In nearly 20 years of dog ownership, we've only had fleas once. They came with a puppy that we bought. I panicked at first sight of one, rushed to the vet for flea meds, and dosed every dog we owned for an entire year. I may have gone a bit overboard, but GAH! FLEAS.
That was about 10 years ago. We haven't had a flea since then. Or didn't, until last fall. Our french bulldog, Jack, developed a rash on his belly that wasn't only not going away, but turned borderline infectious. To the vet he went. Turns out, he's allergic to fleas. And right there in the vet's office, with a flea comb, we realized why he was having a reaction. GAH! FLEAS.
So I bought flea meds for all the dogs except the so-pregnant-she's-due-any-day one, and made an appointment with an exterminator to have the house sprayed. Time was critical since that dog was due any day and newborn puppies couldn't be toted outside the house in cold weather while the spraying was going on. I gave myself 2 days to entirely vacuum the house, wash all bedding, pick up everything from floors (not just loose things - I take flea control seriously) and be prepared. But the pregnant dog didn't wait that long. She gave birth the very next day after finding fleas. I had to cancel the exterminator and wait until the puppies were gone. In two months.
In those two months, I religiously bought flea meds and dosed every dog we owned, including the puppies when they were old enough. The last thing I wanted was to give fleas away as a parting gift to a wonderful new owner.
But then a strange thing happened. Those puppies left for new homes at Christmas. The hullabaloo of the holidays subsided sometime in early January, and I was late getting flea meds on the dogs. (I had a First Of The Month reminder date, to make it easy for myself.) So by the time February came around I couldn't really remember what date I was to give meds. And then life happened and I forgot all about fleas and flea medication. (I know. Who put me in charge?)
That was two months ago. We saw a flea last week and I went into panic mode all over again. I called the exterminator to have the problem taken care of, and because of previous plans on my part, it was nearly a week before they could come. Turns out to be a good thing because one of those plans was spending the day with a friend who told me about diatomaceous earth for flea control. It's completely natural, super inexpensive, and as a bonus I'd already had some on hand for the chickens.
Why this didn't occur to me is a testament to my loss of brain cells. We bought DE for the chickens BECAUSE IT KILLS LICE AND OTHER INSECTS when the birds dust bathe in it. Clearly I suck at connecting dots.
So I took my tub of $9 DE and sprinkled it all over the floors. Upstairs, downstairs, here, there, under that, EVERYWHERE. There was a cloud in the house so thick that there was DE on the counters, tables, furniture... No worries, it's food grade. Completely harmless. Just filthy. It was like living in an abandoned barn after a dust storm came through. And sat for 150 years. OH MY GOSH. I let it sit all over the floors, and dusted all dogs and dog crates so that they'd sleep in it at night. My $9 tub still has some DE left in it. That stuff is awesome.
And THEN I read that if you just sprinkle a bit on the floor and vacuum up, any fleas you vacuum after that will die in the DE in the canister. Turns out coating the entire house in dust wasn't necessary. But hey, I generally like to take care of a problem once I find it, so it's all good. And the good news is that we should be completely flea free. And have the cleanest house EVER, because you guys, we have dust coating EVERYTHING. I'm fairly certain I'll even have to open every book and dust between pages just to get rid of all this stuff. For years to come. And if any fleas survive this over-the-top FleaPocalypse, they kind of deserve to live.
The super bad news is that DE is ridiculously impossible to just wipe up. That Cleanest House EVER thing is going to happen sometime around August 2038, because it'll take that long to clean. I've wiped counters and tables and dusted shelves and furniture, and then did it all over again. Every hour. All day long. And there is still dusty DE all over the place. I vacuumed the entire house like I've never vacuumed before, and then mopped the entire downstairs which is covered in laminate flooring. It looks like I haven't mopped in the nine years we've lived here. I'll be scrubbing the floor by hand by the end of the week, mark my word. All 1200 square feet of it. I used a bucket of Pine Sol water to wipe down the kitchen chairs. That's it. Just 6 chairs. The water was dark gray, like the flea-killing DE. I'd cry over the carnage it wreaked in the house but my tear ducts are dried up. Have I mentioned that its dusty up in here? And I'm filling kleenex with blood every time I blow?
The good news is that I found a dead flea when I vacuumed. That thing never stood a chance. It's probably the only one we even had. I read just today (while taking a break from cleaning) that washing dog bedding regularly is an excellent way to keep down a flea population. Our frenchies are not the best dogs ever in the housebreaking department. Two out of three will pee in their crates on a daily basis just because they can. The third will hold herself for a special occasion, but she, too, will soak her towel when the mood strikes. For this reason, I wash dog towels daily in hot water with bleach. I never thought I'd utter the words, but I'm kind of glad that the dumb dogs refuse to be crate trained. It's probably been the saving grace in avoiding the infestation that I would have killed had it existed in my house.
Chalk this one up as experience. And if you feel like grabbing a bucket and rag to join me in cleaning, I won't turn you away.