How to Check for Fleas and Get a Handle on your Flea Problem
Bathe your pet, wash all the bedding, and vacuum all over your house
We all love our furry little friends. For many of us, it goes beyond pets and enters into the realm of family. When they hurt, we hurt and we 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 a tiny army of fleas?
Many times, we may not know whether our smallest family members have fleas. We might even only first notice them several weeks after the infestation begins. So, we'll start with how to recognize them.
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.
- Run your hand against the animal's fur.
- Not sure if there are fleas? Time for a bath.
- Wash all the bedding.
- Make friends with your vacuum.
- Prune shrubs and trees to let the sunlight in.
- Clear out your house with a flea fogger.
- Treat your pet.
Fleas are blind and 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 into the fur and down to the skin. For heavy infestations, it will be obvious even without this step. You'll see black specs sitting everywhere, which are flea feces.
But it might not be so obvious, which means you'll have to look for them. As you part the fur, you may see a small moving black dot 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 number of minutes to be sure.
If you suspect fleas but aren't sure, try dipping your best friend 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 lay 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 babies a bath and have confined them outside. Now what?
All of the 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—anything with which they regularly come into contact.
There can be thousands of flea eggs, larvae and feces on them, 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. The odds of getting rid of all the larvae and cocoons is against you, though it is possible.
Use hot water, use 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.
While all the bedding is in the wash, get out your vacuum cleaner. 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 sealable 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.
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!
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.
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. 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.