flea-dog-scratching Fleas are no fun! Many of us feel overwhelmed when they pop up repeatedly, but as long as your puppy, dog, or kitten is older than seven weeks and otherwise healthy, we’ve found some strategies to help you safely get rid of fleas on your pets and in your home. Below are seven steps to fight fleas on even the most flea-infested puppies, dogs, or kittens.

To make these steps easy to follow, let’s call your pet “Fluffy.” Be sure to check with your vet before trying any of these steps with your pet.

1) Prepare a flea-free holding room
Plan out your attack. Pick one room you will use as the ‘holding’ room, ideally one with a hard floor, like a 2nd bathroom where you will not be bathing Fluffy, or the kitchen or laundry. Confine Fluffy to a different room, or in a crate. Deep clean the holding room, including removing and machine wash in hot soapy water any fabric items like sheets, curtains, rugs. This is so in step 4 you can put Fluffy back in a flea-free holding room while you de-flea the rest of your home.

2) Bathe
Important: Do not try to bathe an adult cat. It is often extremely stressful and they could hurt you trying to escape. For adult cats, or other pets you can’t bathe for health or behavior reasons, skip this bath step. Be very careful to keep young and older pets warm — kittens especially can die if they too cold.
Get two freshly washed-in-hot-water towels ready.
Use a gentle pet shampoo or Dawn dishwashing liquid. Do not use “flea” shampoo, because you’ll apply flea medication in step 6.
Put the pet in your tub or shower, pour some soap in your hand, add a little water, and make a soapy “collar” around the pet’s neck. This can prevent fleas from escaping up to your pet’s head and in to their mouth, eyes and ears! Working you way back from the “collar” towards their tail, lather Fluffy up thoroughly then rinse and watch the dead fleas go down the drain. If there are a lot of fleas, shampoo and rinse again until you see very few or no fleas when you rinse. You may want to flea comb (see next step) while the pet is soapy and in the bath.

3) Flea comb & dry
If fluffy has a short coat, comb Fluffy with a flea comb. Start at the head and work your way to the tail. Have a dish of shampoo or dish soap sitting on the side to quickly dunk and kill the fleas that you capture in the flea comb. Towel dry Fluffy – and if Fluffy needs to be kept warm (winter, older/baby pet), gently dry Fluffy’s fur completely with a hairdryer set on low from a couple feet away.

4) Close Fluffy in the holding room
Make sure the holding room is warm enough, so Fluffy doesn’t get cold. Small kittens/puppies may do best left with a warm water bottle under the flea-free, freshly-laundered towel you leave them on (monitor that they don’t chew it), or snuggled with a helper person.

5) Treat with flea control from your vet
Ask your vet what flea control product they recommend for your pet. Some products require you wait 24 hours or more after a bath before application. For pets eight weeks and older, we like Advantage® II because you can apply it as soon as Fluffy is dry. Reapply as directed (usually monthly) so you don’t have to repeat steps one to six again!

6) Deep clean your house
Vacuum rugs, sofas, curtains and hard floors. Dump your vacuum bag immediately in the trash –OUTSIDE your home. Wipe all hard surfaces with damp cloth.  When you’re done, you can let Fluffy out of the holding room! Repeat the deep cleaning daily for the next two weeks, to reduce the chances of missed flea eggs hatching and the cycle starting all over again. Machine-wash and dry anything you can (pet beds, your bed blankets/sheets) on the hottest settings. Coating floor crevices, carpet, and fabric with food-grade Diatomaceous earth (as explained by a vet, here) can help tremendously with ongoing flea control.

7) Check & treat for worms
Fleas mean Fluffy is likely to get tapeworms. Take Fluffy to your vet to get dewormed within the next week or two, or sooner if you see the tiny sesame seed/rice-looking worm segments when they go to the bathroom, stuck to their fur, or in their bedding.

These are our seven steps to a flea-free Fluffy and home. You can now enjoy your itch-free and healthy life together!

This post was modified from its original version published on April 19, 2011