Fleas exist in the environment as eggs, pupae, larvae, and living insects. These many states make it very difficult to get rid of them and explains why they are so persistent. So, as well as directly treating your pets, you also need to treat your pet’s environment.
Follow the steps below to tackle the flea problem:
Step 1: Treat your pet for fleas
This is the most important aspect of flea treatment. Directly treating your pet can come in many forms; you can purchase flea treatments from your local supermarket, online, or from your veterinary surgery. The most common way of treating your pet is either using a spot-on liquid or an oral tablet. Both methods of treatment are effective. However, using a spot-on kills new fleas on contact, whereas using an oral treatment means that new fleas must first bite your pet before they are killed. To ensure these treatments are as effective as possible, it is vital that you use them every 4 weeks to fully disrupt the flea’s lifecycle.
Step 2: Treat your pet’s furry friends
Make sure all other cats and dogs in your household are treated with suitable flea treatment as any pet in your household can act as a host for fleas.
Step 3: Vacuum thoroughly
Fleas thrive in places that are dark and humid around your home, so it’s essential to vacuum in the cracks and crevices such as under the furniture. Don’t forget to vacuum any furniture in the house where your pets like to relax or sleep.
Step 4: Wash your pet’s bedding above 60°C
Make sure to wash your pet’s bedding on a high temperature. Once washed, put their bedding in the dryer to increase the chance of killing off any fleas.
Step 5: Use a flea comb
Once the spot-on has started to take effect, a flea comb can be used to help remove any remaining fleas. When using your comb there is a method of best practice. (It is good to have a bucket of warm soapy, water with you to clear the comb of any fleas throughout):
- Begin by combing the ears and the head of your pet.
- Then move on to combing under the chin (fleas like to collect here).
- Next, comb down the back of your pet’s head, neck and back.
- Finally, comb your dog’s tail and legs.
Step 6: Use environmental spray throughout the house
Find a flea spray that contains an IGR (Insect Growth Regulator). As with vacuuming, it is best to spray these products in the hard-to-reach cracks and crevices, on the furniture, floors and your pet’s bedding. An environmental spray containing an IGR will reduce the number of flea eggs and larvae in your home before they develop into pupae, reducing the length of time of a possible infestation.
Step 7: Allow treated pets into infested areas
Allowing your treated pet back into an infested area will kill the remaining eggs and larvae that have newly hatched into adult fleas. The new adult fleas will then be killed by the spot-on treatment, as it continually protects your pet for 4 weeks. Despite using an environmental spray and vacuuming the home thoroughly, some fleas will always be missed. However, following all these steps will significantly reduce the likelihood of your pet being affected by fleas.
Why are fleas such a persistent problem?
Unfortunately, there is no escaping fleas. The majority of our pets will have, or have had, a flea problem at some point. They are, without a doubt, the most common persisting complaint for vets today. Fleas can be picked up from wild animals, the environment (carpets etc.) or from contact with other domesticated animals with a flea problem. Humans can even unwillingly carry fleas home if they have been in an infested environment. Do not panic though, fleas do not prefer living on humans if there are dogs or cats in the house.
Flea dirt – a sign of fleas
Fleas are often undetectable to the untrained eye. More often than not, it's flea dirt that can be spotted hiding close to your pet's skin. Flea dirt looks like tiny black dust which, when put on wet kitchen roll, leaks a red colour onto the white paper. Flea dirt is essentially digested blood. If flea dirt is found when brushing your pet, it is almost a certainty that they have live fleas on them somewhere.
The flea life-cycle
The nature of the flea lifecycle is what makes them hard to keep under control and eradicate. Live adult fleas living on a host can lay up to 50 eggs per day. When you have a few adults living on a pet, this can soon add up. Flea eggs fall to the floor and disappear into the carpet, between wooden floorboards and into rugs. Eggs hatch into larvae (small worm-like creatures) which survive on flea dirt and other organic matter. Larvae then become pupae (similar to a butterfly lifecycle). An adult flea hatches from a pupae.
How to treat fleas
There are countless methods of preventing and eradicating flea infestations on your pet and in your home. It is a sobering fact that around 95% of the flea population (taking into account eggs/larvae/pupae) are actually in the home, rather than on your pet. So, rigorous vacuuming under all furniture can help reduce the environmental life-stages of the flea. Household sprays are useful for the removal of eggs/larvae from the environment. In severe infestations, the council can be brought in to treat the whole house from top to bottom.
Treatment and prevention for your pet can come in many forms; supermarkets, online retailers, and veterinary surgeries should be your first ports of call. Ultimately you must find the product that works best for you, your home, and your pet. It should be noted that preventing a flea infestation is far easier than trying to get rid of one. So, be proactive and start protecting your pet now, (if you don't already!). It’s generally agreed upon that the best way to avoid a flea problem is to treat your pet every 4 weeks to fully disrupt the flea’s lifecycle. Remember, fleas are not just a nuisance to your pet, they can potentially spread other parasites such as tapeworms, as well as causing life-threatening anaemia in severe infestations. The good news is that you can easily get rid of fleas in a few simple steps, quickly, and for good.