In this article, you'll learn:
- The signs of a flea infestation in dogs and cats
- How to get rid of a flea infestation
- 3 common mistakes when eliminating a flea infestation
The signs of a flea infestation in dogs and cats#
If you're dealing with an active flea infestation, you might've already identified the issue. But if you're unsure, there are a few telltale signs to look for.
Here are a few places to look for signs of a flea infestation:
Animals are great hosts for fleas, ticks, and other parasites — especially if they aren’t protected. If you notice your pet scratching excessively they may have fleas and as a result, flea bites.
Look out for these signs on your pet:
- Full-grown fleas
- Flea eggs
- Flea larvae
- Flea dirt (dried blood)
- Hair loss
- Pale gums
- Red bumps
- Skin inflammation
Your pet's bed
If you've ever experienced hair lice you already know that your bed and other belongings (like stuffed toys) are breeding grounds for fleas. And much to your children's dismay, those stuffed animals are taking a timeout for a few weeks.
Adult fleas latch on to your pet to feed. After feeding, they may lay eggs into your pet's bedding. Unfortunately, flea larvae and eggs are tiny and hard to see. But, you may be able to spot them with a magnifying glass.
Regardless, it's best to vacuum and wash your pet's bedding, blankets, and toys in hot soapy water to remove any chance of reproduction.
Your furniture and floors
Fleas can also make their way to and under your furniture and floors. Like your pet's bedding, fleas may nestle into your carpets or cracks in your hardwood floors.
In fact, flea pupa (or pre-emerged adult fleas) can remain in your home for up to a year unfertilized. Dark, damp areas of your home — like basements, attics, and decks — are a perfect place for the flea life cycle to thrive.
To stay alive, fleas may feed on many hosts within their lifetime. If you live in a more rural area, you'll want to look out for wildlife in and around your yard.
Small animals like rabbits, squirrels, and other rodents are typical carriers that may transfer fleas to your pet. And if your yard is unkept with high grass, fleas (and other bugs) can remain a threat to your pets.
3 steps for getting rid of fleas in your house#
Knowing where to look for signs of fleas is only half the battle. To get rid of fleas in and around your house follow these 3 steps.
1. Apply treatment right away.
When dealing with an active infestation, it's important to start right away. The sooner the better to start breaking all three flea life stages.
Despite what you may think, avoid bathing your pet for 48 hours before and after application. Why? Topical flea and tick products need the oils on your pet’s skin and coat to help hold and spread the active ingredients across their body.
If you bathe your pet right before application those oils aren’t present. And, if you bathe right after application, the oils are reduced making it harder for the product to spread across your pet skin. This will decrease the efficacy of the topical product.
Yet, if you've been using another topical treatment or flea shampoo you'll want to give your pet a fresh start before applying something new.
If you’re using a topical already:
If you have treated your pet with another type of topical flea and tick such as a spot-on, spray, shampoo, or collar you should always remove before applying another flea and tick treatment.
If you’re starting from scratch:
If you need to groom your pet, make sure to do so 48 hours before or after treatment. And only use a very mild grooming shampoo — or you'll risk the product losing its efficacy. Otherwise, begin treatment right away.
Always contact your vet before switching products for advice and instructions.
2. Protect your entire pack, continuously.
If you only protect one pet, you may risk reinfestation. And it's not enough to only treat once. The best way to get rid of fleas and get total flea control is through monthly prevention.
Make sure your entire pack stays protected with a preventative flea and tick treatment. Be consistent and continuous with your application so your pets stay safe.
If you're still dealing with fleas, be sure to:
- Watch your pet's behavior
- Use a flea comb to check for fleas
- Administer supplementary applications
If you have questions, contact your vet to ask questions about applying medication to your pet.
3. Clean and safeguard your yard and home.#
It may not seem necessary, but besides treating your pets you must also treat your home. Start by cleaning inside and out:
- Vacuum carpet, furniture, and pet beds
- Wash blankets, bedding, and toys in hot water
- Tidy up your space to keep furniture and floors clear
- Keep your grass cut short and bag clippings right away
- Steam clean carpets if needed
After vacuuming and cleaning your surroundings, apply a household spray with an Insect Growth Regulator (IGR). IGRs help break up flea habitats to prevent further breeding and infestations. You can use some sprays outdoors, in cars, and in kennels.
Finally, seek out pet-friendly pest control to keep fleas and ticks out of your home. You can use professional services or over-the-counter insecticides. But, make sure to continue reapplying regularly.
Some pest control companies recommend steam cleaning your home to rid of serious flea infestations.
3 common mistakes when eliminating a flea infestation#
Knowing how to get rid of fleas isn't necessarily common sense. Keep these mistakes in mind when ridding fleas in your home and on your pet.
1. Only treating adult fleas.
When creepy, crawly pests are invading your home it makes sense that you'll want to get rid of them as quickly as possible. Yet, eliminating a flea infestation on cats and dogs takes time and patience.
One important step is to make sure you are tackling fleas at the source. Bathing your pet in flea shampoo or using natural sprays might be helpful in killing adult fleas. But, they aren't always effective in combating fleas at every life stage.
Any insecticide usually requires many repeat applications and may not keep your pet safe from flea bites.
2. Relying on natural flea remedies.
When looking for a solution for your dog or cat, you may come across natural treatments or home remedies. While different options like garlic, sage tea, or apple cider vinegar seem like safe and affordable solutions they can cause some problems for your pets.
In excessive amounts, some remedies can be toxic for your pets. And if your dog or cat has any health conditions they may be extra sensitive. Seek out a product that addresses your pet's specific needs — not just ones that seem to have related success.
3. Using many flea treatments at once.
In a frenzy to get rid of fleas you may use several tactics. You may start by giving your pet a Nitenpyram tablet to kill fleas instantly. Then, use a flea shampoo to remove any adult fleas, eggs, and flea dirt. Finally, you may apply topical flea and tick protection to your pet.
Regardless of what you use, do not use more than one pesticide product to treat fleas at a time. Using multiple flea and tick treatments at the same time can cause an overdose of pesticides. Overdosing your pet can result in serious illness and even death.
No matter what steps you take, always consult with a licensed veterinarian. They can help you answer questions and come up with a custom plan to keep your pets flea-free.