For many of us, our pets are considered a part of the family. Unfortunately, our furry friends are susceptible to flea infestations which can make getting close to them a literal pain. Fleas are tiny, dark-colored biting insects that can wreak havoc on both pets and pet-owners.
An adult female flea may lay up to 400 eggs in her lifetime, which can easily lead to infestation. Understanding the flea life cycle, knowing how to combat adult fleas and eggs, and taking preventative measures are three critical steps to ensure that you rid your home of fleas quickly.
The Life Cycle of Fleas
The first step in getting rid of fleas is to understand the flea life cycle. Fleas prefer warm, humid temperatures, but despite this, have been known to infest homes in the winter.
Once the adult female lays an egg, the fleas will hatch in one to ten days. These flea eggs can easily fall into the carpet or the ground as your pet moves, scratches, or even while at rest. Once hatched, the larvae tend to avoid light and will hide in soil, carpet, and into areas where the fur is thicker on your pet. They feed on flea debris, which is fecal matter from adult fleas, and will continue to feed until reaching full growth. This could take anywhere from one to three weeks. When this phase is nearly over, they create a cocoon-like structure around themselves where they remain until they pupate and then become adults. The cocoon is strong and protects the flea from insecticides. Fleas can remain in these cocoons for up to four months. This is precisely why flea prevention is an ongoing process.
How to Successfully Get Rid of Fleas Quickly
There are several measures that must be taken to fully rid your home of fleas. These steps include:
- Using IGRs (insect growth regulators)
- Treating your yard
- Giving All pets a thorough bath and combing with a flea comb
- Washing All bedding
- Vacuuming regularly
- Using flea prevention medications
Insect Growth Regulators To Get Rid of Fleas
There are dozens of flea insecticides on the market. When treating your home, you’ll need an insecticide made specifically for indoor use. Be sure to use a product that contains an IGR (insect growth regulator). These products work by preventing the likelihood of re-infestation by rendering any surviving adult fleas as infertile. This is perhaps the most critical step in ending an infestation. However, insecticides do not penetrate the eggs or the pupal cocoon, which is why other methods must be used in combination with insecticides.
Treating Your Yard for Fleas
Even if your pet spends most of his time indoors, you’ll still want to treat your yard. The yard can house thousands of eggs that hide in the soil, in brush piles, or in the shade.
There are all-natural products that treat fleas, including food grade diatomaceous earth and beneficial nematodes. These are ways to get rid of fleas without harsh chemicals.
If you’re not against using insecticides, there are outdoor flea prevention products available that utilize strong chemicals. Be sure to keep all pets indoors while treating the yard and follow all safety precautions on the packaging.
Getting Fleas Off of Your Pet
While it may seem like enough, but treating your home and yard will not ensure a complete riddance from fleas. You must also be sure to rid your pet of fleas. To do this, it’s recommended to give your pet a thorough bath using a mild detergent. This preventative measure is one of the best flea treatment for dogs and cats that is all-natural.
First, saturate your pet with water and apply the mild shampoo, taking care not to get it into the ears or eyes. Next, scrub with a scrub brush or your fingernails so that every inch of the animal is covered in bubbles (avoid the head—you can remove any fleas from the head with a comb; this will help prevent getting soap into the ears or eyes). Scrubbing will remove any flea debris, which is what larvae feed on. Scrub from head to tail.
After the bath, dry your pet completely and then use a flea comb to go through every inch of their fur. Dip the brush in hot water to kill fleas between each stroke.
Wash All Bedding and Fabrics
Wash all blankets, sheets, and comforters (including pet bedding) in hot water. If possible, remove cushion covers from the sofa and wash those as well. For fabric items that cannot be machine washed, you may be able to use certain indoor insecticides on upholstery. Just read the package label for more information and always spot test first. Wash all pet bedding and if it is not washable, you may need to throw it out. Spray down curtains, carpets, and rugs with indoor insecticide.
Vacuuming is an effective way to lure adult fleas from their cocoon. The vibrations bring them out so that they can be sucked into the vacuum. Vacuums also suck up the impenetrable eggs to get them out of your home. Always remove the vacuum bag immediately after vacuuming and seal it in a trash bag. If you’re using a bagless vacuum, empty the canister immediately in a trash bag and remove the trash bag from the home.
Once every sign of fleas is gone, it’s important to get your pet on flea preventative medication. Ask your veterinarian about the best flea treatment for dogs. There are liquid forms, injections, pills, and collars available. Discuss the best method with your vet.
Performing all of treatment measures outlined above can turn a possible flea infestation to a flea free home. Fleas are a pain, but vigilance and regular preventative measures allow them to be easily controlled.