How To Get Rid of Fleas (Complete Flea Removal Guide)
Flea infestations represent over 50% of the skin problems dog and cats face every year. Also, these annoying pests carry diseases that can be life-threatening to your pet. So, how do you get rid of fleas in your home permanently?
First, it's crucial to treat all pets. At the same time, you have to eliminate any adult fleas from your living areas. Next, it's essential to utilize sanitation controls together with residual insecticides for long-term management. Last, you have to remain vigilant, or your flea infestation may return.
If trying to exterminate flea on your own becomes too challenging, we recommend Orkin, Terminix, and Aptive. These exterminators have some of the best trained professionals that are able to use traps, baits, and other chemically treated solutions that are often more effective than standard DIY methods.
In this guide, you'll discover how to tell if you have a flea problem. Then, you'll be taken step-by-step on ways to tackle the problem yourself. And if that's not you, we have insider information on which companies to hire for flea elimination.
How to Identify Fleas
Fleas are parasitic insects that feed off of human and animal blood and they can be challenging to identify due to their minuscule size. However, fleas have some distinctive characteristics that set them apart from other biting insects.
Fleas are small, reddish-brown insects that have siphoning mouthparts for drawing blood from their human or animal host. They vary in size from 0.039 to 0.13 inches in length, and they can survive in any climate and location, including polar regions.
There are four stages of a flea's life:
The female deposits her eggs on the body of the host. The egg can also survive within the nest or habitat of the host animal. The only requirement is that it stays in a warm environment.
Once hatched, the flea larvae feed off of dried blood, feces, and organic debris found within the habitat of the host animal. After completing two molts, the larva spins a cocoon. It then stays there for up to two months before emerging as an adult. The lifespan of the adult is from two weeks to a year, depending on the species.
Other characteristics of fleas
Fleas do not possess wings. However, they have the unique ability to jump over 200 times their body length. This valuable skill allows them to catch a ride on several animal species, including dogs and cats.
Although parasitic, fleas should not be confused with ticks. They do not latch onto the skin of the host animal like ticks. Also, they can move much faster.
Signs & Causes of Flea Infestation
Fleas are sometimes mistaken for bed bugs since they are both small and of the same color. However, fleas tend to be more active than bed bugs and they move and jump a lot quicker.
Below are the most common signs of a flea infestation:
- Evidence of live adult fleas on your pet.
- Flea dirt that looks like black blotches on the pet's bedding. This material is the product of flea eggs combined with waste products deposited by adults.
- Continuous scratching by your dog or cat.
- Tiny, black specks on your pets or their bedding material showing evidence of dead fleas
- Welts on your pet's skin from flea bites
Dogs and cats transport fleas from their bodies to other animals. This process is how fleas spread rapidly to several hosts and the infestation can spread even faster within a kennel or backyard where several pets share a small space. Wild animals can also be a source of flea infestation when they wander into these areas.
How to Get Rid of Fleas
There are several methods for eliminating fleas from your home. Here we give you step-by-step instructions. However, it's best to perform them in the order presented. That's because each process builds on the other.
Step 1. Complete a thorough inspection
Start with your pets. Look for evidence of fleas on their coats. Also, have they been scratching a lot lately? This behavior could signal a problem.
Next, look through pet bedding. Are there signs of fleas there? What about the upstairs room? Also, don't for about pet bedding on the upper levels of your home.
Check the carpets and rugs for signs of fleas. Look under the couches and chairs. Additionally, it's a good idea to look through the closets since dogs and cats like to hide there.
Step 2. Treat all affected pets
There are several home remedies to get rid of fleas on your pet. Sometimes bathing them in warm, soapy water is enough. However, in most cases, a more robust flea treatment is typically warranted.
You have to be careful when using topical flea sprays and other flea remedies on your pet. Some contain harsh chemicals that may dry or irritate their skin.
Instead, opt for a natural flea shampoo containing essential oils. These work just as well and leave your pet smelling fresh and clean.
After bathing your pet, you want to isolate them from infested areas until you treat the entire house. So, it's a good idea to ask the neighbors will watch them for a few hours.
Or you could take them to the pet groomer and ask if they can stay a few hours after their bath. This strategy will give you enough time to eliminate the flea infestation in your home.
Step 3. Vacuum everywhere
Next, using a powerful vacuum cleaner, you'll need to clean any pet hair and dirt left behind by your dog or cat. Also, use the detachable hose to clean couches, chairs, and anything with cloth upholstery. However, be sure to discard the vacuum bag or disinfect the dirt tank.
Sometimes a shop vac works better to take up fleas in tight spaces. However, it's vital to clean the compartment to ensure no fleas re-enter the home. You can do that by emptying it outside and using bleach to clean inside the container.
Step 4. Treat inside areas using a knockdown aerosol
A quality knockdown spray will kill adults, eggs, and larvae with one application. However, be sure to cover fish tanks and other vulnerable pet areas before spraying.
Also, make sure no children are present during the treatment. Lastly, wear protective gear such as an OSHA-approved respirator and gloves.
Read all label directions. Also, it's best to use aerosol sprays instead of foggers. You'll be able to control the direction better and foggers can sometimes leave a residue on your furniture that's hard to remove.
Step 5. Vacuum/wash pet bedding
Remove coverings from pet bedding and wash them with warm water. Do the same for sheets, blankets, or any other fabric material that may have become infested with fleas. Afterward, dry on a high-heat setting.
Step 6. Treat cracks and crevices using mild residual dust
There are several pesticide dust powders you can use to treat cracks and crevices. The mildest one is diatomaceous earth.
It's made up of crushed diatoms that have settled at the bottom of a lake. Even though it's an earth-based material, you still need to use caution, especially around fish, birds, and other small pets.
Another suitable material to use for fleas is boric acid dust. It's the same substance used in laundry detergent.
Apply a small amount to carpets, under furniture, and in cracks and crevices. The residual action will kill fleas for up to six months.
The downside to using these dry materials is the necessity for a dust applicator. While some products come with these devices, most don't. So, it's good to check before you hit the buy button.
Step 7. Treat the outside of the home with a residual spray
Now it's time to take care of the fleas outside. Use a residual spray solution containing permethrin. Also, it should be labeled for fleas, so check the label directions carefully.
Most of these products come in a concentrated solution, so you will need a one-gallon sprayer. Check the label for the proper dosage and be sure to spray all areas that are allowed per the directions.
Step 8. Vacuum again
Now that the indoor insecticides have had a chance to work, it's time to vacuum any remaining pupae and adults. By removing any surviving fleas, you give yourself a better chance for quicker, long-term control, and vacuuming is one of the best ways to do it.
Step 9: Follow up
You may need to repeat the above procedure every 21 days until all signs of infestation are removed. However, it's best to use the mildest treatment for your pets. Regular baths and flea collars work well for long-term flea management.
How to Prevent Fleas
There are several methods for preventing flea infestations in your home. Here are the best ones.
Wild animals are the primary carriers of fleas and other parasitic insects. So, be sure to remove any wildlife nesting areas in your backyard. This includes cutting overgrown vegetation and eliminating trash.
Regular pet grooming
Bathing your pet at regular intervals will go a long way in preventing fleas, and it doesn't have to be with harsh over-the-counter flea shampoos.
Try using mild dish soap with a few tablespoons of apple cider vinegar thrown into the bathwater. This combination will both drown and repel fleas from your pet.
Also, it's a good idea to invest in a flea comb for your pet. It's a great tool for gathering up live adults and will let you see how well your collars are working.
Pet flea collars
Lots of pet owners enthusiastically employ flea collars for their pets. And for good reason. They work 24 hours a day to help fight off this biting pest. Try to get one that lasts at least six months and has an anti-choke feature.
One way to keep fleas off your pet is with a flea trap. They typically contain an attractant light and a small housing that includes a sticky board. The flea is attracted to the light and flies onto the glue trap at the bottom.
You can also make your own flea trap. First, fill a small dish with soapy water. Then place a small tea candle in the middle. The fleas will be attracted to the light and jump into the container of water and drown.
Many pest control companies have a preventive program for flea control. They use some of the same methods used for flea treatments. However, the active ingredients may not be as potent.
Top Recommended Companies for Flea Control
Most pest control companies will be glad to handle your flea problem for you. However, some don't offer this service. So it's best to ask, especially if you already have an agreement with a pest control provider in your area. That's because most general pest control contracts don't include flea control.
Below are our top three picks for companies offering flea management services throughout the US.
- Terminix technicians have the training and skills to eliminate fleas in almost any environment. They start by correctly identifying the pest. Then they move to a comprehensive treatment plan the has stood the test of time for over 50 years.
- Aptive Environmental's integrated approach to flea control includes eliminating flea populations as quickly as possible. Then, it employs an insect growth regulator to ensure the long-term management of fleas.
- Orkin focuses on flea prevention to cut down on the use of insecticide sprays. It also insists on limiting flea repellents that are harmful to the environment. This eco-friendly strategy is the hallmark of Orkin's commitment to a cleaner planet.
Flea Removal FAQs
Do fleas cause any health risks?
There are several health risks associated with fleas. First, they often carry intestinal parasites called tapeworms that thrive inside the intestinal tracts of cats, dogs, and sometimes humans.
Pets are infected during grooming. They swallow the fleas that have the parasite after they are combed out of the pet's hair. The tapeworm then begins its life cycle and reproduction within a dog or cat's intestinal tract.
The primary way you know if your pet has tapeworms is they'll exhibit abnormal digestive patterns. For example, they may vomit the entire segmented worm. Or you could notice some worm segments resembling white rice grains in their feces.
Other symptoms include:
- White mucous membranes
- Bloody stool
There are several treatment options for the disease. A veterinarian will administer a medication known as a parasiticide either orally or by injection. And most brands are safe and cause only minor side effects.
What about humans?
Rats and other rodents can transmit flea-borne typhus to humans. However, it first has to be passed on to the rodent by fleas.
The most common symptoms of flea-borne typhus are:
- Decreased appetite
- Loss of balance
- Vision impairment
- Hearing loss
- Loss of balance
How long does it take to get rid of fleas?
For DIY homeowners, it could take up to several months to gain control of a flea infestation. That's because of the time it takes to collect all of the necessary materials. It may consume up to a week or more just to order and receive the spray equipment in some cases. And that's not including the pesticides required for the job.
Also, there's usually a broad learning curve when it comes to flea control. It involves a lot of trial and error. You may discover a more efficient approach only after you've completed all the required steps.
However, for the professional exterminator, it could be only a matter of a week or two before they realize significant progress. The reason is obvious. They have the equipment and expertise to complete the task much quicker than the average person.
Can fleas live on humans?
Flees will take a blood meal from a human host. However, they have a difficult time since people have less hair than animals. For that reason, fleas prefer animal hosts over humans.
What do fleas hate the most?
Fleas dislike essential oils the most. Therefore, they make up some of the best repellents you can purchase. Here are some of the most common ingredients in natural flea repellents:
You can make your own flea repellent by filling a spray bottle with water. Next, pour your favorite essential oils in and mix well. Experiment with different ones. Chances are if you think it smells great, the fleas are going to hate it.
Will fleas go away on their own?
It's reasonable to hope that fleas will disappear after you give them a certain amount of time to go away. However, that's just not the case. The reason is, they are one of the most resilient insects in the world.
For example, once they climb onto your cat, they've found a permanent home. It's nice and warm in there and they remain far from predators.
The only way to get rid of fleas is to tackle them head-on. So you need a strategy to conquer these bloodsuckers and keep them from coming back. Hopefully, we've given you plenty of information to do exactly that.
Other Flea Guides
Curious about other flea related articles? Check out our other detailed guides to help you deal with your pest problems.
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