How to Give Your Dog or Cat a Flea Bath

Wet dog peeks over blue bathtub
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How to get the most out of a flea bath, the start of a good flea control program. Not every itchy dog (or cat) has fleas, though. Be sure to consult with your veterinarian if your pet is itching and scratching or has inflamed skin before initiating treatment or special shampoos.

A shampoo is a good starting point for flea control, but must be used with other forms of flea control to be effective in the long term.

Here's How:

  1. Purchase a flea shampoo recommended by your vet or local pet supply store.
  2. Read the instructions carefully, and use only on animal(s) that the product is intended for. Some products are very toxic to cats. Dosing and proper usage may be different for the size and species of animal.
  3. Water temperature should be slightly warm or even cool. Dogs can overheat easily and temperatures used for most human baths are too warm.
  4. Start by getting the neck fully wet, down to the skin.
  5. Leave the rest of the body dry at this point.
  6. Apply shampoo and lather thoroughly around the neck. This prevents fleas from gathering at the ears, eyes, and face, where it is difficult to shampoo safely.
  7. Get the rest of the body wet, shampoo thoroughly, and let sit for a few minutes.
  8. Rinse very well. Flea shampoo can be very drying to the skin and coat.
  9. If your dog doesn't have existing skin problems, it is wise to follow up with a flea control conditioner or normal conditioner.


    1. Do not depend on shampooing to get rid of fleas permanently. Fleas live in the environment, and control must be aimed at getting rid of fleas where they live. Talk to your vet about an appropriate method of flea control for your pet (spray, powder, collar, or spot-on treatment) and work on environmental control.
    1. Other methods of control are environmental insecticides (foggers and bombs, yard sprays), medications given to the pet to break the flea life cycle, and daily vacuuming.
    2. Carefully read all product warnings and follow instructions closely. Using more product than recommended is dangerous. Keep all products away from children. Wash hands thoroughly after use.

    What You Need:

    • Water source: preferably a hose with a sprayer and easy access on/off switch
    • Shampoo: check with your veterinarian to know which product is best for your pet
    • Towels: Large towels to help your pet dry off (in addition to natural shake off)