Terrible flea infestation – What can I do?

Our question this week was:

Dr. Debra,

I have a terrible flea problem in my home. I have 2 cats and 3 dogs. The cats are indoors only and the dogs go in and out. I’ve used flea power, flea collars, sprayed but nothing seems to be working. What should I do? My wife has even suggested we should get rid of all the pets. They are scratching and digging at themselves like crazy. Please help.

Greg R. Indianapolis, IN.


Hi Greg – thanks for your email. Sorry to hear about your flea problem. It is not hopeless but it will take some work to get rid of your flea problem.

As the summer goes on and fall approaches, many times the worst flea problems are identified. This is because the fleas have had all summer to multiply and at that time you are dealing with many generations of fleas.

I think you have a few options to deal with the fleas. If you feel you have really worked hard to treat your home and yard or are just tired of dealing with it – one option is to call an exterminator. If you do, make sure they have a guarantee and will come back and retreat your home/yard at no charge. I’d recommend having them come back every 3 to 4 weeks until your problem is under control. IF you do that, you still need to treat the pets. To treat the pets, you can have them all bathed while the exterminator is there or talk to your vet about the best flea control medications. One option is to use a combination of CAPSTAR (that kills the adult fleas on your pets immediately) and Program (to help alter the fleas that jump on) OR something like Frontline Plus® that works on both adult fleas and as a growth regulator.

If you don’t call an exterminator, you need to work hard cleaning and spraying. I’d recommend vacuuming everything and everywhere your pets go – floors, sofa, cushions, chairs, etc. After you vacuum, toss out the bag as the vacuum can serve as an incubator for more fleas. In addition, spraying your home every 2 or 3 weeks for a couple months can be effective. It is important that you use the right spray and spray everywhere the pets go (including under the tables, on the furniture, yard, kennel, etc). You need to pay attention to areas you normally wouldn’t consider to be a problem such as the areas around the baseboards of the rooms, under furniture, etc. I’d also recommend washing all bedding (pet and human) if the dogs/cats lay on or get up on your beds.

An article that might be helpful to you is Flea Infestation in Cats. This article is very good and goes through the process of cleaning your home and dealing with a flea infestation.

As you can tell, it is not a simple process once you have an infestation. After you get things under control, I’d recommend having all your pets stay on a flea preventative type medication that they mention in the articles – for example, Program ® or Frontline® or
Frontline Plus®.

Best of luck!

Dr. Debra