Fleas stink. No doubt about it. They make your pet miserable, you miserable, they carry parasites, and they’re gross. Worse still, once they take up residence in your home, they can be very difficult to get rid of.
If you take a peek at the picture above from Merial (they make Frontline, one of the popular choices for flea control), you can see that fleas have 4 life stages, only one of which hang out on people and pets.
The other three stages take place out in the environment- in your carpet, in bedding, cracks in the flooring, on your curtains. If you have a severe flea problem and you expect it to come under control after one application of Advantage or the like, you’re going to be disappointed.
Successful eradication involves treating the pets, even the indoor-only ones; treating the environment; rinse and repeat every few weeks, over a good 90 days or so on average.
There is some concern that fleas may be developing resistance to the medications that have been out the longest. That may be true. What is also true is that many of these treatment failures have as much to do with failure to treat the environment, and/or spotty application of the flea medication, as much as it does failure of the medication to work.
If you’re having a major problem with fleas, I recommend you go see your vet and try and pinpoint exactly which part of your management process is failing and come up with a good multi-modal approach to get rid of these buggers, be it topical medication, oral medication, or environmental control (or all three).
What I do not recommend is doing what one well-meaning but underinformed client told me about trying today:
Three weeks after her pet’s last dose of Advantage, she noticed fleas crawling on her pet and that the pet was extremely itchy on the hind end. Based on some advice from her friend, she covered the pet in mayonnaise.
Hellmann’s, to be exact.
It worked about as well as could be expected, which is to say not well at all. By the time she brought her dog in to see us, she had a ton of fleas, a pretty significant skin infection, and a greasy coat. A furry, stinky, infected hot potato bug salad. Yum!
I’m not saying every pet owner needs to use topicals plus oral meds plus flea bombs every two weeks year round. If you are fortunate enough to live in an area where fleas aren’t a major problem and you can control it with a little Skin so Soft here and there, hats off to you. But I have yet to find a household with a truly significant flea issue that managed to wrestle it into submission without some heavier artillery.
If you have a severe flea problem and your current regimen isn’t working, time to make a change. Preferably, to something that is not a condiment.