Flea Prevention in the Home and Yard
By Diane Morgan
Fleas are extremely hardy. They can live in furniture, carpet, and even hardwood floors. They can live in your pet’s bed or in yours. The tiniest crack in concrete can harbor them.
Outdoors, they prefer moist, shady areas with lots of organic material. The moist, dark area underneath the porch can turn into an overwintering site. Tall grass, leaf litter, and weeds, along with wood piles, gravelly areas, and sandy patches, are all attractive to fleas.
In all cases, your yard, home, and pet need to be protected or treated simultaneously. Just a few fleas anywhere can quickly morph into lots of fleas everywhere. Fleas know no boundaries and respect no borders.
For most of the country, “flea season” begins in May and lasts until the temperature is consistently below freezing. For many regions in the US, the worst time of the year for fleas is September, October, and November. However, with our changing and warming climate, flea outbreaks can occur at any time. Fleas are generally inactive in cold weather; they usually “wake up” when night temperatures go above 60°F and day temperatures average 70°F.
The population of outdoor fleas can be greatly reduced or even eliminated by proper lawn maintenance. Reduce debris inside and out. Long grass, ragged fencerows, and litter attract fleas and the pests (like mice, rats, skunks, and raccoons) that harbor them. Because many animals are most active at night, you may not even know there’s a problem. If you have regular cat or wildlife “visitors,” you may need to get a humane live trap to capture them. You can buy pet-safe rodent bait boxes to deal with smaller pests.
Fenced yards are less likely to invite flea-ridden strays onto your property, and most dogs get fleas from other dogs. Cats should be kept indoors at all times for their own safety. Indoor cats will not bring in fleas.
Vacuum your home regularly, including upholstery, especially areas where your pet plays or sleeps. Give special attention to areas under the furniture and drapes. Dispose of what you vacuum up in a sealed bag and discard it immediately. You also need to treat your car.
If you have an infestation, use a commercial product that will keep flea eggs and flea larvae from developing, or choose one that aggressively kills eggs and larvae.
MONTHLY FLEA PREVENTIVES
Keep your dog or cat on a monthly flea prevention program year round, and inspect him regularly for fleas. Wash his bedding regularly in hot water. The wash cycle alone may not kill all the fleas, but 30 minutes in the hot dryer will destroy any remaining fleas and their eggs.
After you’ve done the best job you can on the house, let your dog roam around freely. Then check him. Of course, if you’ve treated your dog for fleas, they will die soon at any rate, but a quick check now will tell you if they are still in the house.