoo sit for a few minutes.

Finish Off

Rinse out the flea shampoo very well. Flea shampoo can be very drying to the skin and coat. If you are washing a dog and it does not have existing skin problems, then follow up with a flea control conditioner or normal conditioner. Make sure you have large towels to help your pet dry off. You can expect that your dog or cat may do a few shake offs, but if you are inside, then a good towel drying may help reduce the amount of wetness a wet pet can spread around your home.

Environmental Control of Fleas

Do not depend on shampooing to get rid of fleas permanently. Fleas live in the environment, and control must be aimed at getting rid of fleas where they live. Talk to your vet about an appropriate method of flea control for your pet, his bedding, and your home. This can include any combination of a spray, powder, collar, or a spot-on treatment.

Other methods of control are environmental insecticides, such as foggers or yard sprays, medications given to the pet to break the flea life cycle, and daily vacuuming.

Words of Caution

You will want to carefully read all product warnings and follow instructions closely. Do not use more product than recommended, it can be dangerous. As usual, keep all products away from children and wash your hands thoroughly after shampooing your pets.