Dealing With Fleas

Flea control is essential this time of year. We hope this information is helpful to keep your pet flea free this season.

In order to break the flea cycle, you must use a topical product or medication that will allow your pet to kill the fleas as they jump on them.  All furred pets in the house (cats, dogs, ferrets, rabbits, etc) should be treated monthly.  They will become bait to attract the adult fleas and kill them as they wander through the house.  Your pets must have access to the entire house, any room that is isolated can become a safe haven for the fleas to outlast the flea products.

The flea cycle is 30 days and most flea products will last 30 days on your animal.  With this is mind, the first month that you treat your pet the adult fleas in the house should jump on and die very shortly. The second month that you treat your pet, the eggs in the environment will start hatching and a new batch will jump on and die before they are able to lay new eggs to contaminate the environment.  The third month that you treat your pet should eliminate any stragglers, thus breaking the flea life cycle in your environment.  You should continue to treat your pet one (1) month beyond the killing frosts in the fall so that not only do you eliminate adult fleas from getting into the house but you eliminate any of the last eggs from hatching and staying all winter long.

When using topical products remember that they must be applied directly to the skin, so part the fur very well and be careful when applying the product.  Do not pet the area where the product has been applied for 12 hours to prevent inadvertently wiping the product off.  If you do pet them and remove some product, just wash your hands well to prevent your ingestion.  DO NOT REAPPLY OR RE-DOSE the animal!  You will need to wait until the next month to apply.  You also must make certain that the product you are using is safe for the species you are treating.  Cats are NOT small dogs and you CAN NOT divide a dog dose into smaller portions to treat multiple cats.  If you have exotic pets (ferrets, rabbits, etc) then discuss with your veterinarian the appropriate products to use for them as well - they are NOT SMALL CATS.

Last tip when using a topical product, make sure not to bathe your pet for two days (2) days before you apply and wait for two (2) days before you bathe them following application. The topical medications and products require the oils in the skin in order to work.  Bathing with a medicated shampoo will definitely dry your pet’s skin out before you apply and if bathing your pet after will wash the flea product off. We recommend applying the product you and your veterinarian choose then wait two days and bathe your pet with a mild oatmeal or essential fatty acid shampoo.  This way you will not wash the product off the skin but you will be able to wash all the dead fleas, flea dirt, eggs, etc off your pet.

You physically can help eliminate fleas and eggs from the environment by vacuuming the house weekly.  Fleas work by sitting in the dark and staring at a light source.  When an animal crosses their path and casts a shadow, the flea will jump.  This means that you must target the shadowed areas of the house (toe kicks, edges of furniture, cracks in hard wood, grout seams in tile, ventilation grates, etc.) in order to catch the majority of fleas.

You also need to target the areas where your pet sleeps because the eggs will be thrown off when they get up and shake, scratch, etc.  Once you vacuum the material obtained needs to leave the house.  You may freeze a bag, rather than waste a slightly full vacuum bag, so you may reuse the bag week after week.  Canister vacuums should be emptied and the material removed from the house immediately to prevent collected eggs from hatching and the fleas from escaping back into the house.

You can kill fleas in the environment by using surface sprays, "bombs" or foggers.  These products need to be used with caution because they can be toxic to certain species or even humans if used inappropriately.  The area treatments do not kill all stages of the flea life cycle, so you will need to still treat all pets in the house to prevent the cycle from continuing. There is a life stage that the flea enters a cocoon and it is impervious to all treatments, medications, etc.  That is why there is no single area treatment or product that will eliminate a flea infestation immediately.  You must outlast the fleas with all of the tips above (treating the pet, cleaning the environment and/or treating the environment).