To break the flea cycle successfully, the home, pet and often times, the yard must be treated. The manner in which these treatments are done can greatly influence the results. The homeowner must rely on a combination of sanitation and chemical treatments.
Vacuum carpets and cushioned furniture daily. Clean around cracks and crevices on floors and along baseboards and basement. Steam cleaning carpets will kill fleas in all stages with the hot steam and soap. Wash all pet bedding and family bedding in hot, soapy water every 2 to 3 weeks. Lift blankets by all four corners to avoid scattering the eggs and larvae. If an infestation is severe, replace old pet bedding.
Inspect pets regularly, especially during peak flea season. Look for black particles the size of milled pepper on the skin. Use a flea control product once an infestation has occurred. Before using a product, consult with a veterinarian to determine the best treatment for your pet and to limit the amount and combination of chemical exposures. Be sure to use flea and tick control products only on the animal specified on the product label — dog products for dogs and cat products for cats. It is equally important to keep the amount and combination of different chemical exposures to a minimum, especially if pets are already taking some form of medication. Flea combs can be used to remove some fleas, flea feces, and dried blood. Focus combing where the most fleas congregate on the pet, usually the neck or tail. When fleas are caught, kill them in hot soapy water.
Flea collars will prevent fleas from biting your pet, but do not provide adequate control once an infestation has occurred. Some animals may develop a skin rash from flea collars. Powders are not as effective for pets with thick coats. Foams may be preferable to sprays for nervous pets, especially cats. Flea shampoos will kill fleas on direct contact but provide little residual control. Spot-on treatments are applied between the shoulder blades and near the back of the neck. Additional locations, such as on the back at base of tail, may be necessary for larger animals. These provide longer term control of fleas for approximately one month. Oral medication is available through veterinarians.
Since product formulations and uses vary, it is important to read label directions carefully. Insecticides do not control flea eggs, but will control adult fleas and larvae. A repeat treatment is often required to break the cycle. Reapplication of a residual insecticide is generally not required within a 14-day interval. Treat around doors, window frames and foundations with a residual insecticide to help prevent entry into the home. Check that all screens are in good repair. Treat the yard and around areas where pets rest and play. Cover children’s sandboxes when not in use.