Fleas thrive in warm, humid environments can take up residence in your residence, hidden in the fur of your dog or cat. Although common in homes with pets, flea infestations can be controlled when you take these steps.

Fleas are the number one cause of allergic skin disease in dogs and cats, according to New York veterinarian Richard S. Goldstein, DVM. Fleas put the health of pets and owners at risk, because they can carry tapeworm and spread a bacteria known as bartonella, which can cause cat scratch fever in humans. (Note: Cat scratch fever is rare and usually doesn't require medical treatment.)

Get Rid of Fleas Fast

Excessive biting, licking, or scratching of the skin are the usual signs of fleas. Take these three steps if you discover your pet has fleas: rid your pet of the fleas; eliminate fleas living in your pet's bedding and other areas of your home; prevent future infestations. Here's how:

  • Speak to your veterinarian about safe and effective products for treating your flea-infested pet. According to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA), common treatments include topical liquids generally applied to the back of the pet's neck, shampoos, sprays, and powders. Some products kill both adult fleas and their eggs. Dog and cat products are not the same and prescription medications are generally more effective than over-the-counter products.

  • Clean your pet's surroundings—indoors and outdoors. Although fleas prefer to live on your pet, their eggs can easily drop off into their bedding, toys, and living and play area. If your pet has outdoor housing and spends much of its time outside, treat the doghouse, kennel, and areas such as decks and patios with pesticides developed for outdoor use.

  • Wash your own bedding and clothing that may have been invaded by fleas in hot water.

  • Thoroughly vacuum your entire house. Focus on floors, carpets, and upholstered furniture in places where your pet spends time. Fleas can hide under cushions, behind doors, in furniture joints and fabric seams, below throw rugs, and in other warm, dark places. Goldstein recommends putting a commercial flea collar inside the vacuum bag to kill fleas that are drawn in and disposing of the vacuum cleaner bag when you are finished cleaning.

  • Keep your pet away from treated carpets and furnishings. Once you have sprayed or otherwise treated the inside of your home with flea control products, keep your pet away until completely dried.

  • Use preventative measures recommended by your veterinarian if you live in a high-flea area (constantly warm temperatures) and/or have experienced flea infestations in the past. By taking precautions, you may avoid future infestations as well.

"When you treat an animal with an appropriate topical product, the fleas are no longer able to feed on your pet and eventually clear out of the environment," Goldstein points out.

Richard S. Goldstein, DVM, reviewed this article.



Richard S. Goldstein, DVM, diplomate, American Board of Veterinary Practitioners, Canine and Feline Specialty, and owner of Mobile Pet Squad. http://www.mobilevetsquad.com

Kansas State University
Agricultural Experiment Station and Cooperative Extension Service
"Pests That Affect Human Health: Fleas Infesting Pets & Homes." Accessed 18 July 2013.

University of Kentucky, College of Agriculture
"Food and Environment: Ridding Your Home of Fleas." Accessed 18 July 2013