Think Your Pet Has Fleas?
Fleas are a very common problem for people who have pets, but how does your pet suddenly get fleas when it was previously a flea pest-free? And once discovered, how do you get rid of fleas to try and control their invasion of your home?
The climate in the Lowcountry is ideal for fleas, and there are a number of ways your four-legged friends may get them. If your pets spend any amount of time outdoors they are at a high risk for getting fleas. Maybe they encountered a neighbors dog who has fleas, or perhaps fleas hitched a ride into your yard on wild animals (squirrels, raccoons, deer, etc.). There is even the chance that you or someone else in your house carried fleas into your home from the same or similar sources. Lucky for us these bloodsucking pests do not typically feed on humans, however they can survive at a home without pets if there are animals that shelter within or near your home’s structure (for example under your porch or in your crawlspace).
Make sure you check all of your four-legged friends regularly for the presence of fleas. These nasty critters can really harm your pets because they will bite in order to feast on its blood. These bites result in irritation, possible infection, and potential disease transmission. Check out our 5 steps to protect your four-legged friends from fleas and our helpful tips for preventing flea infestations in the future.
5 Steps to Protect Your Four-Legged Friends From Fleas
Properly Identify Flea Pests
The first step to ridding your pet and home of any insect pest is proper identification. To get rid of fleas on your furry friend(s), you need to first identify them positively as being fleas. Fleas exhibit the following characteristics:
- Fleas are approximately 1/18th inch in length. Yes, they are that tiny! Their compact size makes proper identification slightly easier when found on your pet, since they are much smaller than most other common pests.
- Fleas are very dark brown in color. Their color is so dark that it is often mistaken for black.
- Their bodies are wingless and hard. Unlike many other pest insects, fleas cannot be easily squished and removed from your pet. They are fast, pesky pests!
- Their back legs are longer than their front legs. These powerful back legs enable fleas to run quickly and to jump from host to host. Their back legs are able to thrust them up to 13 inches horizontally and 7 inches vertically!
- Fleas cannot fly – but, rather, they jump from one host animal to another. And thanks to their powerful back legs as described above, they can travel quite a distance with one hop. Very impressive for such a tiny insect!
Eliminate Existing Adult Fleas on Your Four-Legged Friends
The longer flea pests remain on your four-legged friend, the larger the infestation can become. After feeding, the female flea can lay up to 50 eggs each day! These eggs are typically laid on the animal, but because they are not physically attached in any way they easily fall off onto carpeting, furniture, or any other area the affected animal may walk or lie. The eggs then hatch deep within these areas into larvae “worms”, and eventually grow [through stages] into an adult that then hop back onto an animal host and the cycle starts all over again. Eliminating existing adult fleas from all pets in your household is the first step to rectifying the pest problem.
This is achieved through first treating the pet with a product either prescribed by your veterinarian or purchased over the counter at a pest store. This direct treatment to your furry friend should be done at the same time the home is being treated. If this is not possible, then you will need to keep all pets out of the home until both have been successfully treated. Note: although over-the-counter soaps, shampoos, and combs are available, it is recommended to consult with your veterinarian before using these products.
Eliminate Flea Larvae in Your Home
This next step in the 5-step process is key – if the larvae worms are not eliminated then the cycle will begin again. Wash any and all bedding with which the affected pet(s) have come in contact, particularly its own bed. If your four-legged friend shares a bed with you or your kids, wash the sheets, blankets, pillow cases and mattress cover of any family members with whom the animal(s) sleep. Lastly, vacuum carpets anywhere and everywhere in the home where the pet has been. If your vacuum has a disposable bag, remove the bag immediately (outside) and dispose of in your outside trashcan.
Treat Your Home for Fleas + Wait
Next step is to give Hilton Head Exterminators a call – it’s time for the professionals to come in! At this point, all carpets in your home, upholstery, and baseboard need to be treated with a pesticide product specifically labeled as an indoor insect growth regulator (IGR) for fleas. If your pets bedding cannot be washed, it can also be treated at this time. If your pet(s) spend any amount of time outside, we also recommend having us apply a yard treatment spray to help keep the fleas at bay.
Once we treat your home, it is necessary for you to allow the pesticide to dry thoroughly. This generally takes 3-5 hours. No humans or animals should enter the home until the pesticide treatment is completely dried. This wait time is extremely important to ensure your home is completely aired out. Lastly, treated areas should not be cleaned for at least 2 weeks after treatment.
Take Proactive Steps to Prevent a Recurrence
The insect growth regulators (IGRs) present in the applied pesticide will provide prevention by keeping flea eggs from hatching and by preventing larvae to grow. However, it is still wise to use flea-control products on your furry friends to keep them from bringing flea pests into your home again. There are a variety of products available – both over-the-counter and through your veterinarian – and we always recommend that you consult your veterinarian prior to starting any type of flea-control regime on your pets. Common products include:
- Once-a-month pill prescribed by your veterinarian.
- Topical medication that is dispenses on your pets skin between the shoulder blades.
- A collar that is replaced every 6-months.
Again, please consult your veterinarian prior to using any of these products to ensure they are labeled for the type and age of the pet(s) you have.
ADDED BONUS: Many of these products also include active ingredients to kill ticks as well as fleas. More bang for your buck! In the Lowcountry, these products should be used year-round because our climate is warm and mild, and provides ideal living conditions for fleas and ticks.
Tips on Preventing Fleas on Your Pets
Your furry family members are very susceptible to fleas, especially in the Lowcountry. The good news is there are easy steps you can take to keep them protected:
- Limit the amount of time your pets spend outside, especially in the warmer months.
- Bathe and brush pets regularly.
- Limit your pets’ contact with wild and/or stray animals.
- Check regularly for fleas.
- Talk to your veterinarian about flea control products that are right for your pet. In the Lowcountry:
- Treat your pets for fleas year-round to keep adult fleas and prevent new ones from hatching.
- Always follow product label instructions when applying.
- If you find active fleas on your pet or in your home, follow the 5 steps we outlined above to correct the problem and avoid further infestation.