Field Guide to Fleas: How to Avoid and Get Rid of Them

Summer is flea season—which means that now is the time to make sure that you have flea control measures in place to keep your pets happy and healthy.

We understand that fleas can be frustrating and painful for both pets and their owners, so we’ve created this helpful guide to preventing and treating this pest. Keep reading to learn just about everything you need to know to combat fleas!

How to Prevent Fleas

Your pet can come into contact with fleas in any number of ways: while outside, around another animal, and even inside your home if fleas have hitched a ride on rodents.

While fleas are especially active in the summer, flea prevention should be a year-round, ongoing process. Proper prevention should involve both treating your yard (if you have one) and treating your pet.

You can treat your yard by doing the following:

  • Mow your lawn regularly. Fleas hide in longer grass, which allows them to escape their predators like spiders and ants.
  • Don’t over-water your lawn. Fleas thrive in moist environments, so keeping your lawn slightly dry will deter their growth.
  • Remove debris (such as stacks of wood and piles of leaves) and clutter. This removes breeding grounds for fleas.
  • Discourage wildlife. Fleas can hitch a ride on squirrels, deer, rabbits, raccoons, and other animals. You can discourage them from setting up camp in your yard by using squirrel-proof bird feeders, keeping trash in sealed cans, and not planting flowers and shrubs that attract deer and other wildlife.
  • Use cedar mulch. Fleas hate cedar. Consider using cedar mulch along the borders of your yard to keep fleas out.

To prevent fleas on your pet, we encourage you to bathe him or her regularly. You may also want to use a monthly flea prevention treatment, such as a spot-on medication, oral medication, or flea collar. When treating your pets, be sure to read all instructions carefully and always consult your veterinarian. If you have a cat, make sure to always use a cat-approved flea medication: cats cannot use medications designed for dogs, as this can be toxic to them.

How to Recognize the Signs of an Infestation

The good news is that recognizing a flea infestation can be fairly easy: you’ll likely notice your pet scratching him- or herself more often than usual. Some pets, in fact, are so hypersensitive that they will itch all over after a single flea bite.

Adult fleas can be clearly seen when inspecting your pet with a narrow comb: fleas are between 1/12 to 1/6 inch long, with a flattened body and long legs. They are usually dark brown to black in color. If your pet has fleas, you’ll likely see lots of “flea dirt”: the waste products of fleas that look like dark brown or black specks distributed throughout the pet’s fur. If you bathe or groom your pet regularly, you should be able to spot a flea infestation before it becomes extremely serious.

Another common way that homeowners notice a flea infestation is when returning from vacation: if the normal feeding sources have been removed from the home, fleas will be especially active when they return.

How to Get Rid of Fleas

Just like preventing fleas requires a multi-faceted approach, so does getting rid of fleas once you have them. To understand why, we need to look at the life cycle of fleas.

You will only find adult fleas on your pet. This is because, while female fleas make their home on your pet, their eggs will fall off your pet and land wherever the pet goes. After falling off, the eggs hatch into larvae and develop on the ground, feeding on organic matter. After forming a cocoon, the flea will wait until the conditions are right—when they detect heat, vibrations, and carbon dioxide (all things given off by animals). Then, the newly formed adult flea will jump onto the nearest animal.

Fleas will not go away permanently if you only treat your pet: more will hatch and jump onto your pet. They will also not go away permanently if you treat your pet and put him or her outside: an adult flea will feed on any warm-blooded animal, including humans.

To get rid of fleas, you must treat both your pet(s) and the environment. You can treat your pets with flea shampoos or spot-on or oral medications. To treat the environment, you will need to complete the following steps.

  • Vacuum thoroughly and mop tile/wood floors.
  • Wash or discard all pet bedding.
  • Wash other linens, such as couch and bed covers (if your pet is allowed on furniture).

If you have a flea infestation, consider calling a pest control professional to deal with the problem. A professional will have the knowledge and tools needed to get rid of fleas—and make sure they stay gone.

Concerned you might have a flea infestation on your hands? Contact Scherzinger Pest Control, a trusted pest control company in the Greater Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky areas, including Dayton, OH, and now Columbus, OH. We’ve been pioneers, engineering new standards for ways of eliminating and controlling bugs and pests. Contact us by phone at 1-877-748-9888 or through our websiteFacebook, or Twitter.