Fleas! These tiny creatures can become the bane of any pet owner’s life, and even owners which flea treat their pets regularly sometimes find that the fleas are winning. Flea infestations are not only highly irritating for dogs, cats and other furry animals, but can lead to health problems and complications if left unchecked, such as flea hypersensitivity and skin conditions.
Not only that, fleas are equal opportunity feeders, and will think nothing of snacking on the nearest warm body- be that animal or human. Having fleas in your house or on your pet is never nice, and if you feel that you’re fighting a losing battle or that no matter how you try you just can’t get a handle on your flea problem, it can make like extremely uncomfortable, both for your pets and anyone else who comes into your house. If you’re reaching the end of your tether, don’t despair! Help is at hand. Read on to find out more!
The most obvious indication of a significant amount of fleas living in your home or on your pet is being bitten. Either seeing fleas jump, feeling the bite and the associated itchy red lump which is produced, or watching your pet scratching and itching to distraction are usually indicative of a significant flea problem.
However, it can be hard to work out if your pet has just a couple of fleas (which will of course grow into a large colony if left unchecked) or is fairly much infested. Checking both your home and your pet for the signs of a large flea presence is relatively easy, however.
You will need a flea comb and a sheet of white paper to do this. Comb through your pet’s fur to the skin- the fine tines of the flea comb will hold any dirt and fleas within the comb. In order to tell if the matter on the comb is fleas and flea dirt, or just random dust and detritus, knock the contents of the flea comb out onto one side of your piece of white paper. Then fold the paper over, flatten it down and open it back up. If you can see tiny smears of blood on the paper, this indicates fleas. If no blood is present, it’s likely just mainly dirt!
This method of checking your home for a high flea presence is easy and interesting, if a little bit icky!
You will need a wide, shallow dish of a light colour, a directional lamp (such as a desk lamp) some washing up liquid, and some warm water. Just before you go to bed at night, place the bowl on the floor near to pet bedding or any other area you suspect may be lousy with fleas. Fill the bowl with warm water and some washing up liquid (which provides surface tension on the water) point the lamp over the surface of the bowl, and go to bed. During the night, any fleas present will jump into the light, get caught on the surface of the water and drown. If you find any more than a couple of corpses the next day, unfortunately, you have the warning signs of an infestation.
Once you have positively identified the presence of a flea infestation in your home, the hard work really begins.
You will not only have to treat your pet to remove the source of the fleas, but also your whole home as well in order to keep fleas from being passed backwards and forwards between your pets and your home, and this can be difficult to manage effectively.
First of all, consider the flea treatment which you have been using on your pet up until that stage- why didn’t it prevent the flea infestation from occurring? Consider if you were using it often enough, and using it correctly. If you were, then you may need to look at the possibility that the product itself has proven to be ineffective.
High quality professional flea treatments from veterinary surgeries often run from £20- £30 for three months treatment- a significant amount of money. This means that a lot of pet owners are often tempted to buy cheaper alternatives such as pills and pipettes from supermarkets and pet shops, which can often be bought for just a couple of pounds. This is a big mistake! If these budget flea treatments actually worked, nobody would buy the pricier products from the vets. These cheap products only function as a placebo at best, and may actually be harmful to your pet at worst. Flea treatment is really one area of pet care that you just can’t scrimp on!
If you have been using a good quality flea treatment for some time yet still find that it is not winning the war against fleas, you may need to consider changing to an alternative product. Even the best quality flea treatments can lose their effectiveness over time, as fleas in a given geographical area build up immunity to them. This is why in some areas, a flea product that works a treat may be almost useless in another, and is a well known phenomenon.
As well as using a good quality spot on product on your pet such as Frontline, Effipro, Advocate or Advantage, you may want to bathe any pets that are living in a flea infested home with a good quality flea shampoo before treating them, in order to maximise its effectiveness.
Treating your home itself is equally important and something which may take more than one treatment to achieve.
Carpets, curtains, clothes and soft furnishings can all harbour fleas, and can be very stubborn to remove. In the worst case scenario, you may even have to consider replacing a lot of your fabrics after treatment if flea infestation persists. But before you take that rather drastic step, try this:
A flea bomb is a smoke treatment that kills any fleas in the area once activated, and you may need several, one for each room of the house. Make sure any cupboards containing clothes are also treated, hot washed or disposed of too, and any cushions and soft furnishings are treated. You will need to remove yourself and any plants and animals (including fish) from the home while the flea bomb works and clears from the air- maybe a good opportunity to take your pets to the groomers for a flea bath!
The second option is using a pesticide spray called ‘Indorex’ which can be bought from the vet or online. A large spray can, this product isn’t cheap at around £20, but one can treats a large (four bedroom) house. As before, remove any animals and plants from the area, thoroughly treat the house, and after treatment, allow the air to clear before returning.
Just as with flea treatments for your pets themselves, cheaper products including spray cans and flea bombs for a couple of pounds each are available. These are all fine- unless, of course, you want the products to actually work! Investing in a good quality flea treatment programme for both your house and your pets is vital in order to be effective. Veterinary practices hear many tales of woe from clients who have treated their pets and homes two or even three times with cheap supermarket products without putting any noticeable dent in the flea population- and then cleared the problem the first time using Indorex spray or quality flea bombs.
Once you have cleared your home and pets of fleas, you will probably be highly motivated to avoid a recurrence! You can keep the chances of this happening to a minimum by treating your pets regularly with the appropriate spot on flea treatments, and treating your house once or twice a year too so that any fleas don’t have a chance to get a foothold.