Fleas are no fun! Many of us get a bit overwhelmed when these annoying little bugs pop up, but as long as your puppy, dog, or kitten is older than seven weeks and otherwise healthy, certain strategies can help you safely get rid of fleas. Here are seven steps that we’ve found useful in eliminating fleas even on super flea-infested puppies, dogs or kittens.
To make these steps easy to follow, we’ll call your pet “Fluffy.” Also, please check with your vet before trying any of these steps on your pet.
1) Prepare a flea-free holding room
Close Fluffy in one room (like the bedroom) or in a crate. Deep clean a ‘holding’ room (not the same room with Fluffy in it), ideally one with a hard floor, like a 2nd bathroom where you will not be bathing Fluffy, or the kitchen. Remove and machine wash any fabric items from the room like towels, curtains, rugs, in very hot water. Do this so in step 4 you can put Fluffy back in a flea-free holding room while you de-flea the rest of your home.
Important: We do not suggest you try to bathe an adult cat. It is extremely stressful and they could also hurt you trying to escape. For adult cats, or other pets you can’t bathe for health or behavior reasons, skip the bath step. Be very careful to keep young and older pets warm — kittens especially can die if they too cold. Use baby shampoo or Dawn dishwashing liquid.(We do not recommend using “flea” shampoo, because we want to apply Advantage in step 6.) Pour some in your hand, add a little water, and make a soapy “collar” around the pet’s neck. This can prevent fleas from escaping to your pet’s head and in to their mouth/eyes/ears! Working you way back from the “collar” towards their tail, lather Fluffy up thoroughly then rinse and watch the dead fleas go down the drain. If there are a lot of fleas, shampoo and rinse again until you see very few or no fleas when you rinse. You may want to flea comb (see next step) while the pet is soapy and in the bath.
3) Flea comb & dry
Comb Fluffy with a flea comb. Start at the head and work your way to the tail. Have a dish of baby shampoo sitting on the side to quickly dunk and kill the fleas that you get with the flea comb. Towel dry, then gently dry Fluffy’s fur completely with a hairdryer set on low from a foot or two away.
4) Close Fluffy in the holding room
Make sure the room is warm enough, so Fluffy doesn’t get cold. Small kittens/puppies may do best left with a warm water bottle under the flea-free, freshly-laundered towel you leave them on (monitor that they don’t chew it), or snuggled with a helper person.
5) Treat with flea control from your vet
Ask your vet what flea control product they recommend for your pet. Some products require you wait 24 hours or more after a bath before application. For pets eight weeks and older, we like Advantage® II because you can apply it as soon as Fluffy is dry. Reapply as directed (usually monthly) so you don’t have to repeat steps one to six again!
6) Deep clean your house
Vacuum rugs, sofas, curtains and hard floors. Dump your vacuum bag immediately in the trash –OUTSIDE your home. Wipe all hard surfaces with damp cloth. When you’re done, you can let Fluffy out of the holding room! Repeat the deep cleaning daily for the next two weeks, to reduce the chances of missed flea eggs hatching and the cycle starting all over again. Machine-wash and dry anything you can (pet beds, your bed blankets/sheets) on the hottest settings. Coating crevices, carpet, and fabric with food-grade Diatomaceous earth (as explained by a vet, here) can help tremendously with ongoing flea control.
7) Check & treat for worms
Fleas mean Fluffy is likely to get tapeworms. Take Fluffy to your vet to get dewormed within the next week or two, or sooner if you see the tiny sesame seed/rice-looking worm segments when they go to the bathroom, stuck to their fur, or in their bedding.
These are our seven steps to a flea-free Fluffy and home. You can now enjoy your itch-free and healthy life together!
This post was modified from its original version published on April 19, 2011