Let’s face it, fleas are gross, they are hard to get rid of and they can invade your home. Let’s arm ourselves with knowledge in order to fight the war against fleas.
It used to be commonly accepted that fleas were a part of living with pets. These days, there are preventative treatments to keep fleas away. Still, fleas can be a problem, and once you get them, it’s hard to get rid of them.
In this post, we are going to go through the following steps: preventing fleas, recognizing fleas, and eliminating fleas.
Preventing fleas is the best defense against a flea infestation. A topical “spot” treatment or a pill from your veterinarian is the best type of preventative. These types of flea products typically work by soaking into the pet’s skin, then redistributing itself over the course of a month. Anytime a flea comes in contact with your pet’s skin within that month, it will die. Dosage must be repeated every month. These types of products won’t kill fleas in your home, but will kill fleas that jump onto your Yorkie from outside the home. So, if you don’t have fleas, you need to have your Yorkie on a flea preventative. Fleas can live anywhere and you never know where your pet can come in contact with a flea and bring them into your home. Once they are in your home, they are hard to get rid of, so prevent that from happening by keeping your Yorkie on a flea preventative.
So, what if your Yorkie ends up with fleas? If you’re like me, you spend years of your life never having a flea infestation, and never seeing a flea. You can start to get a little lazy with the flea preventative and then BOOM – one day you have fleas! Then the nightmare begins. I got a little lax with the flea preventative and one weekend my brother came down to visit with his dog. Within a week, my parents house had fleas and in another week, my house had fleas. Just talking about it gives me the heebie-jeebies.
Let’s start at the beginning – how to spot fleas. When there aren’t many fleas, they’re hard to spot. By the time you notice fleas, you probably have a full-blown infestation. Fleas are masters of staying hidden. Spotting the fleas themselves can be almost impossible. They are fast movers, high jumpers, and they instinctively go away from the light. So, looking for evidence of fleas is the best way to determine if there are any, and this can be done by looking for “flea dirt.”
Fleas feed on blood, and their excrement is mostly made up of dried blood. This is often referred to as “flea dirt”. If you see the flea dirt, your Yorkie has fleas. We need to learn bout the fleas, and now the real fun begins. Only about 5% of fleas in your home are adults. That’s right – adult fleas make up only about 5% of a flea infestation! Of the other 95%, 10% are in the pupae stage, 35% in the larvae stage, and 50% are in the egg stage.
Adult fleas, larvae, and eggs can be killed. Fleas in the pupae stage are impossible to kill. In order to eliminate a flea infestation, you have to break the life cycle, and in order to do that, you have to understand it.
Adult fleas live in your yard, on other pets and in other people’s homes. These adult fleas can hitch a ride on your pet and into your home. Fleas need blood in order to live and reproduce. Fleas can only live a few days without blood, but with blood can live an average of 3 months. Once on your Yorkie, the adult fleas lay eggs. The eggs are laid in batches of about 20 and they can drop into the carpet, onto bedding, furniture, and anywhere your Yorkie goes. An adult female flea can lay up to 5000 eggs in her short 30 – 90 day life.
Flea eggs hatch in about 2 days – 2 weeks. The eggs hatch into larvae and feed on whatever organic matter is around – dead bugs, feces, vegetable matter, etc. They are blind and avoid light, so they crawl into baseboards, inside furniture, and any crack or crevice they can find. After going through 3 larval stages over the course of 1 – 2 weeks, the larvae weave themselves a cocoon where they develop inside over the course of 1 – 2 weeks. This is called the pupae stage. While in their cocoon, the fleas are completely impervious to water and pesticides. The adult flea will stay in the cocoon until there is a signal from the outside that a host is near. The fleas inside the cocoons can live up to around 6 months. Signals for fleas to emerge include increasing temperature, carbon dioxide, vibrations, and air currents. Once one of these signals is present, the flea will emerge from the cocoon and jump toward the source of the stimulus.
If your Yorkie has fleas, a topical preventative alone will not be enough to stop them. Now the war is on! You have to break the cycle in order to get rid of the fleas. So, how do you do that?
There are two basic options – the first is an exterminator, and the second is a do-it-yourself method. Using an exterminator is more expensive, but less work for you. The do-it-yourself method is more work and less expensive. If you have a very large house, an exterminator seems the most practical. If your home is a more manageable size, then you can do it yourself. Either way, there are some basic steps involved in eliminating fleas.
Before we get started, you have to treat your home and your pets all at the same time. You must take the steps below in as short an order as possible. Get everything done within a few hours. This is war people, and you have to hit the fleas hard.
1. Clean everything. Anything that has been on the floor or in contact with your pet – bedding, your pet’s bedding, toys, food bowls, etc – need to be washed in hot water. Clean it and then put it away, off the floor. The idea here is to kill or dispose of any eggs that could have attached to items that your pet has come in contact with.
2. Vacuum! Then vacuum again. Vacuuming will suck up any eggs, larvae, and pupa in the carpets. The vibrations will also trigger any “ready” adult fleas to emerge from their cocoons. Move furniture and beds and vacuum underneath them. Vacuum couch cushions and under them and in any folds or cracks in the furniture. Move every piece of furniture you can and vacuum. Then take your vacuum outside and dispose of the bag or vacuum contents into a trash bag and get rid of it. Also, sweep and mop your floors, paying particular attention to base boards and under cabinets and appliances. Then, do it again.
3. Bathe your pets. Get rid of any adult fleas and eggs currently on your pet by bathing them. If your pet has been treated with a topical flea preventative, try to avoid flea products at this stage. You can bathe with our Yorkie Splash and Shine or any other natural soap. If you get your Yorkie nice and soapy then leave on for 10 minutes before rinsing, the fleas will drown. Here’s a tip – before starting the bath, put a soapy ring around your Yorkie’s neck to prevent the fleas from jumping onto the face. Fleas can get out of water, but they can’t get out of soapy water. Soap reduces the surface tension of water, so the fleas can’t jump out. After the bath, comb, then dry, and immediately take your pet out of the home so that no more fleas can jump on while you are prepping the house.
4. Cover any fish tanks and remove all pets from the home. Put away all dishes and food items. Cover televisions and computers. If you will be doing it yourself, turn off the lights and the refrigerator, extinguish pilot lights, unplug anything you can, turn off the heater or air conditioner. Aerosol flea sprays can cause fires or explosions if they come in contact with flmaes or sparks, so better safe than sorry.
5. If you are going to use an exterminator – you are now ready for the flea killing. The exterminator will spray your house with a pesticide targeted for fleas. Likely the pesticide will kill adults, larvae, and eggs. The pesticide will probably retain killing power for about 4 months. The exterminator should give you instructions on what to do after the spraying. Typically you must vacuum your floor and move furniture to vacuum frequently to keep “waking up” the pupae stage fleas, which will then die after coming into contact with the pesticide.
If you will be doing it yourself, you are now ready to wage your war on the fleas. As far as products go, there are a lot of different ones out there. I went to Wal-Mart and bought just about everything I could find. You can look at Doctors Fosters and Smith’s website for a good list of flea pesticides and what they do. My suggestion is to get a product that includes Nylar, which is an Insect Growth Regulator – it prevents immature fleas from maturing. Be sure to use a product with an Insect Growth Regulator (IGR)! IGRs don’t kill adult fleas, so you must get a product that uses an IGR in combination with a pesticide that kills adult fleas. IGRs available are methoprene, pyriproxyfen (Nylar™), and fenoxycarb, so look for these in the products you buy. These products prevent hatching eggs and larvae from completing their growth to adulthood, thus breaking their life cycle and giving you a chance to eradicate your infestation.
Okay, so, you have your supplies. Now it’s time to get working. What I did was move all the furniture away from the walls and sprinkled the carpet powder in the areas that used to be under the furniture. I let that powder sit while I gave the pets baths then took them out of the house. When the pets were gone, I vacuumed the powder up and took the vacuum outside to dispose of the bag. Then I put on a mask and plastic gloves. I had previously vacuumed inside the couch cushions and I used the spray to spray under the couch cushions. Then I used the spray to spray around the baseboards in the entire house. Make sure you get around all the baseboards, under appliances and cabinets, and under beds. Once you have sprayed all the baseboards, replace the furniture. Be sure to follow manufacturer directions on the products you are using. You don’t want to inhale pesticides. After you have spot-treated the house, you can ready the area to set off the bombs. Follow package directions for the flea bombs. Set them off and get out of the house. Stay out of the house until safe to return, according to package directions.
Now your house is treated, but you aren’t done yet. If your pets haven’t been treated with a flea preventative, do it now and get on a monthly schedule. While you have killed all the adult fleas and inhibited the growth of juvenile fleas, there may still be fleas in the pupae stage in your house. In another week or two, they will start to hatch out. About 12 – 14 days after you treat your house, do a second treatment, moving the furniture, lots of vacuuming, and spraying. The fogger may not be necessary for the second treatment. This should kill any recently hatched fleas in your home and there should be no more pupa-stage fleas waiting to hatch. If you want to kill the fleas as they hatch, you can vacuum and spray (with pets out of the home) every other day for the 2 weeks following your first treatment of the home. During that 2 week period, keep your pets away from other pets and do not allow visitors to bring their pets into your home. If you have a yard, you will need to treat it as well, using the same spray from your home you can spray around the outside of the house, under the house, and in areas where your pet may spend time.
Getting rid of a flea infestation is possible, but you have to treat the job like it’s a battle! You have to attack the fleas with force and not try any quick-fixes. Flea preventatives alone will not get rid of an active flea infestation. You can win the war against fleas!