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Fleas are most commonly introduced into the home by dogs and cats but they can also be brought in by rodents and people's clothing. The first sign of fleas is often pets repeatedly scratching and grooming themselves. You and your family may also develop small itchy bite marks and/or notice flea feces (which resemble black pepper) in carpeting and rugs. While flea control treatments like Frontline and Advantage help to keep the pests at bay, an infestation should be dealt with by an exterminator or a comprehensive DIY regimen.
Flea Infestation Considerations
Fleas may transmit pathogens that include plague and typhus as well as tapeworms. They're more of a nuisance than a major health threat, however. In order to spread diseases fleas need to first bite an infected host, which is very uncommon in North America. Itching and scratching from flea bites, along with the fact that most people can't stand the idea of sharing a home with parasitic insects, is the biggest concern associated with fleas.
Here's what else you should know about dealing with a flea outbreak:
- The fleas you see on your pet(s) are just the tip of the iceberg. About 5% of fleas are biting adults; the rest are eggs, larvae, and pupae (see a chart of the flea life cycle).
- Fleas hatch in intervals as often as every two weeks. Follow-up treatments every couple of weeks after the first may therefore be required to rid your home of fleas completely, as pesticides are not effective on cocooned flea eggs.
- Fleas lay their eggs on hosts (dogs and cats). The eggs drop off the host and can become imbedded in carpeting, bedding, and furniture. These articles must be cleaned. Treatment of the yard and the pets themselves is also necessary for complete flea control.
- Pet-free households can also become infested by fleas. In other words: humans can be primary flea hosts.
- There is speculation (but not much evidence) that fleas have developed resistance to Frontline and Advantage flea treatments. It seems more likely that the failure of these treatments to stop flea infestation is due to improper use, worse than usual flea seasons, and failure to treat the entire flea environment (pet, house, and yard). Talk to your veterinarian to learn more.
- Do-it-yourself flea treatments such as foggers and borate powder contain toxic chemicals that can be more dangerous than fleas to the health of humans and pets. In fact, even Frontline and Advantage contain hazardous chemicals. When hiring an exterminator be sure to speak with him or her about the types of flea control products being used. Diligent laundering, vacuuming, and pet-bathing go a long way towards eliminating fleas. Diatomaceous earth and other safe treatments have also proven to be effective. Learn more at peta.org.
Flea Extermination Average Costs
- DIY flea remedies are widely available from shops and online retailers. Flea insecticide costs $15 to $50; a package of 2-3 flea foggers costs $10 to $25; flea yard spray costs $10 to $30.
- A comprehensive (indoor and outdoor) flea treatment by an exterminator/pest control company might cost $75 to $100 for an initial service or $150 to $250 for both an initial and follow up treatment. A follow-up treatment might be required for a warranty (a warranty typically covers a return service if the flea problem reoccurs within a certain time frame, often six months to one year). Large homes/properties may cost slightly more.