Even at only 0.1 to 0.32 cm (0.039 to 0.13 inch) in length, fleas are extremely irritating to both dogs and their human companions. Their amazing ability to leap distances 100 times their length - or about 13 inches - only adds to their irksome existence. If you do not address even a minor flea problem right away, it can quickly get out of hand and you’ll soon discover that your entire house is infested. Here’s your guide to getting read of those pesky fleas.
A closer look at fleas
Having fleas in your home is literally a head-scratcher; but getting rid of these blood-suckers need not be! They may move in without you realizing it, but as soon as you discover the parasites, you have to take all the necessary measures to get rid of every last one of them.
Fleas like warm weather conditions, ideally between 70°F and 90°F (21°C to 32°C) with 70 percent humidity. They live 18 to 21 days under these conditions - from egg, larva, pupa, to adult.
Adult fleas live out the remaining days of their life as parasites on dogs and other animals. They need blood from the host to reproduce - which sort of makes it sound like a blood sacrifice. The females lay eggs on your dog’s fur; a single adult female typically lays about 40 eggs a day. These eggs are white and only slightly smaller than a grain of sand, and appear in clumps of about 20.
Every time your dog scratches and shakes himself, or lies down, he spreads the eggs throughout your home and even your yard. The eggs can hatch between two days and two weeks, depending on environmental conditions. The larvae that come out of these eggs are also white and almost transparent, legless, and can be up to 0.25 inch long.
The flea larvae can spin themselves into a cocoon between 5 and 20 days after hatching, under favorable conditions. These cocoons can remain dormant in your home for months or even years if left undisturbed and if the conditions are not right for the fleas inside to come out as adults. The cocoons protect the fleas from chemicals and other substances; they also have a sticky external coating so that they can remain attached to most surfaces indefinitely, even when exposed to sweeping or vacuuming.
Adult fleas only emerge from the cocoons when they sense the vibrations, carbon dioxide emissions, and body heat of a host. They begin sucking blood from the host within a few hours after emerging from the cocoons, and then they breed after their first meal and the females lay eggs within a few days. And the flea life cycle begins anew.
Knowing the life cycle of fleas will help you eliminate them more effectively.
How to get rid of fleas
On your dog
- Use a flea shampoo to wash your dog. Read the product information carefully as different shampoos are formulated to treat different flea life stages. Better yet, ask your vet for a recommendation.
- You can also make a rosemary water spray; mix two cups of rosemary leaves and hot water in a spray bottle. Allow the mixture to cool and then spray it on your pet. You can also soak your dog’s coat and skin in rosemary water after giving him a bath. No need to rinse after.
- Use a flea comb to regularly comb out your dog’s coat. Prepare a bowl of soapy water and rinse the comb in it after every brushing to remove the fleas. Pay special attention to your best bud’s neck and tail.
- Use hot water to wash Fido’s beddings every two days, and use the highest heat setting when drying. You can also have the beddings dry-cleaned; make sure they use pet-friendly cleaning solutions.
- Ask your vet about giving your dog oral or topical flea medications. These may be necessary if there is heavy infestation.
In your home
In order to make sure that your dog will not be hosting these blood-sucking parasites again, you also have to get rid of flea eggs, larvae, and cocoons that Fido has most likely spread throughout your home. Take the following steps at the same time that you’re treating your dog for fleas.
- If possible use a powerful vacuum with a bag that you can dispose of along with the dirt and fleas. When vacuuming the floors, carpets, upholstery, and mattresses, make sure you also get to the cracks and other tight spaces where flea eggs, larvae, cocoons, and even adults like to hide.
- Thoroughly clean areas where your pet likes to lie down. For good measure, use a steam cleaner on carpets, upholstery, mattresses, and even your dog’s beddings. Soap and high heat are effective in getting rid of fleas, whatever stage in life they’re in.
- Wash your beddings, including sofa throws and throw pillow cases, in hot water and dry at the highest heat setting. For severe infestations, you may want to simply throw out your beddings and get new ones.
- Especially for heavy infestations, use an insecticide that kills adult fleas at all life stages to spray hard to reach places, such as under beds and the tight spaces between the couch arm/back and seat. Use gloves when spraying; make sure no one else is at home; and nobody should come in contact with the sprayed surfaces and areas until they have completely dried. Read and follow the instructions on the insecticide carefully.
In your yard
If you have a yard or even a small balcony that your dog has access to, you can easily narrow down the hot spots by zeroing in on shady, humid, and warm areas, as well as spaces where your canine likes to lie down.
- Tall grass is a favorite hiding spot for fleas, so make sure to regularly mow your lawn. Thoroughly rake the exposed ground, bag everything, seal the bag securely, and dispose in the garbage can.
- Expose as much of the shady areas as you can to the sunlight by removing dead leaves, twigs, and other debris from under bushes and on plant beds/pots.
- Spread cedar chips and/or sulfur granules around the hot spots. Sulfur kills off the eggs and drives away adult fleas. The smell of cedar chips are repulsive to fleas. You can get both at a gardening center.
How to Get Rid of Fleas - Final Thoughts
Aside from treating your beloved dog as food and causing him a lot of discomfort and irritating itchiness, fleas can also transmit other parasites, such as heartworm or tapeworm, and diseases. The constant and vigorous scratching can also cause mild to serious skin irritation and a secondary infection.
Heavy infestations that spread throughout your home also make you and other family members more susceptible to becoming a host to these blood-suckers.
With the appropriate measures, you can quickly and efficiently get rid of fleas. Regular and thorough cleaning of your entire home and yard will also prevent future infestations. Timely and proper treatment of your pet will make sure that he lives a flea-free life. Again, remember to employ these treatment measures - for your home, yard, and pet - simultaneously.