Flea control is a complicated problem. This is because there are multiple stages in the flea life cycle, and these stages are found on and off the pet both inside and outside the home. Vigorously vacuum the entire house--especially areas visited frequently by pets. Although vacuuming will not remove all fleas or all life stages, you should vacuum regularly (weekly) and thoroughly to remove as many fleas as possible. |
If a flea infestation is minor, frequent and thorough vacuuming might solve the problem. However, heavy infestations usually require an accompanying application of an insecticide spray to carpeting, cracks and crevices, or other areas where fleas are present. Several over-the-counter insecticides with varying effectiveness can be purchased for this purpose. Products containing pyrethrins or synergized pyrethroids (active ingredients usually have the suffix — thrin) are the most common. Good results have been achieved using these products along with a product containing an insect growth regulator (active ingredients are methoprene or fenoxycarb). These products are odorless and nonstaining.
When using spray treatments, it is usually necessary to make a second application 10 to 14 days following the first. This is necessary because eggs and pupae are more resistant and may not have been affected by the initial treatment. By the second application, eggs and pupae will have developed into larvae and adults, which are more susceptible to spray treatments.
Treating for only one or two stages or locations almost always leads to reinfestation, because any growth stage that is not eliminated will eventually find hosts and become redistributed. Despite these challenges, you can solve flea problems by first directing control strategies at flea stages on infested pets, and then focusing on the places these pets spend their time.
Pets Because pets are the primary sources of flea infestations, attention should be given to pets and pet activities first. Whenever possible, establish one sleeping area for your pet that can be cleaned easily and regularly. Don't allow a pet in areas of the home where fleas are particularly annoying or where cleaning is difficult. Regularly wash all bedding, rugs, etc., to which a pet has frequent access. When grooming a pet, use a flea comb, and bathe pets regularly. Soaps are very effective at killing fleas, especially when left on for 5 to 10 minutes before rinsing. However, you only kill the fleas on the animal, so reinfestation is likely unless you also treat places where your pet spends time.
Veterinarians are able to provide flea control recommendations for your pet, and some of the best flea control products are available for purchase only through a veterinarian. These products are usually formulated to be absorbed into the bloodstream of the pet and kill adult fleas that take a blood meal. They may also contain an ingredient that disrupts the reproduction of female fleas or the growth and development of immature flea stages.
Approved over-the-counter insecticides can be purchased for direct application to your pet. Flea control products come in a variety of formulations including oils, dips, dusts, sprays and shampoos. They vary in their cost and effectiveness. If you choose to treat your pet without the advice of a veterinarian, always use flea control products according to instructions on the label. Dust formulations are often more effective than sprays. When using dusts, put on rubber gloves, use a shaker, and rub the dust into the hair, being particularly thorough around the ears, between the legs and around the tail. Be sure to keep the dust out of the animal's eyes, nostrils and mouth. Flea collars are of some value in preventing an infestation from getting established but are of practically no value in eliminating an existing one.
A pest management company can apply spray treatments if you do not want to do it yourself. If you choose to hire a pest management professional, you should obtain estimates from two or three companies and understand exactly what services you will receive. Normally, they will recommend a thorough cleaning of carpets, bedding areas, etc. before they treat these areas with a spray treatment. They will not treat animals, so you will still be responsible for the fleas on your pets.
Total release aerosols (bombs) containing pyrethrins or pyrethroids are available for killing adult fleas. Although effective on adults, this type of application does not affect the other life stages, and reinfestation is likely unless treatment incorporates other strategies.
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