Keeping Fleas Off Your Pets and Out of Your Yard
The flea most commonly found in and around the home is the cat flea, Ctenocephalides felis. Despite its name, the cat flea finds dogs and humans quite tasty too. Flea bites cause irritation, but also serious allergies in some animals and humans.
Adult fleas spend almost all of their time on an animal’s body. In order to know when to begin and end your flea-control efforts, use a specially manufactured flea comb on your pet to keep track of the flea population.
Look for tiny eggs and tiny, white, wormlike flea larvae on the floor, in rugs, in cracks and crevices, and anywhere pets rest or sleep. Larvae feed on dried blood excreted by adults.
Flea traps can help you pinpoint a problem if you don’t own a pet but still have fleas. Animals nesting near your house may be the source.
Here are some ways you can deter fleas on your pets and in your home using less-toxic or non-toxic tactics and chemicals.
INSIDE YOUR HOME
Comb your pet with a metal flea comb, available at pet stores. Focus around the neck and base of the tail. Keep a wide container of soapy water nearby to drown captured fleas.
Bathe dogs to drown fleas. Use a dog shampoo and increase effectiveness by using a flea comb while the pet is lathered. It is not necessary to use shampoo with insecticide.
Vacuum carpets, floors, and upholstered furniture frequently throughout the year. Vacuuming carpets picks up adult and egg-stage fleas, but is less effective at removing larvae. Clean cracks and crevices; or better still, seal permanently with caulk. Try gently vacuuming your animal’s coat to remove adult fleas
Use diatomaceous earth (DE) to treat carpets, upholstered furniture, and pet bedding or blow it into cracks and crevices. Use a hand duster to apply a fine layer of DE. Wear a dust mask and goggles and avoid getting dust in your pet’s eyes. DE has little toxicity to humans and pets, but kills fleas by absorbing the waxy coating on their bodies, causing dehydration and death.
Use borate-based carpet treatments. Borates have a low toxicity to humans and pets. Fleanix carpet treatment can control fleas in carpeting for up to a year. Mix the powder with water in a rug shampooing machine with or without detergent. During shampooing, borate binds to carpet fibers and cannot be vacuumed up. Borate applied in water poses less hazard to the lungs than borate applied as a dust.
Flea traps attract adult fleas to the warmth and light of an electric bulb and the fleas are caught on sticky paper. Fleas prefer a warm body so traps will work better in areas where you can exclude animals and humans.
OUTSIDE YOUR HOME
Do not try to combat fleas by spraying around the perimeter of your house or spraying your entire yard. Spot-treat only those areas where you find large populations of fleas. Fleas will more likely be on an animal or inside your home. Concentrate your efforts there.
Check for wild animals like raccoons and opossums nesting under the house or porch. Dead animals can also be the source of a flea infestation. Treat nests under the house with diatomaceous earth.
Treat outside only where you have found high flea populations. To find these areas, walk around the yard in a pair of white socks. Check areas where animals rest, sleep, or regularly travel. You will easily see fleas that jump onto the socks.
Use beneficial nematodes in soil where you have found fleas. Apply beneficial nematodes to soil where you have found fleas. The soil ternperature must be between 60ºF and 90°, and the soil should be moist. Irrigate before and after application, but don’t soak the area. For sources of nematodes, see the Products and Resources box
There are many steps you can take the prevent fleas.
Restrict pets to a regular sleeping space so you can focus cleaning efforts on fewer areas.
Use washable pet bedding that can be gathered up easily by the four corners and laundered frequently. Soapy water destroys all flea stages.
For highly allergic people: Protect yourself by wearing a longsleeved shirt and long pants tucked into socks. If the weather is hot, just a pair of long white socks will offer some protection. Pick off fleas and drop them into soapy water. Apply insect repellents to shoes and clothing rather than to skin.
Keep wild animals and rodents away from the house. Patch holes or cover them with screen hardware cloth to prevent animals from getting in.