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Got fleas? That bites – literally!
When it comes to household pests, there is one pest in particular that sends fear deep into a dog-owner’s heart – fleas. There are many common misconceptions about fleas and a wide number of possible solutions to getting rid of them; however, not every “cure” is created equal. Some cures for flea infestation have been proven to be completely effective while others don’t even make a dent. Whether your flea problem begins with a single flea carried by your pet, or with a whole host transferred to your home unknowingly, the result always ends in infestation. So, getting rid of fleas will take a concerted effort. Luckily, we’ve got some tips to help you out in your battle.
- Fleas 101
- Find the Source of the Infestation
- Tips Before You Treat Your Dog
- Methods of Flea Removals – Natural and Chemical
- Tips to Prevent Re-Infestation
There are over 2,000 different versions of fleas throughout the world, but many of the common flea species can be eliminated with your average eradication solutions. Fleas are particularly small, as anyone who has experienced an infestation will be able to tell you, varying from 1/16 inch to 1/8 inch. You might realize you have a flea problem if you notice your pet (or even you) itching like crazy or if you see any small, raised red bites. Fleas may start with one family member, but often times they jump to other family members so it’s important to act quickly. Fleas can jump as high as seven inches and 13 inches horizontally. They travel from one place to another in search of a fresh blood supply, however, there are some fleas that cannot live off of human blood.
Before taking action you must determine where the infestation came from. If the infestation came from your pet, you should make a trip to the veterinarian so your pet can have a flea bath to kill the fleas that are currently living off your pet. Do not bring your pet inside your home until you completely rid your home of fleas or else they may be infested again. You can avoid this type of infestation by applying a flea and tick preventative to your pet on a regular monthly basis.
If your flea infestation began with a carpet or other item that was given to you by friends or family, it is important to let them know that there were fleas in the item so that they can address the problem in their own household as well. Bringing up a flea infestation with anyone is a delicate matter but do not be tempted to let the situation go because fleas can quickly and easily infest even the cleanest home. It is also worth contacting individuals that have been in your house since the infestation began since fleas can travel on humans.
Before you pursue any treatment you should do a good old-fashioned cleaning. And when we say clean, we don’t just mean your dog’s bed, we mean everything. From your bedding to your towels to anything your dog lies on, make sure you wash it all, and in hot water if possible. While you’re ridding your washable items of those tiny pests, break out the vacuum on every floor and couch and be sure to empty the vacuum bag. Then fasten that bag securely, and place it outside so that none of those unwanted pests make their way back into your home! Clean your hard surfaces and after washing everything – including your dog – you’re ready to start your flea treatment.
When it comes to eliminating fleas from your home, there are those who believe that the quickest way to rid themselves of the problem is also the best way and there are those who believe that the best way to eliminate the infestation is the natural way. Neither of these ideas is right or wrong since both have been proven to work in different circumstances; however, depending upon your beliefs or needs you may be more partial to one method. On one hand, your top concern may be saving your small children from flea bites as quickly as possible, or it may be exposing your children to as few foreign chemicals as possible. No matter which method you decide to pitch your flea-killing tent in, you’re guaranteed to have options.
- Sticky Flea Pads
- Boric-Acid-Based Products
- Rosemary Flea Dip
- Lavender Essential Oil
- Brewer’s Yeast
- Apple Cider Vinegar
- Lemon Spray
- Warm and Soapy Water
Sticky flea pads are similar to the fly paper that many households used decades ago. Generally attached to an electronic trap that you plug-in near the location that is severely infested with fleas. Fleas are attracted to the trap over a period of weeks and get stuck on the paper. The drawback to using sticky traps is that they appear extremely unsanitary and take a long time to eradicate fleas. It’s important to use traps for a significant period of time to ensure all fleas are captured and that you bathe all animals in the home (as specified above) to reduce the number of parasites living off your pet.
We recommend The Ultimate Flea Trap – View on Amazon
Boric-acid-based products are a highly recommended solution for flea infestations, particularly when there are animals living in the household. Boric acid is not toxic to people or animals, but it kills fleas. When boric-acid-based products are sprinkled on the carpet and throughout the infected household, the extremely fine particles of boric acid work their way into the carpet and are not easily sucked up by vacuum cleaners. The trick is to sprinkle a layer on the carpet and use a broom to work it down into the fibers, then vacuum off any excess. As fleas come in contact with the particles they quickly die. However, this means that it is extremely important to vacuum the floors regularly to reduce the dead fleas that are in your carpet.
We recommend FleaGo Natural Flea Control Boric Acid – View on Amazon
When it comes to homes with tile, wood or linoleum flooring, many health-conscious individuals choose to use Nylar, aka pyriproxyfen, to eradicate a flea infestation. Nylar regulates the growth of fleas and is commonly used where pets spend most of their time. Nylar only needs to be applied once a year to clean up flea infestation. Nylar is unique in the way it works — it mimics the juvenile flea hormone, preventing young fleas from becoming adults. It also stops flea eggs from hatching, reducing flea populations drastically.
We recommend Ultracide Flea & Tick Pest Control – View on Amazon
Homemade rosemary flea dip is a DIY recommended holistic cure for canine flea infestations. You place two cups of fresh rosemary sprigs in boiling water for half an hour, strain the liquid and add it to a gallon of warm water (it must be warm to be effective). You could also add 2-4 drops of rosemary essential oil to your warm water. When the solution is warm, but not too hot, pour it on a flea-infested dog and let the dog air dry. Be sure to not let the dog lick or scratch until it is dry.
If you’d prefer to go with a pre-made herbal solution, there are some options available at stores as well.
We recommend NaturVet Herbal Flea Spray – View on Amazon
Lavender essential oil can serve as a natural flea killer when it’s applied to dogs. For a 50+ pound dog, you just place one drop of oil at the back of the neck and one at the base of the tail to control flea infestations. For a smaller dog, just start with one drop at the back of the neck to start. A few drops of lavender oil can also be applied to baseboards in areas where flea infestations are troublesome.
We recommend Now Foods 100% Pure Lavender Oil – View on Amazon
Brewer’s yeast is a non-toxic solution for treating your dog for fleas directly. In fact, natural living experts claim that one small tablet or spoonful of Brewer’s yeast added to your dog’s food will make him taste repulsive to fleas. When using this natural control it is important to check with your veterinarian to find out the correct dosage because it varies based on the weight of the dog.
We recommend Four Paws Brewers Yeast Tablets – View on Amazon
Apple cider vinegar is another canine-only flea controller since it has a particularly strong odor and would leave the home smelling particularly foul if it was used throughout the home. Adding a tablespoon of apple cider vinegar to your dog’s water bowl will make them taste terrible to fleas and reduce the likelihood of a flea infestation.
We recommend Bragg Apple Cider Vinegar – View on Amazon
Another non-chemical solution is warm and soapy water but it only helps with adult flea infestation. Here’s how it works: when it gets dark outside and your pet goes to bed, place a dish of warm soapy water beneath a night-light. The fleas will be attracted to the warm light, but they won’t be able to swim in the soapy water and will drown. Only the adult fleas will leave their host to enter the warm light so there will most likely still be fleas on you pet. However, with the reduced number of adult fleas the population will increase at a slower rate. This solution is not fully effective since many of the fleas on your pet will not want to leave their host. So if you decide to use this method make sure that you wash your pet thoroughly in Johnson and Johnson’s baby shampoo or Dawn dishwashing soap and warm water using a flea comb.
We recommend the Safari Flea Comb – View on Amazon
Lemon spray is claimed to be another natural flea repellent when a whole lemon is quartered and steeped in boiling water overnight. In the morning, strain out the lemon pieces and spray the solution on your dog or around your household in areas where fleas gather.
Some of you may be looking for the quickest route possible to eliminate fleas. While many chastise others for their decision to use harsher chemicals there are quite a few good reasons to eliminate fleas as quickly as possible. For most people, using a chemical-based flea eradication technique means having professionals come with compounds that eliminate fleas in a matter of weeks rather than a matter of months. One important thing to consider when choosing a faster method of flea control, especially when it is as a result of allergies within the home, is that individuals that are sensitive to flea bites may also have allergies to the more abrasive agents used in flea control methods.
In addition to speed, another advantage to using this type of pest-removal service (Orkin is a national company that offers Flea infestation solutions) is they almost always guarantee their services. So if you are still left with a house full of fleas following service, you will receive your money back or a second treatment free of charge.
If you are looking for a more affordable method you may want to purchase flea eradication powders or solutions from your local vet or pet supply store. Speak to a salesperson in the store to see if they have used the product or know someone who has. This will help you learn more about the product and its side effects. While the most guaranteed solution is to hire a professional (if you are not as concerned about earth-friendly and natural solutions), that is not always a feasible option. Here are a few chemical treatments that warrant a mention.
The only tick collar that detaches and kills fleas and ticks effectively, the Preventic Tick Collar is a great complement to a topical flea treatment program. Each collar is effective for three months, so 2 collars provides a convenient 6 months of protection.
We recommend the Preventic Tick Collar – View on Amazon
Convenient tablets that are administered orally (we recommend inserting into a soft treat). It’s effective, safe and provides protection that can’t be washed or rubbed off.
We recommend Capstar Flea Treatment Tablets – View on Amazon
Whether you choose to use natural flea eradication methods, hire a professional pest control company or use a flea control product that you buy from your local veterinarian or a store, you should always be vigilant in your pest control. Flea populations can quickly return when only a few fleas are left alive, so it is crucial that you continue treatment procedures even after all signs of fleas have gone.
After (or hopefully before) eradication comes prevention. Continue to vacuum every other day, wash bedding in hot water once a week, and treat your dog regularly, whether that be one of the natural remedies listed, or a chemical, vet-prescribed or over-the-counter treatment. If an over-the-counter treatment is your prevention route of choice, here are a few of our favorites and you can also read our comparison of Advantage vs. Frontline.
Advantage Topical Flea Treatment for Dogs
This once a month topical flea treatment for dogs kills adult fleas before they lay eggs and larvae before they hatch. It’s safe, prevents re-infestation for four weeks, and one package includes six treatments.
Merial Frontline Plus Flea and Tick Control for Dogs and Puppies
This medicated ointment for dogs kills 98 to 100 percent of fleas, eggs, larvae and ticks. The package contains three treatments for three months of protection and is waterproof to sustain swims and baths.
VetGuard Plus – XL Dogs
This monthly flea, tick, and mosquito treatment for dogs over 66 pounds breaks the flea life cycle and eggs from developing into adults for up to 123 days. It also kills flea larvae for up to four months and kills/repels ticks for up to four weeks.
Professional Pest Control is Always A Consideration
As small as fleas are it is quite possible for just a few to escape your treatment and, since the female flea is capable of laying up to 600 eggs in her lifetime, it doesn’t take long for an entirely new flea infestation to begin. If you want to be sure that you’ve eliminated your pest problem, your best bet is to always utilize professional pest control services that guarantee their work and if you look hard enough you may just find a local pest control service that utilizes natural solutions to terminate fleas.
What do you find works best to prevent or for getting rid of fleas?