Getting rid of fleas from your pet and home

Author picture Celine

Fleas can hit at any time of year, making your pet super itchy and uncomfortable. How do you eliminate and prevent fleas so that they keep away from your pets and house, all year round?

What does a flea look like?

Fleas are small, brown flat bugs that crawl and jump all over the skin of your dog or cat, often in warm places such as the groin or neck. You might recognise fleas by the little black specks in the fur of your pet, which are actually flea droppings. If you can see fleas, there are more around you than you think. For each flea you can see, there will be about 100 eggs in the house.

Fleas, eggs, larvae, pupa.

A flea is a parasite that lives on the blood of its host - that is, of your dog or cat. A flea will lay eggs on the host, which then develop into larvae and pupa, from which new fleas emerge. Fleas don't jump from one pet to another: instead, the eggs are spread around and brought into the home, often unintentionally by humans in our shoe soles. A flea pupa can hide for a long time and eventually emerge under the influence of movement and vibrations around them. That's why there is often a sudden flea infestation when you return after a holiday!

The flea then seeks a host (ie a dog or cat) to survive, leading to itching and potentially the transfer of tapeworms to your pet. To combat a flea infestation, it's really important to kill the fleas AND stop the eggs from hatching. 

What is a flea allergy?

A flea allergy causes extra sensitivity to the saliva of the flea. If your pet is unlucky enough to experience this, they will suffer from extra itching and rashes from fleas bites. You don't necessarily have to see fleas in the house or on your pet for them to be suffering from this allergy - you might see your pet scratching even to the point of bleeding. If your dog or cat has a flea allergy, it is super important to eliminate fleas from your pet and prevent them in your home.

Which remedies work/don't work to eliminate fleas?

Remedies that treat only the fur of your pet (such as shampoos and powders) only work partially and are often smelly and uncomfortable for your pet. Flea collars don't always work well in dogs with heavy fur, and the toxins from the flea collar can easily be transmitted to people and children.

Natural home remedies such as garlic or vinegar, unfortunately, simply don't work.

Environmental sprays can work well against fleas around the house, but they are often difficult to fully apply - flea eggs and larvae are unfortunately quite stubborn. Environmental sprays also contain insecticides that can kill other harmless insects and are irritating to mucous membranes and eyes of humans and animals. Fortunately, there are more accurate products that also treat the house without the use of smelly sprays.

Successfully combating and preventing fleas

Spot-treatments for the back of your pet's neck are the most successful way to treat and prevent fleas. These treatments kill the adult fleas on the animal and often the environment (eggs, larvae and pupa) in one go. Once your pet is treated, a flea will not be able to survive on your pet. There are also products on the market that make fleas sterile, stopping the flea population from spreading at all. 

Does your pet get itchy from spot-treatments on their neck? Speak to your vet, as they might be able to administer flea-treatment tablets for your pet. These tablets work a little slower than spot-treatment, but will still get the job done. One disadvantage is that the active ingredient has to enter your pet's bloodstream - it is harmless, but your pet will need to get bitten in order for the product to work. For pets with a flea allergy, this might not be the right remedy.

When purchasing spot-treatment or tablets, make sure that the product also addresses flea prevention in the surrounding environment. The dog or cat itself then works as a 'flea fighter'. It might sound counter-intuitive, but don't vacuum for a few days after administering treatment, so your dog or cat can spread the active ingredient around the home.

Is preventive flea treatment really necessary?

Not seeing fleas doesn't mean they aren't there. If you want to make sure they don't come back, then regular treatment is necessary. If your dog or cat doesn't have a flea allergy, regular preventive treatment may not be as urgent - and it is understandable if you want to be cautious about using unnecessary medicines. As such, make sure you vacuum regularly, wash out blankets and rugs at high temperatures and regularly check your pet with the flea comb.

Flea resistance?

There are some claims that fleas are resistant to the active ingredient Fipronil, which is found in some flea treatments. There is no evidence for this, but there are many owners who claim they don't get rid of all fleas with Fipronil. If in doubt, choose another product with a different active ingredient. And always choose a product that lists all the ingredients on the package. 

Dosage and frequency

Make sure you choose the correct dose for your pet's weight and breed - be sure to follow the instructions on the package, as some products must be repeated after a few weeks. Always ask your vet for advice on the best flea treatment for your pet.

Important: Never use a flea medicine for a dog on a cat and vice versa! Stick with the instructions and read the label carefully. 

On holidays: preventive treatment

Heading on a holiday and bringing your pet to a Pawshake pet sitter's home for boarding? Then make sure that your pet is treated preventively against fleas to avoid contamination between animals. Professional kennels and dog boarding facilities also often require flea or tick treatment before a pet comes to stay, which is a standard that should be upheld across the Pawshake network. 

And are you a pet sitter offering home boarding or other services on Pawshake? Then it is certainly acceptable to ask owners to give their dog or cat a flea and worm treatment before caring for them.

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