Caring for the Home Environment
Adult fleas lay eggs in your dog’s bedding and deep in the carpet, so you won’t be able to get rid of the entire population of fleas by simple combing and washing. Be sure to also clean and treat the household and yard when fighting a flea problem.
You will need to be very diligent in vacuuming and cleaning the inside and outside of your home when dealing with fleas. You may wish to initially have your carpets professionally cleaned to help remove some of the deposited eggs and larvae, but this also will not eliminate the problem entirely, since eggs and cocoons can remain dormant for a surprisingly long time. You will need to vacuum all surfaces of the house every few days (disposing of the vacuum bag at least weekly) and wash all your dog’s bedding almost as often.
One home remedy that is commonly suggested is sprinkling a boric acid-like product, also known as 20 Mule Team Borax (sold as a laundry detergent). It works to dry out the fleas and kills larvae and eggs in carpeting. The product is an abrasive and it can abrade carpets, so you will want to take precautions before covering your entire floor with it. Test an area of your carpet first. You want to use care when using it around your pets as well. Before sprinkling the Borax, vacuum all of the floors well, and then make sure it is allowed to settle deep into the carpets before vacuuming again.
As an alternative to boric acid-related products, salt has been suggested as an alternative dessicant (drying agent). However, salt would not be a good solution for those in areas of the country with higher humidity levels (such as Florida), as it can absorb water and result in mildewed carpeting.
The yard will also need to be kept free of debris (piles of leaves, etc.) to help reduce places where fleas can congregate. Planting certain herbs and plants in the yard may also help direct fleas away from your property. Lavender, eucalyptus, fennel, marigold, and citrus, all known flea repellants, can make your yard less interesting to these pests.
Diatomaceous earth can be used to treat the yard without chemicals. This material is made from a ground-up stone (made up of tiny fossils) that is similar to a pumice powder, which acts as an abrasive and drying agent, much like boric acid does. It’s a dust that can be spread in the yard, or even on carpeting, instead of Borax. You will want to look for a natural or food-grade diatomaceous earth for use around humans and pets. You may need to reapply it after a particularly heavy rain as it can be washed away.
Be sure to get the advice of your veterinarian before using any products to control fleas, even those touted as "natural." It’s always best to err on the side of caution when using something on or around your home, family, and your precious pets.
Image: Ginny / via Flickr
The area between the abdomen and thighs; the inguinal area