Getting Rid of Fleas

adult flea under a microscopeWhy is getting rid of fleas such a chore? The flea life cycle.

You aren’t just dealing with the adult flea…you have to deal with their eggs (hundreds of them), which turn into larvae, which turn into pupae. Understanding what to do to remove each stage of the flea life cycle helps.

Remember to treat both your pet and the environment. 90 percent of the problem is in the home and only 10 percent is on your pet.

Getting Rid of Fleas on Your Pet

Getting rid of adult fleas on your cat or dog is relatively easy. Many products sold through your veterinarian work well. What you choose basically comes down to price and convenience for you. Be cautious of look-a-like products sold online or those with “too good to be true” prices.

One option is a chewable called Nexgard (dogs only, sorry). Works great, dogs eat it easily like a treat, but it is the most expensive choice. This product kills adult fleas before they are able to lay eggs. Nexgard also kills ticks–double bonus!

Other options could be topical treatments applied directly to the skin like Frontline Gold or Revolution. These also work great and are less expensive than Nexgard. But you have the work of parting the fur and applying the product to the skin (and no bathing 2 days before/after usually). Not a huge hassle in most cases, but not as easy as giving a “treat” either. These will also kill adult fleas and ticks.

In addition to this monthly treatment, ask your vet about a one time oral pill (e.g., Capstar) that will kill adult fleas within 30 minutes to an hour.

Pro Tip: Skip the flea baths all together. They simply aren’t as effective (or easy!) as giving Nexgard or Frontline Gold.

Getting Rid of Fleas in Your Home

In the home, you are mainly looking at getting rid of the eggs, larvae, and pupae. Chemical sprays will kill eggs and larvae, but nothing really kills the pupae (when they are in their little cocoons). And those pupae can stay dormant for a long time. Once they hatch, they are an adult flea. Looking for food. Which is you or your pet. When they bite, they take in blood. That blood meal starts the flea life cycle all over again and they will start to lay eggs.

Vacuum Vacuum Vacuum

Vacuuming can remove eggs, larvae, and pupae from the fibers in carpets, rugs, furniture and so on. Concentrate on where your pet sleeps or spends time. Be sure to dispose of the vacuum bag in a sealed garbage bag and get it out of the house. If you have a bagless vacuum, dispose of the contents immediately (outside in a sealed bag). Vacuum frequently, as you are trying to get rid of any eggs, larvae or pupae that are in the carpet fibers (and trust us, they are there).

Be sure to get under furniture and even vacuum the furniture on all sides as much as you can. Any fabric can have eggs in the fibers.

Don’t forget your car or mats/rugs outside the garage door even IF your dog has been on that fabric.

Wash It

Wash any bedding or rugs in the hottest water possible for the fabric. Dry in a dryer if possible. This combo is pretty effective at killing flea eggs. Don’t forget about all your bedding (pillows, comforters, mattress pad) if your pet sleeps in your bed.

Spray It

Use a good indoor spray for fleas on the carpet, furniture, mattresses, even your car. Remember to spray all sides of cushions and under furniture.  Does your cat sleep under the bed? Spray there, too.

Repeat the indoor spray in 2-3 weeks and then monthly until the flea season ends. Sprays will kill only the eggs and larvae, they won’t kill the pupae. Nothing really kills pupae so you have to get the eggs or larvae whenever you can.

Treat the yard with a good outdoor yard spray. Treat up to 3 feet off the ground. Skip areas in full sun as fleas don’t live there. Target under decks, bushes, plants, and shady areas.

Be sure to keep topical treatments and environmental sprays away from young children. As always, read all labels carefully. And follow the manufacturers instructions.

If vacuuming, washing, and spraying doesn’t take care of the problem, consider using a professional exterminator. Find a company who guarantees their work. That way if you see fleas again in a month, you have the ability to get them back in again (and be sure all pets are on flea prevention every month).

Why Getting Rid of Fleas Is a Pain

Adult fleas (the ones you see) live their entire lives on your pet. Female fleas begin laying eggs within 24 hours of a blood meal (e.g., biting a creature with blood). They can flea life cycleproduce up to 50 eggs each day. These eggs fall from your pet onto the floor, furniture, or wherever your pet happens to be (does your pet sleep with you?!?).

Tiny worm-like larvae hatch from the eggs and, to avoid sunlight, burrow into carpets, under furniture, or into soil before spinning a cocoon. The cocooned flea pupae can lie dormant for weeks before emerging as adults.

This gives fleas a life cycle of anywhere from 12 days to 6 months. Knowing where and when fleas develop helps you to break their life cycle.

Learn more about fleas and the flea life cycle from the University of Kentucky Entomology Department.

Not sure if you have a flea circus? Here’s how you can check for fleas on your cat or dog.

Be patient and vigilant. You can beat the fleas, but it does take time and effort. Let us know if we can help.