Fleas can be a minor annoyance and grow into a terrible problem if you do not take immediate and aggressive steps to prevent and/or eradicate a flea infestation. In this article, we are going to explain how you can protect your home and your family by providing you with an exhaustive list of things you can do to stave off a flea attack.
The three areas we are going to concentrate on are:
- Flea infestation of your pets
- Flea infestations inside your home
- Flea infestations in your yard and landscaping
We aren’t going to lie. Following the information provided below will seem quite tedious and exhaustive. However, the time and cost of eradicating a flea infestation will dwarf the time and money spent preventing one.
Fleas and Your Pets
We are going to start with a look at your pets because cats and dogs are the number one factor in determining the likelihood of whether or not your home will become infested with fleas. The good news is that flea infestation of cats and dogs is amazingly easy to prevent at this point in time with current products on the market.
Fleas can be quite a nuisance for pets. Not only can they cause excessive scratching because of severe itching and irritation, but they can also cause allergic reactions that could require costly treatments. Proactive measures can be taken to prevent fleas such as monthly oral and topical medication. If your dog already has fleas, there are also steps that can be taken to kill them and prevent them from reoccurring.
Eradicating Flea Infestations on Cats and Dogs
Since your pets most likely live inside your home, there will obviously be some overlap between this section on pets and the next section on your home. We will try to focus on pet specific advice here.
If you have spotted fleas or flea dirt on your pet, I would take the following steps immediately:
- Oral over-the-counter medication like Capstar
- Thorough bathing and flea combing
- Application of spot-on topical treatment
- Extensive cleaning and washing of pet bedding
One of the first and simplest methods for getting rid of fleas on your dog or cat is to give him or her an over-the-counter oral flea killing medication called Capstar. Capstar will start working within 30 minutes. However, it is only a temporary solution.
It is important that you treat all your furry pets at the same time, even if you do not see fleas on some of them.
After giving my pets Capstar, I would sequester them out in the driveway on a concrete surface in a playpen, if possible. This will allow you to keep them from running around the house and spreading fleas, allow you to see the dead fleas that fall off your pets, and give you time to thoroughly clean bedding and your home as you wait for the medication to do its thing.
Once Capstar has been able to work its magic, it is time to bathe your pets. Using a quality flea shampoo for dogs will aid in getting rid of the dead fleas along with any remaining live ones. Others recommend Dawn dish soap liquid.
The fleas become trapped in the lather of the shampoo and then drown once they hit the water pooled in the tub. While bathing, you can also use a flea comb to loosen up any stubborn fleas that haven’t become dislodged while shampooing. To ensure that fleas have become trapped in the shampoo, it is recommended that the lather is left in for a few minutes (ideally 15 to 20). However, if you have given your pet Capstar, I do not feel it is as important to wait 15-20 minutes at this step.
After bathing give your pet a quick check to ensure that all fleas are gone.
Now that you have thoroughly cleaned your animals, their bedding and areas of your home, it is time to apply a monthly spot-on topical treatment to your pets. There are numerous brands and you can find a review and comparison of many of them here. Also, we have looked at the leading brands and determined the best flea treatment for dogs and the best flea treatment for cats.
As mentioned above in the fourth bullet point, you will want to thoroughly clean all pet bedding, along with carpeting, rugs and other fabrics in areas in which your pets spend most of their time in the house.
Preventing Flea Infestations on Your Pets
The single most important thing you can do to keep your cats and dogs from getting fleas is to regularly apply a monthly spot-on topical treatment. This method halts a flea’s life cycle by preventing larvae from maturing into pupae, which drastically reduces the flea population and eventually rendering them non-existent.
Some pet owners do not like to apply these chemicals to their pet as a preventative treatment since they are feel it may have some long-term harmful effects.
If you are one of these owners and your pets primarily live indoors, you should aggressively maintain your yard and landscaping (see below). Additionally, I would look to use Capstar after walks through the neighborhood or play sessions in public spaces like dog parks and so forth. Since Capstar is so efficient at killing fleas, you can kill the adult fleas that may have jumped on your pet before they even get a chance to lay eggs.
Fleas can be prevented by bathing your pet regularly with a flea shampoo and using a flea comb to loosen and drown fleas. It is important to use the flea comb while bathing your pet to ensure that fleas drown. If you use the comb on the pet while on carpet or other surfaces, the fleas will only jump off and attach to your pet later. If you choose to use the flea comb on your pet outdoors, fleas will simply hind in the grass and jump back onto your pet once it’s outside again.
Another method for preventing fleas is with the use of a flea collar. Flea collars aren’t as popular as they once were, because they usually only kill fleas around the head and neck area alone.
Fleas Inside the Home
Your home is your castle, so it is understandable to not want any fleas invading your property and feeding on you and your pets. If you are proactive in the beginning you can prevent fleas from infesting your home. However, if a flea infestation already exists, it is not too late to fix the problem.
Eradicating Flea Infestations in the Home
One of the easiest and non-toxic ways to rid your home of fleas is by giving it a thorough cleaning.
If you have carpet in your home, sprinkle it with equal parts borax and salt, and allow to sit for a few hours (the longer the better!). Borax and salt are both sharp crystals and when they come into contact with the exoskeleton of the flea, the exoskeleton is lacerated and starts to leak vital fluids (slow dehydration). The salt has the power to exacerbate the leaking, while the borax absorbs the fluid and causes the flea to die. After a few hours thoroughly vacuum the area and quickly dispose of the bag.
If a bag-less vacuum is used, it is important to empty the canister into a trash bag and quickly dispose of it. The cleaning process doesn’t end with vacuuming. Wash all linens and bedding that your pet has come into contact with, and dry them on the hottest drying cycle available for at least 30 minutes.
A natural method for eradicating fleas is boric acid. Although not toxic to humans or pets, boric acid is quite toxic to fleas and comes highly recommended. Boric acid isn’t easily sucked up by vacuums, so reapplying to carpets often isn’t necessary. As soon as fleas comes into contact with the boric acid they die. Vacuuming a few times per week is important to minimize the number of dead fleas caught in your carpet. Another natural remedy for those with hardwood or linoleum is Nylar. Nylar regulates the growth of fleas by preventing pupae from reaching adulthood and attacking pets. It also works by preventing flea eggs from hatching, which is another means for reducing flea populations.
If natural methods have proven ineffective or if you would like to ensure that fleas are eradicated the first time, the use of chemicals in the home is an option. Foggers can be used to kill fleas and other pests in the home. However, you will need foggers for every room and there can’t be anyone in the house including humans and animals. It will also take a few hours for the home to become safe to enter again. Another option is to hire a professional exterminator. Although this can be quite pricey, it is an effective way to ensure that an infestation will be completely eliminated.
Preventing Flea Infestations in the Home
The best way to prevent flea infestations from occurring or reoccurring is to keep your pets pest free and your home clean. This includes vacuuming carpets and furniture regularly, giving more attention to baseboards and crevices while sweeping floors, not leaving your belongings outside for an extended period of time (including smelly shoes) and use the borax mixture often on carpets. It is also critical to wash your pets bedding regularly as well, to eliminate any fleas that remain after treatment.
Flea Infestations and Your Yard
Although you may have taken the necessary steps to rid your home of the pesky little creatures known as fleas, the existence of fleas may still pose a threat outside and can easily re-enter the home after re-attaching to the pet. Fret not, there are many ways to get rid of fleas if you currently have an infestation. Once gone there are steps that can be taken to prevention an infestation from occurring again.
Warding Off External Flea Infestation Threats
If it’s too late to use preventative methods and you already have an infestation, there are quite a few routes that can be taken to resolve the issue. The first is the use of chemicals such and pesticides. Aside from following the directions for proper application, it is also important to read the warning label. Pesticides can not only be toxic to your pet but they can be toxic to you as well, so it is critical to wear protective layers (mask, gloves) while applying. Often the chemicals only needed to be applied to the areas where fleas are most likely to be found (shady and humid areas).
More drastic measures requires you to slightly flood your backyard to get rid of flea eggs and larvae. It’s not as bad as it sounds but it may affect the health of your grass. Once the necessary steps have been taken to rid your backyard of fleas, larvae and eggs are still present in the grass and other areas that fleas were using to breed. Once fleas have been annihilated, it is recommended that you hose down garden beds if you have any, around trees, dog pens and houses, around rock mounds and any other areas where fleas have been known to inhabit. Now it’s time to water the grass until there is a slight flood (just a few inches of water). Flea larvae and eggs cannot survive being flooded with water so once the water dries, the flea larvae and egg problem will have been solved.
Cedar wood chips are another way to keep flea populations down, and many people already use them as mulch around plants. Fleas cannot stand the smell of cedar chips and try their best to avoid them at all cost. The wood chips should be sprinkled along areas where fleas have been known to congregate, this can include: under the dog house, porch, shaded areas, underneath dog bedding and outdoor furniture. Cedar chips can also be sprinkled along the perimeter of the fences the keep neighboring fleas out.
Preventative Yard Maintenance and Discourage Flea Infestations
Fleas love to inhabit areas that are slightly high in humidity and protects them from the sun. These areas can include the dog’s house, sleeping area and areas where your dog’s food and water bowls are located. Ticks are another pest that can be prevented in this step, as ticks often love to hind in tall grass and plants with branches that allow them to jump onto the pet. The cheapest and easiest way to control flea populations that involves doing what many of us already do is keep grass low and bushes pruned. Regularly mowing your yard isn’t only nice for aesthetics, but it also gives fleas and ticks one less place to hide and attack your pet. Keeping bushes and trees pruned as well as leaves raked can also reduce the flea and tick population.
Freeing the yard of any debris is as equally important as mowing and pruning. After the lawn has been mowed, any lawn clippings left over should be disposed of by bagging. Allowing the grass clippings and leaves to accumulate on the lawn or in a pile, will only give the fleas another area in which they can breed. Although it may require extra time and effort, properly disposing of grass clipping and leaves will save you a lot of time and trouble later.
If there are any holes in your yard it is important to fill these as well. Holes in the yard can accumulate water after it rains, and the standing water not only attracts mosquitos but it can also attract fleas as well. The water not only attracts the fleas, but it can also be used as a breeding ground for them. Holes can be filled with gravel on the bottom, and then covered with topsoil or fill dirt. Filling holes reduces the possibility of infestation and gives the flea’s one less place to hide and reproduce.
Keeping fleas out of your yard and away from your home and pets requires a lot of effort. Although some of these tasks seem tedious, in the end they produce satisfactory results and long-term effects when used diligently. When it comes to the health of one’s property and pets, a little work now to stave off a potential flea infestation will save a lot of time and money in the long run.