My puppy has fleas! What next?

Updated 20 June 2024
Read time: 7 mins
article author
Written by Corinne Homer
article author
Reviewed by Elle Padgham

When a dog can’t stop itching and scratching, we usually think of one thing - fleas! Fleas don’t discriminate - so even your tiny puppy can fall victim to these nasty, nibbling pests, and in fact, it can be more dangerous if they do.

Whether you’re certain your pup has fleas or you’re unsure what’s going on, understanding all about fleas and how they can affect young pups is key to getting ahead of the problem. 

Read on for our guide to these irksome bugs, how to rid your puppy of fleas if they do have them, and the best ways to prevent them from getting fleas again.


Common symptoms of flea infestations in puppies

It’s fair to assume that if your pup has fleas, they’ll be scratching incessantly! There are other symptoms, however, and scratching isn’t always the most obvious. Here’s a full list of signs your puppy has fleas:


  • More itching and scratching than usual. If you have another dog or pup, they might also be itching, and you might be itching, too. 
  • Redness of skin, or sores from repeated scratching fits.
  • Hair loss usually occurs when the fleas haven’t been treated for a while.
  • Flea dirt on puppy’s skin, bed, and on furnishings. These usually look like white and black flakes (these are flea eggs and dried blood). 
  • Seeing live fleas in pup’s fur or on fabrics, furnishings.
  • Signs of anaemia. Puppies are so small that a flea infestation might cause them to lose too much blood. If they have anaemic signs like pale gums, and become weak, get them to a vet immediately. 

Importance of early flea treatment for puppies

Fleas aren’t something you can ignore. It’s important for all dogs to get flea treatment to avoid discomfort and soreness (and spreading them to other dogs - and humans!). For puppies, though, it’s even more urgent to get the problem sorted. 

This is because puppies are more at risk of developing health conditions from untreated fleas, such as flea allergy dermatitis (F.A.D. - basically an allergy to fleas), anaemia, or transmittable conditions such as tapeworms. This is also a really important time for puppies to socialise and be around other dogs and pups - but a baby pooch who’s distracted by the discomfort of fleas might be less receptive to making friends, and it could cause behavioural issues.

Choosing a flea treatment for puppies

So, you quite rightly want to keep fleas away from your pup. What are the next things to consider?

  • Age and weight of puppy. The type of flea treatment you administer really depends on the size of your pup and whether they’re at the right age for it. Usually, they should be at least 8 weeks old. If they’re younger than this and have somehow contracted fleas, they’ll need a much gentler flea treatment (consult your vet).  

  • Needs and sensitivities. If your baby pooch has sensitive skin or allergies, you’ll need to look for a treatment that considers that, too.

  • Getting the right product. There are different types of flea treatment (see below), and you’ll need to decide which will most suit your specific pup. 

  • Consultation with a vet. Chat with a vet over the choices for flea treatment, they can give you more tailored advice. 

Types of flea treatments for puppies 

There are a number of different methods you can use to combat these nibbly critters and keep your puppy flea-free. 


  • Topical flea treatments. These are drops applied regularly (usually monthly), directly onto your pup’s skin. The treatment is absorbed into your dog’s coat and throughout their body to prevent fleas catching hold. 

  • Oral flea medications. These come as tablets or treats that kill flea eggs your dog may have ingested, therefore preventing the problem from the inside. 

  • Flea shampoos and sprays. Apply shampoo or spray to the skin and fur to kill off live fleas and eggs directly.

  • Flea collars can be worn constantly around a pup’s neck, and contain an insecticide that will kill off any fleas the pup comes into contact with.

How to administer flea treatment to puppies

  • Prepare your pup. Be sure your pup is calm and in a comfortable, well-lit area before you try applying the flea treatment. You might want to give them a bath first to gently scrub their skin and fur, and remove any live fleas you encounter. If you’ve bathed them, allow your pup to completely dry before taking the next step.

  • Prepare your station. Have your tools ready, such as gloves, towels or whatever else is needed according to the instructions on your flea treatment.

  • Apply the treatment according to the directions on the packaging, or vet advice:
    • Topical flea treatment is applied directly between your puppy’s shoulder blades with a dropper. Keep an eye on them afterwards to see how they react. 
    • When giving oral medication like tablets, follow guidance on the pack. Sometimes you get a dripper to apply drops directly into pup’s mouth; or you might want to try mixing with some of their food.
    • If using flea shampoo, the treatment occurs during the bath. Be sure the flea shampoo is for pups, and gently work a lather into your pooch’s skin and fur. Pay attention to places fleas are harder to see, such as around the base of the tail and in the chest fur. 
    • If using a flea spray for puppies, again pay attention to areas fleas hide, and get good coverage with the spray. If you want to, you can massage it into the fur. Wait for the spray to dry, don’t wash it off.

    • Keep a close eye on your pup after administering treatment. Try to deter them from licking or grooming themselves too much afterwards. If they have any adverse reactions, you’ll need to get in touch with a vet. 

    How to prevent flea infestations in puppies

    It’s one thing getting the pesky fleas out once they’ve made a home in your puppy's fur, but prevention is always better than cure. So how do you prevent fleas from returning? 


    Get them groomed regularly. Getting your puppy a grooming routine with regular baths and coat trims will keep you on top of what’s going on with their skin and fur, so signs of fleas will be spotted before they get worse.  

    Give regular flea treatment. Keep a reminder for when your pup’s flea treatment needs topping up. Keeping a schedule in place is essential, so your dog is always protected and has a limited risk of ever picking up fleas. 

    Keep your home flea-free. It’s not just living beings that need to be checked for fleas - the live fleas and their eggs can get caught in cushions, fabrics, clothes and toys. If your pup has had fleas, be sure to inspect and treat your house, too. Launder everything you can, vacuum thoroughly and use home flea control products to keep your house environment a flea-free zone. 

    Don’t forget your puppy’s living space. Pay particular attention to your puppy’s bed, crate, toys and blankets - these will need to be thoroughly cleaned to stop fleas from re-infesting your pup and spreading around the home.

    Be aware of flea risks. Once your puppy is out and about, they might be in situations where fleas are of a bigger danger. If they’re mixing with stray dogs, visiting a farm or going somewhere off-grid, for instance, be aware that the flea-risk is high and keep your pooch close.

    Regularly check your puppy for fleas. Keeping your dog clean and free of pests and parasites is something you’ll do for them for the rest of their lives. Pick up your puppy regularly and examine their fur and skin while cuddling or petting them. 

    Fleas aren’t a big deal, so long as you treat them quickly. By being aware of the warning signs and keeping their treatment topped up, your puppy should continually curb fleas and live a happy life, calm and comfortable in their own skin. 


    Here are some final questions answered about treating your puppy for fleas… 

    When can you start flea treatment on a puppy?

    Puppies usually shouldn’t get flea treatment until they’re 8 weeks old or more. Before this, it’s generally deemed unnecessary as the pup ideally won’t be out and about, or be at risk of contracting fleas from their very controlled environment. From 8 weeks, you should start them on a regular flea treatment schedule to keep them protected as they start going outside and being socialised.

    What flea treatment is best for puppies?

    Which flea treatment you choose is up to you and what you think most suits your particular puppy. Many find a topical treatment works best as you can drop that directly onto their body, between the shoulder blades, and it causes the least amount of fuss for a wriggly pup. Chat to your vet if you need more specific guidance.

    How do you treat a two week old puppy for fleas?

    If your poor tiny two-week-old has somehow contracted fleas, it’s important to consult a vet for advice. Flea treatment is too strong for such tiny, vulnerable animals, so a manual approach is usually recommended - such as bathing the young puppy and removing any live fleas with your fingers or a soft grooming tool. 

    When can I bathe my puppy after flea treatment?

    It’s important not to bathe your pup straight away after flea treatment, as you want to give it time to soak in and take effect. Always follow the directions on the packaging, or as advised by your vet - however it’s usually from a few hours to 24 hours after treatment. Once you bathe them, use a very gentle shampoo and don’t scrub them too thoroughly.

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