Did you know fleas spend most of their lives off their hosts, in bedding, carpets, furniture and lawns?
If you didn't, chances are you may be conducting an ineffective war on the annoying pests. And now's the time to launch a fresh offensive, before the problem gets completely out of hand.
The only way to fight fleas is to treat the house, yard and pet at the very same time, to keep one untreated area from re-infesting the others.
That means if you're treating your pet to a flea dip one weekend, spraying the yard the next and working on the house a couple of days after that, the effect on the flea population will be minimal.
The easiest way to eliminate fleas is to enlist the help of professionals. Take your pet to a groomer or veterinarian for a flea bath and dip, and engage a pest-control firm to treat the house and yard. Arrange to have everything done on the same day for the best results.
Find a pest-control firm that will spray not only with a "quick-kill" compound, but also with a solution containing ingredients designed to prevent fleas from developing beyond their early stages. Such products, called "insect growth restrictors," or IGRs, are safe around people and pets and have long-lasting effects on the flea population.
Look for such products if you're going to do the job yourself, too, and ask your veterinarian to recommend the most effective shampoo and dip.
Repeat the one-day assault every four to six weeks for best results. In between, keep the flea population down by vacuuming pet areas and washing pet linen frequently -- twice a week or more.
When vacuuming, keep fresh flea powder near captive fleas by sprinkling some on the carpet and vacuuming it up, and dispose of the bag frequently. It doesn't make sense to draw fleas out of the carpet if you let them breed in the vacuum bag.
If your pet has short hair, buy a flea comb and learn to use it. Comb your pet slowly and carefully from the head down, flicking the fleas into a small bowl of warm, sudsy water.
Ms. Spadafori is a newspaper reporter and an animal obedience trainer in Sacramento, Calif. Questions about pets may be sent to her c/o Saturday, The Sun, 501 N. Calvert St., Baltimore, Md. 21278.