How to Bathe a Dog Before Flea Treatment

Easy
10 - 30 Minutes
1 Month

Introduction

While bathing his dog Rex, Mike notices some little specks crawling around on his dog, then one of them jumps onto Mike!  Fleas! Fortunately, they do not infest humans but they can jump onto a human, and even bite while they are on your skin before moving on to a preferred furry host. 

The problem is, now that Rex has been bathed, can Mike give him flea treatment right away? The answer depends on your method of flea treatment, but is basically, yes. The trick is that, depending on the method of treatment, you may probably want to completely dry your dog before applying flea treatment so as not to dilute the medication when applied.  Some flea treatments suggest waiting for a day to two for natural body oils to return, which may allow for better distribution of some medications and protect your dog's skin from harsh chemicals. However, when fleas are around time may be of the essence!

Dog's Perspective

Your dog is not going to be very happy about having fleas, they are itchy, pesky, critters.  You will probably notice your dog scratching, licking and biting at his coat. The sooner you can get rid of them the better. You may need to completely dry your dog before applying the treatment and if his skin is already irritated from fleas, a thorough drying may be even more irritating, so be prepared to be understanding and gentle with your dog.

The Dry Thoroughly Method

Effective
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Dryer
Towel
Step
1
Towel dry
After bathing your dog, pat dry with a towel.
Step
2
Partially air dry
Allow your dog to air dry for a few hours, preferably outside, in a warm, dry, spot, before blow drying. Blow drying right away after a bath can cause heated moisture at the skin's surface and cause your dog to sweat. This will not allow your dog to dry as thoroughly and will cause irritated, flea infested skin to become extremely itchy.
Step
3
Blow dry
Once your dog is partially air dry, start blow drying on a medium setting.
Step
4
Part hair
Part hair in sections down to the skin and blow dry at the roots first, brushing and working to the tips.
Step
5
Get every nook and cranny
Move all over your dog's body, paying special attention to areas behind the ears, collar area, tail base, armpits and belly. Make sure your dog is thoroughly dry before applying topical flea treatments.
Recommend grooming method?

The Alternative Solutions Method

Effective
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Step
1
Use spot treatment
Use an anti flea spot treatment that only requires you to completely dry one area, usually between your dog's shoulder blades, before application. This area is easy to dry, and this type of treatment absorbs through the skin and effects fleas through the blood they ingest, so does not rely on body oils to be distributed.
Step
2
Use long acting flea collar
Or, use a waterproof flea collar, that will not be impaired by moisture present on your dog after a bath. The medication on the collar may require body oils to distribute. Since moisture will not impair the collar's functioning, body oil returning in the days after your dogs bath will distribute medication, although some delay in effectiveness may occur.
Step
3
Flea bath
Or, give your dog a medicated flea bath or dip immediately after initial bathing. It may be advised to dry your dog first, as moisture already present on the skin can dilute medicated shampoo and render it less effective.
Step
4
Use oral medication
Or, provide your dog with oral flea medication that enters your dog's bloodstream and affects fleas when they take a blood meal. This method does not depend on body oils or dry skin to be effective.
Step
5
Wait
Or, wait 24 to 48 hours for body oils to return before applying some topical flea treatments for best results.
Recommend grooming method?

Caution & Considerations

  • Do not use multiple types of flea treatments as medications can build up and make your dog very ill. Choose one method and follow instructions on dosage carefully.
  • Be careful when giving a flea bath after a regular bath as multiple baths can dry skin and moisture already present can dilute flea medications.
  • Ensure your dog is dry before applying topical flea medications so the medication is not diluted and to avoid requiring multiple treatments, which can result in toxicity to your dog.
  • When drying your dog thoroughly, be careful to use low to medium heat, so as not to burn or irritate already compromised skin.
  • Do not let your dog lick off topical flea treatments that could make him sick if ingested.

Conclusion

It is pretty common to discover fleas on your dog during a bath, and then need to apply flea treatment immediately afterward. You have a few options to ensure the effectiveness of the medication. Carefully dry your dog so that medication applied to a damp or wet dog is not diluted, which can reduce its effectiveness, or wait for a day to two until your dog is dry and body oils have returned. You can also choose to use a flea treatment such as oral medication that is not affected by your dog's moisture level. 

Remember fleas are pesky, but treatable, and rarely cause serious complications or disease. Clean your dog's bedding and environment as well to prevent reinfestation.

Success Stories and Grooming Questions

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