By Kim Rain
Published: 10/20/2020, edited: 02/19/2021
Once you’ve found your new furever pup, the fun never seems to end. Playing, cuddling and spending time with your furry pal can bring a smile to your face, and a wag to their tail. But if you’ve seen your dog constantly scratching, biting and chewing their skin, you may have an unwelcome guest at the party.
Ctenocephalides felis, or the flea that is most commonly found on dogs and cats is a parasite that can make your dog miserable. The first time you spot these tiny invaders on your dog, they may have already made a home in your carpets! And if you have other pets in your pack, they could be affected too! These pesky party-crashers can even feast on you!
Luckily, humans have been fighting these blood-sucking critters for years, and have discovered several ways to get rid of them. We’ve gathered together 8 Quick Tips for products you’ll need for your dog’s first flea incident to eliminate fleas from your furiend and your home. But first, let’s take a look at the life cycle of the flea.
Once a flea finds a hospitable environment on your dog’s skin, they start a chain reaction that can create a colony of these biting parasites. They can also jump from pet to pet, and can carry serious diseases and other parasites, such as tapeworms. Getting rid of them from your pets and house is only successful when they are attacked in multiple life stages. Since most flea products only attack fleas during one life stage, you’ll need to combine them to really get these invaders gone!
A flea starts off as a tiny, whitish egg which hatches in 14 to 28 days as larvae. The flea larvae are a little bigger, with a white body and black head, and they spend their time eating adult flea feces, or digested blood. Larvae don’t like bright light, and will burrow under soil, grass, carpet fibers or even furniture. Eventually, they form a cocoon, where they spend 5 to 10 days growing into an adult. Once adult fleas emerge from the cocoon, they need to feed on fresh blood or they will only live a few days, which is why they can sit inside the cocoon for many months until heat and vibration of a passing animal draw them out. Once an adult female flea feeds, they produce eggs within 2 days, starting the cycle all over again.
To truly be rid of fleas, you’ll need to treat them on all your pets, in your home, and in your yard. Missing one of these can mean that once your dog is free of fleas, they can simply pick more up from the carpet, their bed or their own backyard, and further continue the cycle. Read on for tips on how to eliminate these unwanted guests from your life!
#1 Flea Pills
Some flea pills, such as Capstar, are adulticides that rapidly kill all the adult fleas that are currently on your dog. Working for only 24 to 48 hours, this is a first step to giving your dog instant relief, and are given daily to tackle a serious infestation. Other oral flea medications, such as Bravecto and NexGard, can also be effective in inhibiting reproduction, and are generally given every 1 to 3 months as flea preventatives.
#2 Flea Comb
This essential tool is great to use after giving your dog an adulticide, as it can help you remove even more fleas. With a bowl of soapy water, sweep the fine-toothed comb through your dog’s fur, and drown any fleas or eggs you find in the water.
#3 Flea Shampoo
After you have given an adulticide, and combed your dog’s fur, give them a bath with a flea killing shampoo to kill any fleas that may have been left behind. This type of shampoo can dry out your dog’s skin, so don’t bathe your pup more than once a week. Again, remove any fleas you see manually from your dog.
#4 Flea Collars
Flea collars can be found in any pet store, and emit a chemical that fleas find repellant. This makes the fleas jump off, and stay off, your dog. However, depending on the brand and ingredients they contain, some can only repel fleas a distance from the actual collar, leaving fleas on your dog’s hindquarters. They can help in a pinch, and can be combined with other flea treatments when your dog is outdoors in a heavily flea-infested area.
#5 Topical Flea Preventatives
Spot-on flea treatments attack the adult fleas currently residing on your pooch, but they are also used to prevent future infestations. Usually applied to your dog’s skin once a month, many spot-on topicals are formulated with other medications to prevent other parasitic attacks, such as from ticks (K9 Advantage), mosquitoes and even heartworms (Revolution). Others also include insect growth regulators which can affect immature fleas, such as in Vectra and Advantage Multi.
#6 Diatomaceous Earth or Borax
Now that you’ve taken care of the fleas on your dog, its time to get rid of them in the house. Throw away or thoroughly wash your dog’s bedding, and vacuum your entire home, including hardwood floors. Pay special attention to the area where your dog sleeps. Diatomaceous earth can be found in garden, hardware or health-food stores, and can be sprinkled onto the carpets. Let sit for several hours to kill any fleas, then vacuum. Because diatomaceous earth should not be inhaled, you’ll need to remove your pets from the area and wear a mask, so many prefer to use borax on carpets instead for the same effect. Be sure to seal up and throw away the vacuum bag immediately, as fleas can still find their way out of these.
#7 Indoor Pesticides
Sprays, foggers and powders are available for inside your home to help you further combat the fleas. Aim for products containing larvae killing ingredients, such as disodium octaborate tetrahydrate, or insect growth regulators such as methoprene or pyriproxyfen. These regulators can prevent immature fleas from maturing, thus stopping the life cycle of fleas by preventing their ability to become adults. Used in conjunction with an adulticide on your pets, this can be a great way to stop a home infestation in its tracks.
#8 Outdoor Pesticides
While battling fleas on your dog, and in your home, you can’t furget about your yard. This is where fleas can jump back onto your dog, or even hitch a ride on your clothes into your home! Be sure to look for signs of other animals nesting nearby, such as opossums, raccoons and foxes that can carry fleas. But these parasites can even be dropped from roaming cats or neighbor dogs! You can treat your yard with natural solutions, as well as outdoor pesticides that come in sprays or foggers, and can be applied to the entire yard. To be truly effective, they should contain insect growth regulators to stop any immature fleas from maturing. Remember, its only the adults that can hitch a ride!
Dealing with your first flea incident can be scary, but with diligence and the right tools, your dog and home will soon be flea free!
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