Flea-Free: How to Control Parasites in Your Pet's Environment

Have you ever had problems with fleas?

If you have pets, your most likely answer is a resounding "yes"... possibly followed by hysterical laughter at the very question. While there's still no super-duper flea-repelling force field to put on our pets, selves and homes (where's science when you need it?), there are ways to help cut down on and, sometimes, prevent the problem entirely.


Prevention is Key

The best way to prevent a flea infestation is to keep pets on a constant and consistent flea control regimen - year-round. While it might seem okay to stop prevention during colder months when fleas are less active, the reality is that our warm homes provide the perfect habitat for fleas. Making sure your pets have year-round protection ensures no sporadic flea problems during less active times and no sudden burst of itching and scratching in the spring and summer when fleas get active again. The bottom line is that when your pet is on and off preventative medication, it is likely s/he will get fleas! It's simply safer and easier to prevent an infestation, rather than tackle one after it gets started.

We can recommend products for both dogs and cats to help prevent a flea infestation in your home. We're happy to talk with you about your pet's and family's lifestyle and needs. There are topical and oral preventives, and one of these should be just right for your pet. Just contact us!


The Flea Life Cycle - In Your Home

Adult fleas live on your pet and lay eggs. These eggs drop off into the environment, where they hatch into larvae. Larvae prefer to live in dark, low traffic areas, such as under the couch or between couch cushions. After a few days, the larvae molt into pupae (a cocoon-like stage) and can stay dormant for up to six months. Pupae live in carpeting, between floorboards or in shady outdoor areas. Once this stage is over, the adult flea will jump back onto your pet.

It's important to remember that your pet can get fleas while on a flea control regimen. If an unprotected dog or cat (not current on preventives) visits your home, for example, s/he can drop eggs into your pet’s environment. These eggs will hatch 14 days to one year later. Additionally, if your dog visits a friend or neighbor’s home or yard and fleas are present, s/he may pick them up there. Remember, you cannot control every situation, but you can protect your home and your pets.


Cleaning Your Home during a Flea Infestation

Clean a flea infestation in your home with your vacuum

If your house becomes infested with fleas, we can recommend control products for your pets. In addition to treating your pets, you’ll need to thoroughly clean the environment, especially the areas where your pet sleeps. If your pet sleeps in your bed, wash all bedding and make sure to clean around and under the bed. If your pet has his/her own bed, make sure you wash it as well. Vacuuming is important. Remove all couch and chair cushions and vacuum them, as well as under and around the couch. Then be sure to empty vacuum canisters or bags outside of your home. Don't put a vacuum full of fleas and eggs right back into a linen closet!

It is important to note that during the cleaning process, you will not be able to remove all flea pupae—they will continue to hatch out. However, once you have your pet on a monthly preventative, you'll kill those fleas once they have hatched. (Most preventatives don't kill fleas until they bite your pet, though, so there will still be some itching and scratching.)


Fleas in the Outdoor Environment

Dark, leafy areas are perfect for fleas

Outdoor areas will be harder to clean, but, if you want your pet to stop bringing fleas in from outside, it's absolutely necessary to treat your yard. Again, fleas will be found where your pet typically hangs out in the yard. Fleas especially enjoy dark, leafy areas, such as under shrubs, houses and porches. To rid your outdoor environment of fleas, first clean all leafy debris away. Then, you'll want to get a pet-safe yard spray (please feel free to ask for recommendations) and treat your yard, garden and (if your house is raised or you have a raised porch/deck) under your house. 

Fleas can be very frustrating to eradicate, but with your veterinarian’s help, you can win the battle!


This post originally appeared on The Drake Center and has been adapted with permission for reposting.


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