Do Fleas Drown in Water?

Finding fleas on a cat or dog can set any pet owner into a frenzy.  How do you get rid of the fleas?  Are they going to hurt your cat or dog or cause them to become unhealthy?  Today, we’re going to look at a common question many pet owners who find fleas ask:  do fleas drown in water.  Trying to drown fleas may seem like a logical solution to get rid of them, but is it actually effective?  Keep reading to learn more! 

can fleas live in water

Do Fleas Drown in Water?

Do fleas drown in water is a very common question.  Many pet owners think that putting fleas in water will cause them to drown and die. Unfortunately getting rid of fleas isn’t that easy. You may assume that fleas will drown in water since many other pests and animals can easily drown. However, fleas will actually float when they are placed in plain water.

If you’ve ever seen mosquitoes in a pond or a puddle of water, you should be able to visualize what will happen to fleas if you put them in water.  Just as the mosquitoes float on the water, so will fleas.

While there are several types of fleas, one thing they all seem to have in common is a resistance against drowning.  The fleas float because they don’t break the surface tension of the water.  Rather than sinking to the bottom, they’ll stay on the surface of the water. Here, they can stay alive for multiple days.  

Why Do Fleas Float Instead of Drowning?

Understanding why fleas float can help you understand why they don’t drown when put in plain water.  Fleas have wax-covered cuticles.  The wax on their bodies makes it possible for them to repel water.  So, even when you put a flea in water, their body isn’t really even getting wet due to the wax coating.  Fleas are also extremely small and lightweight.  Their tiny size also contributes to their ability to float on the surface of the water without breaking the surface tension.

If you simply place fleas in a container with water, they’ll likely just float or escape by crawling out of the sides.  You may be able to prevent some from escaping by rubbing some petroleum jelly around the edge of the container. However, trying to kill fleas this way definitely isn’t the most effective solution.

So, if you’ve been asking can you drown fleas on a dog, the answer is no — if you’re only using plain water.  There is a way to drown fleas, so be sure to keep reading to learn the secret.

Why Doesn’t Submerging Fleas Under Water Kill Them?

If simply placing fleas in water isn’t enough to kill them, then surely submerging them beneath the surface of the water should be sufficient, right?  Wrong!  Even when they are submerged under water, fleas can still stay alive for up to 24 hours.  So, when you’re thinking about how long to drown fleas, finding a way to keep them submerged for 24 hours may be impossible.

How are fleas able to survive so long when submerged under water?  The answer to this question goes back to that wax coating we discussed above.  A flea’s wax-covered cuticle works to repel water. It helps the flea stay dry, even when they are submerged under water.  Some scientists even believe that this special wax coating goes beyond the fleas exterior and enters their trachea, stopping water from getting into the flea’s respiratory system.

So, can fleas drown in water at all then?  Yes, it is possible to drown fleas in water with some added ingredients.  We’ll explain what you’ll need and why adding these ingredients makes a difference in the next section.

How Can You Drown Fleas in Water?

OK, enough suspense!  There is a way to drown fleas in water, and it isn’t really all that difficult.  You just need to add soap to the water (Dawn dish soap is often recommended).

Adding a few drops of soap works to reduce the surface tension of the water.  With a decreased surface tension, the fleas won’t be able to float on the top of the water anymore. They will sink down beneath the surface instead.

Now, if you were paying attention above when we talked about how long to drown a flea, you probably remember that fleas have a waxy cuticle that repels water and allows them to stay alive, even when submerged beneath the water.  However, adding soap to the water can help with this as well.

Soap will break down the wax on the cuticle, preventing it from doing its job properly.  This means that the flea will no longer be able to repel water as effectively.  So, once they sink into the soapy water, the water will now be able to get into the respiratory system. This will cause them to drown and die.

Will Flea Eggs Drown in Water?

Flea eggs will also not drown in plain water.  Just as the fleas themselves are made to resist drowning, so too are the eggs.  However, the reason flea eggs don’t drown is a little different.

A flea egg has a special gas layer inside the shell.  This gas layer is similar to mesh and works to help the egg survive, even when submerged in the water.  Through the mesh layer, the egg is able to pull in oxygen only, and no water, to stay alive without drowning.

However, if you add soap to the water, you will be able to kill the flea eggs.  The soap breaks the surface tension and causes the flea egg to sink.  It also prevents that mesh layer from stopping the water from entering the egg, so it will drown and die.

Will Submerging Your Dog or Cat in Water Kill Fleas?

Can you drown fleas off a cat or dog by submerging them under water?  Now that you’ve read through the information above, you can probably guess that simply submerging your cat or dog in plain water will not kill the fleas.  As we shared above, the fleas won’t break the surface tension of the water and will float, rather than drowning.

However, if you wash your pet using dish soap or detergent, you will have a better chance of getting the fleas to drown.  We’ll discuss this approach next.

Bathing Your Dog or Cat with Dish Soap or Detergent

Giving your dog or cat a bath is dish soap or detergent can help clear up their flea infestation.  The dish soap will break the surface tension of the water and break down the waxy cuticle on the flea, making it possible for them to drown.

If you plan to wash your pet using soap, it is best to choose a soap that doesn’t foam.  With foaming soaps, the fleas may be able to jump onto the foam and hop away from your pet, allowing them to survive to reinfest your pet later.

Jet-Dry or dish detergent are two non-foaming soaps you may want to try when giving your pet a bath to drown their fleas.

In order for the soapy bath to be effective, you’ll have to use enough water to be able to submerge your entire pet’s body (except their head).  Hold your pet down to keep their body submerged in the soapy water for about three minutes.  Then, give them a short break, and repeat the process a few more times to make sure the fleas actually drown.

To be most effective, follow up this process with an anti-flea shampoo, then fully rinse your pet and make sure to dry them completely.

Now, keep in mind that just as you shouldn’t use human shampoo to wash a dog, you also shouldn’t regularly wash your pet with dish soap or detergent.  While these soaps can be effective at killing fleas, they also can be very drying and may irritate their skin.  If you give your pet a bath when they don’t have fleas, be sure to use a shampoo specifically made for cats or dogs. This will prevent their skin from getting overly dry or irritated.

can you drown fleas on a dog

Drowning Fleas in Water

If you’ve been searching for “can you drown fleas,” hopefully you’ve found some helpful answers.  Remember, if you try to drown fleas in just plain water, it won’t be successful.  The fleas won’t break the surface tension of the water, and even if submerged can stay alive for up to 24 hours.  To successfully drown a flea in water, you’ll need to use soap or dish soap to break the surface tension of the water and kill the flea.

FAQs Do Fleas Drown in Water?

How long does it take for a flea to drown?

If fleas are just placed on the surface of the water, they will float like mosquitoes.  How long can fleas live underwater?  While fleas will eventually drown if submerged in the water, they can stay alive for up to 24 hours.  Adding some dish detergent to water can break the surface tension, making the fleas drown more quickly.    

Can fleas stay alive in water?

Can fleas live in water?  Yes, fleas are very small in size and have a water-repellent cuticle.  This means that they won’t break the surface tension of water and can stay alive for a very long time.  Even when submerged in plain water, fleas may live for up to 24 hours.

What kills fleas instantly?

Rubbing alcohol kills fleas instantly, but it shouldn’t be sprayed directly on pets as it isn’t safe and can cause illness.  Some safer home remedies that also work quickly include dish soap, baking soda and salt, or a mixture of 4 cups apple cider vinegar, 1 cup of water, 100 ml of lemon juice, and 100 mL of peppermint essential oil (used as a spray).

Do fleas drown in the shower?

If you give you down a shower with soap, preferably dishwashing soap like Dawn, it can cause the fleas to drown.  However, if you only give your dog a shower with plain water, the fleas will not drown.

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