Fight The Fleas

Effective Flea Control Will Help Keep The Critters At Bay
Original article published in Circa Magazine April – June 2013

Spring has arrived and with it comes all types of critters that want to take shelter on your pet and in your carpet and furniture. Yes, I am talking about the dreaded fleas. Is there anything worse than finding fleas on your pets? If you’re an experienced pet owner, you know that where there’s a flea, there are two fleas. And where there are two fleas, there’s an infestation. If you’re lucky, you caught the fleas early, before they dropped hundreds of eggs all over your carpets and furniture. Follow my simple three-step process for flea control, and Fido and Fluffy will be sure to thank you this spring.

Effective flea control requires treatment of both your pet and your home, and the use of products that address the entire flea lifecycle. You will need to use products that kill the eggs, the larvae, and the adults. If left untreated, fleas can cause skin irritations, allergic reactions in some pets, and in severe cases, even anemia.

– STEP ONE: Treat your pet for fleas. Using a flea dip or flea shampoo will kill the adult fleas and pre-adult fleas on your pet. This will not repel more fleas, so a monthly spot-on or an oral treatment is necessary to prevent re-infestation. Fortunately, there are a number of all-natural and chemical flea products available for pets that are effective and easy to use. Although many of the chemical over-the-counter products can be used on either dogs or cats, there are several that are not safe and can be fatal for use on cats. Be sure to consult with your veterinarian to determine which product better suits your pet’s needs.

– STEP TWO: Treat your home for fleas. This is an important step – remember, the flea eggs drop off your pet. Flea larvae do not feed on blood; they can find everything they need to live on in your carpet. So, after you treat your pet with an approved flea control product, you need to get rid of the fleas in your carpet and on your furniture. Otherwise, the flea eggs will keep hatching and you will be fighting a perpetual infestation of hungry fleas.

If you act as soon as you notice Fido scratching, you may only need a good house cleaning to take care of the problem. Mild flea infestations can often be managed with some persistent housework. Concentrate your efforts on the areas of your home where your pet spends the most time. Which door does your dog use to enter your home? Does she sleep on your bed, or in a favorite chair? Think about where your pets spend their time. By following these few steps you will begin to take control of the situation.

Wash pet bedding, blankets, linens, and throw rugs in hot water. Anything your pet has been on or near that can fit in the washing machine should be laundered. Use the hottest water possible.

Vacuum carpets thoroughly. If possible, use a vacuum with a beater bar, as these do a better job of moving the carpet pile and getting to the flea eggs and larvae deep within the rug. Make sure you pick up any clutter – don’t just vacuum around it! Also, move the furniture so that you can vacuum underneath. You don’t want the fleas to take refuge under anything.

Vacuum upholstered furniture. Even if you don’t think your pets climb on your furniture, trust me, they do. So if your pet has fleas, there are probably flea eggs hidden in your couch cushions. Vacuum all the cushions, cracks, crevices, and seams, carefully making sure to remove the cushions and clean underneath them as well.

Once your home is sanitized, defend against a recurrence of fleas and other insect pests by applying small amounts of diatomaceous earth (DE) throughout the home. Diatomaceous earth is a remarkable, all-natural product made from tiny fossilized skeletal remains of unicellular plants called diatoms. But while DE may look and feel like talcum powder to us, to insects it is a lethal dust with microscopic razor-sharp edges which cuts the flea’s protective outer covering, leading to dessication and death. And while DE spells death to insects, it is harmless to humans and pets.

– STEP THREE: Recheck for fleas and retreat as needed. Finally, be vigilant in looking for signs of fleas, and be persistent in treating for them. If you still find fleas after following these steps, you may need to do another round of cleaning and vacuuming. Don’t forget to reapply monthly topical flea treatments to your pets. A couple of quick ways to check for fleas include using a flea comb on your pets and a lint roller on your clothing, furniture, and other fabric areas. Any signs of fleas will be exposed by the use of either of these.

For all but the most severe flea infestations, these steps should get the fleas under control. In some extreme cases, you may need to consult the services of a professional pest control specialist.