Fleas and mites are external parasites that affect dogs and cats. Fleas are insects that feed on blood. Ear mites are arachnids -- members of the spider family -- and feed on oil and wax in the animal's ear canal. Other species of mites burrow into the skin, causing a condition known as mange, which is rare in cats but common in dogs. One form of the disease, sarcoptic mange, can be transmitted to humans.
Successfully treating flea and mite infestations entails killing the parasites and eggs that have found their way onto your dog or cat, as well as those that have proliferated in the pet's environment.
Treating Your Home for Fleas and Mites
While severe parasite infestations may require you to enlist the services of a professional exterminator, in many cases you can eradicate fleas and mites yourself by:
- Laundering your pets' bedding at least once a week.
- Vacuuming rugs and carpets daily, as well as upholstered furniture, such as sofas and mattresses and along the edges of walls.
- Before vacuuming a surface, coat it with dry diatomaceous earth, a natural pesticide made from fossilized aquatic organisms. The silica substance will dry out any fleas it comes into contact with. Always use food grade diatomaceous earth, which is safe around pets, rather than the commercial grade variety, which is not.
- Using a device called a fogger, sometimes called a bug bomb, which fills the air in a room with a pesticide mist. Follow the instructions on the package for safe use. Not all flea foggers will kill eggs; therefore you may need to repeat the process.
When using a fogger, you and your pets will need to leave the home for the amount of time indicated on the label.
While battling a flea infestation, be sure to throw away the vacuum bag or clean the canister regularly to prevent the parasites from re-infecting your home.
Preventing Flea and Mite Infestations
The best way to keep fleas and mites out of your home is to prevent your dog or cat from acquiring the parasites. In addition to keeping your pet away from animals known to be suffering from flea or mite infestations, both of which are contagious, you can:
- ASPCA: Dog Care - Mange
- ASPCA: Dog Care - Ear Mites
- ASPCA: Cat Care - Fleas
- National Pesticide Information Center: Diatomaceous EarthGeneral Fact Shee
- Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service: Insects in the City - Safer Flea Control
- Environmental Protection Agency: Total-Release Foggers
- Catster: 9 Methods of Natural Flea Control for Cats