There seems to be a great deal of confusion and controversy about the best ways to get rid of fleas. There is no one perfect way to do it, nor is there one perfect product. Rather, there is a process that should be followed. The process involves a couple of steps that must be followed regularly to completely become flea-free. Do not be mistaken about this: it is not a problem of a dirty home or pet, nor is it only for outdoor pets. It is simply a problem that one flea gets in the home, lays eggs and the cycle has begun. Once you’ve begun the process of breaking the vicious cycle, maintaining a flea-free environment is very important.

It may be helpful for you to understand a little bit about fleas and their life cycle to better grasp not only how difficult it can be to get rid of them, but also how important it is to continue preventative measures after they are finally gone. Fleas go from eggs to larva, then to pupa and finally to adult. You don’t need to know that or then to understand that when you see an adult, more than likely there are plenty of other fleas (in various stages) lurking about as well. The other flea stages are nearly impossible to see as they are tiny and white. They can easily be mistaken for dander, on a dark pet, or be totally missed on the fibres of a light-coloured pet bed. The point here is that the fleas are lurking and will continue to be around for weeks to months, as the fleas mature from their current life phase.

If you don’t know whether or not your pet has fleas, here is one little trick to check (but, by no means does this mean that there are absolutely no fleas around):

Take a fine-toothed comb (or purchase a flea comb from the pet store) and comb the fur on the back of your pet, near the base of their tail.

If you see fine dark specks, that look much like dirt, place it on a damp paper towel.

Either allow the ‘dirt’ to sit for a few minutes or using your fingertip, gently rub the ‘dirt’ into the paper towel.

If you see a light orange colour leech from the dirt on to the damp paper towel-that is “flea dirt” or digested blood (you can think of it as flea poop).

If you do not see any discolouring on the paper towel, more than likely your pet has not had recent exposure to fleas. The “flea dirt” comes from when the flea bites into the skin of your pet, sucks in some blood and then makes deposits on your pet after they’ve digested what they needed.

No matter how you come to find evidence of fleas on your pets, the key is to start treating your pets immediately. There are many ways to treat for fleas including topicals, shampoos, sprays, oral medications, etc. You should consult your veterinarian for their recommended flea treatments.

A few points of caution:

Not all topicals are safe for pets.

Dips are not required to treat for fleas anymore, as they can be very harmful to pets (with the advancement in flea treatments, flea dips are becoming a thing of the past)

Be sure you read all labels carefully before giving your pet any flea treatment, before spraying or “bombing” and if you or your pet, have health issues.

If using a topical flea treatment, read the package directions and plan grooming/bathing around that information. Over-bathing may wash away topical treatments.

Consult your veterinarian for the safest, most effective treatment for your pet and home.

It is not recommended to buy products outside of the United States (if you live in the United States).

Again, your pet may have fleas that have not matured to the biting, adult stage. If you have a concern, give your pet a bath in pet-appropriate shampoo, rinse well and dry. This should wash away any fleas presently on your pet. After drying, according to package instructions, apply your topical flea preventative. Understand that fleas can remain in the pupa (cocoon) stage for as long as a year, making flea preventative a necessity year-round.

The same day that you treat your pet, you should treat the environment. Fleas thrive in warm moist places, making even your home in the winter a thriving environment for fleas. You should wash all bedding that your pet(s) are in contact with on a regular basis. Be sure to clean carpets, wipe down flooring and heat sources (like baseboard heating). If the job is too big for you, you have many pets and/or your flea problem is still present after months of treatments, you should call an exterminator. Try to find a local exterminator that guarantees their work, and that is willing to give you an estimate based on your home’s square footage. An exterminator experienced with flea control is ideal. Your ultimate goal here is to get rid of the fleas as quickly and safely as possible.

As stated at the beginning of this article, there is no perfect way, nor a perfect product to get rid of fleas. Just as a flea has a life cycle, you must create a treatment and preventative cycle to be permanently rid of fleas. Like any parasite, once they have a host to live off of, it can be a challenge to get rid of them but is not impossible. Again, consult pest control professionals like GC PEST CONTROL to help you find the best way to proceed for you and your pets.