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Your Pet Has Fleas! Now What?

What do you do if you find your pet has fleas? Fight back. It’s not the end of the world, but it will take some work to get rid of these pests both on your animal, and in your home. If your pet is scratching at one flea, you know there are hundreds of them somewhere.

Fleas will cause your pet discomfort and can cause intense itching. If your pet is really going at it as far as chewing itself, do some investigating to see if you can find fleas. They are hard to see, especially on darker and longhaired breeds. You can also look for flea dirt on the skin. This is another name for flea droppings. Pull back some hair so you can see the skin and look for little specks of “dirt.” It’s just what it looks like. This may be a clue that your pet has fleas, even if you don’t see the fleas themselves.

The discomfort comes from your pet being allergic to the flea’s saliva. When the flea bites, it leaves behind its saliva, and if your pet is allergic, they will really be scratching like crazy. If you cannot find the fleas yourself, or need help, please consult your vet.

The first step will be to bathe your pet. This is a quick fix, but not a solution. When you bathe your pet, the fleas will leave, but without treatment, others will take their place on your pet. This will offer some quick relief and allow you to treat your pet fresh and clean.

With topical flea control products, you can get rid of the fleas rather quickly on your pet. But, to completely rid your home of all fleas and flea eggs, it will take about 3 to 4 weeks of diligent cleaning and treatment of your home.

Flea collars are an option, but you must be careful in selecting them as some contain really powerful chemicals that may actually be harmful, especially to cats in your household if you are treating your dog. There are flea collars that are safer, but only kill adult fleas. Larvae, pupae, and eggs won’t be affected and you will still have the problem.

There are flea collars that contain an insect growth regulator which trick the flea eggs and larvae into drying out and dying. With all that said, I do prefer to use the topical flea control products I spoke about. I personally use Frontline PLUS on our dog and cats, but Advantage works well too.

Frontline also works to kill ticks, but the makers of Advantage also came out with a new product called Advantix, which also kills ticks. These are very safe to use, and only need to be used once a month. Advantix is a dog only product, though. Frontline and Advantage products are also water resistant, meaning  your pet can get wet and it will still be affective.

Update: —–

At one time, I had written that Frontline Plus also kills the flea eggs and larvae, and I had a link pointing to that claim. That link is now dead, so I have re-linked to where they say Frontline Plus kills fleas before they can lay eggs.

Bayer has now come out with Advantage II, which kills all flea life cycles. I don’t know if every last flea is killed before laying eggs, but the eggs and larvae should be killed also with Advantage II.

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Program is a pill that effectively controls fleas by stopping the flea eggs and larvae. Sentinal is another pill that you can use that also controls heartworm. These are once a month treatments as well. Whatever you choose to use, make sure you are attacking the adult fleas, the eggs, and the larvae or you will have problems again.

Grooming is important, and you should use a flea comb regularly to comb these little pests out of your pet’s coat. Once you comb out a flea, dip the comb into a jar of rubbing alcohol and the flea will drown instantly. Do this outside, so if a flea jumps off the comb, it will not be in the carpet, bedding, etc.

Now for the house. You will need to vacuum once a week, or more often, depending on the severity of the flea problem and where your pet spends most of its time. You will need to wash your pet’s bedding weekly. Use safe, non-toxic sprays and powders (such as pyrenthrin) to treat the carpets and areas of the home where fleas are likely to nest. If your pets lay on the couch, chairs, or your bed, you will need to treat these areas as well and wash your own bedding weekly.

Fleas can also hang out in your yard. They like shade, humidity, and controlled temperatures. Direct sunlight kills them. You should spray safe, non-toxic insecticide sprays around the dog run, dog house, garden edges, and patio. Make sure to use a chemical which won’t break down in sunlight.

It will take a little time and effort, but you can rid your pet and home of fleas.
Dogs: The Ultimate Care Guide
Easing Common Complaints
Fleas: pgs. 325-328
Rodale 1998

{ 2 comments… add one }
  • Patrice May 22, 2009, 12:06 pm

    Perfect! It’s a very helpful post. Fleas will cause discomfort to our pets, thus, pet owners should take note of the tips you gave.

  • Rick Delgado May 22, 2009, 10:10 pm

    Thanks for your feedback. Sooner or later, most pet owners will have to deal with fleas.

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