by Kevin Gibbs, D.V.M
When a flea infestation occurs, most people reach for the nearest insecticide. Although there are many good products available for treating indoor and outdoor environments, it’s important to remember that most of these are poisons and should be used with caution. These days, there are some excellent alternatives available to the usual sprays and powders that are safe, non toxic and easy to use. Next time you need a flea treatment, you might consider a different approach.
Regardless of the products you use, however, to successfully control fleas, you need to treat both your pet and your pet’s environment. This generally requires using two different types of products: one to treat large areas and one to treat your pet.
My first choice for treating large areas is diatomaceous earth. Also called DE, diatomaceous earth is mined from the fossilized remains of microscopic sea life. It has the same chemical composition as glass and it sold as a fine powder similar to talcum powder. DE is an inexpensive, safe and effective way to control fleas and other insects. It’s non-toxic to people and pets, and is even safe enough to eat. But because it is a powder, it can still irritate your eyes and lungs, so it’s a good idea to wear goggles and a paper dust mask when spreading it. DE kills insects by scratching their waxy outer shells. The insect quickly dehydrates and dies after its shell is scratched. Sprinkle it directly on carpeting and furniture fabric and any other area where your pet lies. It will vacuum up easily. In dry conditions it will last two to three weeks. In humid weather it should be reapplied weekly.
Spray formulas can also be a good treatment option. I prefer aerosol spray formulations over foggers or bombs because they can be applied direct to the the areas where your pets spend most of their time. Foggers and bombs generally don’t cover the area nearly as well.
Treating Your Pet
My number one choice for controlling fleas living on your pet is Frontline Plus .
This product is a liquid applied to the nape of your pet’s neck once a month. Frontline Plus stays on the surface of your pet’s skin, rather than being absorbed into the body. It kills adult fleas and ticks, and it prevents flea eggs from hatching. Used according to directions it will not wash off and it is safe for puppies and kittens at age eight weeks and older.
Frontline Spray also works well against adult fleas and ticks. Each application will last two weeks. And, it will not wash off once it has dried. I recommend treating your pet with either Frontline Spray or Frontline Plus every month. I also recommend spot treating all areas where the pet lies or sleeps.
Whatever products you use, always read the label and follow the directions. Remember, it’s better to be safe than sorry. Wear protective clothing, eye protection and a mask to prevent inhalation. Cover food and water bowls as well as aquariums. And never use a product labeled for yard or home directly on your pet.
Why do you often see some survivors for two weeks or longer following treatment with insecticides? This is because only 5% of the total flea population consists of adult fleas. The other 95% consists of eggs, larvae and pupae. The most difficult stage to eliminate is the pupa. Eggs, larvae and adults are susceptible to insecticides and growth regulators. Pupa are not. The pupa is a cocoon the larva spins around itself, and it can last for long periods attached to carpet fibers, fabric and other surfaces. If adult fleas persist beyond two to four weeks after treatment, you should retreat your premises. To keep fleas under control throughout the year, I recommend these simple steps on a regular basis:
1. Wash and dry or throw away used bedding weekly.
2. Thoroughly vacuum, especially in areas where your pet lies. Also vacuum on top of and underneath furniture, under cushions, under area rugs, and along the edges of the room. Seal the vacuum cleaner bag in a plastic bag and place this bag in an outside trash container.
3. Treat the environment with an appropriate product to kill eggs, larvae and adults.
4. Treat your pet with an appropriately labeled flea control product.
Kevin Gibbs is a licensed veterinarian and owner of Operation Vaccination of Fort Worth and Vaccination Station of Dallas. His clinics were founded with the mission of providing affordable preventive care for dogs and cats. A native of West Texas, Dr. Gibbs received his DVM from OSU in 1987.
Note: Dr. Gibbs visits Marshall Grain to dispense
vaccinations and heartworm prevention medications on the fourth Saturday of every month from 9:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.