Some people wonder if they can use cat flea medicine on a dog. The answer is that you should not administer any medication meant for cats to a dog, as this could be very harmful to the animal. In some cases, it may even result in death. Let’s uncover some critical pieces of information.

Can you use cat flea treatment on dogs?

Generally, no. If the flea treatment is designed specifically for a cat, this means the chemical makeup of the flea treatment product will only work with the biology of a feline animal. The ingredients will be especially harmful to a canine. Keep in mind that you might still run into issues with unintended side effects even if it did work. Unintended side effects can range from mild and temporary to severe and life-impacting.

What happens if you use cat flea treatment on dogs?

Several things could happen if you use a flea treatment designed for cats on dogs. If used on a canine species, the chemical makeup may result in rashes, seizures, balance issues, excessive drooling, allergic reactions, organ failure, vomiting, diarrhea, or death. In addition to this, your fur friend will still be infested with fleas.

Can you use the same flea treatment on cats and dogs?

If the flea treatment is mammal agnostic (suitable for use on both a cat or a dog), then the treatment should be acceptable as long as the product is used as directed. Products that can be used on both cats and dogs are usually all-natural products known to repel fleas, such as some essential oils, fabric-covered cedar bedding, and sticky tape traps that are left around your home. If you use sticky traps, place them in conspicuous places where fleas might congregate, but your pet won’t touch them.

Some people use diatomaceous earth on their pets and in and around their homes as directed. Diatomaceous earth is dust made up of the tiny, crushed skeletons of a water creature called a diatom. These shell edges are very sharp, even in their minute state. When it comes into contact with a creature with an exoskeleton (like ants, spiders, or fleas), it cuts the insect. The insect then naturally dehydrates or “bleeds out.” You mustn’t allow the dust of this component in the eyes of you or your animal or for either of you to breathe it in. The sharp edges of the minuscule powder can cut microscopic holes in lung tissue and irritate the eyes.

Are cat and dog fleas the same?

The fleas found on cats and dogs are the same. They all go through the same life cycle, from egg to larva, pupa, and adult flea. Fleas are different from other parasites and diseases because they can infect both dogs and cats, making them quite dangerous for pets of either species. When treating a pet with a flea infestation, you must first identify whether the animal has signs of fleas or if perhaps their bites are caused by something else.

Signs of fleas include constant scratching, red, irritated skin, hair loss due to chewing and biting activity, flea dirt (pieces of digested blood), debris from the pet’s body such as fur and dander that appear as tiny black dots on your cat or dog’s bedding. Other common signs of pets being affected by more than just a case of pesky bugs are swollen red welts on the skin, scabbed over areas of skin, raw or hot spots, constant nibbling at the skin with teeth, and wheezing or excessive drooling.

You’ll be able to inspect your pet’s bedding and spot the fleas themselves or their eggs or their poop (lots of black dirt-like specs). Picking up the bed will reveal more than just inspecting around the edges.

Is dog and cat flea medicine the same?

It depends on the type. Generally, the liquid topical drops you place between the shoulder blades are not the same for dogs and cats. These vials of liquid are clearly labeled with each species, with pictures and the words “dogs” or “cats” to avoid any mistake. The product labeling on these vials clarifies that you do not want to get this medicine on your skin and provides instructions to apply it to your pet correctly. Some flea collars are only meant for cats and not for dogs and vice versa.

Other types of flea treatments could be used on both dogs and cats. These include some types of collars, shampoos, dips, or powders. These flea treatments can be purchased at some grain and feed shops, grocery stores, and veterinary offices.

How to find flea medicine for dogs or cats

The critical component to remember when shopping for flea treatments is carefully reading the labels before purchasing. Do not rush this step. It can be easy when you’re sleepy or in a hurry to mistake “Not for use on cats,” for “For use on cats,” for example. Compare the vocabulary on the packages to what is on the label. If you still are unsure, ask a qualified sales associate or the veterinary office before using it on your animal. Any product meant for use on cats or dogs will clearly say so in the product description. If no such product description exists or is vague, check the warning section. If it is for one animal and not the other, it will warn you not to use it on the animal it is not meant for.

Can you control the fleas in the house the same for dogs and cats?

Yes. Clearing and dealing with a flea infestation in the home is the same for dogs and cats (or for any other small mammal you might have for a pet). You must start with a coordinated attack in a manner that works for you and your household. You’ll be treating your pets directly, the yard (if you have one), and your house simultaneously.

Treating Your Pet

Start with the pet first to give them some immediate relief. Only use a flea treatment meant for the species you have (cat or dog). Remedies could be shampooing them with a flea shampoo, brushing the fleas off them with a flea comb, and then applying a flea collar or a topical ointment when complete.

Treating Your Yard

If you have a yard, you’ll want to treat the yard with specially made flea treatment made for grass or shrubbery. Consider hiring an exterminator to spray around the edges of your home. Plug all the holes in the outside of the house, similar to how you would prevent wood-boring bees or other insects from entering the home. Some people treat their yard with a mixture of white vinegar and water. Your neighbors may or may not love you if you do this. We don’t recommend dipping your pets in a vinegar blend as the smell is obnoxious to humans, meaning it’s even worse for pets that have higher smelling abilities than a human.

Treating Your Home

To deal with your home, you have a few options. You can use a “flea bomb” canister, treat your home with a specially made powder from the vet, or a spray meant for rugs, furniture, and bedding.

The Flea Canister Bomb

You could use a flea “bomb,” which is essentially a canister of chemicals you would set off in more than one room of your home with all the windows and doors closed. Using one of these “bombs” is not recommended if you have reptiles or fish in the house unless you can remove all of them from the home while the canister is working. The downside of these “bombs” is that everything you touch must be washed before it can be used: plates, silverware, cups, bowls, kitchen appliances, bedding, etc. Furniture and rugs will need to be vacuumed before letting your family or pets back in.

Special Powder from the Vet

The powder for this treatment is meant to be spread onto the carpet and furniture away from your pets, so they don’t breathe the dust. You’ll use a stiff-brushed broom to “beat it” into the carpet and furniture (lots of upper bodywork). Then you’ll let it sit for the amount of time indicated on the bottle. Once that is done, you’ll vacuum the house and furniture at least three times in a row. After that, you’ll do a vacuum once a day for a week, and after that, three times weekly for two weeks, and so on. Once this process is done, it’s said that there are no more fleas for six months to a year depending on the product.

Spray for Furniture, Rugs, and Bedding

This option involves using one or more spray jugs to place a liquid mist evenly over everywhere your pet wanders or sleeps, including the cracks and crevices of the furniture and bedding where you’ve seen or suspect flea activity. Once the spray dries, your pets can be let back in. The effectiveness of a product like this can vary.

The key to treating your pet is to remember to keep the pet treated regularly once you’ve eradicated the fleas from the home and yard. No matter which flea treatment you use, always thoroughly wash the pet’s bedding or get them new bedding if you can afford it. These steps will provide your pet and home with welcome relief.

Author

I created and currently manage Pet Dog Owner, the website you can go to when you have questions about your dog's behavior. It is my hope that you find Pet Dog Owner to be a helpful resource. It is also my hope that it will help you to improve your relationship with your dog. You can read more about me and my website here.