Having your pet diagnosed with fleas is never pleasant. There’s the itching, the scratching, the welts, and that perpetual feeling of, “Is there a flea crawling on me?”
Now that you’ve gotten an official diagnosis from your vet, it’s time for the hard (but not too hard!) work to begin. Identifying and treating fleas are just the first steps in keeping your home and pet flea-free for years to come.
Killing Existing Fleas on Your Pet
Once your vet diagnoses your pet with fleas, she’ll provide you with an overview of your treatment options. Your vet may recommend the use of one or multiple products in combination to rid your pet of the infection with the goals of killing any existing fleas on your pet and killing any larvae the fleas have laid.
Common methods for treating existing fleas on pets include over-the-counter, one-time flea killers as well as flea-killing shampoos. Be sure to follow your vet’s directions carefully as overuse of these products can irritate your pet’s sensitive skin.
Killing Existing Fleas in Your Home
While your pet’s fleas are being dealt with through medicated treatments, it’s important to eradicate fleas inside your home. If you don’t perform a thorough cleansing, your flea problem will come right back! Here are the recommended steps for cleaning your house for fleas:
- Use a vacuum to thoroughly clean every surface in your home, including hard surfaces (where larvae can be hiding). When finished, seal the vacuum bag/filter in plastic and throw it away. Some vets recommend sprinkling non-toxic Borax powder on all carpeted surfaces before vacuuming as a means of “suffocating” some of the fleas beforehand.
- If your pet’s bed is washable, wash it (including the stuffing!) on the hottest setting available to you, then dry in an extra-hot dryer. For many people, it makes more sense just to throw the bed away and buy a new one. The same holds true for any soft toys, blankets, or stuffed animals your pet comes into frequent contact with.
- There are a number of flea sprays available over-the-counter that are safe for use around children and pets. They are meant to kill all types of fleas, including their eggs, upon contact. Always test fleas sprays on a discreet area of fabric before spraying completely and be sure to vacuum completely when finished.
- If all else fails, call in an exterminator. In particularly serious cases of flea infestation, professional chemicals/treatments may be required to totally rid your home of fleas. This method is usually a last resort as it can be expensive and inconvenient.
Preventing Another Flea Infestation Through Medication
When your pet’s existing infestation is under control, it’s time to tackle their ongoing risks for fleas. After diagnosis, your vet probably started your pet on a month’s supply of flea-controlling medication. These medications come in one of two forms: pill and topical.
Pill-form flea medications come in a wide variety of shapes, sizes, and flavors and they tend to work especially well…for pets who will take them. Topical medications work by dispersing a super-thin layer of flea-fighting liquid across the top layer of the pet’s skin, so they must be applied in a very specific way to be most effective. Both forms come in combined versions that offer tick and/or heart worm control as well. The most effective preventative flea medications are by-prescription; always consult your vet about which type of medication will work best for your pet.
It is incredibly important
that once your pet begins
a regimen of flea and tick prevention, you are consistent
in applying it every month!
Even one month of missed medication leaves your pet vulnerable to exposure to fleas which starts the entire process all over again. Just a few eggs can quickly turn into thousands of fleas!
Preventing Another Flea Infestation Through Environmental Vigilance
Many well-meaning pet owners underestimate the level in which their environment affects their pets’ likelihood of developing fleas. It is impossible to prevent fleas by treating your pet alone. A comprehensive flea prevention plan always considers a variety of factors; your pet’s flea risk is only one of those factors.
Effective flea prevention always starts in the yard. Remember that fleas are nesting parasites: They typically don’t survive long once they get more than a few feet from their nest. That means that eradicating their nesting spots (and potential nesting spots) in your yard can prevent them from thriving anywhere on your property, including inside your house.
You have several options for treating your yard for fleas, and it’s always smart to get an exterminator’s opinion. Most Insect Growth Regulators work by inactivating the fleas’ larvae, stopping them from hatching in the first place.
Fleas seek out the warmth and vibration of your pet, so you can count on their favorite nesting spot being your pet’s favorite sleeping spots. Regularly check for signs of flea infestation where your pet sleeps, eats, and generally hangs out, even if the area seems unlikely such as the top of the fridge or under a desk.
Follow Up With Your Vet
Be sure to follow your vet’s instructions implicitly and to be consistent with your pet’s monthly prevention medications. In almost every climate, your pet should be taking some form of flea prevention year-round.
Don’t forget that some flea infestations are hard to break! Fleas hatch and live in cycles, so if you kill off one round of fleas and another crops up, don’t be discouraged. You may simply need another round of flea treatment and/or a more thorough evaluation from an exterminator.
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