How to Get Rid of Fleas
Fleas are parasites that feed on the blood of pets and humans. While over 2,500 species exist, the cat flea is the most prevalent. Contrary to its name, it's found on both dogs and cats alike. Like other blood feeding parasites, fleas are capable of spreading disease. The advent of preventative medication in veterinary medicine has greatly reduced this risk however. Like bed bugs, fleas will leave behind fecal smears of blood waste, appearing as black specks of dust on an animal’s skin.
Fleas prefer to nest in tall grassy areas, where damp soil and cool shaded areas provide an ideal breeding ground. Reproduction peaks when the temperature hits about 95 degrees Fahrenheit. Once a host has been acquired, the flea will remain with the host the duration of its life. It will begin feeding immediately and mate within 24 hours. Coupled with aggressive reproductive efforts, flea populations can grow very quickly. During the larval and pupal stage of its lifecycle, the flea’s body is coated in a sticky layer of silk. Pets that are kept indoors will rub against furniture items and carpet in an attempt to relieve itching, encouraging the spread of larvae. Fleas cause uncontrollable itching on dogs and leave tiny red bites on humans. Fleas can easily be seen by brushing back the animals fur.
The source of the infestation must be removed. Pets hosting fleas should be taken to the vet for a flea bath and placed on preventative medication like Advantage or Front Line. Animal bedding should be thrown out or washed and dried.
- Preventative medication is a must. Advantage is a pill with a small amount of pesticide in it. When the fleas continue to feed on the host, they will metabolize any left in the blood stream. There are natural flea treatment alternatives as well.
- Time for a haircut and bath. Flea baths kill fleas on contact, providing instant relief to your pet. A lower fur density increases exposure to the flea shampoo and light.
- Grass should be cut short. Elimination of potential harborage sites will limit the probability of recurring infestations. Pay special attention to cool shaded areas and areas the pet may frequent. Crawl spaces should be properly sealed, barring off pets from entry.
- Carpeted areas and furniture should be vacuumed. The vibrations from the vacuum will encourage any eggs in the carpet to hatch. Bags should be removed and thrown out immediately after vacuuming. This should be done at least twice per week for 2 weeks.
Flea larvae will die when exposed directly to sunlight. Many people believe fleas are attracted to light. This is false, as fleas are repelled by light and prefer to burrow deep in carpet and fur. They are attracted to body warmth, carbon dioxide, and vibrations. After the host has been placed on preventative medication, it should take between 1 and 3 weeks to obtain control, with heavy reduction immediately noticeable. The removal of dog food from outdoor areas will prevent feral animals such as raccoons and opossums from visiting the property at night, aiding in the prevention and spread of flea populations.
Getting rid of the dog or cat won't do any good. When a host is displaced or no longer present, fleas nesting in the immediate area will fall into a state of dormancy, cocooning themselves until a new host arrives, prolonging the amount of time it can take to reach control. The absence of a pet encourages fleas to feed on humans instead. For this reason, it's recommended that medicated pets be allowed to travel freely around the home while the flea medicine is still in their system.
Sometimes having the pets treated isn't enough, and supplemental flea treatments are necessary. There are many flea sprays available, but most are divided into 2 categories. IGRs (Insect Growth Regulators) and adulticides. The first is responsible for halting reproduction in fleas, stunting larval development. Adulticides are designed to kill on contact and are often used in combination with flea medication.
- Use IGR's in areas with high activity. PreCor 2000 is an aerosol spray containing the IGR Methoprene. Always make sure to always follow the label directions.
- To bomb or spray? Any product containing Cyfluthrin or Bifen is sufficient for exterior or interior treatments. Fogging with adulticides or flea bombs can be useful for covering large areas but can also leave many places untreated. Should only be used if pet medication is insufficient.
- Avoid dusting if possible. Flea dusting is a messy and potentially hazardous technique that involves throwing powder all of your carpet to kill fleas. Safer and more efficient flea treatments exist.
If fogging, make sure you follow up between and beneath furniture items with an appropriate adulticide. Last but not least, vacumming along baseboards and between furniture items is crucial. Flea control outdoors should be limited strictly to shaded areas, beneath decking and around areas frequently visited by pets. Pets should be kept away from sprayed areas until they are dry.