Thursday, October 1, 2009

How to Win the Flea Battle

So you have a flea problem. There are THREE places to treat when you have fleas, not just your pet.

Fleas are much more than pests. They are vectors for many diseases other than plague in cats and humans. -Dr. Eric Barchas, DVM

1. Your Pet

Frontline, Advantage and Revolution are the top rated monthly flea control products for dogs and cats. You should use the correct type for each. Dog products are way too strong for cats and can be dangerous. Cat products are not strong enough for dogs and may not kill all of the fleas. You can buy these products from your veterinarian or online. Revolution needs a prescription from your vet if you don't purchase it from the vet. Advantage and Frontline may be bought without a prescription several places online.

Here is a comparison chart on the different flea products:

Here are some ways you can spot counterfeit flea products not made in the U.S. by the manufacturer: Frontline counterfeits & counterfeit Advantage

Capstar kills fleas on your pet very quickly (again, use the correct product). Most of the fleas on your pet will be dead within four hours. It is not a long lasting product, however, and is meant to be followed with the longer lasting products listed above.

WARNING: Flea sprays and shampoos and dips can be very dangerous and are not recommended. Spot On treatments from the grocery store that are not the three recommended above can be extremely dangerous for your pet.

2. Your Home

All dogs and cats should be treated for at least three months, because some fleas will take longer to hatch, and just when you think the fleas are gone, they come back. Also, even if you think a cat or dog is free of fleas, even one female flea on them can start another epidemic, laying hundreds of eggs within 24 hours of mating. Flea eggs are laid on the pet and then drop off wherever the pet goes. The smallest and youngest animals are usually targeted more than the bigger ones, and any mammal can be a flea carrier, including a small pet or the raccoon or fox who visits the yard at night.

Unless you want to wait three to eight weeks for all of the fleas to go away, here are some things that will help get rid of them faster. Wash all pet bedding, wash area rugs, vacuum carpets, use flea light traps, and use insecticides meant for in-home use.

For those of us who are sensitive to poisons or simply don't want them in our home, another answer is to use food grade diatomaceous earth (DE). CAUTION: Anything other than food grade is poisonous to humans and animals because it is treated with chemicals to be used in pool filters. Very LIGHTLY dust the edges of the room and areas where your pet likes to go, as well as furniture. You may want to wear a light dust mask while doing this, and definitely make sure it does NOT get in your eyes, as it is very drying and irritating. You can also put it on your pet. It's very safe because the food grade DE can also be used for worming pets and even humans, so if they lick it off it could actually be good for them.

Here are some sources of food grade diatomaceous earth. Planet Natural is another source I found by Googling. You can sometimes find it in your local feed store or if not, they usually can order it. Make sure it is FOOD GRADE and made from FRESHWATER diatomaceous earth.

Wikipedia says: "Natural freshwater diatomaceous earth is used in agriculture for grain storage as an anti-caking agent, as well as insecticide. It is approved by the US Department of Agriculture as a feed supplement. It is also used as a neutral anthelmentic (de-wormer). Some farmers add it to their livestock and poultry feed to improve the health of animals. "Food Grade Diatomaceous Earth" is widely available in agricultural feed supply stores. It is acceptable as organic feed additive for livestock." More on DE here and here and here.

3. Your Yard

If you treat your pets and your home and neglect your yard, you probably won't get rid of all of the fleas, and they will continue to come inside and "bug" you! :-) I learned this the hard way 23 years ago when I had done everything possible indoors but they just kept coming. We even used flea products that misted the entire house from a can in each room. This was dangerous, but when fleas are out of control, you have to do something. Fortunately, that isn't necessary any more.

Apply insecticides to your lawn, especially shady areas. This can be the usual pest control company type of pesticide, the more "green" type such as pyrethrin which still is not very good for you, or again, the diatomaceous earth. If you miss this third and final step of killing the fleas living in your yard, you'll have the same trouble I had getting rid of them 23 years ago until I realized we had to be bringing them inside. All of our cats were indoor cats, so the fleas were jumping on us from the yard and hitching a ride on our clothes or legs. Once we treated the yard and continued the indoor treatments a little longer, the fleas were gone for good.


Now that you've finally gotten rid of the fleas, how do you keep them away? Keep ALL of your pets on a monthly flea control product if any of them go outside on a seasonal or year-round basis. If you have stopped treating them after getting rid of the fleas, and you see even one flea again, put them ALL on the flea control product for at least three months.

DVM Newsmagazine -- How you and your clients can win the flea battle
DVM Newsmagazine -- Study looks at flea susceptibility to imidacloprid
Wolf Creek Ranch -- Diatomaceous Earth - Food Grade - Frequently Asked Questions

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