Fleas! It’s not something you probably want to talk about with your friends, but it’s something you need to deal with, sooner rather than later! I’ve had pets all my life and I can’t remember ever having to deal with a flea infestation. This Spring and summer has been a challenge for me. If you know me personally, you know I’m anal about bugs! ANY kind of bugs!
I’m going to share with you how they got so bad, and how I fought back and got it all under control again.
How do you know if your pet has fleas?
All dogs and cats scratch, but it’s pretty obvious when they are obsessively scratching. The best way to know for sure is to examine your dog. The easiest place is on their tummy. If you see more than 2 fleas, you may have a problem. Also look for Flea Dirt. Lulu Mae has been treated monthly for her entire life with Advantage Multi.
If a cat owns you, you know it may be more difficult to examine them. Matthew is quite independent and doesn’t like to be picked up or examined. Look for evidence in all the pet bedding. You may see some eggs, or even a flea left behind.
*this post contains affiliate links, read more here*
Are there fleas in my house?
Fleas in the house? If you have fleas on your pets, the bad news is, yes! I have a great way for you to easily see if you have these pesky pests in your home. It’s not scientific, but it works!
White socks! It’s that easy. I call them Flea Detectors. After battling the fleas for weeks, I had to go out of town. I felt sure I had won the battle, but it wasn’t until I put the socks on and went from room to room to be sure! So, if you’re in doubt, try this little trick. Go into a room and stand still for about 30-45 seconds. For some reason the fleas seem to be drawn to white. BONUS! The fleas are easy to see!
I use flea treatment, how can my pet have fleas?
This is what I was wondering. My dog has always been treated, and the cat NEVER goes outside. Apparently my infestation started with fleas in the yard. Fleas can be brought into the yard by feral cats, birds, squirrels etc. The little bitty dog goes outside, brings in a few fleas. Said fleas get on the indoor cat that has never worn any kind of flea control medicine.
Said cat likes to hide in out of the way places, including a far corner in the basement.
Long story short, I suppose Matthew and Lulu kept trading fleas without me realizing what was going on. I ended up buying over the counter flea meds for Matthew. (Sentry Purrscriptions Plus) I used it once a month for 3 months. The fleas were getting worse. Now, remember when I say worse, more than 10 fleas is too much for me!
It wasn’t long before I realized they were mostly concentrated in Matt’s favorite places.
Bring out the big guns to fight fleas
What did I do?
I did what anyone would do, right? I BOMBED the basement and the room where Matt hangs out when he wants to get away from Lulu. I’m here to tell you those bombs did nothing! Well, maybe they killed the weakest and most geriatric fleas.
I bought new flea treatment for Lulu (Bravecto) and Matt (Advantage II). Then, I purchased Enforcer Flea Spray for Homes. I was so impressed with how well this spray worked after the bombs bombed! I used it on the throw rugs and this carpet where Matt lazes around. It was also used in Matt’s favorite hiding places including a corner of the basement. Do NOT forget to really concentrate on those places where your pet hangs out the most. Follow the label directions allowing the spray to dry thoroughly before your pet returns.
Have your yard sprayed for fleas
While dropping Lulu off to be groomed, I talked to the staff. They told me that fleas were the worst they had seen them in years, mentioning they thought it was because of all the rain we had in the Spring and early Summer. Their recommendation was to have the yard sprayed. I really wish I had made this my first priority.
The problem with fleas is their life cycle. You have to kill the adults, eggs, and larvae! Apparently the yard spray didn’t do that. I called back in about 16-18 days and had them reapply. Since they have a guarantee, there was no charge. The initial charge for that was $50.
At this point I was tired of spending good money after bad . . . whatever that means.
Got Fleas? Vacuum, Vacuum, Vacuum
VACUUM. Vacuuming removes many of the eggs, larvae and pupae developing within the home. Vacuuming also stimulates fleas to emerge sooner from their insecticide-resistant cocoons, thus hastening their exposure to treatments. Source
I felt like all I was doing was running the vacuums. I have two household vacuums that I use in different rooms. In addition I have an iRobot. If you need information about cleaning vacuum cleaners, click that link. I ran the vacuums, and emptied them right away, taking the trash out immediately. Then I googled fleas and steam. I have a couple of steam cleaners.
Side note: Wagner acquired Homeright last Fall. I already had the Homeright Steam Machine Elite, then Wagner sent me the 915 On-Demand Steamer.
Steam Cleaning and Fleas
One of the most difficult places to treat/vacuum is the pet ramp I made out of a cabinet door. Lulu and Matt use this ramp countless times every day.
Neither Wagner nor Homeright makes claims that their steam machines kill fleas. All I can tell you is my own experience. I added steam cleaning to the mix, along with regular vacuuming and the fleas are gone. I vacuumed one day, steamed the next. The steam was able to get into crevices and under furniture. No chemical smell! Later this week, I’m posting on the Wagner project site about How to Freshen Pet Accessories and More with Steam. I used the same method for my home that I used for the pet accessories in that post above.
I always keep “pet sheets” on my furniture. They are just bed sheets I’ve picked up at thrift stores and such. During this outbreak of fleas, I was so thankful I do! I changed and laundered those sheets daily! When the problem was the worst, I would use a lint brush to roll up any dead (or dying) fleas, eggs, and larvae, folding the sticky sheets onto themselves trapping any debris. Then rushed the pet sheets off to the washing machine and dryer.
I also use a pet sheet on the top of my covers of my bed. That was changed daily as well as Lulu Mae’s blankets. Her countless beds were washed, dried, then put in garbage bags in the basement until I feel it’s safe for them all to come back out.
Speaking of laundry, cleaning the lint trap after every load made me feel so much better. I removed the lint, and placed it in a plastic bag and tied it up.
I love this picture of Lulu Mae. She rarely pants, and when she does, it totally changes the way she looks. You can see those tiny little teeth. Her favorite pastime is playing ball. I take out two balls, throw one, then when she brings it back, I throw ball number two. As I said earlier, the yard was full of fleas. Before I knew that was a major source of the fleas, she would have them when I checked her. I always checked her before bed time. I was fortunate enough to keep the fleas out of my bedroom throughout this entire ordeal.
On one of the many checks I did, she was loaded with fleas. I gave her a bath with some flea shampoo I got from a friend. A few days later, I had to bathe her again when it was at the height of the infestation. I made my poor little baby sick. She got up in the middle of the night to go out to EAT GRASS! no, no, no! She could not eat grass, it had been treated to kill the fleas. I scooped her up and took her next door for a little munching. I felt horrible that she was so sick.
An Alternative to Flea Shampoo
After that, when I had to bathe her, I used this dog conditioner. It’s the same thing my groomer uses. Several times she had to go to her brother’s house, Camp Charlie, when I would be away from home for too long, or out of town. I couldn’t take a chance of transferring fleas to my friend’s house. The key is to get the fleas in the water. Water won’t kill the fleas but soap will. This conditioner did the trick. It wasn’t damaging to her skin/system, but the fleas were at the bottom of the tub when I emptied the water. I immediately wrapped her in a clean towel and walked out the door to take her to Charlie’s house.
This has become Lulu’s favorite bed, especially when we’re in the camper.
In a comment below, Alexandra talks about a little flea trap with a light. I found some on Amazon and have already ordered one, just so I'll know the problem is under control. You can order Lighted Flea Traps using that link. Thank you so much for all the great tips from all my readers!
Don’t suffer from fleas, and please don’t let your pets suffer. Get it under control with the tips I’ve given you in this article. Take action as soon as you see fleas, don’t expect your treated animal to get rid of the flea problem.
This is a sponsored post in conjunction with the post on the Wagner site. All thoughts and opinions are my own. Wagner nor Homeright make any claims about their steam machines killing fleas.
See more great pet ideas here:
Hi, there! I’m Gail, the author and mastermind behind My Repurposed Life. I’m obsessed with finding potential in unexpected places and believe that with a little hard work and imagination, any old thing can be made useful again—myself included! I hope you’ll enjoy the journey and pick up a few tools along the way… literally!
I love your blog but It makes me cringe to see so many toxic options mentioned here like spraying poisons in the yard and house. We have a dog and inside cats and also have been involved with rescue cats for a lot of years so we've had to battle fleas more than once. There are a lot of natural ways to get rid of them. They may be a little more work but they tend to cost very little and are much healthier for our families (people and furry) and much better for the earth. Also, fleas and other insects are evolving to be immune to the treatments and sprays, so it tends to hurt us and our pets more than the fleas more and more. That's why so many people report these days that treatments that worked for years aren't making a difference anymore (same with antibiotics).
As mentioned, DE is a non-toxic way to treat bedding that works really well. I would not use it in the yard as it kills all the good insects too and frankly they're supposed to be out there and are helpful in the yard. It works by cutting up their exoskeleton and they slowly dehydrate, so it's not instant but totally harmless to us. You do have to be very careful not to inhale the dust, so I don't put it on my pets the way others do or use it willy nilly. It's great for treating bedding though, and it also works well to gently sprinkle it on the carpet and then vacuum after a few days. I don't have carpet (just area rugs) so I haven't had to do this, but I've heard it said that it can be tough on vacuum cleaners so keep that in mind.
Also as mentioned, a bit of Dawn dish soap is a very gentle way to get rid of all the fleas. Just soap them up and let the soap sit for 5 minutes and rinse. It dries out their skin a bit, so don't do it super often. It's still much better (and less painful and unhealthy) than most of the OTC treatments we give pets though. It's what they use to rescue wildlife from oil spills and such because it is so gentle and inexpensive.
You mentioned vacuuming and laundering, and those are two of the hugest that I've found. I also vacuum the furniture. Also, I've read that fleas can't live in dry environments under a certain humidity and I've noticed they just naturally died in the winter when we have very dry indoor air. I don't know if that's actually true, but it matched my experience.
If you know your pet is going to be someplace with a lot of fleas for just a day, you can give them a pill that will kill all the fleas that bite them that day and prevent any coming home. Vets and pet boarders use them so they don't get infestations. They are safe enough to use every day but that is excessive, especially if you have a cat who doesn't like to take pills even hidden in treats. 🙂 It's not natural but it's inexpensive and it prevents infestations if the pet is going to be around a lot of fleas for a short time or if you're bringing him home from someplace where he was exposed.
Another natural way to treat them takes a lot of time but if you want to avoid chemicals you can use a flea comb daily and remove all the eggs. Before long they haven't made new and the adults die off. This takes far more patience but works for those on a limited income, with chemical sensitivities or who just want to avoid toxins. When I've done this, I've kept a bowl of water with a drop of dish soap next to me and I rinse in that, and put any adult fleas into it. The dish soap gets rid of surface tension so they sink to the bottom right away instead of being able to hop out. It's a bit grisly, but it works. 🙂
So many great tips Alicia. I have to admit, I panicked because before I knew it the flea problem was out of control. I've lived here almost 44 years with pets that entire time. Luckily, I've never had to take such measures before, and I hope I never have to do it again. This was a crazy wet Spring and early Summer. I'm so happy to say we are flea free again, and plan to stay that way!
Fleas are a nightmare! We battled with them with my sweet Shiloh cat a couple years ago. He would go out onto our screened in porch, and somehow still picked up fleas - we have feral cats living under the neighbors house at the time, and I think that's where it started. I struggled with flea baths at home, daily picking through his fur (he fought, but for the most part let me), spraying the house down. Ooooohhh - nightmare!
We bought some flea traps - they are little house like containers that have a sticky pad and a light, and the fleas are attracted to the light, and when they jump in, they stick to the pad. WORKS AMAZING!! And also attracts more than just fleas. We also did the spray in the yard (and continue to) which helped a lot! The final thing to push us to no fleas was a pill (prescription, but I can't remember what it's called anymore, - similar to a Capstar I guess...). But one month, I gave him half of the pill, and was in awe of how well and quickly it worked. The next month, I gave him the other half, and only maybe 7 fleas came off.
We are flea free, and so thankful! I wish it upon no one.
It's amazing how fast those pesky things spread! I'm going to get some of those little flea houses (just in case) Thanks for that tip Alexandra.
So many years I've had pets, and never have had so much trouble with fleas!
Your Shiloh sounds a lot more complacent than my Matthew!
I was going to suggest that too Emma. Just note DE will also kill beneficial bugs and earthworms so use carefully. Also DE is terrible for any living being to inhale, so use a mask when applying. I actually have a flour sifter I used to use in my chicken coop. A friend who had fleas told me about using that to apply the DE to carpets. Apply before bed, leave overnight, vacuum in the morning and dispose of the vacuum contents.
Another less toxic (than the chemicals) solution is Borax.
I have 4 very big indoor dogs and 4 horse. I am terribly allergic to most bugs and they LOVE me. I don't use ANY chemicals in my home and yard. I make my own bug sprays using essential oils which I use all of us. According to the press and local veterinarians this has been a terrible flea and tick year here in Northern Michigan, and despite NOT using flea medications or collars of any kind at all, we have not had a single flea or tick on any of us - with the exception of my husband finding one tick on himself one day when he didn't spray himself.
I have a lot of cats (the remains of a cat rescue) and 2 dogs. Every summer it is a challenge with fleas. This year wasn't the worst I can remember, but our bottle baby 2 year old cat, with various health issues, was losing fur to them. She was brought to me at 4 days old by a couple of neighborhood kids asking if she were my cat, I think I know the feral cat who was the mother - but haven't seen her for nearly 2 years now. Treating 10 cats, and 2 dogs can be expensive - we had at one point 24 cats, but age has reduced the numbers, and we have 2 feral cats in the house that can't be treated - that's a long story. Living in Texas, our "yard" looks more like dust most of the time and mud the rest. We have found that if we hit the fleas hard at the first of the summer, keep the dogs treated all summer, then we generally only need to treat the house once more (about now.)
I don't have carpets, I'm actually allergic to cats and dogs, and only a few "soft" furnishings, so the fleas don't have quite so many breeding places inside. However, despite treating the dogs, they will bring in fleas and fleas can get on the cat when they go out on the catio. We have treated the catio and where the feral cats spend the most time with diatomaceous earth and that really seems to have helped reduce the flea issues.
I am not crazy about bugs, no, I don't want them in the house and one roommate hate spiders, the other finds them interesting - outside. I don't want to have a close encounter with a spider either, but I can see them, the one who finds them interesting has limited vision. Every insect that has ever stung me I have become allergic to, so I don't want to be stung or bitten by any more. I am hoping to make it to 70 and fear that another bad allergic reaction will reduce my chances... I'm 65.
Hi Gail: What a comprehensive post, thank you. Did you know that a few drops of Dawn dishwashing detergent and pet shampoo will kill fleas instantly on your pet. My vet recommended this. I hate dealing with fleas and my dog is treated monthly too. But you cannot control who comes into your yard! I use Amdro flea and tick on the yard so far so good.
Thanks for the information Sherry. I can't use Dawn (allergic) so I never have it in the house. I was looking for something really easy on her since she had medicine in her and ON her. Poor thing!
Good info Gail. When we moved to Alabama, we had no idea how bad fleas were here and how hard they are to kill. We also had only treated our dog who went outside and not the indoor-only cats. Big mistake. We had the same battle you did and now we are vigilant about giving all our pets their treatments on time each month. (not all brands work here). As the previous comment said, Diatomaceous Earth is a good natural way to help control fleas in conjunction with your other methods. Vacuuming is definitely key and washing/changing pet beds and linens often is important too. We also use bed sheets rather than fleecey blankets which can harbor and hide flea evidence. So sorry you had to deal with an infestation. It happens to everyone at one time or another.
Who knew fleas were so different in regions of the US? 16 years without ever treating my indoor cat. Crazy, eh? Thanks for chiming in and telling your story, I appreciate it.
Hi. Google Diatomaceous Earth. Completely natural way of destroying fleas in house and yard and on pets. Amazing stuff! Big Pharma doesn’t want us to know about it...try Ebay. X