6 Things to Know About Flea Dips for Dogs

Amanda Simonson, DVM
Written by:
Published: July 6, 2022
6 Things to Know About Flea Dips for Dogs

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For decades people have used flea dips to remove fleas from their animals. This method dates back to 1900s as a method of flea control. Eventually, flea dips were adopted for the treatment of domesticated pets. It’s important to know the following information about flea dips for dogs before you discuss their use with your veterinarian.

What Are Flea Dips for Dogs?

Fleas are irritating and offensive blood-sucking parasites that carry diseases harmful to humans and animals. Flea dips are a method of killing fleas with a liquid insecticide product poured on the dog’s fur and left on its skin to dry. This is somewhat different from shampoos that are applied and washed off.

Flea dips contain active ingredients such as permethrin, pyrethrin, dioctyl sodium sulfosuccinate, undecylenic acid, and limonene. These ingredients are insecticidal, or toxic to fleas. Permethrin and pyrethrin can be toxic to cats, so consider the toxicity dangers if you own both dogs and cats. Limonene is a natural type of product but available only in a shampoo, not a dip.

When To Use Flea Dips for Dogs

You may consider a flea dip for your dog if you find signs of a flea infestation, and you will be doing the dip process yourself. Reasonably priced flea dip products are available in pet stores and online. A prescription is not required.  

Flea dipping your dog is a physical process where medicated liquid is applied onto your dog with a sponge, either in the bathtub or outdoors. This can be a bit of a challenge if the dog is large or you have trouble bending or lifting. It can also be a problem if  your pet does not like the bathtub. Some groomers offer a flea dip service for dogs.

Because flea dips contain insecticides, it is best to consult your veterinarian for recommendations on their use and potential risks. Typically, a flea dip cannot be used in addition to an oral, topical, or flea collar medication, because exposing your dog to too many chemicals at once can overwhelm their system. 

How Do Flea Dips Work?

Permethrin insecticide products in flea dips kill fleas by disrupting the nervous system. Limonene is a flea dip ingredient that kills fleas due to the effect it has on the respiratory system. Dioctyl sodium sulfosuccinate and undecylenic acid can also kill fleas by attacking the skeletal system.

Before doing a flea dip, bathe your dog with a cleansing shampoo. Always refer to the directions on the flea dip label before you start. You may want to wear an apron, safety goggles, and gloves when applying the dip on your dog.  

Flea dips are often sponged on the dog or mixed with water for the dog to be “dipped” into. You should avoid applying the mixture to sensitive areas such as the dog’s eyes and ears. Flea dips are not meant to be rinsed, so the insecticide should remain to dry on your dog’s skin.  

Flea dips are safe and effective when used as directed. However, some chemicals in flea dips may be harsh for people and pets causing skin irritation or dryness. Many flea dip products are labeled for dogs and puppies that are four months or older and should not be used on younger dogs.

Flea dip products containing permethrin are toxic and even lethal to cats. If you have cats and dogs, you may want to consider a different way of treating fleas instead of using a flea dip. Since the insecticide is not washed off with a dip (it dries on the dog’s coat), there is a risk for your cat to groom your dog and accidentally ingest the medicine.

Flea dips often require frequent reapplication (some last 28 to 35 days). Some flea dips will treat multiple stages of the flea’s life cycle, while others only target a specific stage. 

In addition to applying flea dip on your dog, it’s important to treat the home environment and additional pets in the home. A flea infestation will cause havoc to your house unless the environment is properly cleaned, and other pets are cleared of fleas. It’s critical to treat and kill all stages of the flea’s life cycle: egg, larva, pupa, and adult.

Flea dips are used as a flea treatment once a dog has been diagnosed with a flea infestation, but flea dips are not a prevention. Many other products are available (either prescription or over the counter) for prevention and treatment. These alternatives can be pills, topical spot-on products, collars, powders, combs, and other forms.

Best Flea Dips for Dogs

Common permethrin and pyrethrin containing products are:

Product containing dioctyl sodium sulfosuccinate and undecylenic acid is:

Product containing limonene is:

  • D’Limonene Fragrance Dip and Shampoo Additive

How Much Do Flea Dips Cost?

Flea dips are an effective and affordable flea treatment option. Cost ranges from $10 for a self-administered treatment, to $100 for a groomer to perform the dip. If you apply the flea dip at home yourself, follow all directions indicated on the label. If you have personal physical limitations, or your dog is too large or too nervous around a bathtub, a groomer may be able to perform the flea dip.  

Homemade Flea Dips for Dogs

Many people are interested in using common household products to remove fleas. Recipes contain distilled white vinegar, apple cider vinegar, dish liquids such as Dawn dish soap, aloe vera gel, and essential oils.

Many of these recipes may help temporarily or sound appealing because they are made of natural ingredients. However, most of these products, even in combination, do not kill the fleas or treat the multiple stages of a flea’s life cycle. Some of these products may also cause irritation to your pet’s sensitive flea-infested skin.

Veterinarians typically recommend using a product that has been specifically tested and approved by the FDA (Food and Drug Administration) or EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) for use as a flea treatment.

References

  1. Food and Drug Administration. Fact Sheet for Pet Owners and Veterinarians about Potential Adverse Events Associated with Isoxazoline Flea and Tick Products . August 2021.

  2. Toynton, K., Luukinen, B., Buhl, K., Stone D. Permethrin General Fact Sheet. National Pesticide Information Center, Oregon State University Extension Services; 2009. 

Featured Image: iStock.com/NickyLloyd


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