April showers have brought May flowers and what will May flowers bring? Fleas.
It’s getting warmer out there and as temperatures rise, so will your pet’s odds of getting infested with these buggy pests. But, not to worry: you can stop fleas before they strike. If they do strike, you can wage war on them and win with thorough treatments to your home and pet.
Let’s start by discussing some fundamental flea knowledge. A flea’s life consists of 4-stages:
- Pupa – hardest stage to kill
Adult fleas feed on blood (eww), lay eggs which hatch into larvae in 5-11 days, and larvae follow behind and feed on the adult’s excrement (more eww). The larvae then spins a cocoon to become a pupa where it develops into an adult after 1-2 weeks. But, the adult flea may lie dormant in the cocoon for up to 5 months before emerging in seconds when stimulated by a passing animal. Once it has hitchhiked on a host, a flea can lives a average of 8 days.
Prevention: The best way to deal with these pests is prevention! Before a flea ever sinks it’s blood-sucking mouth into your pet, treat him or her with a monthly flea preventative such as Advantix II (for dogs only), Advantage or Frontline Plus. All of these products contain insect growth regulators (IGR) which interrupt the maturity of the flea – thereby making it impossible for fleas to survive on your pet.
If your pet is left unprotected, you can soon find yourself with a real problem since each female flea can lay up to 2,000 eggs in her short lifetime. How can you wipe out a flea infestation? Thorough home treatment, pet treatment and patience.
Home Treatment: You won’t be rid of your problem if you treat your pet only! You must treat the environment as well. Why? Because only 5% of the fleas may be found on pets! The other 95% are likely hidden in your carpet, your couch, and your dog’s bed (and possibly yours as well) - 50% in the egg stage, 35% in the larva stage, 10% in the pupa stage. So, to successfully rid yourself and your pets of them altogether, you must treat your house as well.
1. Begin with your vacuum cleaner! Vacuuming sucks up 30% of larvae, 60% of flea eggs, and much of the larvaes’ food supply. Be thorough: get under furniture, cushions, etc. And throw away the vacuum bag, since fleas can live and reproduce in there.
2. After a thorough vacuuming, use a fogger or carpet spray containing an IGR (very important). Check the label to see how much square footage the product covers and use the appropriate amount – most homes require three or four cans for proper coverage – then follow the directions to the letter! This is likely to be the most expensive part of the treatment process as an effective fogger or spray with an IGR doesn’t come cheap – but it is very effective in eliminating all stages of the fleas’ life cycle. However, the pupae are very difficult to kill (which is the reason for No. 5).
3. Vacuum again 24-48 hours after using the fogger to pick up all the dead adult fleas and eggs and repeat every couple of days thereafter for a while.
4. Spray your yard every week with a quality lawn pesticide until control is obtained. Again, in order to kill the adult fleas you have to overcome the flea life cycle. Several applications may be needed before the continuously hatching fleas are killed. Thoroughly spray in and under dog houses and other places where your pets hang out as these areas are the most likely places where the flea eggs and larva are hiding.
5. We recommend following up inside your home about 10-14 days after you’ve used the IGR fogger or spary with pyrethrum-based fogger or spray (which are much less expensive than those with an IGR) as this step will take care of any of the pupae that managed to outsmart the IGR product.
Pet Treatment: First things first–give them a bath! Then comb them down with a fine-toothed flea comb, paying special attention to the face, neck, and tail. Dip the comb in soap water to kill any fleas you get off. For a very flea-infested dog or cat, we recommend giving him or her a Capstar tablet, which will quickly kill all the adult fleas presently on the pet. Capstar is fast-acting, but short-lived. We recommend that you spray your pet daily with a product designed for pets which contains a pyrethrum-based flea killer until your home and lawn treatments have eradicated the problem. You can use this type of spray along with the prevention products described above.
That’s a LOT of work and requires a lot of patience! Which is why prevention is so important and will save you a lot of time and money by avoiding an all-out infestation problem.
Tomlinson’s carries a variety of the products mentioned in this article and our staff will be happy to answer any questions you have about flea prevention and control. If your pet has health issues, please consult your vet before using any flea treatment.
UPDATE: We have had some responses to this article asking for an all-natural method to flea control. The methods mentioned above are the most effective in our experience and that of many of our customers, however, they are definitely meant for households with healthy pets and people who have no sensitivities to the pesticides.
For those who do, I have two suggestions. Diatamaceous Earth is the first. It is all-natural and can be used on your pet, in your home and on your lawn. Click here for an article describing what it is and how to use it.
For use in your home and your pet’s bedding, you can fill an old sock full of the DE, which is a very fine powder, and swing it around to distribute it on to your carpet, upholstery, bedding, etc. Others say they distribute it by putting it in a flour sifter, but a little goes a long way! Leave for few days in your carpet as the article suggests, and vacuum. I can’t stress vacuuming enough! It is the most effective way to rid fleas from your home.
Our stores also carry a limited amount of products by Natural Chemistry. Feel free to browse their website for information. If you’re interested in a particular Natural Chemistry product, call our nearest store to see if we have it in stock. If we don’t, we can order it for you and have it in only a few days. Phone numbers to our stores are listed here.