Attempting to control fleas on our dogs is a multi-step process. Adult fleas spend most of their time on an animal, but the flea eggs, larvae, and pupae are found in abundance in the environment such as in carpets, rugs, bedding, and any other soft furnishing.
For every flea that you see on your dog, there are likely to be hundreds of eggs and larvae in your home, garden and even your car. Therefore, a truly effective flea control program always includes treating the environment as well as treating your dog. These are the essential steps for success:
- Remove fleas from the indoor environment.
- Remove fleas from the outdoor environment.
- Remove fleas from dogs.
- Keep immature forms of fleas from developing.
Flea Control Indoors
Indoor flea control involves mechanically removing all stages of the fleas, killing any remaining adults, and preventing immature forms from developing.
- Start by vacuuming thoroughly, especially below curtains, under furniture edges, and where your dog sleeps. It is estimated that vacuuming can remove up to 50% of flea eggs. Vacuum daily in high traffic areas, weekly in others. Each time, seal your vacuum bag in a plastic bag and discard it immediately.
- Use a product that will kill any remaining adult fleas and also stop the development of eggs and larvae. You will need a product that contains both an adulticide and an insect growth regulator (IGR), such as Nylar (pyriproxyfen) or methoprene. This can be in the form of carpet powders, foggers, or sprays. Foggers are especially good for large open areas. Surface sprays can reach areas such as skirting boards, moldings, cracks, and under furniture where foggers cannot reach. Choose the product(s) you use with care, taking into account the presence of children, fish, birds, persons with asthma, etc. Your vet can help you choose the appropriate products for your situation. In severe infestations, you may need the help of a professional pest control expert.
- Wash your dog’s bedding weekly and treat the bed and surrounding area with a product that contains both an adulticide and an insect growth regulator.
Flea Control Outdoors
Flea control in the outdoors generally involves removing the habitat where fleas are most likely to occur. Fleas tend to like it where it is moist, warm, shady, and where there is organic debris. They will also tend to be where dogs spend more of their outdoor time. So be sure to concentrate on areas such as patios, under porches, kennels, etc. Rake away any organic debris such as leaves, straw, grass clippings, etc., to disturb flea habitat and try to discourage these animals such as hedgehogs and foxes from coming into your garden.
Flea Control on Your Dog
Now that we’ve taken care of the fleas in your home and the “hot spots” in your garden it’s time to get the fleas that are on your dog. There are a number of flea control products for use on dogs, including once-a-month topical products, sprays, dips, shampoos, collars, powders, oral, and injectable products. With any product applied directly to the dog, please remember that you may see some live fleas on your dog for a short time after spraying, shampooing, dipping, etc. In order for the fleas to die, they must come into contact with the insecticide, and absorb it.
Keep in mind that until all of the fleas in your home have died, you will probably still see some fleas, even on a treated dog, since some immature forms may continue to develop. This is especially true if you had a big flea problem to start with. Persistence is the key here. It is essential to keep following an effective flea control program for a long enough time to get rid of all of the fleas, in all life stages. This may take several weeks to 6 months or more, depending on your particular situation.
Speak to your Vet to get a recommendation that’s best for you and your dog.
Flea combs are often overlooked as a valuable tool in removing fleas. Your dog will love the extra, hands-on attention he gets as you comb through his coat. Flea combs are absolutely non-toxic and are the best method to use on ill, pregnant, or infant dogs. Be sure to choose a comb that has 32 teeth/inch. Comb your dog and then place the fleas you comb off in detergent water, which will kill them. The disadvantage to flea combing is that it takes a considerable amount of time, and will not be effective in dogs that have flea bite hypersensitivity.
PREVENTION — PREVENTION — PREVENTION
The best flea control is always flea prevention. Adulticides (products that kill adult fleas) are a cornerstone of prevention. Pyrethrins and permethrins have flea repellent activity. (NOTE: Permethrins should NOT be used on cats.) Using products containing these insecticides will help keep fleas away and prevent a flea problem from developing. Regular use of insect growth regulators/development inhibitors may reduce the risk of fleas becoming established in the indoor and outdoor environment.
Remember, always talk to your vet before you give any medication to your best friend!