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The 3-step plan for successful flea control for dogs and cats

Types of flea treatments

When it comes to eliminating fleas from your pet and home, there are many safe and effective options. One approach to flea control is to get rid of fleas using a pet-safe flea repellent or flea killer. These products include highly effective chemical spot treatments and collars (which are non-toxic to pets), essential oil sprays and shampoos, and everyday household products such as boric acid and diatomaceous earth. You can also build your pet’s natural resistance to fleas with supplements and a good diet. We believe the most successful way to control fleas is with a combination of methods.  

Use a flea comb to test for fleas

Although not every itchy animal has fleas, even indoor pets can be affected by flea season! Some pets who start scratching in warm weather have seasonally triggered allergies that can be helped with a diet change, digestive enzymes, and other supplements. If your pet is scratching, however, it is important to first check them thoroughly for fleas. To look for the presence of fleas, comb around the back of the neck, groin area, and base of the tail. A flea comb has very finely spaced teeth to capture live fleas and the tiny egg sacs that cling to your pet’s hair. Finding even one live flea indicates an infestation that will require treatment! Even if you don’t see any fleas, look carefully for flea dirt—black specks of digested blood that fleas excrete on your pet. Flea dirt indicates the presence of fleas and leaves a red trail as it dissolves in water. 

Step 1: supplements for flea resistance

The long-term strategy to prevent fleas is to make your pet an unappealing host. Flea resistance starts from within, in the inner workings of the immune system. Like other parasites, fleas are Nature’s scavengers, attacking the most vulnerable to obtain an easy source of food. Because of their weaker immune systems, the old, the young, and the sick are fleas’ primary targets. Dehydration, chronic inflammation, and poor immune function attract fleas, while robust health repels them. 

Your pet’s first line of defense is healthy skin. The natural oils in supple, unbroken skin make it harder for fleas to bite, and skin oils can plug up fleas’ breathing holes. Dry, flaky, or broken skin is a flea’s delight. Whatever improves skin condition will help flea-proof your animal. This is where supplements and proper hydration come in.

The most important nutrients for flea resistance and good skin condition are essential fatty acids, digestive enzymes, and dietary moisture. Although not strictly a nutrient, moisture in the diet is an efficient and effective way to keep a dog or cat hydrated and maintain supple, healthy skin.

Essential fatty acids (EFAs) regulate inflammation and help maintain a healthy lipid (oil) layer on the skin. In addition to promoting stronger, more resilient skin, EFA supplements reduce flaking, shedding, skin inflammation due to allergies, and improve immune system function. To provide a good balance of EFAs, we recommend rotating different varieties of fish oil, in addition to feeding a diet that contains healthy fats from grass-fed meats. 

Because they greatly enhance the utilization of all nutrients, digestive enzymes improve the effectiveness of any nutritional flea remedy, helping it to work faster and more completely. Enzymes can help lessen flea bite allergies! Wisley Enzymes Plus is a blend of plant-grown digestive enzymes, rosehips (a natural source of Vitamin C), and kelp, a good source of trace minerals that catalyze enzyme activity. Results will be visible in two to six weeks, depending on your pet’s age, health, and size. Using an enzyme supplement year-round will improve overall health and prevent fleas from gaining a toehold at the beginning of each flea season.

Step 2: remove and repel fleas from your pet

Spot treatments and collars

One of the fastest ways to remove fleas from your pet is with a targeted spot treatment. With ingredients designed to affect only parasitic insects like fleas (without harming your pet), they will both kill and repel fleas, preventing itchy bites and dermatitis. Each treatment lasts one month, and when properly applied year-round, can even prevent your pet from bringing fleas indoors! For a longer-term solution, specially designed Seresto collars provide eight months of protection and relief from fleas. Unlike low-quality flea collars which are dipped in a high dose of pesticides and can pose a risk to your pet if accidentally chewed, Seresto collars are embedded with a slow-releasing treatment that is activated by skin contact. They contain similar targeted ingredients to our topical spot treatments and help rid your pet of both fleas and ticks without harming your dog or cat.

Flea combing, spraying, powdering, and shampooing

Flea combing removes live fleas crawling on your pet, along with any flea dirt and eggs. Shampooing suffocates fleas and washes away the skin flakes that attract them. Use a pet-specific shampoo so you don’t strip away the beneficial oils building up on the skin. Another natural method of flea control on your animal uses pungent essential oils to chase them away. Neem oil kills and repels fleas and ticks. Other insect-repelling essential oils are cedar, orange, citronella, pennyroyal, eucalyptus, and lavender. Cats are especially sensitive to essential oils, so apply sparingly or consider using an alternative method of flea control.  Another way to flea-treat a dog or a cat topically is to lightly dust the skin with food-grade diatomaceous earth. The inert microscopic crystals dry fleas out and clog their breathing holes, causing them to die eventually, but it’s not harmful if licked or ingested by you or your pet. Use in a well-ventilated area to limit inhalation.

Step 3: treat your indoor environment

If you see fleas crawling on your animal, you can be sure that there are more hidden somewhere in your home. Adult fleas lay eggs on their host which in time drop off to hatch in the places where your pet walks or lies down. Carpeting and furniture (including bedding) become the “nursery” where baby fleas develop into adults before hopping back onto your pet to feed. If you can eliminate the eggs and larvae, the adults will soon disappear as well. Even when using a spot treatment or collar on your pet, it’s still important to remove and prevent fleas inside your home. 

Diatomaceous earth can be used on hard floors, carpets, and bedding as well as on animals. Sprinkle lightly in the house and in your vacuum bag or canister to kill hatching larvae. Boric acid powder is another option. Sprinkle into carpeted areas and lightly brush in with a broom. Leave in the carpet for a few days before vacuuming to kill fleas and other insect pests. Unlike diatomaceous earth, boric acid should not be applied to your dog or cat. Lastly, essential oil sprays made from neem or cedar can be applied to pet bedding and other difficult-to-clean areas inside the home.

Cautions: Consult with your veterinarian before using a spot treatment (natural or chemical) on a sick animal or before using it in combination with other topical treatments. Discontinue the use of any topical treatment if you notice lethargy, foaming at the mouth, or skin irritation and hair loss at the application site, and contact your vet right away. 

If you are struggling to find the right solution for flea control, our pet care specialists are here to help you troubleshoot!