Fleas in Dogs

Fleas in dogs have been mentioned in 1824

Among the numerous inconveniences to which the canine race are liable, I hardly know one more troublesome to themselves, or vexatious to their owners, than this common one of fleas. It becomes, therefore, a very frequent inquiry — How they can be destroyed, or how they can be prevented from accumulating? — Washing the body well with soap-suds, and directly afterwards carefully combing it with a small-toothed comb, are the most ready means of dislodging these nimble gentry. But it must be remembered, that the previous washing is only to enable the comb more readily to overtake them: the water does not destroy them, for dogs, who swim every day, are still found to have fleas. These insects are very tenacious of life, and soon recover this temporary drowning; the comb, therefore, is principally to be depended on for their caption before they recover. But as washing is not, in many instances, a salutary practice, and as, in many others, it is a very inconvenient one, so it becomes a matter worthy of consideration how to be enabled to destroy them without these means.

Sopping the skin with tobacco water has been recommended; but it has only a momentary effect, and it not unfrequently poisons the dog. — See Mange. — Innumerable other means I have tried to drive away fleas, but the only tolerable certain one I have discovered, is to make dogs sleep on fresh yellow deal shavings. These shavings may be made so fine as to be as soft as a feather bed; and, if changed every week or fortnight, they make the most cleanly and wholesome one that a dog can sleep on. But, where this is absolutely impracticable, it will be found useful to rub or dredge the dog’s hide, once or twice a week, with very finely powdered rosin; if simply rubbed in, add some bran. Fleas are not only troublesome, but, by the irritation they occasion, they produce a tendency to mange.

Selections from the book Canine pathology; or, a description of the diseases of dogs & c. & c. by Blaine, Delabere (London, 1824)

Fleas in dogs have been mentioned in 1878

Fleas are one of the common pests of dog life. Not only are they a perpetual annoyance, but an indirect cause of much mischief, from the remedies sometimes adopted for their destruction. As more or less in all parasitic associations, un-cleanliness favours their presence. In hot weather they are more abundant, and increase very rapidly.


Among the popular remedies for the destruction of fleas may be mentioned: Persian insect powder, various dog-soaps, paraffine, benzoline, tobacco-water, carbolic acid solutions, etc.

I usually, and with success, prescribe the following:

Spts. Camph ……………. 1 drachm.

Ol. Terebinth …………… ½ drachm.

Acid Carbolic …………… 10 minims.

A tablespoonful, in half a pint of chilled water, to be rubbed into the skin with a piece of flannel. Wash off in twenty-four hours with soft-soap and warm water, and repeat in three days, if necessary.

Gamgee observes: “The best remedy that I have used for fleas is oil of aniseed in common oil. The clog or cat must be well smeared, and a few hours afterwards is to be washed with soap and water. It is essential to attend to cleanliness, and to destroy all fleas or their larvae wherever dogs are accustomed to sleep, such as in kennels,” etc.

Fresh fine shavings, or sawdust, on which turpentine may be slightly sprinkled, forms a protective bedding from fleas.

Selections from the book The management and diseases of the dog by Hill, John Woodroffe (London, 1878)

Fleas in dogs have been mentioned in 1889

Fleas keep a dog so busily employed scratching and biting himself that he gets but little sleep or rest. Between fleas and scratching much irritation of the skin is produced which in time assumes an eczematous form.

Besides the annoyance, the coat is gnawed off or torn out by the nails, giving to what has been a. beautifully coated animal, a ragged, unkept and unthrifty appearance. Constant vigilance is the price of keeping dogs free of fleas in warm weather, particularly if a number are kennelled together. An animal may be entirely rid of them one day, and have quantities the next, as they do not confine their homes for propagation to the dog’s coat, but will breed in bedding, carpets or sand, or the animal may get them from coming in contact with other dogs or cats harboring the ever busy Pulex irritans (Plea). In consequence of the rapid increase of these pests in sand, the dogs of California are much troubled with them. I might add the human race as well.


For the destruction of these external parasites, all mercurial preparations, though efficacious, should not be used for the reasons given in the treatment of mange. Carbolic soap, or a solution of carbolic acid, is recommended, but I am opposed to their use from the fact that anything containing carbolic acid is injurious to the skin and coat, drying up the natural oils, thus rendering them dry and harsh. I use carbolic acid on dogs only as an antiseptic in case of abscesses, ulcers, unhealthy sores, or after operating. Glover’s Mange Cure is instant death to fleas and will at the same time allay all irritation caused by scratching, etc.

If applied once or twice a week and allowed to remain on, fleas will not approach an animal so treated. On house or yet dogs it may be applied and washed off immediately after, and not a flea will be left alive. For toy dogs and those with particularly delicate skins my Kennel Soap might be tried, as it contains all the medicinal properties of the mange cure, but necessarily considerably modified by the body of the soap, which is of the finest of cocoanut and olive oils, avoiding even the use of potash in its manufacture, as all alkalies are destructive to the coat, and common soaps are largely made up of them.

Selections from the book Diseases of the dog by Glover, H. Clay (New York, 1889)

Fleas in dogs have been mentioned in 1911

Ceratopsyllus Canis, Pulex Canis, the Dog Flea

The true dog flea, as well as the human flea (pulex irritans), is found in the dog. The former is distinguished from the latter by its size, by the different length of its tentacles, and by the presence of a number of sharp hairs arranged in a comb-like layer along the side of the head. Coarse breeds of dogs are not particularly affected by the bites of fleas, but pet dogs and delicately bred animals scratch and rub to such an extent as to cause irritated splotches and redness over the entire body, and lead the owner to believe that the animal is affected with mange. The skin is also filled with the small brownish-black excrement of the flea. If the fleas are removed from the skin by a bath or in some other manner, we may relieve the itching and irritation by the application of some soothing solution.

Therapeutic Treatment

Fleas are best removed by means of Persian insect powder (Flores pyrethri). This must be moistened with alcohol and rubbed into the hair. The animal must stand on a sheet of paper while this is being done, as the flea is not killed, but is only temporarily stupefied by the action of the drug, and falls on the paper. The paper with its contents must be burned. Another method is to take the dog out in a field away from the kennel and rub him thoroughly with spirits of camphor, and the fleas fall on the ground and soon die. The placing of cedar shavings, walnut leaves or pine shavings, in dogs’ kennels tends to keep away the parasites. Parsely seed and absinthe powder are also useful. In fine pet animals the daily rubbing into the skin of spirits of camphor drives away the fleas and the camphor left on the skin after the alcohol evaporates has a tendency to keep the fleas away. Rubbing with laurel oil, or a mild solution of creolin (2 per cent.) may be tried, the latter, however, being apt to roughen the hair in soft-haired dogs. The blankets or cushions where the dog sleeps should occasionally be subjected to heat. The best plan is to put the blankets or cushions in an oven that is moderately warm, and leave them there for ten or fifteen minutes. This destroys the parasites and kills the germ in the eggs. In a kennel the washing of the floor with corrosive sublimate solution 1 to 300, or creolin 1 to 100, and allowing the solution to go down between the cracks where the eggs lie is particularly useful.

Pulex Penetrans, Sarcopsylla Penetrans (Sand Flea)

This is somewhat smaller than the dog flea and is found in America and since 1872 in certain parts of Africa. It lives in sand and on weeds. It lives on man as well as the dog, and while the mature male and virgin female cause little or no inconvenience, the pregnant female burrows into the skin, burrowing until the head is in the skin, leaving the body protruding. In a few days the body, in consequence of the development of numerous eggs, grows to an enormous size in proportion to its normal size, sometimes getting as large as a pea. It causes more or less itching while it is in the skin, and if the dog should gnaw and kill the insect, it is apt to act as an irritant, causing suppuration and in some cases necrosis of the skin. Great care must be used in removing these ticks, as careless removal, as has just been said, causes irritation and abscess. Saturate a pad of cotton with chloroform or ether and lay it over the parasite which immediately liberates its holding hooks in the skin and falls off.

Selections from the book Diseases of the dog and their treatment by Muller, Georg Alfred (Chicago, 1911)

Fleas in dogs have been mentioned in 1998

When a dog parasite is mentioned, everyone immediately thinks of fleas. But as long as you take a few preventive measures, fleas usually aren’t much of a problem for most dogs. However, there are some dogs that develop an allergy to fleas. An allergic dog will break out with a rash, scratch, and be miserable if even one flea takes up residence in its coat.

Fleas are little, quick-moving, Hat, brown insects that suck blood and annoy dogs and people. And dog fleas will bite people! Sandy, dry areas are favorite spots for fleas, and there are geographic locations where fleas are very prevalent. Fleas do not spend their life on the dog but hop off and on. This is why, when treating the dog with a flea powder or spray, you should also treat its bedding, rug, or sleeping area — even the house and carpet if the fleas are numerous.

An herbal flea deterrent, such as a pennyroyal mixture, either powdered on the dog or in a flea collar, often works when fleas are not numerous on the dog. If this is not successful, you can use a powder or spray containing rotenone, which is generally safe and effective. Dust or spray weekly for three weeks for surest results. Even more effective, but slightly more work, is using a shampoo containing rotenone. There are new flea remedies on the market that seem effective, but I question their toxicity and would recommend their use only in truly serious flea infestations.

If your home gets infested with fleas (which can happen even with no animals in the house), it is best to call an exterminator. Most flea sprays on the market will kill fleas, but the exterminator will be experienced in knowing the favorite hiding places and will know how to get maximum kill with a minimum of spray. It is a good idea to tell your exterminator that you are concerned about using undue toxic chemicals in your home, as there are certainly alternatives!

Selections from the book Veterinary guide for animal owners : cattle, goats, sheep, horses, pigs, poultry, rabbits, dogs, cats by Spaulding, C. E; Clay, Jackie (Emmaus, Pennsylvania, 1998)