Pest Control: Fleas
Fleas can cause numerous problems, and if you don’t know how to treat them effectively, they can be extremely difficult to get rid of. In addition to irritating bites, fleas can carry and transmit bacteria that cause disease. The key to eliminating them lies in knowing which prevention and treatment methods are most effective during the different stages of a flea’s life cycle. It’s also important to understand that in addition to treating pets, you must eliminate fleas from your house and yard to prevent re-infestation. Consider the following questions to help you learn how to get rid of fleas and plan an effective flea control strategy:
• What types of flea-control products are available?
• How can you prevent and/or remove fleas from your pet?
• How should you treat fleas in your home? In your yard?
• What treatments are most effective during each stage of a flea’s life cycle?
Pet Treatments, Indoors, Outdoors and Flea Life Cycle
The first step in getting rid of fleas is to treat infested pets. This helps you begin to get the problem under control while providing relief for your dog or cat. You’ll also need to eliminate fleas in your home, starting with your pet’s sleeping area and any other places where he or she frequently rests or plays. Finally, you’ll have to carefully inspect your yard and take measures to eliminate larger populations of fleas that might lead to reinfection. Some chemicals kill fleas directly while others prevent larvae from becoming adults (insect growth regulators, or IGR) or stop eggs from hatching (insect development inhibitors, or IDI). Fleas only bite during their adult stage, but they can be eliminated at every stage of their life cycle by employing various treatments.
Pet Treatments: When you notice fleas on your pet for the first time, you have a number of different treatment options from which to choose. Use a fine-toothed, metal flea comb to remove adult fleas from your pet and flick them into soapy water where they will drown. Bathing pets in special flea baths and shampoos may not make them especially happy, but it will remove both eggs and live fleas. Spot-on treatments are applied between your pet’s shoulders and protect them from getting new fleas for approximately one month, depending on the strength of the product and the size of your pet. Flea collars help deter new fleas as well, though you’ll want to use other treatments concurrently for maximum effectiveness. Some of the most effective treatments are oral medications that are usually taken monthly, kill adult fleas and eliminate their ability to lay eggs. Consult your local vet for additional information on these medications.
• Read instructions carefully to ensure a particular treatment is safe for your pet
• Do not treat newborn puppies or kittens or pregnant animals
• Healthy cats and dogs resist fleas more easily, so take good care of your pet
• Sprays can be applied directly to pets to kill adult fleas
• Look for versatile treatments that deter fleas, ticks and other parasites
• Some oral medications also prevent heartworms and intestinal worms
Home: Treating your pet will go a long way toward solving your flea problem, but you must also treat your home to prevent your pet from attracting more pests. Thoroughly vacuum areas where your pets spend most of their time, particularly where they sleep. Fleas can escape from vacuum bags, so seal them in a plastic bag and dispose of them immediately after vacuuming. Be sure to treat baseboards, windows, doorframes and other areas where fleas may try to hide. Once fleas have been removed, continue to vacuum consistently to reduce the chances of another buildup.
• Foggers, powders and sprays can be used to kill fleas and inhibit growth
• Vacuum after application of treatment to remove fleas that emerge from carpeting
• Steam clean carpets and apply flea treatment afterward for maximum effectiveness
• Wash pets’ bedding, throw rugs and pillows to destroy fleas and eggs
Yard: Failing to treat a large flea population in your yard can undo all of the hard work you’ve done inside your house and with your pet. Remove dead plants and other debris where fleas can hide and breed. Use sprays to treat areas where your pet rests frequently, such as patios, along foundations and under porches. You may need to reapply sprays after rainstorms to renew efficacy. Avoid using products containing harmful chemicals, as they can pollute nearby water supplies when washed away by storms or irrigation. Regular watering and lawn maintenance combined with a healthy dose of sunshine should prove effective in controlling fleas in your yard.
• Treat damp areas that are protected from sunlight, such as crawl spaces
• Remove foliage to allow sunlight into shady areas to inhibit flea growth
• Screen off damp, shady areas to prevent your pet from accessing them
• Outdoor treatments are available in spray, granule, concentrate and powder form
Life Cycle: Different treatments work better during different stages of a flea’s life cycle. Using a combination of treatments will prove most effective. Consult the chart below to learn which treatments should be used during various stages.
|Egg||• Smooth and white
• Laid in pet’s sleeping areas
• Hatch every few days
|• Systemic treatments (oral)
• IDI sprays
• Flea collars
|Larva||• Blind, limbless worms
• Very mobile
• Feed on debris left in nest
• IGR sprays
|Pupa||• White, oval cocoon
• Can last for long periods of time
• Host’s appearance stimulates hatching
• Flat and brown
• Can jump long distances
• Pierce host’s skin to feed on blood
|• Flea combs
• Shampoos and dips
• Sprays and foggers
• Flea collars
Insect Growth Regulators (IGR): These chemicals are effective in treating the root of your flea problem by preventing larvae from developing. They are safer than traditional insecticides, helping ensure your pet won’t become ill from pest treatments. Common types include methoprene and pyriproxyfen.
Organic Treatment: If you prefer not to use chemicals, there are some natural means of flea prevention that may prove effective. Adding vinegar to your pet’s water and garlic to its food may deter fleas from biting. Spraying your pet with a diluted, flower-scented shampoo may also prove effective in preventing fleas.
Multipurpose Products: Fleas aren’t the only pesky parasites that attack dogs and cats. Look for flea collars that prevent ticks and other pests in addition to fleas as well as oral medications that prevent worms.