It is said the flea originated in China and traveled to Europe in the 13th century via merchant ships on the backs of rodents. It is the flea that is blamed for spreading the plague in the 1300’s. Today, fleas are still capable of carrying a number of disease organisms, but outbreaks in the United States are limited. For most of us, flea bites to both people and pets cause skin irritation and tapeworms. But the cost and inconvenience of eliminating a flea infestation can be the greatest challenge.
The transportation of fleas into a home can come from rodents by hitching a ride on their warm-blooded pet fur, human shoes or clothing. Fleas dwelling outdoors may survive under shrubs, near buildings, hopping off one host such as a dog, cat or person and then hopping onto a new one. In cases where there are no pets, it has been shown that fleas may come in with other “uninvited” animals such as mice, rats, squirrels or raccoons.
Fleas can multiply rapidly during warm, humid weather causing grief for both pets and their owners. What’s very interesting is, they can live in unoccupied structures where no host organism is present for many months. Any vibration, such as that of someone entering a room, may bring the fleas quickly back to life. (Often the case in older houses!)
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I was once called to groom a dog that lived house more than 75 years old in the center of downtown Denver. The classic 2-story was one of maybe 2 houses in a sea of brick office buildings, streets and noise. The house with it’s original early 40’s linoleum was infested with fleas in the baseboards and rugs. Many of the fleas had made themselves at home on the visiting Shih Tzu. No one in the house was aware of the fleas until I mentioned it.
Note: *This post contains affiliate links. I may make a small commission if you purchase using one of these links. As always, I only recommend products I use + love or have researched and have considered what would make the best choice for you!
BATTLING FLEAS IS A 4 STEP PROCESS
- Check to see the extent of the infestation
- Treat the Pet
- Treat the House
- Treat the Yard
First: Check for Fleas on the dog
Tools & Equipment Needed: A metal flea comb, a bowl of soapy hot water or over the toilet.
Second: Treat the Pet
On the pet, run the metal flea comb through a section at the top of the tail, down the back of the neck, top of the head or sides of the legs. Make sure you touch the skin. Look for black specks. Whatever you pull out of the comb drop it in the bowl of soapy water or into the toilet. If the specks turn red as they hit the water, it is flea dirt. Flea dirt is dried blood, from you or your dog. You may even see a flea or two caught in the teeth of the comb. Scrape them off and they will fall to the bottom of the toilet or bowl.
BATHING – For a non-chemical treatment, I recommend bathing with a Citrus or Neem infused shampoo. Fleas hate these ingredients and tend to die very rapidly as long as they come in contact with the soap.
- Make a very generous lather
- Leave shampoo to sit for at 10 minutes minimum while you scrub and rub, get a timer
- be careful not to get into eyes
- make sure you get the top of the head and nose
- around the eyes, behind ears, jaws, under the mouth & chest
- the whole tail, legs, feet pads, and between toes
- Repeat the shampoo
- Rinse, rinse, rinse then
- towel dry or use a forced-air dryer until thoroughly dry
- Recommended shampoo: Espree Citrucil Shampoo
Recommended products to kill fleas on the pet.
NOTE* Whatever is used for fleas should include GROWTH REGULATORS – IGRs
The most effective ingredient in any product used these days to get rid of fleas must have an Insect Growth Regulator (IGR). This prevents re-infestations by rendering the fleas unable to reproduce and results in the gradual, total elimination of fleas.
Why do I recommend chemical-based solutions? They have worked for me and my clients of Tennessee where fleas are rampant. I have tried Wondercide for ants and cannot vouch for its effectiveness on fleas in more humid conditions. Sprays are better than bombs and powders because sprays can reach under furniture and they contain IGRs!
- Topical Spot Treatments with IGR:
- K9 Advantix II– goes into the skin layer. It can be applied immediately after bathing and drying. Kills/repels ticks AND lice also. Biting does not have to occur for it to work, they just need to be in contact. Apply UP TO EVERY 3 WEEKS, until fleas are gone, then every 4 wks. Buy here!
- Frontline Plus —must be used for at least 3 mos. consecutively to be effective and wait for 24 hrs before applying after a bath. Be sure to get the right size for your dog. Get a FREE email reminder from Frontline. EVERY 3 WEEKS!! Click here to Buy!
- Capstar (non-IGR oral tablet)- kills all adult fleas present on the dog within 30 minutes. It must be administered daily. It’s best to follow this product with a longer-lasting treatment with an IGR coupled with treating the house and yard. Fleas rise to the top of your pet’s coat as they die, so consider it a triumph if you start seeing more fleas at first, after treating your pet. If you’re still seeing fleas after application, it may be because your pet has picked up new fleas from the environment, which may include other pets, surfaces and outdoor areas. It may take up to 30 days to break the entire flea life cycle. Additionally, you should also treat sources of new fleas (i.e., carpet, yard, etc.) to ensure complete flea control.
- Vet Prescribed Orals with IGR: (Must be prescribed by your Veterinarian)
- Assurity (for cats) Must be purchased from a vet
- Comfortis (dogs)
- Sentinel Spectrum
- Nexguard & more
- Plant-based Sprays with IGR: Wondercide.- Wondercide Natural Flea, Tick and Mosquito Control for Dogs, Cats, and Home
Third: Treat the House
VACUUM, VACUUM Did I say vacuum? Daily vacuum bare floors, carpets, baseboards, furniture, corners, drapes, beds and coverings. FREQUENTLY WASH- pet beddings, toys, rugs, etc. in the hottest water possible. This is the BEST way to be rid FAST!
Recommended Home and Carpet Products with IGR:
- Bayer™ Home Pest Spray -lasts up to 12 months
- Wondercide—All Natural 100% effective on everything. Must retreat every 7-10 days to break the flea reproduction cycle.
Fourth: Treat the Yard
Fleas that have hitched a ride on a warm-blooded animal that is in your environment can drop off in the yard, so spray lawns, trees, and structure.
Recommended Products for the Yard:
- Archer – is an IGR and prevents fleas from reproducing. It does not kill existing fleas.
- It must be coupled with Conquer.
- Mix 2 oz. into 1 gallon of water. Treats approximately 3,000 s.f. Read directions and warnings carefully!!
- Conquer – Insecticide kills all phases of fleas
- Mix 1 oz Conquer in 1 gallon of water in a pump or jar/hose sprayer, treats 3000 sq.ft.
- It must be coupled with Archer to be effective.
- Wondercide—All Natural 100% effective; must be repeated every 3-4 days. Please read directions and warnings when using these products carefully.
Fleas can be controlled and eliminated. It takes time and work, and effective products to keep everyone in the house protected and comfortable, but the battle is well worth it. Ticks are a whole different ball game but can be controlled with many of the same recommended products. I may address them in a future post.
DROP ME AN EMAIL [email protected]. I would love to hear all about your flea or tick battles. Let me know if you have any questions!