Flea Control

Asked August 9, 2018, 5:58 PM EDT

Hello, I recently moved to Coos Bay, near the bay, and I’m having terrible flea control problems. I’ve been getting somewhat good results with Vectra for the cats and poor results with everything I’ve tried with the dog. That being said it seems (at least with the cats) that a huge issue is them picking up new ones in the yard. I’m wondering if you have any suggestions of how I could treat the property in an effective way without using chemicals that might harm the animals and environment. Keeping the house vacuumed and linens washed seem to keep me from personally getting bitten but I sure feel sorry for the animals. As they are all fairly old and used to going outside, so keeping them in isn’t a viable solution. Thanks in advance! Erik

Coos County Oregon integrated pest management fleas

5 Responses

Thanks for contacting Ask an Expert. Sorry to hear that you're having difficulty with fleas.

You can find some good tips for picking the right flea control methods for your household at http://npic.orst.edu/pest/flea.html

Hello Elizabeth,
There are some interesting things there but nothing really helpful for outside control. Though after some reading it has occurred to me that since the summer fogs have come in the problem has become much worse.
Are there any local experts who you can suggest that I call? I had been thinking about using a detergent (Dawn) as a surfactant with some essential oil or perhaps a nicotine tincture for outdoor control.

Hello Erik
Thank you for reaching out to us with your question about fleas. I am attaching a link to a publication from Mississippi State Extension that goes in depth about fleas and how to treat on all levels from treating the animals themselves up to the yard. http://extension.msstate.edu/sites/default/files/publications/publications/p2597_0.pdf
I have had success with using Comfortis on my dog (she is an indoor/outdoor dog) when other methods such as Frontline and Advantage for dogs did not. It sounds like you are having some success with flea control inside the home by keeping linens cleaned and vacuuming regularly. The yard treatment is tricky but the publication does list some treatments that can be used and as long as you follow the label and abide by re-entry guidelines (keeping your pets away from the treated area for the recommended time) you should have some level of success. There are other suggestions such as limiting access to wildlife and other strays but in our area, that is extremely hard to do given our high stray population as well as abundant wildlife that likes to come into our residential areas.

If you have further questions please contact us at the office 541-572-5263 ext 25299.

Thanks Samantha,
That is an interesting article and certainly has some good information. I’m trying Vectra on the dog as it seems to have worked out with the cats. I’m pretty wary of most chemicals for the yard as I’m right on the bay and most of the labels I’ve looked at have specific warnings regarding aquatic life.
I broached the issue with a PhD chemist friend of mine and he suggested a mix of diatomaceous earth and borax. From what I’ve read they both should be pretty safe for my animals as well as aquatic life.
Do you have any thoughts on this? I’m planning on using my walk behind broadcast spreader for application.


Using Diatomaceous earth (also known simply as DE) has been investigated by a few different universities with limited results. Texas A&M Agrilife Extension says "Diatomaceous earth, sometimes promoted as a safe flea control, is unlikely to provide practical or satisfactory flea control outdoors, based on laboratory evaluations at Texas AgriLife Extension. Diatomaceous earth acts as a dessicant (drying agent) and only works well in dry environments. Mixing diatomaceous earth with water and applying as a spray appears to negate the ability of the dust to be picked up easily by fleas. It can be useful in killing flea larvae, however, when applied as a dust to dry sites, such as pet houses and pet bedding." Similar studies in Florida have shown unsatisfactory results due to high humidity levels. If you choose to use DE, make sure to apply when there will be an extended dry period as DE has no effect on the fleas when it is wet. However, there are a few precautions. Diatomaceous earth is very dusty and can cause lung problems if breathed heavily, so when applying it dry always wear a good dust mask or stand up wind.

As far as the borax goes, I have not seen any research from Extension regarding the effectiveness of borax on treating fleas in the yard, only anecdotal evidence.

All of the information I have been able to pull comes back to if you are able to successfully treat the infestation on the animals, that is your best bet. Hopefully you will have some success with the Vectra on your dog as well.

Best of luck, fleas are quite the annoyance not only for our four legged family members but us two legged as well!