Fleas Inside Home

Problem: Fleas in home are infesting pets or biting people.

Background: Fleas are tiny brown wingless insects, about the size of a common pinhead. They can jump more than a foot horizontally and their hard bodies are almost impossible to crush. All adult fleas are parasitic and must feed on the blood of an animal, such as a dog or cat, to live and reproduce. Small populations may not be noticed, but when numbers increase they may leave the animal and bite humans. Annoying flea infestations may also occur 1 to 3 weeks after a pet has been re moved from the home (fleas turn to humans as a food source), after a pet and owner have been away, when an infested pet develops a high temperature (fleas leave the animal), or when fleas from a neighbor’s pet collect on your animal.

What to do: People have differing reactions to flea bites; women and preteen children seem most affected. Flea bites, which are rarely felt, will occur in clusters, particularly where clothing fits tightly on the body. Hard, red, itchy spots may surround the bite and persist for about a week. To locate where adult fleas are, walk through suspected areas wearing white socks. The dark-colored fleas will show up against the socks as they jump from the floor.
Eradication includes sanitation and control using insecticides. Persistent infestations, however, are best handled by a pest-control specialist. Clean pet living areas regularly and thoroughly, removing manure, debris, lint, and hair. Destroy old bedding material and keep pets clean and well groomed. Thoroughly vacuum infested areas and along baseboards, carpet edges, around heat registers, and under and within furniture. Destroy vacuum- bag contents and apply an approved insecticide. Insecticides are available for use indoors, outside, and on pets. (Check with your local extension service for recommendations.) Treat both cats and dogs at the same time, and concentrate applications at the base of the tail between the rear legs. If the infestation is heavy, remove rugs, overstuffed furniture and mattresses from rooms, and air them outdoors in a dry, sunny place. Remove pillow slips or covers and hang affected soft goods from a clothesline for a few hours.

Special advice: Treating pets will not always end a flea problem; a thorough cleanup and treatment of the bed or resting sites is usually required to prevent future outbreaks. Plea larvae feed on animal matter where the host animal normally sleeps. This may be a bed box in the home, a doghouse, or under the front porch. Adult fleas can survive several months without a blood meal from an animal or human.

Helpful hint: Combinations of herbs, brewer’s yeast, vitamin B, garlic, ultrasonic collars, herbal shampoos, and herbal collars have not been proven effective in control ling fleas. Flea collars are slow to kill fleas, and don’t control fleas on all areas of a pet’s body, including near the tail and the back legs where most fleas are found.