Pet professionals such as groomers (who deal with dozens of flea-infested animals every day) don't have fleas in their own homes. What do we know that you don't know? Nothing, if you read the information below.
Never Underestimate the Opposing Force
Fleas are hardy and determined: designed to be uncrushable and unfathomable. And they have to be dealt with in a ruthless manner.
Fleas are hardy and determined. They CAN be killed, but their resilience and 4-stage life-cycle make it more difficult than most people want to believe. Additionally, the fact that fleas don't spend most of their time on the pet makes the problem of locating them and wiping them out harder still.
Their most resilient stage, the tiny hibernating cocoon, can live in your environment over a year without feeding and is protected by an impenetrable shell. It is this stage that survives most treatments and returns to breed and re-populate year after year like a cruel sequel to a horror movie.
One "hatched" cocoon can produce over a trillion offspring in her 9 month adult stage life-span. This army is able to "raise the dead" to replace any mortalities you might inflict and continue to fight year after year.
Split Your Troops and Fight on All Fronts
It's not really a secret. It's something no one wants to know. Treating your pets is not enough!
New pet treatments have added to the arsenal of weapons available for fighting fleas, but the battle must still be fought on 3 fronts in both the Present and the Future: Pets, House and Yard: Now and Tomorrow.
Pets act like small mine-sweepers, collecting hatched and hungry fleas from everywhere. Treating the pets is essential for their own comfort as well as to kill any errant fleas entering the area from afar.
Fleas can jump over 6 feet, and they enter the house by any carrier available: pets and humans. White clothing, socks, and sneakers excite and invite them right into the livingroom where they remain unseen and happily reproducing without your ever knowing until the problem is advanced. Treat your entire square footage indoors including garages, outbuildings, and dog houses or kennels.
You simply cannot allow a single flea to survive in your or your pet's, environment if you want to live a life free of allergies, disease, and irritation.
The yard is the most arduous task, but you MUST treat the area outdoors with just as much determination as you treat the pets and house.
If you neglect ONE place in your yard, car, garage, summer house, winter house or chateau on the Riviera, fleas will ultimately come back to occupy all of these locations and more.
Arm Yourself Well
Most people want to know how to solve the immediate crisis first. Start with fleas ON your pets. But don't stop there.
Flea products have changed radically in the last 2-3 years. The new ones are safer, easier, and more effective.
Most well-stocked flea armories contain a flea and tick shampoo. Shampoos kill fleas on contact and give your pets instant relief. The newest ones not only clean but also leave behind flea-killing and flea sterilizing residuals thus alleviating the need for further treatment of the pet with dips or spot treatments. They represent the best of both worlds: clean AND flea-free. Other new veterinary shampoos are designed to bathe your dog in a detergent-less formulation to prevent the washing away of your spot treatments.
Dips are still very good products, and there is a lot of new research creating pet-friendly, environment-friendly, human-friendly dips that are still flea-deadly. Pyrethrin dips are quite successful at being mild, safe, quick flea-killers. They are a quick pre-emptive strike and give several day's residual power.
The new non-alcohol sprays give a satisfactory immediate response to any sign of fleas and a good barrier to any flea re-incursions. They are less hassle than shampoos and dips and work very well in between baths as a flea deterrent. Your well-stocked arsenal should probably contain a spray.
These are a key weapon in the battle, but not all collars are created equal. Many have harsh and potentially dangerous chemicals, and their placement around the neck can lead to serious compromise of the nervous system if improperly used or mixed with other toxic agents. Permethrin collars are the best approach.
Monthly Spot Applications:
Spot Treatments are the new front line in the flea battle. Applied only once a month, some will actually repel a significant number of fleas--a great benefit to the allergic pet who cannot tolerate even one bite. The best will also help prevent re-infestation by rendering the fleas unable to reproduce.
But, be careful. More expensive is not always more efficient. The battle against fleas is matched only by the battle of the giant manufacturers to lower the prices of the spot-on products. Great strides are being made this year in lowering cost and in treating Cats. Look for more great inexpensive products to come and for new shampoos that act as one-step shampoo-and-spot residuals.
Flea and tick powders are easy the convenient to use, but they often present problems with dry skin. They have been eclipsed by other more favorable means of flea protection.
House treatments are safer and easier than ever.
Now that the pets appear more comfortable, begin the search & destroy missions.
Adulticides kill adult populations of fleas, and carpet spray adulticide aerosols are the easiest and often most effective treatments. There's no mixing. And the most sophisticated contain both the exterminating and the egg-inhibiting ingredients in one application. A well-armed army will have a carpet aerosol in its weapons room.
Foggers also contain adulticides and are very convenient for treating large, open areas. But they lack the ability to treat under large pieces of furniture such as beds or tables, thus leaving some areas untreated. Use in them only if you also use an aerosol for hard-to-reach places.
Insect Growth Regulators:
No army should ever fight without an Insect Growth Regulator! Without it, you may take the high ground, but you'll never be able to hold it. Insect Growth Regulators render any live fleas unable to reproduce. Consider again that one reproducing flea can have a trillion offspring, and the challenge becomes clear. When you're fighting an enemy with the ability to replace its troops with fresh fighters at that rate, a weapon to stop reproduction is an obvious necessity.
The better aerosols and foggers already contain the Insect Growth Regulator ingredients for one-step application. Better still, treat your house with a liquid preparation of PURE Insect Growth Regulator BEFORE you have a flea problem, and the battle will be won before you even have to fight.
Powders usually contain ingredients such as diatomaceous earth, Boric Acid, and De-Limonene which kill fleas by physically assaulting their outer body or stomach. They can be very effective and environmentally-friendly, but they often leave the battlefield messy or dusty. Use depends on your available time and sensitivity to chemicals.
The yard - The staging area for attacks.
Leave no stone unturned, no hill unconquered. And pay particular attention to the areas where your pets spend their time outdoors.
Be sure you're killing only the enemy and not leaving any "fall out" for later generations
Considered the mother of the safe flea killer, the wild chrysanthemum has produced many an environment-friendly, gentle adulticide that is easy to apply and kills on contact. They are short-acting but relatively inexpensive and highly effective. Several pyrethrin-based yard sprays come with hose-end adapters to make application as painless as possible. Every thrifty flea army should have these weapons and use them whenever fleas are detected if you want to win the battle on the yard front.
Insect Growth Regulators:
No army should ever attempt to take the hill unless they think they can hold it long enough to make it worth while. Don't fight without an Insect Growth Regulator! Insect Growth Regulators render any live fleas unable to reproduce. Consider again that one reproducing flea can have a trillion offspring, and the need is clear. When you're fighting an enemy with the ability to replace its troops with fresh fighters at that rate, a weapon to stop reproduction is an obvious necessity.
Most Insect Growth Regulators are not labeled for outdoor use. But the newest and best are resistant to sunlight (photostable) and may be a great help in the yard. They affect fleas, cockroaches, flies, and mosquitos too, so their use on a regular basis may help in more battles than just this one.
Applied as a very fine dust, the fossilized remains of tiny crustaceans are sharp and damaging to the outer skeleton and the soft-bodied larvae of the fleas. Mortally wounded, fleas exposed to diatomaceous earth die. It's like using concertina wire everywhere.
Diatomaceous Earth can be a great help when used to treat dog houses, kennels, and areas under shrubs or bushes where you pets repose for their afternoon naps and where the flea eggs fall off, hatch, and begin to change into soft-bodied larvae.
Diatomaceous earth is, however, difficult to use to treat larger areas effectively. Also, be sure to use an insecticidal grade of diatomaceous earth. Swimming pool grade is not adequate to kill fleas.
Beneficial Insects, Your allys:
Beneficial nematodes actually eat and thrive on fleas in their various stages of development. If you can keep a thriving army of nematodes alive and well in your outdoor environment, fleas will dwindle. However, nematodes do well only if kept damp. Hot, dry summer is not conducive to this type of treatment unless you want your water bill to reflect the damages.
Dursban®, Diazinon™, & Malathion™
Along with Lindane and a couple of others these have been the old stand-bys. They were the nuclear weapons in the Battle of the Fleas. Now, however, it is widely recognized that they leave their deadly trace behind in a half-life that is akin to nuclear fall-out. They smell strong enough to "kill a cow" and give you a secure feeling of having accomplished your mission, but don't be fooled. They are less effective for killing fleas as each year passes because fleas have developed ferocious immunities to their nerve-gas-like qualities. Using them is often like firing on your own troops: great body count, but the wrong color uniforms.
Flea Snipers Lurk in Every Blade of Grass
FCIA: Flea Control Intelligence Agency
Armed with information about how fleas travel and reproduce, its not such a daunting task to pick off the small, the few, and the lonely that are looking for a host.
Hungry stragglers will necessarily jump onto your pets where they feast on a blood meal before laying eggs. If you've diligently and routinely used an Insect Growth Regulator in the environment the reproductive cycle is broken and these few are the last of the enemy troops.
Weekly baths with new all-in-one shampoos (if you like a squeaky clean dog) or monthly spot treatments will kill the little snipers dead.
Hold The Hill & Occupy the Territory
Back To The Future:
Now that the battle has been fought and won, a plan needs to be formulated for preventing further insurrections.
Prevent Fleas From Ever Coming Back:
Consider again that one reproducing flea can have a trillion offspring. What will you do in the future if you've missed even one cocoon today or your pet brings home a flea disguised as a house-guest tomorrow? How about the neighbor's fleas? Two hops and they're in your yard with an eye on your pet for a great rump roast dinner.
Don't give the stragglers and insurgents a chance to populate again. Insect Growth Regulators make fleas unable to reproduce. We can't say it enough times. No army should ever fight without an IGR.
Re-innoculating your environment with Insect Growth Regulator immediately BEFORE flea season begins (or at the FIRST sign of a flea if you are already into the season), and once during PEAK flea season will protect you in perpetuity. Forever and ever, Amen.
Recognize The Allies of the Enemy
Even Fleas Have Friends:
Fleas spread parasites and disease.
Of Parasites and Plague:
Bubonic plague is the most famous flea ally although its questionable how trustworthy an ally the bubonic germ is since it ultimately kills the host. However, if you get rid of the fleas you can get rid of the threat of plague as well.
Additionally, one swallowed flea can lead to a daunting case of intestinal worms in dogs and cats. The tapeworm is the most common flea ally. Tapeworms count on the fleas to carry their larvae deep into enemy territory: your pet's intestine.
Tape worm segments look like a tiny piece of rice, often attached to your pet's fur in the anal area or visible in his stool. You'll have to tell your veterinarian that you actually SAW the worms. (His microscope method of detecting worm eggs won't show them.)
You'll have to deal with the tape worms during and after your battle with the fleas. Even a non-reproducing flea can carry tape worms, so this is another good reason to use a product on your pet that repels fleas as well as kills them.
Ticks aren't really an ally, but they like to inhabit the same territory and can get along with fleas quite well. Most flea-killing products will kill ticks as well, but there are some tick peculiarities that should be addressed if you find yourself in a two-fronted battle with fleas on one side and ticks on the other. More of that information will be coming in the next few weeks.
Comfort the Survivors
Those most likely wounded during the battle are your pets. If you've used the right products, damage from friendly fire has been kept to a minimum. But, flea allergies are one of the most pervasive and expensive by-products of flea infestation, and are a direct result of flea bites.
Flea Allergic Dermatitis:
Flea Allergy for short. When your pet begins to chew raw or hairless areas, particularly between his hip bones or down the rear of his legs, it is often a sign of a developing incurable skin condition caused by flea bites. Advanced cases often require steroidal injections which, while providing relief can be quite damaging to your pet over the long run; not to mention the horrendous expense of frequent veterinary visits.
Complete protection from flea bites is the only real solution. However, some immediate relief from the itchy symptoms comes in the form of sulfer, oatmeal, coal-tar, and hydrocortisone shampoos and sprays.
Sulfer-type shampoos soothe the irritation, coal tars stop the skin secretions, hydrocortisone relieves the itch, and oatmeal will help to seal the moisture back into your pet's skin to start the healing process.