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Fleas are a common problem in homes, especially those with pets. You may discover a problem with fleas even if you do not have pets, if previous owners of your property kept cats or dogs.
Fleas may also be carried on other, especially hairy, animals like rabbits, foxes, rats, mice and livestock such as pigs.
As parasites, the greatest concern about the presence of fleas in your home or business comes from their bites. Although flea bites are not painful, they can result in an uncomfortable itch or rash. Your pets could also develop allergies to flea saliva.
Getting rid of fleas is a difficult process due to the long lifecycle of a flea. Moderate to severe infestations will take months to control and require a four-step process for complete elimination:
- Sanitation. Thoroughly clean areas where fleas frequently breed. This includes washing bedding, rugs, and pet bedding, and thoroughly vacuuming and sweeping floors and carpeted areas and along the edges of walls.
- Pet treatment. Every pet in the home must be treated. Thoroughly bathe pets with soap and water, then comb them with a flea comb. Pay careful attention to face and neck regions, and the area in front of the tail. Soap will act as a gentle insecticide to kill adult fleas. Talk to your veterinarian about choosing the right flea control product for your pet.
- Home treatment. Begin home treatment at the same time as pet treatment. This keeps all treatment on the same timeline and helps disrupt the flea life cycle. A licensed commercial pest control applicator can help you determine which products are best for inside your home and in the yard. In general, focus outdoor treatment on shady areas and places where pets spend the most amount of time.
- Follow-up. Fleas have a complex life cycle. At some stages of their life cycle they are resistant to insecticides and other flea control products. In order to get rid of fleas in all stages of the life cycle, two or more follow-up treatments within 5-10 days after the first application are needed. Additionally, vacuuming and sanitation practices should be ongoing throughout this period to pick up all remaining eggs and juvenile fleas.
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There are several things you can do to get rid of fleas if you catch the problem early enough. Here’s our to-do list for a flea-free home:
- Before you do anything else vacuum carpets, furnishings, cracks in the floorboards and upholstered furniture. This will not only get rid of adult fleas, but also their eggs and larvae. The larvae feed on adult flea faeces and other organic matter, which collects in things like carpets and rugs. Removing this source of food is an important step.
- Empty your vacuum cleaner very carefully away from the house because the fleas will still be alive.
- Groom your pets regularly with a flea comb and wash their beds every week (ideally at 50°c or above).
- If your pet is scratching or biting its fur you should talk to your vet. They can recommend the best flea sprays or powders to use to treat your pet.