THE FLEA DILEMMA BY JOHN MADDIGAN
Every day we get questions from clients about fleas and the two most common phrases we hear are:
“My pet has never had fleas before” or
“This is the worst flea season ever”
The reality is you may not have noticed fleas on your pet before and the fact that our winters may not be as cold now as in previous years enable that tough little flea to survive almost year round in America.
Where Did My Pet Get The Fleas?
If you have a backyard that is probably your best answer to where your pet first came into contact with a flea. Other animals like squirrels, raccoons, mice and feral cats can get into your backyard easily and deposit any number of fleas into your pet’s environment. These same wild animals probably also frequent places where you walk your dog – local parks, forest trails, the beach, etc. – so it’s no wonder that your pet can come in contact with fleas.
So it is not your fault that your pet comes in contact with fleas, but you are responsible for solving the problem if your pet does have fleas. And don’t think that the problem will go away in a few days, it will only get worse as time goes on. If you decide not to treat your flea infestation, your pet can potentially get tape worms and develop flea allergy dermatitis, adding further to your costs and your pet’s discomfort. Both conditions will require you to go to your veterinarian for treatment and medications and then they will tell you to purchase some sort of flea control if you want to resolve the problem.
Is it cheaper to just prevent flea infestation – you betcha! Don’t wait for your pet to get fleas because it is much harder to eliminate them than to prevent them and here’s why. Each female flea can lay 25 eggs per day after one blood meal from your pet. So if your pet has 10 fleas they could lay 250 eggs per day for lets say just 10 days. So in just 10 days you now have the potential to have 2,500 fleas in your house – BIG TROUBLE. The reality is for every flea you may see on your pet there are 20 TIMES as may fleas in your carpet or house so this problem won’t be easy to solve and it will take time. Remember 95% of the flea population in your house is immature and hard to see because they are either eggs, larvae or pupae.
So What’s Next?
Once you see the first flea on your pet you will need to treat both your pet and your environment if you hope to beat the flea problem within 3 MONTHS – yep it will take 3 months. And don’t buy brands you don’t recognize as they are probably cheap and they don’t work and it will be money wasted and time lost. You can buy flea control online, at the big box stores and at your veterinarian BUT remember that your veterinarian can often offer you deals on your flea control that the big box stores and online pharmacies can’t because they don’t have the support of the big manufacturers of flea control that support your local veterinarian. For example, if you purchase Revolution (from Zoetis) from your local veterinarian you can purchase 6 doses and get 2 doses free. These offers are not available anywhere other than your veterinarian.
Now that you have your flea control you also have to treat your environment (your house or yard). I have used “area treatment” spray in my house on my carpet and it certainly helps get the fleas under control much more quickly than just applying flea control on your pets. I’ve used both Vet Kem products and Knock Out ES sprays and I find they work well because you apply them precisely where the problem is. My experience is that foggers don’t work as well but a fogger is better than nothing.
Years ago one of the commercial companies came to your practice to sell their services and offered us a free “home service” to prove the efficacy of their product. I asked what he product was and they told me borax. The powdered form has no smell and doesn’t get absorbed by the skin when touched. It kills the fleas by acting as an extreme desiccant and by making tiny cuts in their exoskeleton which results in their eventual death. Flea eggs need 70% humidity to hatch and the borax stops that from happening. It worked well at our place but we did have both pets on flea control.
Just sprinkle the borax on your carpets, give them a good brush with a stiff house broom to work the borax deep into the carpet where the fleas reside. Leave the borax in for six to eight hours and then you can vacuum up. If you don’t want to use chemicals in your host borax is a good alternative. Borax, also known as sodium borate, sodium tetraborate, or disodium tetraborate, is an important boron compound, a mineral, and a salt of boric acid. Borax is not toxic but to be on the safe side don’t use it if you are pregnant or have children crawling on your carpets all day long. Borax is about as toxic as salt or baking soda, so don’t eat it! There is not much on the internet about the toxicity of borax but here’s a great site to find out more easy to understand information:
Next – Be Patient
No flea control magically kills the fleas in your house without jumping on your pet SO you will see fleas on your pet until they all hatch out (which could take weeks to months if you don’t treat your environment), get on your pet and ultimately die as a result of your pet’s flea control. The point here is that it takes a lot of time for all the eggs to hatch, visit your pet and then die. Now if you treat your environment the cycle time may be reduced but be prepared to spend up to 3 months fighting an infestation. And remember that every time you stop treating your pet with flea control you risk that infestation again.