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Cat scratching its fur
Cat scratching its fur| Photo by FOX from Pexels

Don’t you just hate it when you see your pet going through a painful and uncomfortable experience? Like any pet owner, you’d do everything within your power to get rid of the cause of the problem.

Maybe you have done and tried everything, but the problem keeps coming back. The most annoying part is that when the problem returns, it seems to make up for the lost time.

You are not alone; many pet owners find it hard to permanently get rid of fleas.

An eighth of an inch is about as big as a flea will ever get. So how can something so small be so stubborn that it just won’t go away no matter what you try?

Well, the answer is simple; If you’ve tried everything to get rid of fleas and they keep coming back, then you are doing something wrong!

No worries, we’ll show you how to get rid of fleas forever and help you make your house less inviting to those pesky little bloodsuckers.

Let’s get to understand the problem.

Why are fleas so hard to kill?

Because they can lay over 50 eggs daily – that’s why.

Fleas reproduce (lay eggs) as if their life depends on it, that’s why they are so hard to kill. The average adult female flea can lay between 20-40 eggs per day, on days when the conditions are favorable they can lay up to 50 eggs or more.

This means you cannot just depend on flea treatments that focus on eliminating the adult fleas and then relax. All those eggs laid will hatch and replace the ones that were killed. Meaning you also have to treat the environment to remove all those eggs if you want to permanently rid your house of the fleas.   

In order to lay that many eggs in a day, a flea needs easy access to food, and for fleas that means sucking the blood of your pet or your blood – if they are really starving. Flea eggs usually have a smooth surface and an oval shape. They are wet and sticky when they are first laid, but quickly dry out when exposed to the atmosphere.

Since fleas need easy access to food, they lay their eggs on their host (in this case, your pet) and those eggs are scattered all over the building as your pet goes about its business.

Now you can see why it seems like fleas just won’t go away even when you’ve tried everything. Why this happens is because most owners treat their pets for the adult fleas causing the itching on the pet and give little thought to those spread all over the building. After a couple of days, those eggs hatch and resume the process with a renewed vengeance.

A flea’s life cycle

Flea life cycle

There are 4 stages in a flea’s life cycle which you need to know about in order to permanently get rid of the fleas in your house.

Fleas go through 4 stages in their life cycle – the egg, larva, pupa, and adult stage. The egg stage lasts between 2 days – 2 weeks.

The larva stage takes a couple of weeks to complete; while in this stage the larva feeds on “flea dirt” and other organic stuff it finds in the environment. The pupa stage (aka the cocoon stage) lasts for a couple of days until the environment is right for the pupa to emerge from the cocoon as a mature blood-sucking flea.

If the conditions aren’t right for the flea to emerge, the cocoon can house the pupal for up to a month. Although the chances of survival decrease the longer it remains in this stage.

So you see why treating your pets for the adult flea, but not the other three stages fail to work as you expect it to. By neglecting to treat the building, especially areas where your pet loves to hand around, you will be missing over 80% of the next flea generation – the eggs, larvae, and pupae.

Now that you know the enemy’s mode of operation, let’s develop a game plan to get rid of them forever.

How to rid the house of fleas for forever

1. Focus treatment on flea hotspots.

You know that flea eggs fall off of your pets as they move around the house, but every home with flea infestation has ‘hotspots’ where flea poop and eggs collect.

These are usually areas where your pet loves to rest, nap, or just enjoy hanging around. Since newly-hatched fleas rarely move very far from where they hatch, targeting these areas should be your first line of attack against fleas.

Watch your pet’s movement throughout the day to see where most of its time is spent. You’ll probably get a ‘what are you looking at’ stare when it catches your gaze, but make sure you note where it likes napping, grooming, lounging, or just lying around. These are the areas that provide flea eggs the quiet opportunity to fall off of your pet and begin the cycle all over.

Treat these areas and don’t forget to treat crates, blankets, carriers, and car seats if your pet spends time traveling with you as these are ideal places for potential flea hotspots to develop.

2. Treat the environment.

70-85°F (about 20-30°C) with a humidity of 70% is the ideal environment for flea cycles. By keeping your home below 70°F and using a dehumidifier or air conditioner to control the humidity you can break or, at the very least, slow the flea development cycle. This way, you can buy yourself enough time to thoroughly treat the house.

This won’t really affect the fleas on your pet’s body since those fleas get their warmth and moisture from the host’s body, especially if your pet gets wet from going outdoors too often. We’ll show you an effective way to deal with those fleas soon.

3. Frequently treat your pet for fleas.

We’ve already seen what the life cycle of a flea is like – egg, larvae, pupae, and adult – and how most flea treatments only focus on the adult fleas but not the other three stages.

Since bathing your pet isn’t very effective at removing flea eggs, you shouldn’t rely on just bathing the pet to get rid of fleas in the house forever – I mean… as soon as you’re done bathing the pet other fleas happily jump onto the now moisturized skin and feast on it.

So what works then?

Whether you’re using one of the safest natural ways to get rid of fleas or a combination of chemical treatments, following a regular regimen is the key to combat fleas.

4. Also treat the fleas you can’t see – yet.

Now you’ve got all the potential flea hotspots in the house figured out from watching your pet’s activities throughout the day. And you know that adult fleas make up less than 20% of an infestation, the rest you really can’t see. It’s time to treat those hotspots.

To treat the fleas in the egg, larvae, pupae stage that you can’t see, use very hot water to wash all of your pet’s bedding, pillows, blankets, and other materials that your pet has access to. Make sure to steam clean fibrous materials from the living room and the bedrooms.

5. Ensure to use the right treatments.

There are lots of flea treatments that can kill fleas instantly but are toxic to pets and children, especially those in liquid form that is dropped directly on the fur, including collars, sprays, and powders. You should give the product a serious thought since most are pesticides.

There are other flea treatments in chewable forms that are far less harmful, but they are not as effective as the straight-up pesticide – the flea dies when it sucks in the chemical treatment circulating in your pet’s blood.

One of such popular treatments is known as Comfortis. The key ingredient that kills the adult flea is ‘Spinosad’, a natural and eco-friendly compound that is made from a heavily-tested soil bacterium and is considered ‘pet-safe’ by the EPA.

Keep in mind that some treatments for killing fleas on a dog might cause harm to a cat; and that the dosage used on a small dog will not be very effective on a big dog. A combination of electric flea traps, natural sprays, and pet flea treatment can give your pet even more protection.

This means you don’t need to not look for one Rambo-like flea treatment product that will instantly kill fleas on your dog or cat.

What you need is one product that kills the fleas when they bite (chewable flea treatment), another one that instantly kills the fleas when they hop on your pet to bite (natural spray or non-toxic pesticide), and one that attracts and kills them as soon as they hatch (refillable flea pad traps or electric flea traps).

Make sure you only buy a flea treatment after you’ve consulted your veterinarian concerning the right treatment for your animal as well as how such treatment might affect you or the kids.

6. Prevent re-infestation from outdoors

Now that you’re dealing with the fleas in the house on three fronts – chewable treatment for those that feed on the pet’s blood, external treatment for those that jump onto the pet to feed, and strategic traps for newly hatched fleas.

The next step is to make it difficult for the fleas outside to latch onto your pets and gain access to the house. This is really simple to do.

Since sunlight and airflow kill flea larvae, you have to make your yard airier and sunlit. Regularly mow your lawn, remove debris, and trim shrubs to get rid of shady places fleas may use as hideouts from the sun. This way your pet will be less likely to bring a flea inside since there are less conducive spots for flea hideouts.

Plus, a clean and aerated yard will discourage flea-carrying wild animals from thriving. The most common trespassers are raccoons, opossums, and stray cats. By leaving bowls of dog or cat food outside, you’re offering an open invitation to these critters to bring fleas to your property.

There are researches that suggest that flea-eating nematodes are one of the natural predators of flea larvae and are very effective at killing lots of them. So if you’ve worked on your yard, but there are areas that just don’t get enough daily sunlight and you suspect that your pet’s fleas are from the yard, then you can get some of these nematodes from the nearest garden center and distribute them to those moist and shady areas that are conducive to fleas.

Give it a couple of days and the flea population should decline substantially.

7. Prevent pet-to-pet infestation.

If you have more than one pet living in your house, then you have to assume each one is a potential flea carrier, even if only one is scratching or displaying signs of flea infestation.

If your pet has a long coat, consider having it shaved down for the time being to make it easier to spot fleas. While a combination of proper grooming habits, combing, and household cleanliness will help fight back the flea infestation, to tilt the balance in your favor, you need to be tough with flea traps, vacuuming, and using diatomaceous earth effectively. 

After vacuuming, treat your pet’s sleeping/resting areas with diatomaceous earth. You can even rub some of the powder onto your pet’s fur, but you’ll need to be careful with the powder so you don’t create or worsen existing lung problems in your pet, especially those suffering from asthma.

A little hack I found for applying diatomaceous earth on pet fur without creating a mess, is to get an empty container of baby powder and fill it up with diatomaceous earth, or you can use this diatomaceous earth powder duster.

Now, use one hand to operate the container and the other to rub the powder into your pet’s coat.

Before taking your pet out to the park or any other place they’ll come in contact with other pets, make sure to administer oral and topical flea treatment.

8. Treat all-year-round

While it’s true that flea development slows down/halts if the condition is unfavorable, you still need to up your flea game in the winter, making sure to take advantage of their slowed development cycle.

Adult fleas can survive in temperatures as low as 33°F (0.5 °C) for a couple of days before they die off if there is no suitable host nearby. The pupae can hibernate for a couple of months until the temperature and humidity are right, or a host is nearby. A flea pupa can go from cocoon to adult flea in less than 5 minutes on sensing the body heat of your pet.

So you need to keep up your flea treatment during winter for as long as you can. Remember, one flea could turn into three hundred.

9. Remember porches, carpets, and crawl spaces.

Carpets should frequently be vacuumed, and if possible, steam cleaned to kill flea eggs and larvae. If your home has a porch that your pet can access, you’ll want to vacuum and treat them too.

Treat carpets with diatomaceous earth before vacuuming. Sprinkle a generous amount of the powder over areas frequently used by your pet and wait for two days before you vacuum the carpet.

When vacuuming, give special attention to low-traffic areas such as under furniture, under cushions, baseboards, etc. Wooden floors should not be spared as they often have a few cracks or crevices where flea eggs or larva can hide.

Using a vacuum cleaner with a True HEPA filter will go a long way in reducing the flea population. Be sure to remove and empty the vacuum bag far away from your home, then place a flea collar in the bag to kill newly hatched fleas. This way you reduce the chances of re-infestation.

10. Follow the recommendation on flea treatments.

All the strategies listed in this article are based on the assumption that you’ll go all out to tackle the flea problem and stay on top of your game. Doing half of the job or doing the wrong thing might actually make things worse.

Fleas, like all organisms, adapt and learn to survive in their environment. If you do not follow the recommendation on flea treatment products, the fleas will gradually become harder to get rid of as they develop an immunity to the control method you are ‘partially’ applying. This is why it seems like the flea population double each time after you’ve tried a certain treatment.

Take your time and kill the fleas in multiple stages of its life. Here’s a little reminder of why you should go all out and treat a flea infestation.

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Pet flea FAQ

Does flea bite cause disease?

Each time a flea nibbles on your pet, they inject salivary protein in the area to stop the blood from congealing (solidify or clotting). Most pets are allergic to flea saliva, a condition known as flea allergy dermatitis (FAD).

You probably know that flea bite cause irritation on your pet, but did you know that a single flea can bite on your pet more than 300 times each day, and that’s just one flea. Imagine how disturbing it’s like for your pet to be bitten multiple times each day by different fleas.

Multiple bites each day and injection of saliva will lead to severe itching which your pet will try to handle on its own by obsessively cleaning itself, scratching, or chewing. This incessant self-grooming will likely cause hot-spots and hair loss, or allergic dermatitis.

The rashes and tiny open wounds created on each bite make your pet susceptible to infection and, if this continues for a long time, will make your pet ill every now and then.

Aside from that, flea droppings may harbor a bacterial agent responsible for cat scratch disease in pet owners. So it is very important that you treat the flea problem as a serious one as soon as you notice the signs.

How long does it take to get rid of fleas?

That totally depends on you; flea infestation can take weeks, months, or years to control depending on how you go about treating the problem. If you only treat the adult fleas, then you can expect to keep seeing them. Remember the adults barely make up to 20% of the entire population. But, if you kill fleas at all 4 stages of its life cycle, that is when you can get rid of them forever.

The steps outlined in the article can help you make your pet and home unfavorable for those little bloodsuckers.  

How to tell if fleas are dying?

We’d all love to have a quick and justified end to all our problems, and for fleas, many of us just can’t wait to see them gone.

One way to tell if fleas are dying are the dead fleas you’ll find in your vacuum bag each time you go to empty its contents and those lying around carelessly. You’ll also discover that when your flea game is tight, your pet scratches less than it used to when you didn’t start killing the fleas in all 4 stages of its life cycle. Plus, you will see less and less coffee grind-like dirt that seems to be dirt, flea dropping, or cat acne on your pet’s body.

Conclusion

You are free to freak out for a couple of seconds as soon as you discover the signs of fleas in your pet, but don’t worry too much.

With the steps outlined in the article, you can get rid of even the worst flea infestation as long as you remember to treat your home, pet, and environment for all 4 stages of the flea’s life cycle.

Always remember, to win the war on fleas you have to kill them in the egg, larvae, pupa, and the adult stage.

Do this and they’ll be gone in no time!