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.
Over the summer we had an infestation of what I know refer to as “the ninja fleas.” I would bathe, and bomb, and Frontline as many times as possible, but lo and behold, there would be another smudge of flea dirt and a tell tale itchy cat. Turns out our lovely neighbors knew nothing of pest control for their two wayward dogs as was evident when they moved and the owner of the building had to pretty much gut it because of an uncontrollable flea infestation (one among many other problems). The fleas were jumping ship onto my lawn and dog thus making my life miserable.
A similar thing happened to me! After being blissfully flea-free with only the most minor of steps for months and months after moving into my apartment, I was suddenly COVERED in fleas. My house made me feel sick and my poor, poor cats… well.
Turns out it was my new neighbor. I caught a glimpse of his dog and… wow. Poor baby. I think the landlady must have stepped in because the apartment is empty now and the fleas are, again, blessedly gone.
I had those a bit over a year ago, only I called them the nuclear fleas, because no amount of Frontline or flea bombs seemed to make them go away. It took four long, itchy months before they finally were eradicated. Ugh. :-/
…mayonnaise? I don’t know whether to laugh or cry!
I had super fleas last season that didn’t disappear until the freeze. Ugh! Not looking forward to having them back! The moment I realized I had too many animals was when I hit “submit” on my order for expensive flea treatment…ugh, wash-rinse-repeat every month all summer! One of my cats have a flea allergy, so if even one of those little buggers survives, he’s a mess. More thorough vacuuming is needed, I guess…Not looking forward to this flea season!
This post makes me itchy. 🙁
S. Barr says
I live in CT, and while we don’t have huge flea problems, we do have TICK problems! Once, I took my dog, Molly, on a hike to a nearby Wildlife Management Area, looking for hares and rabbits, during the fall. While he found no hares or rabbits, we did find ticks– crawling all over the kitchen floor, over THIRTY of them, of all different species, when we got home!
We are religious about tick prevention, applying it to Molly, using DEET bug sprays, and even using tick prevention lawn products. None of that stopped Molly and I from getting Lyme disease! In addition, a few months after the Grand Tick Invasion, Molly became very sick, and was in so much pain she couldn’t move. It turns out she had contracted anaplasmosis, which causes excruciatingly painful swelling around the spinal cord. Luckily, with antibiotics and painkillers, she is now healthy, but it goes to show how pervasive these parasites are. Our vet told us that no matter how hard we try to prevent ticks, the problem is so widespread that even well protected dogs will most likely suffer from a tick-borne illness in his or her lifetime. In my experience, that is very true.
But at least we’ve never had a flea problem! 😉
*scratch scratch* I’ve been lucky in my case. HOWEVER, one of the places I rented which was allegedly pet free…was infested. Took about three weeks after I moved in to notice the flea bites, I even captured some to show to my landlord. Who accused me of planting them. Yeah okay. Neither I nor my roommate had any pets at the time. So we flea bombed the place, made the landlord spray the outside (oh what they will do when you threaten to not pay rent) and got rid of the suckers. And I moved out two months later. UGH!