Basic care

How Long After Flea Treatment Can I Bathe My Dog?

Josie F. Turner
By Josie F. Turner, Journalist specialized in Animal Welfare. December 11, 2018
How Long After Flea Treatment Can I Bathe My Dog?

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Deworming is an essential part of maintaining our dog's well-being. There are some who see it as a waste of time and expense. Doing so is to trivialize the many serious health problems which your dog can contract through parasitical infestation. Many of these remain asymptomatic as the disease takes hold, doing damage without you noticing until it is too late. Flea treatment is one of the most common deworming products which often includes a formula for ticks as well. As you want to keep your dog protected, you won't want to do anything to lower the efficacy of these deworming products.

This is why AnimalWised asks how long after flea treatment can I bathe my dog? We will let you know what to consider when you are thinking about as well as providing some background information on proper antiparasitic treatment for your dog.

You may also be interested in: Can I Bathe My Cat After Vaccination?
  1. How is flea treatment applied?
  2. How to apply spot-on flea treatment
  3. The effect of bathing on flea treatment
  4. How soon can I bathe my dog after flea treatment?
  5. Other tips for flea treatment

How is flea treatment applied?

As we said above, flea treatment is usually applied in a serum which also has tick repellent. As ticks are arachnids and fleas are insects, the antiparasitics being known as acaricide and insecticide, respectively. This is a special formula which usually contains different active ingredients. This is because fleas can be transferred in different ways. Adult fleas might jump on the host (in this case your dog), but eggs might also be passed on or the adult flea leaves and larval stage fleas are left behind. The formula needs to both kill the fleas and ensure no eggs or larvae are able to develop.

Flea and tick repellent can come in powder form, but this is somewhat outdated. The most common modern flea treatments include:

  • Spot-on flea treatment: this is a ready made topical formula which usually comes in a prepackaged pipette. It speads over the skin, killing adult fleas and stopping developmental growth.
  • Antiparasitic tablets: these are tablets which are taken orally and use chemicals such as Lufenuron and Spinosad to either kill the parasite or halt their growth. These chemicals are released through the skin in the form of oils and kill the parasites on the surface.
  • Antiparasitic spray: sprays are normally used for cats more than dogs. They are sprayed on to the coat of the animal to act. They are often not as effective because they can't be as strong when used in spray form for safety concerns.
  • Flea collar: a flea collar is put round the neck of the animal and it secretes the chemicals used for deworming.

Each method of flea treatment has its pros and cons, but the spot-on flea treatment in a pipette is perhaps most commonly used. Tablets can be useful and a study from 2016 claims that “systemically distributed treatment [from tablets] offers rapid and relatively uniform distribution via blood circulation to all areas”[1], although slow release collars might also provide similar even distribution. Topical applications are recommended by many veterinarians, but does bathing stop their effectiveness?

How Long After Flea Treatment Can I Bathe My Dog? - How is flea treatment applied?

How to apply spot-on flea treatment

Most spot-on flea treatments will have the option to use a pre-packaged pipette. This allows for the correct dosage to be used and makes it very simple for pet owners. To apply the topical spot-on flea treatment:

  • Wearing rubber gloves, take the prepackaged pipette and hold it with the thinnest part pointing up.
  • Break off the top part on the point marked.
  • Go to the back of the dog's neck or between their shoulder blades. Spread the dog's fur until you can see the skin.
  • Gently squeeze the contents of the pipette along the parting in the fur until all of it is used. You can rub the fur around the topical serum, but don't touch it.

You should wear rubber gloves as some topical flea treatments can be harmful. Always wash your hands after applying the spot-on treatment.

We might associate the spread of fleas and ticks with warmer weather, but the truth is that it can happen year round. This is why we need to apply the treatment every one or two months. You also need to be careful with your geographical location. Each place will have its own specific parasite treatment requirements. Also, if you take your dog for walks in an area with a high tick population, you need to keep them on a leash in high grass and check them after every walk.

The effect of bathing on flea treatment

If we bathe a dog it can interfere with spot-on topical flea treatment and lessen its effectiveness. This is one of the reasons why we might observe the presence of parasites, even if we follow a regular deworming schedule. The other main reason is that no flea treatment will be 100% effective.

This is why we shouldn't bathe a dog after giving them spot-on flea and tick prevention. The same goes if you have used an antiparasitical spray or powder as it will wash the product itself away. With tables, there should be little to no interference in the prevention if given the right dose. Flea collars need to be taken off when giving the dog a bath.

How Long After Flea Treatment Can I Bathe My Dog? - The effect of bathing on flea treatment

How soon can I bathe my dog after flea treatment?

We might not be able to bathe our dog for a while after we apply the topical treatment, but how long is a while? Ideally, you should discuss this issue with your veterinarian as they will be able to give you the proper information on a specific product and/or brand. In general, however, if you wait 48 hours, you should be able to bathe your dog without undoing the protection provided by the treatment. This should give enough time for the serum to spread over the body and prevent infestation of fleas and ticks.

You should also wait 48 hours after a bath before applying spot-on treatment. This will give the dog's skin time to get to a normal balance in terms of natural oils. Doing so will give the treatment a better chance of effectiveness. When you do give your dog a bath after flea treatment, you should ensure you use an anti-flea shampoo to bolster the chances of effectiveness.

Other tips for flea treatment

Regular flea and tick treatment is the best option for prevention of these parasites in our dogs. However, if the dog already has an infestation, then we should still be able to use the flea treatment to kill the animals. Of the dog is very dirty when we find them, then it might be better to wash the dog with an anti-flea shampoo and then give them flea treatment tablets. These pills can be used and be effective in a relatively quick space of time, but won't be affected by bathing your dog.

Flea infestation tablets should not be used as a preventative measure. They are quite strong, but will stop being effective after about 24 hours. You will know your dog has a flea infestation because you will see either adult insects, larvae or eggs on their fur. An adult flea is about the size of a pinhead, their eggs look dark and appear as black specks across the fur. Adults fleas can be seen moving rapidly.

If your dog already has a flea infestation and you want to give them a bath, here are the steps to follow:

  1. Give the dog a fast acting flea killing tablet.
  2. After a few hours, bathe the dog with an anti-flea shampoo.
  3. Wait 48 hours and then apply the anti-flea spot-on topical treatment. You can use tablets or a flea collar instead, but we recommend avoiding the spray.

It is not enough to free the dog of fleas. Since fleas spend the majority of their lives away from a host, they will survive in the environment. If you catch your dog with a flea infestation, immediately remove them to a quarantine zone. Clean everything in the home with which they may have come in contact. This includes upholstery, floors and your dog's toys. Check everywhere and keep them away from other animals until they have been properly treated for their infestation.

There are other factors you might want to consider when removing fleas from your dog. Check out our article on deworming your pregnant dog to find out more.

If you want to read similar articles to How Long After Flea Treatment Can I Bathe My Dog?, we recommend you visit our Basic care category.

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How Long After Flea Treatment Can I Bathe My Dog?