Fleas are every pet owner’s worst nightmare! They seem to creep into our homes without warning and become unwanted guests that simply will not go away. But do we really know what fleas are, how to spot them or how to get rid of them? If not, then you will by the end of this article. Let’s dive in and find the answers to these questions!
What are fleas?
Fleas are nearly microscopic parasites that are designed for survival. They are one of the most difficult pests to be rid of. They are difficult to see on dark surfaces as they are a dark brown or black color. They do not have wings, and they cannot fly.
However, they have the ability to leap on their springboard style legs. A single jump can make it seem as though they disappear from existence in the blink of an eye. This leap can be as high as a foot into the air which is how it is so easy for them to hitch a ride on your pant leg, socks, or pet and enter your home initially undetected.
These pests thrive on the consuming the blood of your pet (or you). They are able to reproduce at a rapid rate which adds to their difficult eradication. A few tiny fleas can quickly become an entire household flea epidemic!
How do you know if your dog has fleas?
So, now that you have a better understanding of what fleas are and how they are every pet owner’s worst enemy, we can now figure out what to look for to know if our pets have fleas. The first thing you may experience is that you or your pet has suddenly become incredibly itchy. You should notice excessive scratching that seems to happen out of the blue.
This is because once the fleas are inside and they find a host to feed on, they begin feeding on the blood of their host. This feeding causes a slightly painful pinch feeling and is followed by excessive itching. If you are feeling this on your own skin, then you should look at the itchy or painful area. Is there a tiny black insect on your skin? If you move too quickly, it may jump off of you and not be there when you are looking for it.
The next way to check for fleas is to search for them in your pet’s fur. You will need to do so with a fine tooth comb and be very slow. Look as deep as you can as the fleas will likely be found along the skin. You may also see what is known as “flea dirt.”
Flea dirt is actually their fecal matter that they leave behind on their hosts and simply appears to be a tiny black dot on the skin and fur. If you find fleas (alive or dead) or you find flea dirt, then you will need to begin the process of eliminating the problem. Be forewarned, this will not be an easy task!
The Bad and the Ugly of fleas
The following are some facts about fleas that you should also know to make you a more alert pet parent and a more prepared flea killer!
- Female fleas can lay an average of 2,000 eggs in her entire lifetime
- Fleas have four development stages. These include the egg stage, the larva stage, the pupa stage and the biting adult stage
- It is pretty standard for some pets to develop an allergic reaction to the flea saliva. This allergic reaction can cause the pet’s skin to become irritated
- Fleas can consume about 15 times their body weight in blood every day
- If the flea infestation goes unresolved, then the fleas can end up causing their host to become anemic. Those that swallow live fleas may develop tapeworms which will cause further medical issues for the host
- Fleas are capable of living without a blood meal for up to 100 days
How to remove fleas from a puppy
Unfortunately, it is rather common for fleas to attach themselves to newborn puppies. Removal of fleas from young pups will be vastly more difficult than it normally is because newborn and young puppies cannot be treated with chemical medications that older dogs can be. Therefore, if the puppies are newborn or very young, they should be given a bath and kept clean.
Their mother and their environment should be thoroughly treated as well. Bedding and soft furnishings should be washed in hot water with a strong detergent and then dried on the hottest setting. Their mother may be able to be treated with medications, but you should discuss this option with the veterinarian before beginning treatment. The steps to remove fleas from a puppy are described below.
Keep the puppy
You will likely have to remove the fleas from the puppy by hand or with the help of a flea comb. This is similar to removing lice from a child’s head. You will need to bathe the puppy in a basin or the sink in warm water. Roughly the same temperature as if you were bathing a human baby.
Gently put the puppy in the sink (you should have a few inches of water at the bottom for him to sit in and it should not reach his head). Support the puppy and keep his head from being submerged if he is unable to support his own head. Wet the puppy’s coat by scooping warm water onto it with your hand. You may gently run your fingers or the comb over the puppy’s coat to remove fleas from him.
It is important that you are very gentle with the puppy and that you do not cause further irritation to his skin. Remove the puppy from the water, gently, and place him on a clean, dry, and warm towel. Carefully dry the puppy with the towel and try to remove any excess water from his fur.
Use the flea comb.
You may have more luck removing fleas with the comb once the puppy is out of the water and is somewhat dry. Make sure to comb through all of the puppy’s fur. You should pay close attention to his neck, underbelly, inner leg and back. Be sure to part his fur as you comb through it. Remember, fleas do not what to be found and they will try to escape before you can remove them! Any fleas (dead or alive) that you remove should be thrown into a pot of boiling water on the stove. Be careful to keep the puppy away from this hazard.
Protect the puppy.
Once the puppy is free of fleas, he should be protected from getting them again. This can be done by keeping him quarantined from his mother, siblings, and anything else from the infected environment until they can be treated. Once the other puppies and the mother are treated, they can all be reunited. They can use their bedding and other items once they have been washed, dried, and treated.
Puppies that are seven weeks old should be able to be treated with flea medication like their mother. However, discuss medications and flea treatment with the veterinarian before beginning treatment as some medications may contain chemicals that could be dangerous to the puppies or the mother.
When using flea medication treatments, always read the instructions and follow them closely. Only the veterinarian should make other recommendations. You should also discuss any flea removal products for the home with the veterinarian before use.
How to remove fleas from humans
Removing fleas from human hair can be very difficult especially if the hair is thick. If you believe you are a host for fleas then you will want to purchase a flea killing shampoo and soap that is designed for humans. One option is a tea tree shampoo created by Paul Mitchell, but you could try any tea tree shampoo for humans.
You will want a fine tooth comb to help remove them from your hair and scalp. A lice comb could work well in this case. You will also need to wash all clothing, furniture, towels, bedding and other potentially infected items with flea killer, a strong detergent, hot water, and high heat dryer. Anything that cannot be washed in this way may need to be professionally treated or gotten rid of.
Carpeting and rugs of any kind should be thoroughly washed with a flea killing carpet cleaner. If that doesn’t work then, the rug may need to be removed. Unfortunately, if the flea problem becomes a complete infestation, then drastic measures will need to be taken including flea bombs and other professional treatments.
How to get rid of fleas in carpet
There are a lot of carpet flea killers on the market today. If you have pets or children, you will need to discuss the safety of the products with your veterinarian or doctor. Some flea killers have intense pesticides and chemicals in them and can severely harm your pets or children if used.
Vacuuming the carpet will help remove some of the fleas (dead or alive) and could help remove their eggs as well. Vacuuming should be done as much as possible and in as many places in the home as possible. You might even want to use vacuum hoses and attachments instead of the push head of the vacuum. You should also vacuum the various pieces of furniture that you have in the home including the couch, mattress, chairs and any other soft surface.
Hard surfaces are not popular areas for fleas as they can not hide there nor can they feed there. However, you should thoroughly clean every surface with a good house cleaner (use bleach when possible) to help control the problem. Empty the vacuum into a trash can outside and close the bag immediately. Leave the bag and can outside until you are sure the problem is gone. You may want to consider professional carpet cleaners or exterminator to eradicate the flea problem from your carpeting and furniture. You will also want to thoroughly clean your pet’s bedding or throw it away and buy new bedding for them once the fleas are gone.
How to get rid of fleas naturally
The first step you should take (in any case) is wash all infected items with hot water in the washer and dry them on high heat in the dryer. If the infestation if really bad then you may have to do this multiple times. If there are items that are infested but cannot be cleaned by the washer or dryer (dry clean items etc.), then you may need to have them professionally cleaned or thrown out.
The second thing you should do (in any case) is vacuum the entire house thoroughly. Any pets that are infected or have not yet been treated with a bath or medication should be quarantined to the garage or another neutral area where fleas cannot thrive. If you choose to use a carpet flea killer powder, then your children and pets should also not be near the area until the powder is vacuumed and cleaned up.
Dehumidifiers can help kill fleas because fleas require at least 50% relative humidity or higher to survive. If the humidity indoors is kept at a constant 50% or lower, then the fleas will likely begin to die. It should also keep the flea eggs from hatching. Continue vacuuming thoroughly during this process.
Some essential oils have been known to kill or repel fleas. However, many of these essential oils should not be used on cats. Eucalyptus oil, tea tree oil, lavender oil, citronella oil, and geranium oil could help. However, you should ask your veterinarian before use.
Other natural products that can help remove fleas include pennyroyal (not safe for pets to ingest or for children that are in the home); you could make a citrus spray, vinegar spray, or basic table salt. Discuss these options with your doctor or pediatrician (if you have children in the home) and the veterinarian (if you have pets in the home) before use. Recipes for these products vary and should also be discussed with a medical professional. Many pet owners have had positive results with bathing their pets in Dawn dish soap. Fleas seem to die off instantly when Dawn dish soap is present. Again, discuss this option with a medical professional before use.
Fleas are one of the most serious pests that can infest a home. They are tiny, hard to spot, and very difficult to be rid of. But, with the help of various medications, chemical treatments, professional intervention and possibly natural remedies, you may be able to win the war!