Flea infestation often comes hand in hand with owning a pet. We all love our pets. We love the affection they offer and the enduring companionship and loyalty they bring.
But they can also bring nasty little things – fleas, these tiny creatures that if left unchecked can be a pet owner’s worst nightmare. And if we are not careful and vigilant enough, pretty soon we will be overcome with a full-blown flea infestation.
However, it is wise to know that even if you have no pets, you may still have to deal with a serious flea infestation.
If you have neighbours with dogs or cats, or live near areas with an abundance of wildlife like raccoons that can claim a chimney or another part of your house as its personal space, you may eventually come in contact with fleas. They can hitch a ride when your kids play with the neighbor’s dog or when you go and visit pet stores or the local vet. Once inside your house, they can then do their damage and multiply like crazy.
How to Determine if You Have an Infestation of Fleas
The first step in dealing with these nasty pests is knowing the enemy. What are fleas? What do they look like?
Fleas are small wingless creatures that can grow to about 1/8th of an inch long. They are typically dark in color. Fleas appear to be flat and have strong hind legs that allow them to jump about 8 inches high. This is how they can transfer from one host to another.
The second step in dealing with a flea infestation is recognition. Recognize that you have fleas in your house and that you may already have to deal with a severe flea infestation.
Where do you look for fleas? The most logical place they will be hiding is with your pets as they are the perfect host for these creatures. Your pets are their blood meal, the one food they need to multiply. If you notice your cat or dog is unusually scratching or even attempting to bite the affected area, then they may already have fleas.
A normal sign that your pets have fleas is when they already have reddened skin from constant scratching and may be losing some hair in affected areas. Check your pets for fleas by parting their fur and looking for the fleas themselves. Fleas will scamper around when exposed. You may also find flea droppings which looks like tiny specks of black dirt. To positively confirm if the small specks of dirt are flea droppings, you can place them in a white tissue that is lightly moistened. Flea droppings normally ooze a red ring of blood into the moistened tissue.
How do you determine if the fleas are already in your house? Well, if your pets come and go inside the house, then it is wise to admit that fleas are probably already inside and breeding. Even if your dog has a kennel outside, fleas can hitch a ride in your pants, accompany you inside uninvited and then thrive in the cosy atmosphere of your home without your knowledge. How is that for the perfect intruder? One recommended way to determine if fleas are already thriving in your house is to wear knee-high white socks then walking around the house wearing these. Fleas will eventually jump into the sock and will be clearly visible against the white background.
How to Eliminate an Existing Flea Infestation
Knowledge is key. Once you know and acknowledge what you are up against then there will be a greater success of removing a flea infestation.
Begin by eliminating all the adult fleas in your pets. If your dog or cat is left untreated, all other measures of controlling the flea infestation are futile as they will just continue to multiply.
There are commercially available shampoos for washing your pets but warm soapy water can also kill them as well. If your pet can stand it, you may leave the shampoo or soap on for a few minutes before rinsing to ensure that fleas get killed.
You may also opt to use flea combs. Have a bowl of warm soapy water ready so you can immediately dip the comb before the fleas have a chance to hop away and survive. Repeat this procedure ensuring that the fleas are removed from the comb into the warm soapy bath before combing it into your pet’s fur again.
There are also commercially available flea treatments like Frontline Plus for Dogs and Frontline Plus for Cats. It is advisable that you consult with your veterinarian about the appropriate flea treatment for your pet, as some dog treatments may be harmful to cats. Always follow manufacturer’s instructions in terms of dosage and frequency when using flea treatments.
The next stage in dealing with a full-blown flea infestation is getting rid of fleas in all their stages – eggs, larva and pupa. These have to be eradicated if you want any chance of getting the flea infestation under control. Ignoring this can be a big mistake as the eggs can just hatch and the flea infestation cycle will come back full swing again.
Fleas normally lay their eggs where your pets sleep and take their rest. It is best that you gather all their beddings and rugs and wash them with warm soapy water. Take note where your pets are allowed to roam. Do they jump and stay in beds and sofas? Where do they usually stay in the house?
Use a really good vacuum cleaner to thoroughly vacuum the areas where your pet normally stays. In fact, you need to thoroughly vacuum your house when your infected pet is allowed inside. Ensure you vacuum under sofas, under cushions and around crevices and corners. You need to do this at least two to three times a week to be particularly effective. It is vitally important that you discard the vacuum cleaner bag immediately after using. Dispose your vacuum cleaner bags outside the house.
You also need to get rid of the fleas in your yard or at areas where your pet stays outside, otherwise your pets might just bring the fleas back inside the house. There are commercially available products that you can attach to your garden hose that you can then thoroughly spray in all the affected areas. Follow manufacturer’s instructions and do not spray near your garden vegetables or flowers. You may also opt to just regularly wash the area with warm soapy water.
How to Prevent a Flea Infestation From Coming Back
Like the saying goes, prevention is always better than cure. The same goes with a flea infestation. It is best to prevent it in the first place than having to constantly fight these nasty little creatures that is never a pleasurable experience.
It is often difficult to fully protect your pet from coming in contact and catching fleas. But you can do your best to stop fleas from establishing themselves in your pets, in their immediate environment and in your house. Regularly bath your pets especially during the summer months. You also need to regularly wash their beddings with warm soapy water. It is advisable to put pet beddings in wooden floors and not in carpeted areas.
Use an effective vacuum cleaner to vacuum areas inside the house where your pet normally roams and rest. Use caution in emptying the vacuum cleaner, as there may be fleas or eggs inside. It is best to discard it outside. You may also apply flea prevention treatments like Frontline Plus for Dogs if you have dogs and puppies. If you have cats and kittens, use Frontline Plus for Cats . As always, consult with your veterinarian before doing so. Maintaining good hygiene practices with your pets and in your house will prevent you from having to deal with an unpleasant flea infestation.
The use of flea traps to control an infestation is one other chemical-free alternative you can implement. This is particularly useful if you don’t like to be exposed to harmful chemicals and insecticides. You can either make one yourself or buy one from shops or online.
Flea traps are made so that they attract adult fleas. The fleas entering a trap are captured and prevented from escaping. They eventually die thereby breaking the breeding cycle. This allows you and your pets to live unbothered by bites from these pests.
Flea traps are available in different forms. You can either have a homemade flea trap or one of the commercially available electric flea traps. Either way, it is best to have the type that doesn’t use chemicals. Effective traps use light and heat to attract the fleas. Fleas detect the presence of a host and become attracted to them by the body warmth they radiate. An effective trap tries to emulate the body temperature of a living host to attract these biting pests. When a flea tries to get close to a properly set flea trap, they get captured in it. Once caught, they eventually die, thereby stopping the flea reproduction cycle.
Determining which of the available options is suitable for a particular infestation can sometimes be a challenge. Basically, the type of flea traps that you choose must address how bad the current flea infestation already is. Normal flea traps often have an effective range of about 25 feet. This allows it to be suitable for an average-sized room. If you already have a widespread and pestering infestation, you may have to use several flea traps at once. This allows for more coverage. You can set it up in different areas of your home to ensure that all adult fleas are captured and killed.
Unlike chemical flea bombs, Frontline Plus, Advantage, and other chemical laden flea infestation remedies, setting a flea trap is simple. All you ever need is an available power outlet and suitable pads for your selected trap. These pads are designed and manufactured in such a way to prevent captured fleas from escaping. These pads can then be removed once it has caught and killed the specified number of fleas it is meant to handle. By constantly replacing the pads when it is full, you can have an effective flea infestation control.
Effective flea traps must be made to be durable. It should have a protective screen that shields the pad from being accessed by your pets. It is also essential that it won’t be accessed by your children. A protective screen essentially does this. Although the pads being used are not deemed toxic and harmful to pets and children, captured fleas take time to die. Often they stay captured in the pad for a certain period before they die. You do not want to have your pets and your children remove the still alive fleas by accident. They can inadvertently free them and might also get bitten while doing so.
Fleas are nasty insects and can be disease carriers. A single flea bite can cause infections and swelling if you are allergic to it. It can be discomforting for up two weeks at a time. You don’t want this to happen. It is best that you undertake all necessary measures to prevent from being bitten by these nasty critters. A flea trap is one of the safest and chemical-free alternatives you can use to eradicate a flea infestation. It is also one of the easiest to implement.
It is highly recommended, however, that you also treat your pets with approved flea medications like Frontline Plus or Advantage. You can also consult with your local vet for other suitable medications. Although flea traps can be effective in controlling an infestation in your home, it will not provide your pets with the needed protection when they go outdoors.