Monday, January 30, 2017

What To Do About A Flea Infestation At Home

adult flea
Fleas in my house are biting me ... what should I do? This is a common question and it sometimes even comes from people who don't own pets (see below). With modern flea medications (insecticides) and shampoos, however, fleas should be only a distant bad memory - unfortunately, for many, they are not.

If fleas really are the problem, and it's not something else that is biting you, then flea medications applied directly to your pets may be the easy answer. If, however, you would prefer not to use these relatively expensive topical medications then be prepared to devote some time and elbow grease but either way the problem can be solved - neither you nor your pets should have to live with fleas any longer.

First, let's make sure that fleas really are the cause of the bites. Flea bites often occur on the lower legs because fleas can't fly they can only hop onto passing hosts. If furniture or bedding is infested then bites can occur anywhere on your body. For most people flea bites are very similar in appearance to small mosquito bites. So, what a bite looks like is not necessarily a good indication of what caused it. If you find fleas far away from where your pet sleeps it is a pretty good sign that the infestation is severe since fleas try to stay as close to the host animal as possible.

Flea control on pets and in homes

Fleas infest animals and their nest (pet bedding) so you must first control the fleas on your pet and in the pet's bedding to have any chance of eliminating them from your house. The easiest way to control fleas on your pet and in their bedding are the topical flea medications like Frontline Top Spot and Frontline Plus (or a generic equivalent that contains fipronil). See Flea and Tick Control In Homes for additional suggestions.

There are also a variety of flea medications given in pill form but these all require a prescription from your vet and are considerably more expensive than topical meds like Frontline.

Finally, the least expensive but most time-consuming approach is to carefully shampoo and comb your pet using good quality flea shampoos and flea combs followed by treating the home with methoprene to "break the flea's life cycle". Shampoos and combing will need to be repeated as long as you find live fleas on the pet or in the pet's bedding.

[more detailed flea control suggestions here]

Do fleas ever infest pet-less homes?

Yes and no. Flea pupae, the "resting" stage between immature flea larvae and adult fleas, can survive in an empty home for extended periods, sometimes as long as many months. When a new occupant moves in the pupae may "hatch" into biting, adult fleas. These hungry newly emerged fleas will bite people making it appear that an empty, pet-less house is infested. However, since humans are not good hosts for cat and dog fleas they won't survive long on our blood alone, but they will make your life miserable until they finally die off.

In this case, since there are no animals to treat with a topical flea med, you'll need to rely on insecticides to the manage the infestation. Try the botanical insecticide EcoPCO AR-X as a low toxicity alternative to the usual sprays.

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