The common flea usually enters your home on an animal. Dogs and cats are the most common source of fleas, they pick them up outside and bring them into your home. Also, wild animals nesting in or around your home are another source. Treatment is typically a two-prong approach: 1) eliminate fleas on your pet and 2) treat your home for fleas.
Flea bites affect people differently. Children generally are more sensitive to bites and some people develop serious allergic reactions. The flea’s food source is blood; because of this, fleas can also be disease carriers.
Fleas are most active in the warm seasons, especially summer. Fleas spend most of their time on your pets. While they may end up in your carpet and bedding, they seek warmth and a food source and so are likely to jump back onto your pet or onto you.
Fleas are small, about the size of two pin heads. They are dark in color, nearly black. Flea eggs and larvae are smaller and white. Fleas excrete dried blood which the larvae consume. Inspect your pet for fleas, eggs, larvae or excreta.
You can also check for fleas around animal bedding areas or anywhere you suspect an infestation by placing a sheet of white paper on the ground. When fleas jump onto the paper they are easy to see. You can also wear white socks to walk in suspected infestation areas; the fleas are easy to see against the white background.
It is important to eliminate fleas on your pet and in your home at the same time. Treating only half the problem will not resolve it, only slow it down.
When you find a flea, you may be able to catch it between your fingertips. However, fleas are difficult to kill by pinching them, so the best way to get rid of fleas is by drowning them in water. We recommend combing your pet with a special flea comb.
A flea comb’s teeth are very close together allowing the comb to pull the fleas off of the individual hairs. As you comb away fleas, dip the comb in a cup of soapy water.
Washing your pet in shampoo is also effective. Flea shampoos are not necessary, although some may provide extended protection by delaying reinfestation. Whatever shampoo you use, try to keep your pet’s neck and body completely submerged in soapy water for several minutes to drown the fleas.
After the bath, comb your pet again. Also, fleas will be attempting to abandon your pet during and after the bath, so you may want to take your pet outside after the bath until most of the fleas have gone.
Flea collars offer varying degrees of effectiveness. Flea treatments such as Advantage and Frontline offer high levels of effectiveness with low levels of toxicity for humans and pets.
Treat your home by vacuuming thoroughly and frequently. Use of diatomaceous earth (DE) is a very effective substance for killing fleas (as well as ants and several other pests) but has low toxicity for humans and pets. Spread a dusting onto carpets, upholstery and pet bedding. Wear goggles and a dust mask to avoid breathing the dust.
Use of a borax and water mixture in a carpet cleaner is another low-toxicity method to break the reproductive cycle of fleas. It does not kill adult fleas but the borate binds to carpet fibers and prevents fleas from maturing thus breaking the reproductive cycle. This treatment can be effective for up to a year. While borax powder can be sprinkled onto the carpet and the excess vacuumed up, the powder poses some hazard for your lungs and so the wet method is preferred.
If the source of fleas is from outside your home, such as wild animal nests in and around your home, use of diatomaceous earth (DE) is recommended. Do not use DE to treat the entire perimeter of your home as it will also kill beneficial insects. Spot treat nests as necessary.