Flea Frustration

Flea Frustration

By Dr. Bob Parrish on May 31, 2019

Our flea season is now underway in North Carolina, and the current conditions are prime for a potentially rough year for pets and pet owners.

Fleas need 3 environmental conditions to thrive:  1) Heat, but not too much as the optimum temps for fleas to reproduce are in the 80’s.  2) Relatively High Humidity, which is a given for our region during summer and autumn.  3) Adequate Moisture, which we’ve had a great abundance of for the past year.  It surprises most pet owners to know that  in the Piedmont area of North Carolina, peak season for fleas is September, October and November … not summer !

We have so many effective weapons against fleas now, thank goodness, but there are still some limitations to the products we use to kill fleas.  While flea products that we carry such as Bravecto and Activyl (for both dogs and cats) and Simparica (dogs only) are game-changers … and life-savers … for so many pets, pet owners need to understand that there is no flea product that effectively repels fleas !   Even these top-of-the-line products only work when fleas actually get on our dogs and cats.

Some pet owners have the expectation that if they use one of these products that they will never see another flea again.  Not so.  However, the only time this would happen is if there is a flea infestation either inside the house or outdoors where fleas can actively jump onto your pet, even if you are using an effective flea product.   So if you use these products, but you’re still seeing fleas, you have to get aggressive and treat your yard and home.  But the good news is that the products we use start killing fleas quickly, before they have a chance to reproduce.

To treat a flea infestation, I feel that it is critical to treat the yard first … if possible.  Think about it:  Where do the fleas come from in the first place ?  Outdoors !    If you are willing or able to treat the area where your pets go outside, that can definitely have a significant beneficial impact on an existing flea problem.   While I realize it is not always practical or possible to treat the yard, but when possible, I recommend to treat 2 times a year:  1) Late April-Early May and 2) Late August-Early September.   I recommend using either Ortho Home Defense or Talstar, available at lawn and garden centers or online.  But do not use these if you have an outdoor water feature with fish or frogs as Home Defense and Talstar can be toxic to them.

Treating the house is essential when there is a flea infestation on a dog or cat that spends much time indoors.  I recommend using either KnockOut or KnockOut E.S. (Extra Strength).  Do NOT use a flea fogger !

Here is my recommendation for treating the house from my handout on Fleas and Flea Control:

The most important thing to know about treating the house is to treat 2 times.  The 2nd treatment must be 2 to 3 weeks after the first treatmentThe reason for this goes back to the flea life cycle.  While there are several products that kill fleas, flea eggs and flea larvae, there are no effective products that kill flea pupae (cocoons) since they are bundled up in a protective cover.  So the 2nd treatment is necessary to kill the new fleas that have just emerged from the pupa.

            For treating your house, I highly recommend KnockOut Area Treatment (safer around cats) or KnockOut E.S. Area Treatment (more potent). Both versions of KnockOut will kill adult fleas as well as prevent flea eggs from hatching, and they kill the flea larva as well.  One canister treats about 2000 sq ft of space.  Used as directed and following my advice above (2 treatments applied 2 to 3 weeks apart), these products should effectively eliminate a problem in your house.  We have both of these products available at our weekend clinics and on our “SHOP” on our website  www.CarolinaValuePetCare.com.

To treat hardwood, tile or vinyl floors, vacuuming thoroughly can be effective.  Carpeted areas and rugs need more attention.  It’s important to use a spray (such as Knockout or Knockout E.S.) that you apply directly to infested areas.  If there are areas of the house where the pets NEVER go, you shouldn’t need to treat these areas. Fleas will remain in close vicinity to the pets since they want an easy blood meal from your pets.

Before treating your home, put your vacuum cleaner to work. The vacuum will either suck up the flea pupae (with fleas still developing in them), or the vibration will actually stimulate adult fleas to hatch from the pupa / cocoon stage.  Be sure to remove the vacuum cleaner bag and dispose of it in an airtight container outside of your home. If you have a bagless vacuum, empty the contents into an airtight container and put it in the garbage can outside, and then clean the container outdoors with soapy water.  Wait a couple of hours after vacuuming, then aggressively treat the house using a spray while going room-to-room to treat.  It’s crucial to treat those hard-to-get-to areas; lift up sofa and chair cushions and spray thoroughly … spray under furniture … remove the sheets from beds and wash them … spray around and under the bed thoroughly.  You get the idea.  While treating the house, be sure to keep your pets in the kitchen, outside, screened porch or in a utility room away from the spray until it dries.

Wait 2 to 3 weeks, then repeat the treatment.

Understand that I do NOT rely on foggers/ flea bombs, unless you are treating an empty (or nearly empty) room.  Think about it.  A fogger simply sprays a mist (fog) into the air.  The mist from a fogger will then land on the tops of furniture, beds, desks, dressers, chairs etc.  It will not penetrate into the areas where fleas, flea eggs and larvae will be.  Since fleas and flea eggs aren’t on top of the furniture, beds, desks, etc, why treat these areas ?   So, use a product like KnockOut to treat your house.

It’s important to understand that there is no product that will effectively prevent fleas from getting on your pets !  Our products do a great job of killing fleas before they can reproduce.  But if your house and/or yard are infested with fleas, don’t fall into the trap of thinking that using these products will mean you’ll never see another flea again.

Here’s our simple 3 step process:

  • Use one of the flea products we recommend for your pets.
  • Do the necessary work to clean up the environment.
  • Be patient … And I can promise you that very soon your pet will be happier and healthier.

Let us know if you have any questions and how we can assist you in the care of your 4-legged family members.


All the best

Dr Bob and the CVPC Team

Visit one of our mobile clinics for affordable, dependable pet care.

Carolina Value Pet Care mobile clinics are veterinarian-owned and operated.