Household Flea and Tick Control in Pets
By Augie Bering, Bering’s Hardware
Fleas are pernicious little insects that hitch a ride on a pants leg or a foraging pet and take up residence in your life. Even though they prefer not to feed on humans, it is impossible to ignore an itchy pet’s distress in the middle of a flea infestation.
Fleas have several stages in their lifecycle and each must be considered when you are trying to rid your household of this pest. Adult fleas live most of their lives on a cat or dogs body. They cling to the fur and jump back onto the animal as soon as possible when they fall off. They draw blood from you or your pet and produce “flea dirt,” which is the reddish-brown residue from a blood meal. This refuse and any flea eggs drop off your pet and work their way down into the carpet or bedding material. The eggs hatch and the first larval form emerges. The immature fleas try to avoid light and burrow farther down into the carpet, eating random organic material and flea dirt in particular. Eventually, they pupate and hatch as adults when they sense the vibrations of a potential host in the vicinity, completing the cycle once they begin laying eggs.
To break the infestation and remove fleas from your pet’s life entirely, fleas need to be attacked both on the animal and also in your carpet and the pet’s bedding. The most effective treatment for adult fleas is a chemical pesticide that is classified as an insect growth regulator, or IGR. This family of pesticides have very little or no effect on mammals but are quite effective in killing or destroying the reproductive capabilities of adult fleas. Some products additionally provide protection against some internal parasites or ticks. These are the products that are applied in a dot on the pet’s neck or in a line running down its backbone. The dog or cat’s normal activity spreads the pesticide around its body. Popular examples of IGRs are PetArmor and Revolution.
**Due to the timing of the flea’s lifecycle, these products must be applied repeatedly on a schedule to kill stragglers as they hatch.**
Additionally, some are available in prescription and over-the-counter varieties, so you should consult a veterinarian before using them.
Flea dips and shampoos, as well as natural/homemade remedies such as sticky pads and diatomaceous earth (DE) show some effectiveness, but generally cannot fully break the lifecycle to provide permanent peace in your house. At the same time you are trying to rid your pet’s body of adult fleas, you must strive to kill or remove all the eggs and larvae in the areas your pet frequents, indoors and out. Outdoor areas your pet likes to spend time in should be treated with an outdoor pesticide, usually a garden hose-end spray that includes pyrethrins.
In the house, the single most effective thing you can do is to use a vacuum cleaner thoroughly and often. The vibration from the vacuum triggers the immature fleas to emerge, so re-vacuuming a second time a few hours later is also a good idea. Once vacuumed up the young fleas are still a problem and they must be immediately disposed of outside, away from human and pet traffic.
Recently, products have entered the market to kill the immature fleas inside the vacuum cleaner bag or canister, such as Flea Vac pellets. Any bedding or other cloth material that your pet lays on daily should be washed in hot water. This overall cleaning of your household will also have to be repeated every two weeks or so until the fleas are gone. With diligence and a little work, any flea infestation can be brought under control and eliminated as long as you understand the flea lifecycle and take steps to eliminate every stage.
About the Author
August Bering V, “Augie” to his friends, is President of Bering’s Hardware in Houston, TX. Bering’s is well-known for a broad range of carefully selected home goods such as outdoor living products to pet products, and red carpet service that has delighted customers for generations since 1940. From your bridal registry, decorating your first home, to your first baby registry, Bering’s has special gifts for special occasions and the right tools for the right job. Augie enjoys spending time with his family and friends, grilling and cooking, playing hard outside, traveling, design, art, live music, and spending as much time as he can with his family.