- Pets and Animals
How to Get Rid of Fleas
When you first find out your dog has fleas, getting rid of fleas can certainly seem to be an overwhelming task at first. But try not to be overly alarmed; it can be done and you CAN get rid of the fleas on your dog and in your home. When I first brought home my puppy, Molly, she was only seven weeks old and already had fleas, although we didn't know it at first. We did not realize that she had fleas until she had already been in our house for about a day. We were fortunate to have caught the fleas as early as we did, but even though she had only been in our home such a short amount of time, it was still long enough for the fleas to take up residence, and make our home their own.
Since I had never owned a dog that had fleas before, I honestly didn't even know the signs that I should have been looking for. The only sign that gave us any warning was that she itched and scratched at herself an awful lot. We took Molly to the vet for her first check up the day after we got her, and had the vet check her for fleas. Unfortunately, our vet confirmed that she had them. The vet ran a flea comb through her and came up with nothing on the first try. The telltale sign that I had completely missed was flea dust. If you see flea dust anywhere on your pet, you can rest assured that your pet has fleas. I had seen the curious looking dark, dusty patch on her face, and actually wondered what in the world it could be. (Flea dust is a patch of dead fleas and flea feces, which consists mostly of dried up blood. It kind of looks like exceptionally dark dandruff.) Unfortunately for me and poor Molly, we had not caught the fleas before we brought her into our home. The fleas had already taken up residence.
Understanding the Flea Life Cycle
When you are attempting to rid your pet and home of fleas, it is imperative that you understand the flea life cycle in order to completely rid yourself of the nasty creatures. There are four stages of the flea life cycle: egg, larva, pupa, and adult. The entire flea life cycle can vary in length from only a couple of weeks to longer than a year, depending on environmental conditions. The entire flea population in your home is normally made up of 50% eggs, 30% larvae, 15% pupa, and 5% biting adults. This means that the fleas you do see only account for a very small fragment of the entire flea population. This is why it is important to understand the whole flea life cycle, so that you can rid your pet and home of the entire population.
- Egg Stage - After an adult flea lays an egg, the egg falls off of the animal and into the carpet, bedding, floors, and anywhere else the dog might go;they can fall off and land anywhere. The eggs can hatch after only a couple of days, or wait several weeks, depending on the environmental factors.
- Larva Stage - When the egg is ready to hatch, out comes the larva. The larvae eat the feces of adult fleas (the flea dust - mostly dried blood) and do most of the growing during this stage. This stage typically lasts around one to three weeks; the larva then spins a cocoon before emerging into the pupa stage.
- Pupa Stage - During the pupa cycle, the flea is in a cocoon where it is carefully protected by the hard shell surrounding it. The flea can stay in the pupa stage for as little as three days or as long as a year. The time varies depending, once again, on the environmental factors surrounding it.
- Adult Stage - Adult fleas feed off of their host; their diet consists of their host's blood. They are known for their jumping skills, and thanks to their strong hind legs are able to jump up to a couple feet. Adult fleas can lay eggs 24 hours after a blood meal, typically up to 20 eggs a day, and over 600 in a lifetime.
Flea Prevention for Dogs
How Can I Get Rid of Fleas?
Unfortunately, getting rid of fleas is not a process that can happen overnight. Although it can take months to be completely rid of all the fleas, there are several things that you can do to speed up the process.
1) Vacuum your carpet daily. Vacuuming your carpet picks up the fleas in any stage of the life cycle. Vacuum the furniture, the corners and along the walls as the pupa like to hide in dark places. Make sure to seal the vacuum bag after each vacuuming and throw it away immediately. It may also be necessary to treat your vacuum with an insecticide containing insect growth regulator to ensure any eggs left remaining in the vacuum are destroyed.
2) Wash all of your pets bedding and toys in hot water, or if the infestation is severe, simply toss them (in a sealed bag) and buy new ones after your pet has been treated and the fleas are under control.
3) Do not allow your pets to be on your bed or any of your other furniture. As mentioned earlier, the adult fleas lay eggs which fall off of the dog onto wherever your dog happens to be. You certainly don't want them in your bed or where you sit or eat if you can help it!
4) Treat your dog with flea medication; talk to your veterinarian to find the right one for your dog. If your dog is too young or too small for the medication, wash your dog in Dawn dish soap (make sure it is the original with none of the added lotions or perfumes). It is gentle enough for even very small puppies and it stuns the fleas immediately, allowing them to be washed off and the remainder picked of after the bath. I will not lie, this was not a fun part at all. Molly was barely two pounds when we brought her home and too small for any of the flea medications. Washing her in the Dawn dish soap allowed us to kill any of the live fleas that were on her, and ultimately it helped us to eventually get rid of all the fleas. You may have to bathe your dog more than you normally would, but my vet told me that the Dawn dish soap would not be harmful to her at all, and to use it until she got big enough for the flea medication, which didn't take too terribly long. It is a good idea to check with your vet to see what is recommended for your particular dog's case.
5) Use an insecticide with an Insect Growth Regulator to help kill the fleas. An insecticide with insect growth regulator will kill every stage of the flea life cycle except for the pupa cycle. The hard shell they are encased in protects them from almost anything that could harm them during this stage of the life cycle. Spray it on all furniture, carpets, and in the deep corners and crevices of your house where they like to hide, If you are not using an organic insecticide that is safe for pets and people, make sure to follow the directions carefully and leave your home for however long you need to until it has dried.
Have you ever had to deal with a flea infestation with a pet before?
Thankfully, we were eventually able to completely rid our home and Molly of fleas. The process can take a lot of hard work and seem tedious, but it well worth the pay off to have a healthy dog and a clean home.
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