Fighting a Flea Infestation


Whether it's your own dog(s) and/or your foster(s), there are times when you're just going to get the perfect storm of conditions that lead to a flea infestation.

For us, it was the particularly hot and dry summer of 2007.  The grass in the back yard was dying off and leaving patches of dry sand in a band close to the house.  I suspect that's where the dogs were picking the fleas up.

None of our dogs are outside much.  We have Gus, a German shepard/akita mix who is a permanent rescue plus a couple fosters most of the time: A Boston terrier and a pug, one each from their respective breed rescues.  Gus came with a factory-installed fur coat that was made for cold weather.  He likes to be outside for all of maybe ten minutes at a stretch when it's hot.  He does his business and wants to come back in from the heat.  Pugs are similarly ill-suited for Texas summers, and the Boston terrier's snout indicates much the same, albeit to a lesser degree.

We never had much of a problem with fleas until this one summer.  The three dogs would go out and return with fleas.  A foster would be in my lap, and I would see a flea jumping off.  Same thing in bed watching tv.  I'm not prone to getting bitten, but I literally start itching at the thought of fleas on me.  The dogs were just plain itching as well, and this is in spite of using Frontline and brushing off excess fur.

When the full-on infestation hit, my partner and I tried multiple approaches before realizing the best strategy:  Do everything you can and do it all at once.  Before that we tried doing one thing after another for several weeks without any significant or at least long-lasting results.  The only approach that is a sure thing is to attack the problem on every front almost simultaneously.  Specifically, here are some things we did and things you should do if you find yourself dealing with a similar infestation:

OUTSIDE

Spray the yard with an insecticide.  Strike at the source and create a safe zone so nothing new can move into the house before you even tackle those that are already inside.  Look for insecticides that are specific to fleas, ideally ones that target multiple life-stages of the fleas so that it kills them in the egg as well as when they are hatched and as adults too.

Diatomacious earth in the yard.  Again hitting the source.  This is a favorite of the environmentally-conscious/organic gardening crowd since this treatment = no chemicals.  In theory this chalky white powder is razor-sharp on a microscopic level, so it cuts up the fleas' insides.  (Can be found at most gardening supply places, including Home Depot or Lowes.)

INSIDE

Sweep/vacuum everything.  This picks up all the stray dog hairs along with anything that's hiding in them, including eggs that have been shed throughout the house.

Do the laundry.  Throw your sheets, dog bedding, pillow cases, couch covers, etc. in the washing machine and get rid of any eggs on those.

Spray the furniture/carpet/floorboards.  As srtated above, many insecticides are available and specifically target certain stages of the fleas' life cycle (i.e., adults vs. newly hatched larvae vs. unhatched eggs).  Use several with different effects.  For example, one spray we used included a synthetic hormone antagonist that prevented eggs from hatching.  Another spray killed only the adults.

THE PETS

Capstar.  This is magic in pill form.  It literally kills any fleas on a pet within minutes.  You will be amazed.  (Available through vets or PetMeds.com.)

Wash the dogs.  Now that the live ones are gone, get rid of any eggs and flea dirt still in your pets' fur.

Update their Frontline.  Even if it they aren't due for another week, go ahead and give them a fresh dose right now to kill any new fleas before they have a chance to set up and get the cycle started all over again.

We did all of the above over the course of a couple days instead of spreading out the offensive over weeks, which was the mistake we made before.  You can't just do one step at a time or you'll miss the phases where one approach is effective while neglecting others.  If you only work on the live ones, you will have missed the eggs.  They'll hatch just about the time you think you've gotten a handle on the problem.  Do all these approaches and do them at the same time.


Copyright 2009 Alexplorer.
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