Do all Dog Shampoos Kill Fleas? (Vet Explains)

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do all dog shampoos kill fleas

You’ve just found some fleas on your pooch (and they’re scratching like crazy) but alas you don’t have any flea treatment left and you’re wondering what you can use to dispatch these pesky creatures. Flea shampoos don’t need a prescription to purchase but that doesn’t mean they don’t work – the instructions need to be followed strictly in order to achieve the best results. 

If you’re out of flea shampoo then you might be thinking, “why not just use regular grooming shampoo, probably just as good right? Well, read on to find out if it will be useful to your pooch…

Will any dog Shampoo kill fleas?

Using your dog’s regular shampoo may actually help in this situation and it certainly won’t hurt your pooch (except their feelings if they hate being bathed). 

While it’s unlikely that a significant number of fleas will be killed during this exercise, a good sudsy bath will help to “drown” some of these pests. Add in brushing your pooch’s coat through with a flea comb and you’ll certainly reduce the number of fleas on your pooch’s skin. A bath will also help soothe your dog’s skin and reduce itching. 

Non-medicated shampoos won’t kill significant numbers of fleas, however, some will drown in the act of bathing. Some fleas will also be rinsed off your pooch with the lather.

Do Dog Shampoos Kill Flea Eggs?

Non-medicated shampoos won’t actively kill flea eggs, in fact, only the medication permethrin in some shampoos stops flea eggs from developing further. This effectively kills the eggs. 

Flea eggs are quite sticky and are attached to your furbaby’s hair shafts so washing alone isn’t sufficient to clear them fully from your pooch. 

Regular shampoo won’t kill flea eggs. Flea combs are a great addition to bath time to help strip fleas and eggs from your dog’s fur. 

Do I Need to Use a Special Shampoo for Fleas?

Ideally, yes you should use a special flea treatment shampoo if you don’t want to use another treatment method (oral or topical medications) to manage fleas on your pooch. 

If you’re using other flea control methods then you can bathe your pooch in any dog shampoo that you choose. The only limit is what suits your dog if they have sensitive skin. 

If you plan on using bathing and shampoo as the sole or primary method of flea control on your dog then using a special medicated shampoo is advisable. 

How do Flea Shampoos Differ from Regular Shampoos in Killing Fleas?

Medicated flea shampoos contain active ingredients that have been proven to target and kill insects, namely fleas on your canine companion. 

Ingredients such as permethrin or pyrethrin have been studied and proven efficacious at killing fleas without harming dogs when used appropriately. 

While these shampoos don’t necessarily need a prescription to purchase they do differ from non-medicated shampoos that are designed to cleanse your pooch’s skin and fur.

Flea shampoos are specially formulated with medications that paralyze and kill fleas on dogs while “normal” shampoos are designed to cleanse skin and fur. 

Does Flea Shampoo Kill Fleas Immediately?

The key to killing fleas using specific medicated shampoos is contact time with the parasites so always read the instructions on your chosen product. 

Most products require a contact time on your dog’s skin of up about 10 minutes. Be prepared for these bathtimes with treats and toys to distract even the most patient of pooches. 

Medicated flea shampoos work almost immediately, bathing requires about 10 minutes of allowing the lathered shampoo to sit on your dog’s skin and fur in order to get the best results. 

What Can I Wash My Dog with to Kill Fleas Right Now?

If you don’t have a specific flea treatment shampoo on hand you can bathe your pooch in their regular grooming shampoo which will help to soothe the itch and may “drown” some of the fleas on their skin. 

Couple this with brushing through their fur with a flea comb and you’ll kill and remove more fleas than you might think. 

You don’t need to use any harsh chemical shampoos, just a regular grooming shampoo will work without being too harsh on your dog’s skin. 

Can Dish Soap Kill Fleas Safely?

Dish detergents don’t contain any ingredients that actively target and kill fleas so the only way it may reduce fleas on your canine companion is through “drowning” and mechanical removing when rinsing the lather. 

Both of these actions can be performed perfectly well using a dog-specific grooming shampoo that’s safe for their skin. 

Dish soaps are quite harsh as they’re designed to remove grease and stubborn stains from dishes. As you can imagine this is quite destructive to your dog’s fragile skin and shouldn’t be used to bathe your dog ever. 

Can I Use Human Shampoo to Kill Fleas?

Human shampoos are unsuitable for our canine companion’s skin. They are acidic in pH which suits human skin but not canine skin which tends to be more alkaline in nature. 

Dogs also have thinner skin than us humans so scrubbing with an acidic shampoo to kill fleas won’t benefit anyone, least of all your pooch. 

You should bathe your dog using their own grooming shampoo if you don’t have a medicated flea treatment product to hand. 

Don’t use human shampoo to treat fleas on your fur baby, these shampoos can be harsh and dry out your dog’s delicate skin which can lead to even more problems such as bacterial or yeast infections. 

How Often Should I Bathe my Dog with Fleas?

The frequency of bathing your pooch depends on the product you’re using as each will have its own requirements. 

Shampoos have a poor prolonged action and so tend to require that you bathe your dog every 2 weeks or so. 

If you’re using a topical product too then you shouldn’t bathe your pooch too frequently as that can reduce the efficacy of the medication. 

If you need to bathe your pooch while using other products then use a flea comb to improve the elimination process, even on dry fur. 

The frequency of bathing varies depending on the product you’re using. As bathing alone (without a medicated shampoo) is insufficient, you should use medicated products to help maintain your dog parasite-free. Flea combs are also a great help to remove some of these pesky bugs.

What is the Difference Between Flea shampoos and Other Flea Treatments?

Flea shampoos tend to have poor residual action after their immediate use. While they start to work almost immediately without needing a prolonged absorption time (most just need 10 minutes of contact with your pooch to work as intended); they tend to need frequent re-application in order to maintain a flea-free status for your pooch. This frequent bathing can be too harsh for some dogs with sensitive skin so I recommend adding in a topical or oral product for complete protection without damaging your furbaby’s skin and fur. 

The two other main forms of flea treatment are oral or topical (spot-on) treatments:

  • Oral treatments tend to not be affected by frequent bathing, fleas have to actually bite your dog in order to be killed which is a drawback. 
  • Topical treatments tend to be monthly applications between your dog’s shoulder blades and need time to absorb before your dog can be bathed. These products are affected by frequent bathing. 

Flea shampoos don’t have good residual action and using topical or oral products may be more efficacious for some dogs (especially those whose skin can’t tolerate frequent bathing). Topical treatments are affected by frequent bathing while the oral products require that the flea bites your dog in order to be killed. No product is perfect. 

The Final Woof

Fleas are a pesky nemesis of many a dog pawrent and we all want the best for our fur babies when it comes to treating and preventing these nasty critters. 

Occasionally we get caught short though, whether you’ve not had a chance to update their flea preventative medication or you just happen to find some nasty bugs on your fur baby’s skin at the end of a treatment cycle, it happens. 

Having some flea shampoo in your cupboard is a great backup for these situations but you might run out or the product expires usually just as you need them most. If that’s the case and you’re stuck with an itchy and irritated fur baby crawling with fleas you can whip out their usual grooming shampoo in a pinch. 

Bathing your pooch with a soothing dog-specific shampoo will help reduce some of the flea burden on your dog by “drowning” the pests and mechanically removing some in the lathering and rinsing process. If you have a flea comb this will help to remove even more. 

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Since graduating from Dublin, Ireland in 2013 with an honors Veterinary Medicine degree, Edele has enjoyed working with as many species of animal as possible. Edele is currently working in clinical practice while studying towards Advanced Practitioner status with the RCVS in the UK. Passionate about education and writing, Edele’s goal is to maximize the pet-owner bond and welfare through education accessible to everyone. Never found without her middle-aged Weimaraner, Purdy (who still thinks she’s 18 months old), Edele spends her limited time outdoors with her horses, hiking and traveling home to Ireland to spend time with family.

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