Most animal owners are now aware that topical prevention for fleas and ticks is a safe and effective way to keep the flea population under control on our pets. However, in cases of flea infestations, it is imperative that the environment is also treated for fleas in order to get them under control. This is because the fleas we see on the pet account for only about 10% of the fleas in the environment.
There are multiple ways to approach eliminating a flea infestation from your pets and your home. This is meant to be a simple guide on the techniques we recommend.
Treating your pet directly: We recommend Vectra 3D® topical flea and tick prevention for dogs and Revolution for cats. The newer flea and tick collars on the market (Scalibor® and Seresto®) also seem to be good options at this time. Do NOT use collars containing Amitraz, permethrin, or organophosphates on cats. The routine administration of topical treatment is every 4 weeks, but in cases of a flea infestation, it is safe to apply it to the animal every 3 weeks. It is ideal to apply the product no sooner than 48 hours after bathing or to wait 48 hours after applying it before you bathe the pet. This is important to allow the medication to work with the natural oils in the animal’s skin. There are also oral flea and tick prevention for dogs such as Nexgard® and Comfortis®. It is also imperative that EVERY animal in the house be treated, whether they go outside or not. Because of the flea life cycle, you must treat an animal for a minimum of 3 months in a row to eliminate all stages of the fleas. We recommend year-round flea and tick treatment in our area of New England, as it only takes one mild day for fleas and ticks to re-emerge and we are still seeing flea infestations even in the middle of winter.
Vacuum, Vacuum, Vacuum: Fleas lay their eggs on the animal, and then the eggs fall off into the environment where they hatch, turn into larvae, then pupae, then adult fleas. Vacuuming on a regular basis can help eliminate these immature stages before they become adults and jump back on the pets. It is important to vacuum all areas of the house, especially where animals spend time like couches and pet beds. But these eggs and larvae are not limited to carpet and upholstery, they can be in crevices in hardwood floors and linoleum so it is important to vacuum in high traffic areas as well. Discard your vacuum bag or clean out the canister weekly to avoid fleas continuing to develop inside the vacuum bag. Do NOT place mothballs or flea collars in the vacuum, since toxic fume could result.
Utilize flea “bombs”: These can be purchased at most hardware stores such as Lowes or Home Depot. Use a product that contains both an adulticide and an insect growth regulator (IGR), such as Nylar (pyriproxyfen) or methoprene. This can be in the form of carpet powders, foggers, or sprays. Follow label instructions for usage per square foot and removing animals from the home during the treatment. This will also help kill the immature stages of the fleas. However, the eggs are resistant to many of these chemicals, and that is why you will likely need to repeat these treatments 2 to 3 months in a row to completely be rid of the fleas.
Capstar: In addition to topicals and treating the environment for fleas, you can also give your pet Capstar®, which is a safe oral treatment to eliminate any live adult fleas on your pet, providing fast flea relief. It begins to work within 30 minutes and lasts up to 48 hours. This does not have any long-term preventative effect, so is only used in conjunction with other product.
Outdoor Environment: Flea control in the outdoor environment generally involves eliminating the habitat in the yard and kennel areas where fleas are most likely to occur. Fleas tend to like it where it is moist, warm, shady, and where there is organic debris. Rake away any organic debris such as leaves, straw, grass clippings, etc., to disturb flea habitat.
Professional help: If you have tried the above protocols for 2 to 3 months in a row and are still fighting fleas, sometimes calling a professional exterminator company is in your best interest.
Prevention, Prevention, Prevention: The best flea control is always flea prevention. Keeping up with your indoor/outdoor environments and having your pet on a flea preventative will reduce the risk of fleas becoming established and an issue for your pet and its surround environments.
Keep in mind that until all of the fleas in your home have died, you will probably still see some fleas, even on a treated pet, since some immature forms may continue to develop. This is especially true if you had a big flea problem to start with. Persistence is the key here. It is essential to keep following an effective flea control program for a long enough time to get rid of all of the fleas, in all life stages. This may take several weeks to 6 months or more, depending on your particular situation.