Flea control in the home

Have you got problems with fleas that your on-pet treatments haven’t solved? Flea control in your home may be the vital step you are missing, so we look at why that is and how to go about it correctly.

Why do I need to treat the home for fleas?

Surprisingly, only 5% of fleas live on our pets – the other 95% live hidden in the home! So, for every flea on your pet, another 20 lurk elsewhere unseen, living as eggs, larvae and pupae as part of the life cycle.

Only when they become adult fleas do they jump onto our pets (dogs, cats, rabbits) – and sometimes us – to feed. No matter how spotlessly clean your house, no matter whether you vacuum every day, fleas are masters at hiding away. One or two fleas on your pet can become thousands of fleas in your home, so it’s best not to let them spiral out of control.

Fascinating facts: the life cycle of the flea

Know thine enemy! Understanding the stages that fleas go through in your home will help you to tackle them.

  • 1. Each female flea lays an average of 20 – and as many as 50 – eggs a day. Unhindered, one flea could multiply to thousands in just a few months!
  • 2. That egg-laying female is aboard your pet, so as he moves around, shakes or lies down, he’s acting as a living “salt shaker”. Eggs roll off into pet beds, rugs, carpets, crevices, between floorboards, behind skirting boards, into pet carriers and – don’t forget this – into your car.
  • 3. The larvae (minuscule grubs of the flea) hatch out and head for the dark, burrowing into the cracks and soft furnishings. After several moults, each larva spins itself a protective cocoon, called a pupa.
  • 4. Pupae can survive for long periods and adult fleas can go months without feeding – so we can’t assume a home is flea-free, just because it’s had no pets in it for some time.
  • 5. Household insecticide sprays don’t penetrate cocoons – and that reservoir of protected fleas is a potential problem.
  • 6. An adult flea will emerge from the cocoon when the conditions are right, looking to take a blood meal from your pet and find a mate before laying her eggs. As a flea can jump 100 times their body length, leaping onto our pets is no problem.
  • 7. Stimulated to emerge by the vibration of our movements (and that of our vacuum cleaner), fleas find our warm, moist, centrally-heated houses to their liking all year round.
  • 8. In such ideal conditions and with your pet to provide for them, the whole life cycle, from egg to adult flea, can take just 21 days.

How do I treat my home for fleas?

How you do this is as important as what you do it with.

The what:

Use a good-quality, veterinary-recommended, insecticide spray such as Indorex Defence Spray or R.I.P. Fleas Extra. The most effective products contain permethrin or imidacloprid to kill the adult fleas and an insect growth regulator such as methoprene or pyriproxyfen, which will stop the eggs and larvae from developing. Note that none of these will penetrate the cocoons. 

The how:

Here are the essential steps to prepare for a successful spray:

• Remove pet food and water dishes and the pets themselves. Birds and fish tanks in particular must be kept away from these sprays.
• Now remove all toys, clothes and anything else on the floors and under the beds, so that you can treat all areas properly.
• Gather all the pet bedding up for a 60-degree hot wash and repeat this regularly.
• VACUUM – and take time to do this thoroughly.

Why it is important to vacuum first?

• To remove many of the eggs, larvae and pupae in your home.
• To stimulate the fleas to emerge from those protective cocoons.
• To raise the carpet nap for penetration of the spray

Where should I vacuum?

• Where your pets walk, rest and sleep – and everywhere else!

• All soft furnishings, the edges of rooms, beneath the furniture, cushions, beds and rugs.

• Finally, seal the vacuum bag and discard it in your dustbin or wash the collection chamber in hot, soapy water

So, now that you’re ready for action…

How do I use an environmental flea spray?

  • 1. Always read and follow the instructions on the product. DO NOT USE IT ON YOUR PET!
  • 2. Keep all windows closed. Wear a mask or cover your mouth and nose with a scarf while spraying.
  • 3. Spray all the areas listed above for vacuuming and pay particular attention to areas that pets spend a lot of their time. Remember, cats may hide beneath beds, so treat here too.
  • 4. Hard floors with no joints generally don’t need treatment but don’t forget any joins, gaps, the skirting boards and the bottoms of curtains if they are close to the floor.
  • 5. Keep the room sealed for the recommended time after spraying, as directed on the product, then air thoroughly before allowing children and pets back inside.
  • 6. If your pet has been in the car, treat this too, as well as pet carriers and baskets. If your rabbit has fleas and has access to a hutch, this too will need spraying too.


Why can I still see fleas after spraying my home?

It is normal to see some fleas after treatment. These will be the just-hatched ones who have not yet succumbed to the spray. Remember, the cocoons are resistant, so keep vacuuming to stimulate hatching. Keep treating all your pets with an appropriate flea treatment too.

How long does it take to get rid of fleas?

Experts advise that it takes up to 12 weeks completely to get rid of a flea problem. During this time, you need to apply first-class on-pet or tablet treatment at the right intervals, as well as treating your home.

Can I use foggers to treat the home?

The total-release insect foggers, sometimes referred to as “flea bombs” or “bug bombs”, are NOT recommended. That’s because, while they are easy to use, they are seldom effective enough against fleas, partly because the ingredients are released upwards into the air and may not reach the areas where the eggs and larvae are living.

Do I need to treat the outdoors?

If your dog spends a lot of time in a kennel or run, or lying on the decking, you may need to treat these too. If you are unsure whether an outdoor area is infested or not, walk through the area wearing white socks which can be pulled up fairly high, with your trousers tucked in. If adult fleas are present, they will be seen against the white background of the socks.

How do I treat outdoors?

Areas exposed to the full sun aren’t such a problem, as they’re less preferred by the fleas. For runs and large kennelling areas, use a liquid insecticide containing pyriproxyfen, which will prevent the hatching and development of flea eggs and larvae for several months. Read the instructions and, after diluting in water if directed, apply with a pump-up sprayer. A spray may be appropriate for a single/smaller kennel. Hot-wash or discard all bedding.

How do I avoid a future flea problem?

Regularly hot-wash pet bedding and treat all the furry pets in your household with a suitable product that quickly kills adult fleas before they can start to lay eggs – this is critical. Always ensure that the product you are using is suitable for your pet; some products are toxic to certain species.

Repeat the treatment at the recommended time interval or there will be periods where adult fleas will not be killed and more eggs will contaminate the home

If you have struggled to get on top of a flea problem, it is worth taking veterinary advice and choosing veterinary-recommended products. Members of our Vet on the Net team are available for you 7 days a week by phone or video consultation.

Final thoughts:

Adult fleas can consume up to 15 times their body weight in blood per day.

Flea faeces are dark in colour because they contain digested blood. You may see “flea dirts” on your pet or the bedding – if wetted they will develop a reddish stain.

Flea larvae eat the flea faeces, so the parent fleas are providing food for their offspring.  Delightful, eh?