Warm Weather is on the Way, So Know How to Check Your Pet for Fleas Before a Problem Starts
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Warm Weather is on the Way, So Know How to Check Your Pet for Fleas Before a Problem Starts

When the weather gets warm, you should be on the lookout for signs of flea infestations on your pet, eve if you regularly use preventive medications

April 16, 2021

We all love our furry little friends. When they hurt, we hurt and want to do whatever we can to make them feel better. So, what do we do when our furry little friends are under siege from an army of fleas? We may not even know if our smallest family members have fleas, only noticing them several weeks after the infestation begins. Here's how to recognize fleas and what to do to take back control.

How to Recognize Flea Infestations

Just because your pets are on flea medication does not necessarily mean that they won't get fleas. Flea medication wears off, might have been applied improperly, or might simply be ineffective. It's therefore a good idea to check your furry little friends frequently during the grooming process.

  1. Run your hand against the animal's fur.
  2. Fleas are blind but are highly sensitive to light, especially sunlight. So you're probably not going to see them while sitting out on your deck. Try slowly running your hand against the fur, making sure you can see down to the skin. As you part the fur, you may see a small moving black dot up to about the size of a pencil tip. If it's a live flea, it will move fairly quickly to get away from the light. They are easiest to see against a light background, so try not to pick the darkest patch of skin on your pet. You might have to look for a while to be sure.

  3. Not sure if there are fleas? It's time for a bath.
  4. If you suspect fleas but aren't sure, try dipping your pet in a tub of water. If your pet is small, it's easier to do. It's also much easier to do on a dog than a cat, so you might have to do something creative. Try your best to get your pet to lie down in the tub if your pet is the size of a small horse. If your pet has light colored fur, you may soon see small black dots coming out of the fur underwater and out to the ends of the fur. Those fleas will drown in seconds. Others will try crawling up your pet's neck to escape the water. Believe it or not, it's fairly easy to drown a flea.

    It's not easy, however, to stop the infestation. If you don't see anything crawling, check the bottom of your tub for small black dots. You'll know them when you see them. Now might even be the perfect time to get out the soap and go to town. Choose a flea shampoo carefully. Conventional insecticides, such as pyrethrins, permethrin, d-limonene, chlorpyrifos, or carbaryl might irritate you and your pet.

    How to Get Rid of the Fleas

    So you've confirmed that your best friend has fleas and you've given your pets a bath and have confined them outside. Now what?

  5. Wash all the bedding.
  6. All pet bedding needs to go in the washing machine, including anything they regularly use. Do your pets sleep with you? You'd better get ready to wash everything there, too. Wash the bathroom rug, their favorite blanket on the couch, the toys they keep with them. Basically wash anything with which they regularly come into contact.

    There can be thousands of flea eggs, larvae and feces on these things, so it all needs to be cleaned. If it doesn't look like you can save the item, or if it is full of 'dirt,' it may be best to simply throw it away in an outside trash can. The odds of getting rid of all the larvae and cocoons is against you, though it is possible.

    Use hot water, an ample amount of detergent, and consider an extra rinse cycle. Dry the item thoroughly, but don't put the item back just yet. You still have to clean the area.

  7. Grab your vacuum.
  8. While all the bedding is in the wash, get out your vacuum. The fleas will be hiding in the carpet and in all sorts of dark corners, especially in humid and cool areas and in upholstered furniture. Empty the canister or bag outside the house into sealed bag to prevent the fleas from escaping. Some sources have even reported success by placing a flea collar into a vacuum canister to kill the fleas you suck up.

  9. Prune shrubs and trees to let the sunlight in.
  10. In the yard, make sure that there are no places fleas can roam freely. Cut back shrubs and trees to let some sunlight in. Remember that fleas hate sunlight!

  11. Clear out your house with a flea fogger.
  12. Consider using a flea fogger inside your home that contains an insect growth regulator, such as methoprene or pyriproxyfen. These chemicals are able to penetrate the carpet fibers and attack the larvae, interrupting the flea life cycle.

  13. Treat your pet.
  14. Afterwards, apply medication to your best friend. You can use a flea collar, a 'top spot' treatment, or an oral medication. We've found that top spot and oral treatments work best. Oral treatments may be best for heavy infestations. Please don't fall for any false product claims that aren't recommended by your vet. Over the next few days, use a special flea comb to dislodge any remaining or dead fleas.

    What If There Are Still Fleas the Next Day?

    You may notice that you still have fleas bouncing around your home the next day. That's fine! It's going to be a multifaceted approach that you'll have to repeat. Keep vacuuming and allow the flea medicine to work on your pet. Keep your pet's bedding clean and soon you should see your flea problem fade away.