We receive many phone calls in the months leading up to winter from panicked pet owners who have seen fleas on their pets and in their homes. Although a major nuisance, they are generally speaking, relatively easy to treat and control.
Prevention and Treatment for Pets
The best defense is a good offence! It is much easier to prevent fleas than to treat them. If your pet lives what is considered a “high risk” lifestyle (indoor/outdoor pets, doggy-daycare goers, etc), it is much easier to keep them on prevention year round. Adult fleas live for about 100 days, in that time they feed off of our pets blood and produce eggs. These eggs then hatch in the environment (our homes, as well as outdoors). This is where they complete their transition from larvae to pupa to adult flea. Pupae can survive in a dormant state for almost 200 days, which is where getting rid of an infestation can become an issue. If you have an active flea infestation, you must treat for 3 months minimum, in order to catch every life stage of the flea.
The other trick to getting rid of fleas is EVERY cat, dog, and ferret, in the house, must be on prevention/treatment. Even if your dog has fleas and your indoor-only cat does not, yet, they will both need to be treated.
So, you’ve treated your pets and now what to do with the house? Vacuuming carpets and steam cleaning baseboards is a good place to start. Keep in mind that you want to get rid of the bag after you vacuum. Anything that can be put through the washing machine should be (i.e. pet beds, human bedding, rugs, mats etc) on a weekly basis. Your treated pets will also help control the environment as any fleas that they come in contact with will die.
Your outside environment is a little harder to control. Keeping the lawn at an appropriate length and removing any standing piles of leaves/organic material, is helpful. Also keep in mind that the majority of small creatures that visit your yard have fleas (i.e. rabbits, squirrels, etc). If you have lots of animal visitors or live near a green space, you will need to be vigilant about protection.
Written by Caitlin Johnston, RVT