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Your Guide to Flea Infestations

How to get rid of fleas in your house and on your cats and dogs

Dog scratching

Fleas, like most house mites and bugs, are among any homeowner’s worst nightmares. While getting rid of fleas in your home can be quite simple, you have to be very thorough in your approach, as fleas are resilient and their eggs can stay hidden for a long time before hatching in summer and giving you the run around again. We take a look at some of the ways to get rid of fleas in your home, as how to effectively treat your cats and dogs so that you can live flea-free.

Eradicating house fleas

The first thing that you must remember when it comes to treating your flea infestation is that just killing the visible fleas in your carpets and pets’ bedding is not going to solve your problem. For every flea that you see in your house or on your pet, there are several more well-hidden and even more that are still waiting to hatch from eggs. This means that any effective programme to get rid of fleas has to be a multi-step programme.

Kill fleas by disrupting their lifecycle

(If you are squeamish, you might want to skip straight to the section on how to kill fleas.)

Fleas, like most insects, have a varied lifecycle that includes eggs, larvae, pupae and the adult flea. This means that targeting only one of the stages in a flea’s lifecycle is not going to be effective in completely exterminating fleas as it will only briefly interrupt the problem. To completely get rid of fleas you need to target every stage of their lifecycle.

Step-by-step guide on how to stop a flea infestation in your home

Step 1: The deep clean

Believe it or not, but one of the most effective weapons when it comes to combating fleas is the vacuum cleaner, especially one with steam cleaning capabilities. A powerful vacuum cleaner can get rid of flea eggs, larvae and adult fleas in the carpet and other fabrics, like your pets’ beds and even your mattress.

There a number of specialised vacuum cleaners available, but most modern vacuum cleaners should be strong enough to deal with the problem. However, you need to make sure that your machine is sealed properly and has a good filter system to ensure that any eggs or fleas that are caught don’t get blown straight out again.

When you are vacuuming, you will want to pay careful attention to the skirting boards and corners. Use a nozzle attachment to ensure that you don’t miss any nooks, crannies and crawl spaces.

Once you have finished vacuuming, you will need to empty the flea-filled filter and dispose of it somewhere where the fleas cannot resume their infestation of your home. A good idea is to sprinkle insecticide or flea power onto the contents of the filter system before you throw it away.

Step 2: Spreading insecticides  

The next step is to kill any and all survivors. The simplest way to do this is to use one or a combination of the numerous flea remedies available, such as flea powders and sprays. The best options will include an insect growth regulator (IGR) that will disrupt the stages of the flea’s lifecycle by preventing flea larvae from hatching.

Natural flea killers are available and mostly come in a range of botanical dusts or borate powders. Borate has been used for a long time as a pest control substance and is ideal for home use as it is toxic to pests, but safe for humans. If you opt for botanical dust, however, ensure that you use it carefully and wear a mask while spreading it. Ideally, you should spread botanical dust and then leave the house for a day or so. Take a quick holiday while the powder does it job. When you get back from your holiday, you will need to vacuum the house again and clean all the linen, bedding or anything else that has come into contact with the dust. This is mainly as a precaution, but also as an effective way to get rid of the flea corpses.

Step 3: Cast a wider net

Fleas want to live on something that they can snack on – like your sleeping body and your dog or cat. Your pet’s fur provides a perfect place for fleas to hide and snack at the same time. Once fleas have made themselves comfortable on your dogs and cats, they will spread to all of the places in your house where your pets sleep, eat and play, including their beds and blankets, your bed and blankets and your couches. You can then transfer them to your laundry basket and even your car.

So when you neck-deep in flea treatments, don’t forget these often overlooked areas. Good flea sprays prevent larvae growth and eggs from hatching and have a residual effect, so they are protected while you’re still combatting fleas on your clothes or pets.

  • How to treat fleas on dogs

When you are getting rid of fleas on your dogs you will need to treat them and their bedding at the same time or you will simply enter a cycle of re-infestation.

When it comes to your dog’s bedding, you should wash it at least 50°C (122°F) to kill the eggs and larvae. Wash your dog with specialised flea shampoos; try to find one that uses natural ingredients or that is at least for sensitive skin otherwise the harsh chemicals can cause an allergic reaction.

If your dog has a flea allergy and developed a rash or has any open sores from scratching flea bites then you will need a medicated flea treatment either from specialised pet health shops or from your vet.

  • How to treat fleas on cats

Getting rid of fleas on cats starts out the same way as treating fleas on dogs – by washing their bedding – but it can be slightly more challenging to completely eradicate the problem. This is partly because it is almost impossible to bath a cat.

However, there are a number of special dry flea treatments for cats that are available, which will get rid of fleas without you having to risk life and limb. Once your cat has been cleaned, run a flea comb through its fur to get rid of dead bodies and dead larvae and eggs. You will have to continue with the combing routine once or twice a week for about a month.

Once you’ve managed to successfully treat your dogs and cats for fleas, you may need to take action to prevent future infestations. Treatment that protects dogs and cats against future infestations includes drops, tablets and collars from reputable flea prevention and treatment brands, including Frontline, Advantage (Advantix takes care of ticks and fleas), Capstar and Fibroclear.

Note: Never use dog flea treatments on cats and cat flea treatments on dogs. The chemical balance in products that aim to get rid of fleas on cats is very different from those that are used to get rid of fleas on dogs.

You should also avoid using these products on pregnant pets unless clearly indicated.

Step 4: Using flea bombs

Most of the time the above steps will be enough to combat fleas, but occasionally more extreme measures will be needed, such as flea bombs. Flea bombs work similarly to other household foggers or fumigation devices by releasing chemicals into the air which are toxic to fleas. You will have to vacate the house while the flea bomb works. While these products can be highly effective, they can miss small hidden areas where fleas will survive and they can leave a residue on your belongings. So, if you choose this option, you need to ensure that it is safe for your pets.

Once the smoke has settled, you will need to give your home a thorough clean to get rid of any flea corpses and smoke residue.

Step 5: Rinse and repeat

Fleas are hardy little creatures, so you might find that one round of treatments is not enough to effectively kill all of the fleas in your house or on your dogs or cats. So be prepared to repeat the process again after a week or two and to always keep a can or two of flea killer spray around.

If you find that you’re still fighting a flea infestation after a couple of months then you should call professional exterminators. You may still need to move out of your house for a few days while they exterminate all of the fleas, but at least you’ll have peace of mind knowing that they will do a thorough job. The good news is that some home emergency insurance policies cover pest control for flea infestations and other problems. If your policy doesn’t have you covered, why not get a quote from