The Wee Flea Problem

One of my friends from work asked me if I knew how to get rid of fleas.  I didn’t, but I said I could find out (because that’s how I roll).  So after exhaustive research of the internets (seriously, I read like TWENTY different sites), I came up with what seemed like a sensible solution, and I put so much work into it that I thought I would share it with you.

First, a little note on having fleas: they tend to like damp, dark places, so if you live in, oh, say, Newfoundland, chances are you’re going to encounter them at some point.  You don’t even have to have a pet to get fleas in your house — they can come in on your legs, your clothing, even stuff you bring in from the garage or whatever.  It doesn’t mean that you’re a dirty person.  Fleas just sometimes happen.  Living in crowded or damp spaces will do it.  Getting rid of them takes a bit of work, but it’s a relatively simple process.  So here we go.

Step one:

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Take everything your pet lies on and wash it in hot, very soapy water.  Dry it in the dryer or hang it out in the sun.  Fleas apparently don’t like the light.  Or soap.  Wash your bed linens, pillows, cushions, dish towels … anything a flea can hide in and that fits in your washing machine, you should chuck that in.  Anything else, you can scrub it with soapy water and hope for the best.

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Step two:

Wee Flea Problem

Wash your pet in flea-killing shampoo.  Either that or use a flea comb to brush him or her and have a bowl of hot soapy water nearby so that when you comb out a flea you can douse it in the water to kill it.  Either way you will need to use a flea comb to get eggs and the like out of your pet.  Always, when brushing or washing, wash/comb the neck first so the fleas can’t jump onto the head while you’re washing the rest.  Don’t let your pet near any other animal that could be carrying fleas.  Use a flea preventative specifically designed for your pet (we use Advantage on Gren, it’s not too expensive).  We use a flea comb on Gren just for the brushing of him, so he’s used to the pull of the fine teeth and his hair is very straight.  If you have a curly or wire-haired dog, this is going to be a little bit more difficult.  You might want to book a special appointment with a groomer for this step if you’re unsure about how to proceed.

Wee Flea Problem

Step three:

Vacuum the crap out of your place.  Go over your carpet with some heavy brush attachment to loosen clinging larvae.  Get into all nooks and crannies, carpets, furniture, and any spots that are dark and/or damp.  Cracks in the floors, behind doors, in grates – anywhere dust collects could be a storage spot for flea eggs.  Immediately throw out your vacuum bag to avoid escaping fleas (my mother-in-law, Mrs. Nice, tells me that if you put moth balls in your vacuum bag it will kill any bug you suck down, though it smells a bit weird when you first turn on the machine).  If you have a canister vacuum like we do, empty the thing into a bag outside and then hose ‘er down.

Wee Flea Problem

Step four:

Use some form of insecticide (most of the internet says you have to go the chemical route, sorry).  Get one with a compound in it known as IGR (insect growth inhibitor) and follow the instructions.  Don’t let children or pets near it.  You could also scrub every surface of your house with soap (rugs included), but you have to be thorough.  The insecticide treatment, while gross and chemical-y, probably will work better than any vinegar-soap-lemon juice thing you can come up with, so it’s something to think about, even if, like me, you’re not into using those kinds of things.

Step five:

Hose down your garden with soapy water (or a chemical insecticide) and trim back all the foliage to expose all the damp dark places to sunlight.  Mow the lawn often.  Keep dark and damp spots to a minimum.

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Step six:

In two weeks, repeat steps one through five, vacuuming every other day.  Fleas have a two-week life cycle and fleas in egg form will not be affected by any form of insecticide, so you gotta do it twice.  If you don’t do it twice then it’s not going to work.

Prevention, the natural way (after you’ve taken the previous steps):

Sprinkle nutritional or brewer’s yeast on your pet’s food or rub it into his or her fur. Our first dog, many decades ago, got fleas one summer and we fed her the yeast.  It seems the fleas don’t like the taste of the dog’s skin once the yeast has gotten into it and they take off.

Herbal flea dip: boil 2 cups fresh rosemary leaves in 2 pints (~1L) of water for 30 minutes.  Strain the leaves out and add the mixture to a gallon (~4L) of warm water.  Saturate your pet and do not rinse – allow to air dry.  This is a nice refreshing thing to do on a hot day.

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Citrus spray: thinly slice a lemon and chuck it in a pint (~1/2L) of water.  Bring that to a boil and then let it sit overnight.  Alternately, use a few drops of lemon oil in an appropriate amount of water.  Spray in areas where you think fleas might be hanging out (remember that lemon juice also acts as a bleach so watch out for fabric).  Spray it onto your pet as well, and put a few drops under his or her collar to keep fleas at bay.

Diatomaceous earth is something you can sprinkle into your carpets and in your yard.  It has no effect on humans or pets (it’s just dirt) but the granules are sharp and will puncture the exoskeleton of insects, causing them to dry out.  Also a very good humidity and odor buster.

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