Common Sense Flea Control
All dog and cat owners
-- at one time or another -- are likely to need advice on ridding
their pet of flea. Fortunately, toxic pesticides and ineffective
flea collars are not needed. By combing and bathing the pet, cleaning
its bedding area, and increased vacuuming of the rug, you can
achieve effective, low risk flea control. Below are common sense
approaches to control fleas.
For Light Flea Infestations
Monitoring the populations
of any pest is the first step in any common sense pest control
program and is quite simple. A good flea monitoring program should
include the use of a flea comb. It is important to record the
amount of fleas you are catching each day to determine whether
flea populations are increasing or decreasing.
If fleas increase,
vacuum frequently (at least once a week), using a vacuum with
Bathe your pet regularly.
However, too frequent bathing may cause dry skin which attracts
fleas. If this occurs, bathe your pet less often and moisturize
your pet's skin with a conditioning rinse.
Vitamin B1 will discourage
fleas. B1 can be found in brewers yeast, which should be given
in small doses or with dry pet food (otherwise brewers yeast may
cause digestion problems), Or, use B vitamins -- talk to your
vet about dosage.
For Heavy Flea Infestations
If your pet is often
outdoors, kill fleas outside by flooding the yard with water,
especially areas that your pet frequents. This will reduce the
number of fleas brought into your home. Do not flood too frequently,
be sensitive to drought conditions.
Steam cleaning of your
furniture, carpeting, and pet bedding will kill fleas and eliminate
the debris that feeds larval fleas. Wear an insect repellent on
pant legs and footwear while steam cleaning. Steam cleaning will
kill adult fleas and larvae. Moisture and heat from steam cleaning
creates a favorable environment for flea eggs, which will probably
hatch about two days after the cleaning, follow up steam cleaning
with frequent vacuuming.
Daily vacuuming of
carpeting, upholstery, and pet bedding should be a top priority
for at least a week. This will enable you to catch newly hatched
fleas and survivors daily, keeping populations well under control.
If you have an air conditioner, make the room as cool as possible
before vacuuming. When cold, fleas leave furniture and return
to the rug where they are captured during vacuuming. Be sure to
vacuum thoroughly in low traffic areas : along edges of walls,
in corners, under furniture, and behind doors; this is where fleas
tend to lay eggs. After vacuuming, wrap the vacuum bag in a plastic
bag and dispose of it or store it in the freezer to kill the fleas
before using the bag again. Alternatively, you can use a water
filter vacuum, which pulls the air through a water filled chamber.
this kills the fleas, as well as minimizing the dusty air and
controlling mites. as with steam cleaning, vacuuming will pick
up the debris that feeds flea larvae. regular washing of bedding
and rugs that your pet lays on will control fleas from accumulating.
- Right after steam
cleaning, bathe your pet with soap and water. Fleas are killed
by drowning. Insecticidal soaps can kill more, but are not necessary.
A lower risk vegetable-based insecticidal soap is SaferŪ Flea
- Use a flea comb
daily to monitor flea populations. Combing also removes surviving
and newly hatched fleas and helps keep your pet comfortable.
- The use of dusts
may also be helpful (use after steam cleaning with heavy infestations).
Please read the section on dusts before using them.
- Some pest control
companies can apply and infrared heat treatment to carpets as
an alternative to steam cleaning.
- Sprays and shampoos
with linonene and linalol (less toxic insecticides derived from
citrus peel) are available. Not recommended for cats.
- Insecticidal soaps
can be used to spot treat bedding, rugs, floors, and pets favorite
sleeping areas outdoors.
- If problems recur
try to keep pets out of difficult to clean areas, such as basements,
Tips on Combing
For effective combing,
you will need a good flea comb (a fine toothed metal comb available
at pet supply stores), a pan of soapy water, and a towel. as you
are combing your pet, continuously check the comb for fleas. To
kill fleas caught on the comb, flick them into the soapy water
where they will drown. To avoid wetting the pet's coat, use the
towel to keep comb and hands dry while grooming. Soap and water
used to often on your pet my cause irritation and dryness.
For long haired pets,
it may be difficult or even impossible to comb through thick hair,
so extra attention should be paid to the stomach area where hair
is thinner and easier to comb. Brushing to remove tangles before
combing can make combing easier.
If your pet resists
combing, have two people involved -- one to hold, stroke and distract
the pet, and the other to do the combing.
Caution : Do
not kill fleas by squeezing them. They can carry parasites and
and silica aerogels are chemically inert dusts that have proven
effective against fleas, killing them by dehydration. Once applied,
dusts will take a few days to work. One application in the spring
should be enough each year to control fleas. To use dust, sprinkle
it sparingly onto carpeting, upholstery, and pet bedding. After
it is sprinkled about, allow it to sit for a day or two, then
vacuum as usual.
Avoid inhaling dusts,
which can irritate the lungs. wear a dust mask, and remove children
and pets from the area being treated. Allow dust to settle before
re-entering the room. Do not use pool grade diatomaceous
earth, use only food grade (natural) diatomaceous earth.
Read label information
on any product before using it. Some dusts and soaps/shampoos
have insecticidal ingredients added.
Health Risks of Flea
The active ingredients
in most pesticide flea control products are neurotoxins, which
are chemicals that attack the nervous system. Symptoms include
nervousness, twitching, nausea, and blurred vision. They can also
cause lasting neurological problems.
According to the National
Academy of Science, children are more susceptible to the effects
of neurotoxins. children also spend more time playing with, petting,
and holding pets, so they are exposed to greater amounts of any
pesticides applied to pets.
In one study, children
in households where flea collars were used showed between 2.4
and 5.5 times greater odds of developing brain cancer. Arch.
Environ. Contamination & Toxicology, Jan. 1993.
Most pet poisonings
are the result of pesticides used to control fleas.
For more information,
contact your veterinarian.