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How to Get Rid of Fleas

How to Get Rid of Fleas

How to Get Rid of Fleas

Posted July 2, 2020

Fleas can cause serious problems for you, your pet, and your peace of mind. Fleas become a problem during the warmer months, but no matter the time of year, now is the best time to take action. 

These are some measures and best practices for your home that can prevent fleas from becoming a problem. You’ll also learn to protect yourself and your pets in case your home happens to become infested. 

Flea Information and Identification

Flea-borne Illnesses

Fleas are most famous for making pets itch, but that’s not the only concern they raise. Even though they usually focus on four-legged animals, fleas can bite people as well. 

These are just a few of the problems cat fleas, dog fleas, human fleas, and rat fleas can cause for you and your pets. 

Flea allergy dermatitis is a common problem for pets with fleas, and it doesn’t always go away very easily. After it bites your pet, the flea’s saliva causes an allergic reaction that becomes an itchy welt on your dog or cat’s skin. Sometimes the affected area can spread across your pet’s body and be a significant nuisance for them. Pets can scratch hard enough to bleed, which can lead to infection if left untreated.

Tapeworm can cause illness in your pets. While biting or self-grooming, your pet could swallow a flea with a worm egg inside it. Although this parasite is not usually deadly, it is extremely gross. 

One way to tell if your pet has a tapeworm is to check around their anus and in their feces for whitish segments about the size of a grain of rice. Your pet may also salivate excessively, experience an extreme increase in appetite, and grow unusually tired and lethargic.

Cat Scratch Disease is caused by bacteria transmitted from fleas to cats. From there, a cat can transmit the disease to humans with only a scratch. Children under 15 years old are usually the most common victims of cat scratch disease, although it may affect people older than 15 as well. 

Flea-borne Typhus is another disease that can be transmitted to humans by contact with infected fleas, wildlife, pets, or other infected animals. Typhus can be serious if untreated and includes symptoms such as fever and a rash.

Although not as common as some diseases, the bubonic plague is also transmitted to humans through fleas. 

Identify Fleas

Adult fleas are between 1/16 to 1/8 inch long (1.5-3.3mm), which means they are visible to the naked eye, although extremely small. They are very thin so that they can squeeze between the hairs of their host. Because they only feed on blood, their body color is usually a dark reddish-brown.

Flea eggs aren’t usually the first thing you’ll notice if you have a flea problem. Flea eggs can be mistaken as dandruff and are like minuscule oval grains of salt.

Flea larvae look like tiny white worms after hatching from the egg. Usually, they eat dried blood that adult fleas defecate after a blood meal. Yep, it’s gross.

The larvae find a dark, protected spot to spin a cocoon. Inside the cocoon, the fleas pupate into adults. Before emerging, the adult waits for a host to come nearby, sometimes waiting hidden in the cocoon for months. 

**Eggs and pupae cocoons are why any effective flea treatment inside a home must sink deeply into the carpet — otherwise, the infestation could restart itself. From egg to adult, the flea life cycle requires only about 15-20 days to mature in ideal conditions, so it’s vital to interrupt that cycle and stop the infestation.**

Get Rid of Fleas — DIY Flea Control 

Fleas can get everywhere, which means what you do to combat them must be thorough. It’s estimated that only about 5% of the flea population are adults, and the remaining 95% are most likely eggs, larvae, and pupae, which litter the ground outside or in your house. So when you go to war with fleas, you’ve got to concentrate on all the places they could show up, including the yard, inside the house, and on your pet. 

1. Yard Upkeep

The yard is one of the first places fleas are likely to show up, so making your outdoor property as inhospitable for them as possible will go a long way in both flea treatments and prevention.

Target Problematic Areas

Fleas like shady, humid, warm areas that are out of the sun’s heat. If your pet has favorite spots they like to lounge, fleas are likely to start congregating there as well. Focus on these areas when you do your lawn upkeep, but be sure to implement the following tips throughout the entire yard.

Yard Keeping for Flea Treatment and Prevention

  • Mow the Grass

Short grass decreases the chances of a flea infestation by eliminating hiding spots and reducing humidity levels in the grass. This is especially important near the house foundation and in shaded areas. If you have seen fleas in the grass, it may be best to bag the clippings rather than compost them. Bagging the clippings is a quick way to contain the fleas the lawnmower may have picked up.

  • Remove Debris

Fallen fruit, branches, or leaves can all make great hiding places for fleas. Additionally, remove any other type of debris as well, including yard equipment, parked vehicles, or other items. Debris can create an ideal environment for fleas.

  • Outdoor Flea Treatment Products

There are many outdoor flea treatment products out there that may be helpful, depending on your case. Before using a product, check to make sure the flea spray, dust, or granule is EPA-approved. Always follow the usage directions on the label.

  • Consider Beneficial Nematodes

If you don’t want to use standard pesticides for your yard, this may be a solution you’ll want to consider.

As natural remedies for pests emerge and evolve, some of them may be effective and beneficial. The idea is that beneficial nematodes are a type of roundworm that only infects fleas and other arthropods. Research suggests that they can get rid of a flea problem within about two months. Research also indicates that they don’t cause problems for plants, pets, or humans. 

You may want to speak to your local gardening center about nematodes and whether it’s right for you. Keep in mind that most flea treatment products for outside use will most likely kill nematodes as well, so you may have to choose between standard pesticide products and beneficial nematodes as your solution. 

Discourage Wildlife Problems

One of the culprits of flea problems in the yard is often wildlife. Animals like raccoons, rats or mice, and opossums can carry fleas and flea-borne illnesses to your yard. The wild animal is usually attracted to your property to find food or shelter, and any fleas or flea eggs drop off into the lawn.

Do whatever you can to keep your yard unattractive to wildlife invaders. Your efforts will help reduce the chance of a tick or flea infestation in your yard. Without food, shelter, or another incentive to stay around your property, wildlife will most likely leave and hopefully take their fleas with them. 

  • Trim Tall Shrubs and Trees

Any branch or bush that can make it easier for a raccoon or opossum to climb on your house could attract all sorts of wildlife problems, not just fleas.

  • Secure your Garbage Cans

Garbage is like a delicacy for raccoons and other critters. If your garbage bin doesn’t have a secure lid, try using rope or bungee cords to keep it locked at night. Ideally, the garbage should stay closed even if it’s knocked over. 

  • Clean up Debris to Avoid Attracting Wildlife 

Cleaning up debris around the yard is so important to integrated pest management (IPM) that we wanted to mention it yet again. Since wild animals are constantly on the lookout for food and shelter, clearing up fallen branches, fruits, leaves, and other debris will help keep them uninterested in your property. 

It’s crucial that everything is removed from the yard, including vehicles, trailers, refrigerators, yard equipment, and other debris. Fewer pieces of debris means fewer visits from wildlife, which means fewer chances of wildlife problems, including fleas.

  • Don’t Leave Food Outside

That includes pet food, which has pretty much all the nutrition animals need to survive. Rats, raccoons, and other animals are willing to travel long distances if they catch the smell of dog food in the air. They aren’t picky about lapping up your pet’s water bowl, either. So, clean and put away pet food and water bowls at night. 

If you’ve had a picnic, barbecue, or party in the yard, check everywhere during cleanup to make sure no scrap gets left behind. It might seem innocent to think that a wild animal will “clean up” any stray food you might have missed, but it’s not. Of all the dangers wildlife cause to your property, the flea problems alone aren’t worth the risk of leaving food out.

  • Automatic Sprinklers

Automated sprinkler systems can be extremely effective defenses against wildlife invaders, including animals as bold as raccoons. Most of these systems have a motion detector on it. 

For most of these sprinkler systems, you simply connect a hose, determine the range you’d like to spray and let it do the work for you. Any animal that comes in range will run into quite a shock when the sprinkler activates. Automatic sprinklers can be purchased online.

2. Prevent Fleas on Your Pets

Doing these simple chores can both help maintain your pet’s health as well as prevent problems with fleas. If you spot fleas on your pet, it’s a good idea to do these things more frequently, as applicable to your situation.

  • Wash Your Pet’s Bedding 

You should wash pet bedding at least once per week, but if you’ve seen fleas on your pet, you may want to do it more often, even every other day. Use hot water in the washer and the hot setting in the dryer. 

You can also take the bedding to the dry cleaner’s. Just make sure the cleaning chemicals they use are pet-friendly.

Wash any other areas where your pet rests regularly, including crates or kennels, furniture, and other areas of the house.

  • Bathe Your Pet 

Not all pets can be bathed often, but make sure you’re bathing your pet as often as needed. Talk to your veterinarian about flea shampoo that is compatible with your pet’s skin sensitivity and is also effective against fleas. Some flea shampoo for pets contains permethrin, which is a pesticide developed from chrysanthemum flower extract.

  • Flea Combs

After spending time outside, and especially after being in the woods, in long grass, or in unfamiliar areas, run a flea comb through your pet’s fur. Fleas tend to stay near the neck and around the tail, so be extra thorough in those regions. Choose a comb with finer tines to maximize effectiveness.

  • Consider Shaving Your Pet

Since fleas are most active in the summer, you might consider keeping your pet’s fur short during the summer months. This will make it easier for you to spot fleas if they latch onto your pet. Shorter hair will also make bathing and combing for fleas less difficult.

  • Over the Counter (OTC) Flea and Tick Treatments

Many treatment products for pets will help prevent tick and flea problems without worry. Some treatments are taken orally, as sprays, or drops. Flea collars can also work well but may be irritating to your pet’s skin. Consult your veterinarian about which treatments are right for your pet.

  • Regular Checkups

Especially if you’re in an area that’s at high risk for ticks and fleas, go to the vet regularly to check for them and to keep up on your pet’s overall health. Your veterinarian may also choose to prescribe a stronger tick and flea medication for your situation.

3. Getting Rid of Fleas in Your Home

Flea infestations inside the house can be a nightmare, but, in addition to the items above, there are a few things you can do to prevent them from setting up shop in your house.

Routine House-cleaning to Prevent Fleas

Most of these steps are things you’re probably already doing, but with an additional step that you might not have thought to do before. These are important to do before you ever see fleas inside the house. Performing these simple housekeeping tasks will help you prevent and identify fleas before a major infestation happens.

Just remember that fleas don’t infest houses because the home is dirty. They will infest the cleanest, most sanitary conditions if they can. These cleaning tips simply make your home less appealing to them and more likely to die off.

  • Vacuum Regularly and Thoroughly

Once per week, vacuum the floors just in case there are any fallen flea eggs or larvae. Dispose of the vacuum bag afterward. However, be sure to freeze the vacuum’s contents overnight in order to kill any fleas, eggs, or larvae that might be inside it. Simply place the vacuum bag in a sealed plastic freezer bag and freeze.

  • Wash Your Bed and Your Pet’s Bedding

This step is so important, we thought it should be mentioned twice. Use hot water in the wash cycle and dry everything on high heat in order to kill any fleas inside. 

  • Wash Your Pet’s Toys

Wash your pet’s toys thoroughly. Use hot water and grease-fighting dish soap, which can effectively kill fleas. You may want to either soak plush toys in hot soapy water for a few hours or dry clean them as necessary.

If You Have Found Fleas in the House …

When you have definitely seen fleas around the house, the last thing you want is to let the infestation get out of control. This means you’ll have to do a deep-clean for fleas frequently, at least 2 times a week, though 4 times a week is probably better.

Again, the purpose of cleaning is to kill larvae, destroy eggs, and discourage more adults from growing. Cleaning makes fleas uncomfortable, and the more cleaning we do, the better chance we have of getting rid of them altogether.

However, be aware that almost all flea infestations inside a home are almost impossible to get rid of without calling the professionals. So, you’ll want to do your research and find a reliable pest control company that provides great service. Even if you do decide to call the pros, these tips will help the treatment process. When they arrive on the scene, our Pest Pros will give you additional insights into how you can help the treatments.

  • Deep Clean with a Vacuum

While other cleaning methods might be less important and can be less frequent, it’s crucial to vacuum at least 3-4 times a week for fleas. Make sure you move furniture to vacuum under it. Remove cushions and thoroughly clean the upholstery. Vacuum your mattress as well, getting into the cracks and gaps in the bed frame also. 

Pay close attention to cracks and crevices and other tight spaces. Fleas like to avoid high-traffic areas, and they are tiny enough to fit in almost any small gap, so check and clean these places thoroughly.

  • Steam Clean or Shampoo the Carpet

Because flea pupae live deep inside the roots of the carpet, the best way to get rid of them on your own is with a combination of high heat and soap, both of which can be deadly to pupae. 

If you choose to use a flea treatment product, steaming and shampooing the carpet will help the flea treatment to sink more deeply into the carpet and kill anything the soap and heat might have missed.

  • Consider Using Food-grade Diatomaceous Earth

This powdery, flour-like substance is organic, safe for children and pets, and works like glass on insects, including fleas. Diatomaceous earth is extremely safe, but be sure to use it according to directions. Don’t use deep piles of it, and be extremely careful not to inhale it, as it can damage the lungs.

Sprinkle this under furniture, beneath cushions, along the baseboards, in your pet’s bed and into cracks and crevices in wood floors.

  • Consider OTC Indoor Flea Treatments

There are plenty of products out there with ingredients that work against fleas. Some of the more effective ones will include active ingredients like pyrethrins and pyrethroids, which are natural pesticides developed from chrysanthemum flowers — pyrethroids are man-made versions of pyrethrins, such as permethrin

Other effective active ingredients include Insect Growth Regulators (IGRs), which stop eggs from hatching properly, halt larvae development, and keep adult fleas from reproducing. IGRs that work well against fleas include methoprene and pyriproxyfen, which act like insect hormones. These are considered very safe. In fact, some anti-flea treatments for pets include IGRs that can be applied directly to the pet’s skin.

Whenever you purchase a pest control product, always make sure it is registered with the EPA. It’s easy to tell if a product is registered with the EPA, because it will have the EPA registration number somewhere close to the list of active ingredients. Some may also have a CAS number to identify the chemicals used. You can look up an EPA registration number for more information about the pesticide on the EPA website.

When to Look to the Professionals

When you’ve done all you can, and nothing seems to be taking the problem away, it’s time to look for professional help. Treatments are much more likely to work if you combine your cleaning efforts and the above prevention methods as well.

When you call Fox, you’ll know that your flea problems are over. Our Pest Pros are highly trained, experienced professionals who know how to get the job done right. 

You’ll rest easy knowing that our products are working for you so that you can focus on what matters most.

Fox Pest Control.

No Bugs. Simply Better.

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