Fleas are one of the bloodsucking species of insects. While certain types confine their feeding to animals, others are equally satisfied with human blood.
Cat and dog fleas resemble each other closely, feed interchangeably on cats or on dogs and are usually found in the Eastern States. The human flea lives on all sorts of animals, wild and domestic, being particularly fond of hogs, in whose litters it will breed prolifically. Sticktights breed on poultry and only occasionally transfer their attention to man.
These insects must have the blood of warm animals to reproduce. Once the eggs are laid, however, it can develop from egg to larva, pupa and adult and continue to live in the latter stage for several weeks with no food at all. They will breed in hordes wherever animals sleep, especially in basements and out-buildings. From there they may be brought into the house on a dog or cat and will migrate upstairs through the various living rooms, where they will cause no end of annoyance and embarrassment.
To get rid of them, it’s imperative that you kill both the adults and the eggs. You must treat your house, your pets and your yard at the same time to prevent one area being a safe haven that allows them to move into another area (after you’ve cleaned it). If you find that you seem to get rid of them all but have them back within a few days, chances are you aren’t getting to all the eggs (they’re hatching after cleanup).
You can buy commercial powders and sprays or mix homemade concoctions for flea control (I have a few recipes below), but if you prefer something natural and is pet & child friendly, consider Diatomaceous Earth. It’s a non-toxic pesticide that can be found in garden centers (look for the food grade stuff). It’s a soft, chalk-like sedimentary rock that is crumbled into a fine white to off-white powder. This powder has an abrasive feel, similar to pumice powder, and is very light, due to its high porosity. The typical chemical composition of diatomaceous earth is 86% silica, 5% sodium, 3% magnesium and 2% iron (Source: Wikipedia ).
As I mentioned in a previous article about ant control , Diatomaceous Earth is easily picked up by the hairy bodies of most insects, whereupon it scratches through their protective wax layers and they also absorb some of this material. The result being that the insects lose water rapidly, dry up and die. Further protection is provided by the powder’s property of repelling many insects. In houses it can be used effectively to prevent the entry of certain insects such as earwigs, ants, and cockroaches, and to control these and others that are present in cupboards containing food, carpets, basements, attics, window ledges, pet areas (for fleas), etc. In all of these examples it is important to place a small amount of the powder in corners, cracks, crevices and other areas where insects might hide (Source: Ecological Agriculture Projects, McGill University ).
Treatment Of The Home
- Wash all bedding and draperies in hot, soapy water to kill the critters that may be living in them.
- Treat all carpeting with flea powder (follow the package directions), or Diatomaceous Earth, or a homemade mix (8 cups Borax + 1 cup table salt). If you choose to use Diatomaceous Earth or the homemade mix, spread evenly over the carpet with a shaker container (such as a baby powder container) and leave on the carpet for about 8 days before vacuuming up. Repeat again. Wear protective eyewear and a face mask to prevent irritation to the eyes and throat while spreading any powder or sprays. After vacuuming, remove contents from the vacuum and dispose of immediately in an outside sealed container for garbage pickup.
- Wash flooring and dog or pet bed with hot soapy water then spread Diatomaceous Earth in the pet bed and surrounding area (make sure to get the powder into all floor cracks where fleas may be hiding).
- Sprinkle Diatomaceous Earth or flea powder over upholstered furniture and vacuum up after 8 days, repeating process again (or follow directions on the powder package).
- Wash all surfaces clean with hot soapy water.
Determine If Pets Are Infested
As soon as their living areas are free of fleas, the animals themselves should be treated. How can you tell if your dog or cat has them? The first sign is he’ll be very itchy and scratching a lot. You can do this test:
- Stand your dog on a white sheet or towel and comb through his fur with a fine toothed flea comb (give it a few strokes), if you see one or two on the comb, you can bet there are more. If black flecks fall off his coat onto the towel, see if they’re flea dirt by sprinkling them with water. They’ll turn red if they are (this is their blood excrement from feeding).
- You can also spot check fur by spreading it apart and looking for flea dirt (black specks), hot spots are behind the ears and at the base of his tail. You’ll also be able to feel them as you run your hands through your dog’s fur, they’re gritty and coarse.
- Bathe pet thoroughly with a flea shampoo.
- Brush fur daily with a fine tooth flea comb to remove as many eggs as possible.
- Use a commercial powder or Diatomaceous Earth on fur, rubbing the powder deep into the fur to reach the skin. Keep out of your pet’s eyes, ears and nose to prevent irritation.
Treatment Of Lawns
As a supplementary measure to clearing your home and pets of the infestation, keep the grass cut short as contact with sun and rain kill these critters readily. If these measures still do no good, spread diatomaceous earth around the yard paying attention to shady areas and low shrubbery.
- Bathe the dog (pets) regularly
- Use cedar chips, shavings or sawdust in your pet’s bedding, this will help repel them
- Pine needles spread on the dog house floor (outside) will also help repel them
- Vinegar: Add a teaspoon of Apple Cider Vinegar to the pet water dish, helps prevent ticks as well
- Repellent Floor Cleaner: 15 drops lavender essential oil + 1/4 cup liquid Ivory Soap + 1 gallon hot water. Mop floor with cleaner and do not rinse. You could also use rosemary essential oil rather than lavender.
Itch Relief (For Humans)
- Vicks Vapo Rub
- Calamine Lotion
Did You Know
- It’s the saliva from the bites that make them so itchy
- They can transmit tapeworms to your dog
- They don’t fly but jump from one victim to another
- Each flea can lay dozens of eggs per day
- They thrive in warm & humid climates
Source: Some of the information above is from Woman’s Home Companion Household Book (1948)