How to Kill Fleas

how to kill fleasFleas are the most common parasite in the world affecting dogs and cats, so if you have pets then knowing how to kill fleas will be a must as it is likely that you will have to deal with them at some point.

Flea infestations usually happen in the summer months but can happen year around especially in southern states with mild winters. Knowing when fleas are most likely in your area can help you take preventative measures to avoid an infestation before it happens.

There are two places to combat fleas, on your pet and in the environment. It is likely that no one method will be successful. Depending on how bad your flea problem is you may have to use multiple methods over several weeks or months to bring your problem under control.  Below I have outlined several common flea control options.

Killing fleas on your pets

  • Flea drops - Flea drops are one of the most popular and common ways to treat your pet for fleas. This method is best if used on a regular basis, usually monthly, for flea prevention. Flea drops are applied to the back of the neck between the shoulder blades and is absorbed into the skin so that when a flea bites, it then dies. The treated area shouldn’t be touched for 24 to 48 hours after treatment, and you should keep your pet dry for that same period so the drops are fully absorbed.
  • Flea Shampoo – One of the first things I reach for when combating fleas is flea shampoo. Giving your pet a thorough bath will clean off the flea dirt and eggs while the shampoo’s active ingredient will kill adult fleas and wash them all down the drain. Dogs are probably a bit more willing to get a bath but you may be able to get your favorite feline washed up with a little persuasion, but be careful. Repeated washings along with treating your home will likely be necessary.
  • Flea Powder – You can use a flea powder as an alternative to some of the other options. The powder only works as long as it is on your pet, so baths and rain can wash off the protection. This may be a solution to animals that don’t like baths, but care should be taken as licking the powder can lead to respiratory problems.
  • Flea Collars – A flea collar is another product that I would consider as a prevention method more than a method to kill an infestation. They are less messy than flea drops or powders. I prefer to use the newer organic collars, however they primarily work as a flea repellant and don’t actually kill the fleas, but are safer for your pets than the ones that contain pesticides, continually releasing them onto your pet (and you).
  • Flea Pills – Flea pills are given to your pet orally, usually with food. There are monthly pills that prevent the growth of fleas or daily pills that kill adult fleas, sometimes working in as little as 30 minutes. These are a good option in households with children as other topical methods like powders and drops can be a problem.
  • Flea Comb – Using a flea comb may be a good way to check your pet and kill fleas if there are not too many. As you comb your pet’s fur, drop any fleas found into a dish of soapy water. You can kill fleas with soapy water as the soap breaks the surface tension allowing the fleas to sink and drown.

Killing Fleas in the Home

  • Flea Spray – Using a good flea spray is sometimes the best way to get rid of fleas in your home. Flea spray contains IGR (Insect Growth Regulator) which is able to not only kill living adult fleas, but also stops younger fleas from growing into adults. Flea sprays are also a good way to spot-treat your furniture and your pet’s bedding.
  • Flea Bombs – Flea bombs, or foggers, may be an effective way to treat a large area all at once, it is important to remember that all surfaces will be coated including counter tops, so anything left out will have to be cleaned. It may be good to schedule a day at the groomer to get a flea dip while you tackle the home infestation. Foggers are also good if you are moving in to a new home that has an infestation.
  • Flea Traps – Flea traps are good to treat small areas or the areas around pet beds. They are only effective on adult fleas and only draw fleas in from a few feet away; you can also make a homemade flea trap with a shallow dish of soapy water.
  • Vacuuming - The simple act of vacuuming regularly can drastically reduce the flea population. Be sure to discard the vacuum bag right away in an outside garbage bin, for bag-less vacuums dump in a trash bag and take to the outside bin right away. I have heard a recommendation to put cut up pieces of a flea collar into the vacuum bag, but I don’t recommend it, just throw it away and be done with it.

Killing Fleas in Your Yard

Of course the fleas have to be coming from somewhere. Your first line of defense could be in the yard. Fleas tend to congregate in the shady humid areas of the yard including in your pet’s house and under lawn furniture. You can combat fleas in the yard by using a yard spray, usually a bottle of insecticide with an attachment for your hose, or contacting a pest control service to spray the yard regularly.

No matter which method or combinations of methods you use, regular treatment for at least 6 months is recommended due to the life-cycle of the flea. The flea can be a tenacious enemy for you and your pets, and will likely return without regular preventative treatments. While there is a cost and a bit of effort need to treat your home and animals that share it, it is a lot easier and costs less than having to combat a full blown infestation. Be sure to read this site fully and please ask questions and leave comments about your successes. As a community we can all come together and win the fight with these tiny intruders.