Flea Facts

  • There are more than 2,000 species of fleas, but only a few of them affect our pets and infest our homes. The most common flea found on dogs, cats, and certain wild animals is Ctenocephalides felis, also known as the common cat flea .
  • Fleas are more of an environmental concern, since 95% of the flea population (eggs, maggots, and pupae) lives in the environment and only 5% of the population (adults) lives on the animals.
  • Dog parks and other open spaces (like most of your yard) are not likely sources of fleas, since these are not places pets spend a lot of time resting. Also, open spaces exposed to sunlight (or too cold in the winter) are not conducive to the immature flea ‘s life stages.
  • Inside the home, the flea population will be concentrated in areas where a pet spends time sleeping or resting.
  • Successful flea control requires treatment of both the pet and the environment. Addressing only the pet or only the environment will result in a failure of control.
  • Squirrels and other rodents do not carry the same species of flea that infest dogs and cats. Other wild animals, such as raccoons and opossums can introduce fleas into a yard only if they are nesting in areas accessible to the pet.
  • Talk to the staff at Oromocto Veterinary Hospital for more information on flea control.

Flea Myths

Myth 1: Control fleas by feeding pets raw garlic, garlic powder, or garlic pills.

Not only is there no clinical evidence that garlic has any effect on fleas, it is a potentially hazardous substance to pets, particularly cats. Garlic is in the allium family, which includes onions, shallots, leeks, and chives. In some animals, these plants can cause severe anemia. Lesser reactions could include upset stomach, vomiting, and diarrhea.

Myth 2: Feed the dog 1 mg of brewer’s yeast for every 5 pounds it weighs, mixing it into the food (or buy tablets with brewer’s yeast).
While brewer’s yeast is not toxic to pets, it is equally lacking in evidence of any effectiveness against fleas. As remedies against fleas, both garlic and brewer’s yeast survive in folk­lore through anecdotal reports, despite research studies that have disproved their value.

Myth 3: Put an ultrasonic device on pets’ collars to emit ultrasonic sounds fleas and ticks hate.
High-frequency ultrasonic devices, whether worn as a collar or placed around the home, have no effect on fleas or other pests such as insects and rodents. Some areas have legislation banning sales because these products have been labeled as fraudulent. The high frequencies generated cannot be heard by humans, but may be audible to pets and have been blamed for behavioral changes when used on or around animals.

Myth 4: Cut an orange in half and rub it on your dog’s back and stomach.
The peel of citrus fruits, particularly oranges, contains a chemical known as linalool. Linalool is used as a fragrance in products such as soaps, shampoos , detergents, and lotions. Citrus oil has also been used as an insect repellant with variable results. For citrus oil to have any effect on fleas, it would need to be extracted from the orange peel and concentrated . It is not effective or practical to use a slice of the orange.

Myth 5: Vinegar and baking soda will kill fleas.
Well, sort of ….
Vinegar is acetic acid. While high levels of acetic acid can be toxic to fleas, the acidic nature can also be harmful to the pets skin with repeated or long-term exposure. Baking soda has no known effect on fleas.

Myth 6: Use lice shampoos for humans on the pet.
Shampoos and other topical treat­ meant for lice in humans contain pyrethrins, organic compounds also found in many flea shampoos labeled for dogs and cats. While lice shampoos will kill adult fleas on the pet, there is no benefit to their use over shampoos intended for dogs and cats.

Myth 7: Coat pets with mineral oil to suffocate the fleas.
Maybe, but not practical!
While you may be able to drown fleas in mineral oil, the volume of mineral oil required would create an enormous mess on your pet. This is an extremely impractical method for flea control.

Myth 8: Bathe the cat or dog with Dawn liquid detergent.
Maybe, but not a good idea!
In general, bathing a pet, especially shampoos, will reduce flea populations. However, any sort of detergent used as a shampoo can dry the skin of dogs and cats, perhaps resulting in irritation. Dish soap may be particularly effective at removing grease and oil from hair, but has no specific efficacy at killing fleas. Oatmeal-based shampoos are typi­cally non-detergent and have been used in pet shampoos as therapy for certain skin conditions. Oatmeal itself has no ability to kill or repel fleas. Shampoos should be carefully rinsed away with water after application.

Myth 9: When washing your pet, don’t rinse first because fleas will jump off. Start with a soapy lather that will trap and suffocate them.
Since a bath in water alone can help kill fleas, it does not make much sense to avoid putting water on the pet. Although I’ve never tried it, lathering a dry dog or cat with shampoo would seem to be difficult.

Myth 10: Keep a thin layer of diatomaceous earth on your floors (where vacuums can’t reach) and vacuum every 3 days, tossing some on the floors first. Sprinkle Borax washing detergent on carpets and wash pet beds with it. Salt your carpet.
True (but only a partial solution)!
Diatomaceous earth (DE), boric acid (found in Borax and other powders intended to be applied to carpet), and salt, all dehydrate the flea maggots (larvae) that are found in the carpet, pet bedding, and other places in flea-infested environments. If you have a flea infestation in your house, these remedies can be an effective part of an overall flea-control program and work best when applied to the loca­tions in which a pet frequently sleeps. However, these remedies don’t do much for the fleas on the pet.

Myth 11: Spray the yard with Ivory soap and water.
Soap and water can be effective against adult fleas on the pet, but since the adult flea is only on the pet (or other animals) and does not live out in the yard, this would be an ineffective environmental treatment.

Myth 12: Release nematodes (roundworms) into the backyard to eat flea larvae.
Once a popular natural remedy for flea control in the environment, treatment with nematodes was never found to be effective, probably because there are not huge concentrations of flea maggots in the open spaces of a yard.

Myth 13: Spread cedar chips in the yard to repel fleas.
Maybe, but impractical!
Cedar is a natural insect repellent, but unless your entire yard is covered in mulch, it is not likely to be of much value. Plus, mulch in the yard will do nothing to protect the inside of the house, which is where most infestations occur.

Myth 14: Plant pennyroyal, also known as fleabane to repel fleas.
Hmmm …
There are botanical references to fleabane’s attribute of repelling fleas. Some say that the plant itself, alive or in dried form, can repel fleas. Other references claim that it is the smoke from the burning of the plant that becomes the repellent. Either way, like cedar mulch, it would likely require large quantities to be effective and once again leaves the inside of the home unprotected.

Myth 15: Keep your cat indoors!
Any pet that lives strictly indoors theoretically has a lower exposure to external parasites. However, fleas thrive in indoor environments and all it takes is one male and one female flea to be introduced, perhaps as a hitchhiker on a pant leg, shoe, or visiting pet, to start an infestation. Within a few weeks, two fleas can become two thousand fleas inside the home.