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Fleas – unwelcome guests

Written By: Jane Davidson RVN

As it appears Spring has finally Sprung! Of course, it affects us all in different ways and for my husband (G), the DIY fairies visited and he has completed the last piece of DIY that was needed to be done since we moved in, 8 years ago.

Yes, 8 years ago. We did have a lot of work to do when we moved in but still, we’ve let this drag on! It brought back a lot of memories of moving in. This is the first place we’ve moved to that my heart sank when I used my keys for the first time and walked in. We knew we needed to do a little DIY but the state of the place without furniture to cover it up was just awful. When moving into a new home you long to make it feel like yours very quickly and how it looks is such a priority – but we were to find out that this became a secondary issue very quickly.

In the bedroom the bulky dark furniture of the previous owners covered up the ‘accent’ walls that were painted what could only be described as Poo Brown on a colour chart. The other walls were a dark lilac colour that almost made you gasp for air it was so cyanotic (it looked like the gums of a dog with severe heart failure!) and it felt so oppressive.

Then the kitchen – the floor of stark white tiles had been laid badly over a squeaky wooden floor and the grout was cracking. So bedroom walls and kitchen floor were top of the list. As we walked through to the living room I was just thinking ‘what have we done?’. This place was filling me with dread and I had a bad attack of buyers remorse going on.

We knew there was a carpet in the living room and we’d planned to get rid of it quite quickly, but to do that in conjunction with renewing the kitchen floor too. As we walked in to the living room the smell of cat wee was quite overpowering and there was a distinct yellow area behind where the previous owners TV had been. Urgh. The carpet would need to go straight away, I was not moving my two cats and dog into this mess.

Then G said the fatal words – pointing at a black speck on the carpet and saying ‘what’s that?’ as the black speck moved and the worries over the décor left me as a new sense of dread and horror arrived.

We had fleas.

Through the years talking about fleas to clients at the vet practices I have worked at I have assured people getting fleas is not a sign that they or their animals are dirty or not well cared for. Fleas are the ultimate parasite and will make a home wherever there is the slightest opportunity, and if things change they can stay at one stage of their life cycle for up to two years – moving into a new place is no guarantee they won’t already be there like an itchy welcoming party.

Knowing this did not make me feel better. I felt sick and although I wanted to do a lot to make this place feel like home (and not the graveyard of awful DIY decisions that it was) the first thing I had to do was get rid of these fleas. We had a week before we had to move the pets in so surely that was enough time.

We left the flat and started the journey to eradicate the fleas.

The first stop was to get a Stanley knife and cut out the carpet, I left this to G while I headed to the vets. The pets were already up to date with flea treatment but we needed to treat the house.

Yes, fleas don’t need us or animals to live on all the time, they can hang out for quite some time waiting for us to turn up. They like warmth, vibrations and CO2 so the start of us moving in provide them with the first two and our exhaled breath provided the third…

In fact fleas spend more time hanging out in carpets and furniture than on your pet. Knowing all this I was determined to eradicate these non-paying guests.

I got back quicker than G so started spraying the carpet and kitchen floor. After spraying for the recommended time you need to vacate the space for at least an hour – do read the instructions!

I headed to the bedroom to assess the walls again, now they had been put in proportion with ridding the flat of fleas, and waited. I headed back to the kitchen to find that the fleas had vacated the living room carpet and headed across the white kitchen floor. Before the spray had halted their activity, a few hundred had launched themselves from the living room in the hope that the kitchen had cleaner air – well I knew they could jump quite far when needed so the kitchen had been sprayed too. They had no escape and now the kitchen floor was a graveyard of bad DIY decisions and several hundred fleas.

They might have had no escape, but it still took longer than that one week to get rid of them, and how the place looked became less of an issue. We lived with a concrete floor in the living room for several months, with some small rugs for comfort, so we could easily spray for fleas regularly and hoover up the flea eggs and larvae.

Fleas are really not a sign that you or your home is dirty or not well cleaned. They are masters at disguise and hiding until the situation is just right for them to hatch out. While they do like warm environments that doesn’t mean they are waiting for Spring - they are there all year round!

So, make sure your pets are treated and go to your vet nurse for some good advice on getting rid of them – I’m afraid garlic, tea tree oil and other home remedies won’t get rid of them properly and may cause other issues with your pets, so make sure you get the most effective and safest advice – from your vet or vet nurse!

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