Help! My dog has fleas! And so does my house

Help! My dog has fleas! And so does my house

Fleas are creepy, sneaky, little ectoparasites. They cause pets to itch and some have chronic skin conditions, spread diseases, bite our ankles and in general gross us out. When they infest your pets (and therefore your home) they multiply quickly to become “a gift that keeps on giving”.

The optimal temperature for fleas is 70-85 degrees F and 70% humidity (pretty tropical). Fleas, eggs and larvae die if the temp is below 37°F for 10 days but survive on wild animals, in barns and sheds throughout the temperate Pacific Northwest.

The key to controlling fleas is understanding their life cycle:

ADULT: Fleas feast on your pet’s blood. Mama fleas need it to lay little white eggs (up to 50 eggs/day), then poop out black “flea dirt”. The eggs and flea dirt look like salt and pepper.

EGGS: Drop off the pet and into the environment (yard, beds, couches, carpets)

LARVAE: Eggs hatch into tiny caterpillars which live in the dark feasting on flea dirt before turning into little cocoons (pupae).

PUPAE: This is the stage that makes them so difficult to control since they can stay dormant for months or even years and can resist chemical insecticides.

What to do if you have fleas on your pet or in your home

PET: To control fleas throughout the year, talk with your veterinary staff or use a well-known over the counter product like Advantage 2 (imidocloprid) and Frontline (fipronil). Remember, it is not safe to use dog products on cats.

HOME: Vacuum regularly, removing the bag (or canister) and disposing it outside the home right away. Wash all bedding in hot water. To kill the fleas in the pupae stage, encourage them to hatch (using a humidifier and raising the thermostat), then follow the previous step until all the fleas are gone. We recommend area treatment with a pyrethrin based product that includes an IGR to kill eggs. If the DIY method is not for you, a professional exterminator should know what to do.

Dr. Lauren Smith is a veterinarian at Hart Road Animal Hospital located at 16400 SW Hart Rd, Beaverton. Contact her at 503-591-5282 or visit