How to get rid of those pesky fleas…
The plague of every pet owner, are their best friends pesky parasites: Fleas. There are many natural and commercial remedies. What ever method you choose, you will have to treat for them several times before your infestation is gone.
Understanding their life cycle is important in eliminating them. Also understanding how a flea works will help in making them not work.
What is a Flea?
A flea is a tiny, flat, wingless insect with an amazing jump . They have hard plates called sclerites that cover their body. This protects them from injury when they land after a big jump, to protect from dog teeth and other dangers. The exoskeleton is also covered in tiny hairs that point backwards. This allows them to move about on the pets body easily, but to hang on if the dog shakes its body, or if the coat is brushed. The flea has several tiny mouth parts that work together to cut and puncture the skin and suck the blood. The flea uses suction pumps in its mouth and gut to get the blood into its body. Are you grossed out yet?!There are two, well three, ways to kill a flea. The first is to breakdown the exoskeleton and cause dehydration. The second is by poison. Lastly, you can squish them between your finger nails or other firm object.
Treating Your Pet
Flea collars are a thing of the past. I personally never found them very useful. My favorite product is Capstar®. Its a very safe pill that you give your pet orally. It can be used for cats and dogs and it begins working within 30 minutes. It can be used on puppies and kittens and pregnant and nursing puppies. There are side effects to pets allergic to Nitenpyram, the active ingredient in this product, so be sure to do your homework. I prefer to use this product when pets come in for grooming. The pill works for up to 24 hours and creates a great buffer between the grooming and when its recommended to apply a topical treatment.
There are 1,000 flea shampoos and dips that can be used during the grooming process. Many have harsh chemicals and its is best not to use them if you plan to use a topical. I prefer to use more natural ones and salt dips. Salt dips use an abrasive to kill fleas. Many are non-toxic.
When it comes to topicals ( flea and tick products placed on the back of the neck) , I cannot stress enough, do not skimp on these. In my personal research, Advantage® is the safest most effective topical flea treatment. Frontline® is recommended only when ticks are also an issue. My personal opinion is to stay clear of the off brands and never never never, give a cat a dog treatment. Always check.
Other ways of battling fleas on your pets is to use repellents. Garlic and brewers yeast added to your pets diet can help keep the pests away.
Treating Your Home
I personally prefer non-toxic or low-toxic ways to treat the home. Boric acid, salts and diatomacious earth are all safe and effective methods of flea control. I recommend vacuuming frequently. These products are safe to use and you can get food grade diatomacious earth for indoors. These are excellent products especially if you have young children crawling on the floors.If you want something a bit more powerful most insect control products have a line for fleas. Look for ones that contain and IGA. Insect Growth Regulators will help prevent the cycle of the pupa.
Always remember the life cycle and plan to treat again in a few weeks to ensure you have it under control.