How to Tackle a Flea Infestation

As much as I’m excited to be done with winter and move into spring, I am not looking forward to the possibility of fleas making my dog miserable or my home taken over by pests. Even in our best efforts to keep the home clean, fleas can sneak in and begin to wreak havoc. It is in these times where we need to know what to do and do it quickly to prevent a large infestation. So while I hope you never have to use this guide, it is great to know in case the need arises.

The sooner you can recognize that you have a flea infestation, the quicker your home can return back to normal. Your pet will normally give you the first indication that something is up. If fleas have decided to jump on your pets, they will scratch excessively, have reddened skin or may even lose hair. You can check your pet for fleas by ruffling the fur with your hands or going through the fur with a flea comb. You may find the fleas moving through your pet’s skin or see “flea dirt” or flea droppings fall off your pet. While these signs are easily visible, what we don’t see is the possibility of these fleas already laying eggs and growing into flea larvae and pupae, then full biting adults. That is why you need to take action against the fleas right away!

There are three steps to return your house to its flea-free state:

1. Treat your pet. It’s a good chance that your dog or cat carried in these unwanted visitors from outside. Fortunately there are a variety of ways to keep fleas off your pet. Topical preventatives are applied directly to your pet’s skin to kill fleas currently on your pet as well as future fleas that want to take a blood meal. Most squeeze-ons come in different weight breaks for pets and are effective for 30 days. You can also use flea and tick shampoos, sprays or collars for treatment. If your pet has long fur, it may help to have your groomer shave a bit shorter in order for you to reach flea and tick treatments down to your pet’s skin.

Whichever method you choose, it is extremely important to read and follow all instructions on the package. Take note how long each application remains in effect, and to prevent an overdose, don’t apply more than what is instructed on the package. And ALWAYS apply dog products on dogs and cat products on cats.

2. Treat your home. Applying a preventative to your pet is a great first step, but oftentimes it is not enough to rid of fleas. They like to hide in carpets, bedding, rugs and upholstery, and their eggs could lay dormant for months before they hatch. Treating your home helps to prevent reinfestation.

Wash bedding, rugs and cotton fabrics on the floor in your washing machine to send some of the eggs down the drain. Any remaining eggs will be killed in a dry cycle running for over 30 minutes. Be sure to set clean items aside or place in a large garbage bag until the rest of your home has been treated. This prevents fleas from crawling back into them.

Vacuum your floors thoroughly and empty or throw away the vacuum bag immediately to dispose of the eggs. Once floors are clean, treat each room in your home with a household insecticide like a spray, powder or fogger. Before you use these, be sure to read label instructions and follow them accordingly. Using the product correctly will improve the effectiveness of your treatment.

3. Treat your yard. Now that the inside of your home is treated for fleas, it’s time to look outside and around your home to block their way back in. Start with some yard maintenance by mowing your lawn and removing any leaves, twigs or other organic debris. Use a yard spray to treat around your home and lawn, paying special attention to any shaded areas such as dog houses, trees, bushes, and under decks and porches. If your pet enjoys going outside, try to keep him away from tall grasses, fallen leaves, gravel or sand.

It’s best to complete all steps on the same day so that fleas don’t have a chance to crawl back into already treated areas of the home. But don’t expect fleas to completely disappear overnight. The treatments continue to work for extended amounts of time, and depending on the size of the infestation, it could take more than one treatment to rid of all the fleas. With persistence and patience, you can have your home back to the relaxing place it should be!

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