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Flea Extermination

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A total flea extermination program needs to kill adult fleas, eggs, and larvae both on pets and inside the home. Different treatments have been developed to target fleas during their entire life cycle while remaining safe for use on pets and around children.

Flea Extermination in the Home

It's usually best to start by killing fleas that are in the living environment--in carpeting and on bedding and furniture. During this phase, your pet should be kept confined to one room, and children should be kept away as well.

Flea eggs drop off of cats and dogs almost as soon as the adult flea lays them. Pet bedding, carpeting, clothing, and other surfaces are probably covered with thousands of eggs. These eggs can be easily removed using a good quality vacuum on carpets, rugs, and upholstery. Bedding and clothing, however, will need to be washed in warm or hot water using your regular detergent and then dried in the dryer if possible. The heat from the water will kill flea eggs, as well as adults and larvae. Dry clean only items can be placed in a hot dryer for 20 to 30 minutes to achieve the same result.

Flea larvae, on the other hand, entwine themselves with carpet fibers and cannot be removed with a vacuum. It will be necessary to kill them with a specially formulated flea insecticide. Liquid sprays, powders, or dusts work equally well and should be applied to carpets and furniture according to their label directions.

Fleas may sometimes lurk in cracks around door frames or in hard flooring areas. A vacuum hose can be used to suck up any adult fleas or eggs, and the area can be cleansed with hot soapy water. Care should be taken, of course, not to overly wet bare wood. A liquid flea killer can then be sprayed into these cracks and crevices.

After vacuuming fleas and their eggs from any surface, the vacuum bag should be removed and sealed tightly in a plastic bag, which should then be disposed of outside. This will prevent any newly-hatched fleas from coming back into your home. If your vacuum uses a canister instead of a bag, it should be emptied and the contents sealed in a plastic bag. The canister should be cleaned with hot soapy water to kill any remaining eggs.

Flea Extermination on Pets

Most adult fleas in the home will be located on your pets since that is where they feed. A wide range of flea treatments are available, but not all work effectively and some are more dangerous to your pets' health.

  • Imidacloprid (topical liquid)
  • Fipronil (topical liquid or spray)
  • Pyrethrin (spray, powder, or shampoo)
  • Organophosphate ("flea dips")
  • Lufenuron (pill or injection)
  • Nitenpyram (pill)


Topical imidacloprid is applied to a cat or dog's back, directly on the skin, where it can then disperse over the entire body. It works to kill all adult fleas, thus preventing the laying of any new eggs. Imidacloprid will last through contact with water, including shampooing, and has proven very safe for both cats and dogs. It can be purchased at pet stores, online retailers, and directly from the veterinarian.


Available from veterinarians and from various retail stores, fipronil can be sprayed over the pets' fur or applied directly to the skin at the back of the neck. Because the liquid lodges in the animals' hair follicles, it can continue killing fleas at all life stages for several weeks. Water resistant, it will also keep working if the animal is exposed to water. Fipronil has a proven track record and is safe for use on cats and dogs.


A pesticide used to kill a wide range of insects, pyrethrin is a fast-acting, but temporary, treatment for fleas. Most flea sprays and powders designed for application on carpets contain pyrethrin, as do flea shampoos. When used as part of a total flea extermination plan, pyrethrin-containing sprays and powders can be very effective. Because it works to kill only adult fleas, however, pyrethrin cannot be relied on to completely eliminate the problem.

Some pets have sensitivity to pyrethrin-containing products and may develop hypersalivation, vomiting, breathing difficulties, muscle problems, and a loss of appetite. Flea shampoo often causes very dry skin in pets as well.


Common in the past, flea dips containing organophosphate can actually be very harmful to pets. Numerous side effects to this type of flea treatment include:

  • vomiting
  • diarrhea
  • fever
  • seizure
  • death

So many other effective flea treatments are now available, it is probably unwise to risk the danger of organophospate-based dips.


Lufenuron is a flea treatment available in tablet form for dogs and oral suspension or injection form for cats. The injection, of course, is available only from a veterinarian, but both the tablet and suspension can be purchased from retailers. This medication works through the animal's blood stream to stop the development of flea eggs. It should be administered once each month on a very careful schedule.


Fast-acting nitenpyram is an oral medication that kills all adult fleas on a pet within 30 minutes to four hours of administration. This helps give the pet quick relief from the itching and discomfort associated with fleas but will be totally ineffective at ending the flea infestation unless it is used in conjunction with other treatments. Nitenpyram and lufenuron can be administered together to kill fleas at both ends of their life cycle.

Carefully choosing the flea treatments to use on your pets, as well as targeting the flea eggs, larvae, and adults present elsewhere in your home, will ensure the your flea extermination attempts are successful.

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