Fighting Fleas Takes Strategy

If you're a pet owner, the sight of a flea on your dog or hopping across your rug can make you want to bring out the heavy artillery. But wait.

University of Georgia experts say fighting fleas doesn't have to mean war. It just takes strategy.

To fight fleas in your home and on your pet, UGA entomologist Nancy Hinkle offers these suggestions.

Follow These Suggestions

* Clean your pet's bedding once a week. Empty any dust and debris you find into a bathtub and rinse it down the drain. Then, wash the pet bedding in hot soapy water to kill any remaining flea larvae.

* Before making any treatments, consider having your carpets steam-cleaned for immediate elimination of adult fleas.

* Next, treat your home with both an adulticide (an insecticide that kills adult fleas) and an insect growth regulator or "IGR" (a chemical that prevents immature fleas from reaching adulthood). Remove all pets (don't forget the fish) before applying the treatment. Afterwards, leave your home until the carpet has completely dried.

Now that you've removed the fleas from your home, how do you get them off your pet?

Which Product Works Best?

"Many highly effective on-animal products can be prescribed by your veterinarian," Hinkle said. "You can even buy a combination product that kills fleas and prevents heartworms."

Pills, sprays and topical applications are also available through your veterinarian.

"A six-month, injectable, feline formulation is also available for cats," Hinkle said. "Many of these products are available only by prescription. But because they provide weeks of control with just one application, they usually result in a cost savings when compared to over-the-counter products."

Hinkle warns that many over-the-counter compounds also contain toxicants like permethrin (not found in veterinary-supplied products).

"Make sure to read the label caution against use on puppies and cats, as these products can be lethal," she said.

Don't Try Home Remedies

Applying organic products probably isn't a good idea.

"Feeding your pet garlic, brewer's yeast or B vitamins hasn't been proven to have an effect against fleas," Hinkle said. "Neither has using pennyroyal, eucalyptus, rosemary and citronella. And they actually may be irritating or toxic to your pet."

To reduce the chances of fleas becoming resistant to chemical treatments, Hinkle recommends homeowners use a variety of control methods to fight fleas.

Sharon Omahen is a news editor with the University of Georgia College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences.