Fleas must be managed differently than ticks because fleas make themselves at home in your home. For every 1 or 2 fleas you see on your pet, there are at least ten times as many living in your house. Here are some facts about fleas and flea control.

1. It is very important to treat the environment as well as your pet, because of the fleas’ life cycle.

2. If you suspect your pet might have fleas but aren’t sure, part the coat carefully and look down at the base of the hair especially at the tail-head area. If you see what look like little pepper specks, or comb them out with a flea comb, put them on a moist tissue or paper towel. if the specks turn brown, that’s flea dirt, which is digested blood.

3. Some animals are more sensitive than others to the flea bites. Some animals may have more fleas than other too, even in the same household. Often the very young, very old, or ill animals have more fleas. A heavy flea load can seriously compromise your pet’s health due to blood loss.

4. To treat the environment, first vacuum and dispose of the bag. Then apply a boric acid type product (see my Books and Links page). You can also use diatomaceous earth products if you are very careful not to breathe the dust or get it in the eyes and follow all directions carefully. Both of these products dessicate the fleas and larvae.

5. Fleas like dark cracks in floorboards and under moldings, carpets, and bedding. Concentrate on these areas. Wash whatever bedding you can.

6. Consider treating all animals in the house with an oral flea-life-cycle inhibitor like lufenuron (Program). Any flea that bites an animal who has taken Program once a month is sterilized. Discuss use with your veterinarian.

7. The safest way to remove fleas is with a flea comb. Do this daily if possible. Make sure the flea comb has water or herbal repellant on it and get the comb right into a bowl of water. Otherwise you will be catching and releasing the fleas!

8. If flea-combing is not an option, you may need to fleabathe your pet. Check product labels carefully for safety of use. Bathing does not last very long and does not prevent fleas from jumping back on.

9. As with tick prevention, use caution with herbal repellants containing a high level of essential oils. These can be difficult for some pets to tolerate, especially cats.

10. As with tick prevention, if you are considering using a long-acting topical pesticide, evaluate the overall health of your pet carefully. Watch for counteractions, and minimize use to reduce toxic load. Make sure to treat the environment as well.

11. Be aware that fleas can be freshly introduced to a “clean” household by pets that go outside.

Scottish Blackface sheep, Crieff, Scotland
Scottish Blackface sheep, Crieff, Scotland