My cat had a terrible case of fleas years ago. He was totally miserable as were we. Not only were the fleas biting him, the little buggers were biting us! We found ourselves right in the middle of a flea infestation!
Some 2,000 varieties of fleas populate the world but the common, everyday flea can be eradicated. Fleas are very small (measuring from 1/16 to 1/8 of an inch.) If you and your pet are scratching like crazy or you notice small, itchy red bumps on your body, you may have fleas! Fleas are in a constant search for a new blood source so they often jump from family member to family member to pets and not all fleas can live off of human blood. The most astonishing thing about fleas is how high they can jump - up to seven inches and thirteen inches horizontally!
When it comes to ridding your pet (and home) of fleas, there are a multitude of products on the market as well as 'home' flea treatments that make huge claims but oftentimes never deliver. Weeding out the good products from the bad can take some time, so what is the best method of getting rid of fleas?
Removing any fleas from your dog or cat should be your starting point after you discover where the fleas originated in the first place! If your pet is the origin, you should go to the vet and have your pet get a flea bath to kill what fleas are on your pet. Do not bring your pet inside your home until you're certain the fleas have been cleared or your cat or dog will again become infested! Applying a flea preventative medicine monthly will alleviate this problem. Unfortunately our dog's allergies are many and flea medicine, especially the topical type that is applied to the nape of the dog's neck, causes an allergic reaction to our cockapoo. If you have this problem with your cat or dog, it is best to switch over to an oral flea medicine like 'Capstar' or 'Sentinel.' These medications do have side effects and if you have a dog with many allergies, you have to hope for the best and pray these pills work. Of course, you many want to try some 'home' remedies first, like the methods below.
The Dawn Soap Execution
Dawn Soap (the blue variety) has been purported to rid dogs and cats of fleas and this may be the truth (or the half truth.) Fleas can be drowned in plain water but that could take a full 24 hours because they have a knack for hibernation. Fleas can revive after your pet's bath in about 60 minutes and after a 4 hour submersion, fleas can reactivate within 4 or 5 hours! Using soaps with a bath could wash off dead fleas and affect their egg population so it may appear you are ridding your pet of those fleas, but fleas, unlike aphids, spider mites, and boxelders have a tough membrane. Still, the soapy shampoo could help.
For older cats or dogs with severe outbreaks, a flea dip should be used. A good flea shampoo will also help but if it contains Tea Tree Oil it should be avoided because it is very toxic to cats!
Flea collars are another alternative but they may have side effects. Our cat had no problems with the flea collar but with our dog, flea collars presented another problem - rashes. Our Cockapoo seems to have an allergy to everything and flea collars were no exception. Every time we put one on him he almost immediately contracted a terrible rash!
Acidic & Cheap
Boric acid can be sprinkled on your carpeting and worked down into the fibers with a broom. Vacuum up the excess. Fleas will die from the powder with contact so it is important to shampoo your carpeting about a month later to pick up any dead fleas. Boric Acid will not harm pets when used in small amounts but it is still best to exercise caution.
An Apple a Day
Apple Cider Vinegar added to the water bowl is purported to be another method of preventing fleas from making their home on your pet, and thus making "mi casa su casa." How does it work? Dog drinks water, the fleas are repelled by the acidity on dog's skin and the fleas no longer have a palate for your pet! It's not such a good idea to use the drinking water method on cats because their ph should be between 6.0 and 6.5. Vinegar is very acidic and can cause health problems in cats. Also, if your dog hates this vinegary water taste and won't drink, you should discontinue its use. For both cats and dogs this vinegar method can be used topically in conjunction with a soapy shampoo. Between lathering, work in a generous amount of vinegar and rinse. This may not get every flea but it is better than using dish soap alone!
Don't forget to wash all of your pets blankets and bedding as soon as possible. If your washing machine is too small or you don't have one you may consider having everything dry cleaned. It'll cost a little but in the long run you'll be assured it'll be free of fleas.
For carpeting its best to use a water based vacuum like a Bissell or Dyson because female fleas lay cocoons which can produce in excess of 800 eggs!
In the end our flea infestation was so bad that I had no alternative but to call an exterminator and take our animals to the vet. Even now as I write about this flea experience I am beginning to itch!
And as for all these home solutions and medications to rid your pet of fleas - bottom line - if you're still unsure, check with your vet for an answer. A Veterinarian won't bite you but fleas definitely will bite, suck and drink your blood!
By Tom Matteo