How to Kill Fleas
If you want to know how to get rid of fleas, you need to know the various ways in which they can die. Flea control methods span a broad spectrum, and there are a number of ways to attack fleas using different products. There is no silver bullet - you're going to have to get out there and kill them in a number of ways to be successful, mainly because none of the ways to do it is perfect.
Some of the different solutions people use:
Chemicals - There are many chemicals designed to kill fleas. This site has a number of suggestions, and you can attack fleas chemically either on your pet, in the place your pet hangs out, or around the house or yard in places fleas live. The biggest advice: don't overdo it. Your pet doesn't need to be inundated with a variety of chemical products - exposure to one is probably enough. The best way to be able to use multiple products is to cordon off your pet. How do you do this? First, get a flea medicine of some kind. Apply this directly to the pet - it's the chemical designed to be exposed to them simply because it's medicine. Then, use sprays or other pesticides in the yard or parts of the house that your pet hangs out in. Flea bombs are good for the house, and there are many products designed specifically for the yard. To cut down on the pesticides your pet is exposed to, try to keep them away from the affected areas until it's had time to disperse.
Weighing the risks:
Lots of people don't like chemical flea control products simply on principle. There's merit to this - your pet genuinely can get sick from using virtually any product. The risks, however, are pretty low - mainly this is an allergy thing. Like people, some percentage of pets will have bad reactions to particular chemical products, and usually they aren't fatal. On the other hand, fleas themselves can actually be very dangerous. What are the risks? For one, they aren't just pests - they transmit other parasites, such as tapeworms. Also, if your pet is older, younger, or sick, there is a real risk of fleas giving it anemia, which can be fatal. Fleas can also cause serious skin problems and hair loss. An adult flea can bite your pet 400 times in a single day - and that's just one of them. The itching is just the tip of the iceberg. On balance, it's worth using some sort of flea medicine. The main reason is that they are simply so effective - they'll kill off most of the fleas, and the risk of health problems from the medicine itself is lower than the risk of problems from the fleas. Always talk to your vet about it - they can recommend a specific medicine, and they'll have knowledge of any specific health problems your pet has had in the past. They'll also be more on guard for the symptoms of any reaction to the medicine, so you can cut down on that risk simply by being diligent. You can look into several specific brands for more information on how they work (and there IS a difference in the way they kill fleas which can affect your decision): Frontline, Advantage, Revolution, and Program are the bigger ones.
Drowning - Fleas, like anything else, need to breathe. If you give your animal baths, many (but not all) fleas will drown. Some will race to the head and survive that way, but you can get rid of a good chunk of the adult fleas on your pet with a flea bath, regardless of whether you use flea shampoo to kill fleas on your pet that way as well. The good part about this is that you can do it regularly every couple of days and safely kill off the flea population on your pet. How do you give flea baths? First, make sure that you're complying with the directions of any flea medicine you're using on the pet. For example, Frontline will require you not to bathe the pet for a few days before and after application. Second, decide on a flea shampoo. You can either use one specifically designed for killing fleas, or you can use a baby shampoo made for humans. If you have a puppy or a kitten, stick with the baby shampoo. They are especially sensitive to chemicals at a younger age. If you've got a cat, you may not be able to bathe them - they usually fight too much, but it depends on their disposition. Before you put them in the tub, begin applying the shampoo around the neck area - this will cut off the escape route of fleas. They like to get onto the head of the pet, and will run there if they can, so keep a lathered portion of shampoo blocking their way. Give it a few minutes, then wet the animal in slightly warm or cool water (to prevent overheating in dogs). Shampoo the rest of the body, and let them sit for a few minutes underwater. Make sure you get all the shampoo off before the end, and avoid applying it to the head because of sensitive areas.
Does it work? It helps, but it won't work as the only way to get rid of your flea problem. A flea bath is a supplement - it won't kill eggs and it won't kill the fleas around your house. A single adult flea can lay dozens to a hundred eggs in a day - you can't miss even one or your problem will come back. You'll need to bathe your pet in conjunction with other efforts.
Natural methods - You can also try many natural, chemical-free methods of killing fleas. These include soil designed to make tiny cuts and thus dehydrating the fleas to death, vacuuming them (it won't kill them, but you can put part of a flea collar into the bag and get rid of them), or washing clothing and bedding in hot water. All of these can help, but it is very difficult to wholly eradicate a flea infestation with them.
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