Pet owners should appreciate how easy it is to control fleas now, compared to how it used to be. Pet owners used to have to spray their pets with topical chemicals every day, dip them in diluted insecticides every week, apply chemicals to their yards, and use foggers in their homes to keep fleas at bay. What a mess! Even though we have good flea control products, we can’t let down our guard. Fleas will always be with us, so here are a few extra tips for maintaining a flea-free home:
- Educate yourself about fleas
Take the time to learn the dirty truth about fleas.
- Fleas can live for as long as 12 months.
- During that time, one flea may produce thousands of offspring.
- Fleas can jump up to two feet high.
- They are persistent in their environment (a.k.a. hard to get rid of!).
2. Learn the symptoms of flea bites.
Flea bites have certain distinct characteristics. The bite may immediately cause a pet to feel extremely itchy. Within 30 minutes of a bite, your pet may develop a red bump. Secondary infections caused by scratching are also common.
3. Know how to treat the flea bites.
Eliminate the fleas, then wash the bites with antiseptic soap, as recommended by your veterinarian, to reduce the risk of infection. Don’t forget to eliminate the fleas!
4. Learn how to eliminate fleas in all stages.
The flea life cycle includes adults, eggs, larvae (maggots) and pupae (the cocoon stage), so environmental control is very important. Typical insecticides do not eliminate the pupae. Use an insect growth regulator to break the flea life cycle.
5. Get rid of stray fleas.
If your pet picks up a “hitchhiker” flea while outdoors, use an adulticide medication that kills adult fleas. Talk to your veterinarian about the best product for your pet.
6. Regularly check your pet for fleas.
Don’t wait until you see your pet scratching. Frequent brushing will help spread natural protective oils over your pet’s coat, reduce shedding, and give you an opportunity to look for fleas.
7. Avoid problem areas.
Keep your pet away from areas known to have flea problems. Not sure if the local park is safe? Do your homework to ensure the local dog park has a good flea control program.
8. Groom the yard.
Don’t just check your pet for fleas — treat his environment as well. Remove underbrush from trees, and rake leaves where fleas and ticks may lurk. When spraying the yard for fleas, concentrate on the shady areas where your pet spends most of his time. Eggs and larvae will likely be shed in the spots where he lies down.
9. Exterminate the home.
In-home extermination should focus on upholstered furniture, rugs, carpeting and anywhere there are cracks or crevices. Vacuum all floors prior to home treatment and check with your professional exterminator to see when it is best to vacuum following treatment. If your pet sleeps in your bed, wash sheets and pillowcases regularly in hot water and regular laundry detergent.
10. Use year-round preventive care.
Waiting too long to use preventative treatments before flea and tick season comes around could be dangerous for your pet. Protect your pet year-round to avoid an infestation. Some of the older topical medications are not as effective as the newer medications, and oral medications seem to be more effective in dogs. Be sure to treat all the pets in the house. Ask your veterinarian about which product is best for your pet and be sure to read the label carefully before administering the medication.