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A Flea Free Workspace

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Controlling fleas can be expensive.

Americans spend $9 billion a year trying to keep flea populations in check, according to a report from Texas A&M University’s department of entomology. 

Many grooming customers cast a suspicious eye at the places where their pets are groomed: “He must have gotten fleas here,” they say, “he doesn’t go anywhere else.” What they mean by that is their pet is not regularly exposed to other pets.

The average pet owner does not stop to consider that fleas hop on to pets from the grass in the yard, and fleas can even hitch a ride on a humans shoe or pant leg to gain access to pets which never leave the home.

Marion Whitman, the owner and stylist at Appleton Ridge Pet Care in Maine, a grooming and boarding facility, is well aware of her customers’ fears and has done many things to try and calm them.

“I explain to customers that it is highly unlikely that their pet is exposed to fleas here,” she said. “I planned carefully when I designed my building. There is a large parking area that people and pets cross to enter. That area offers no shelter for fleas, it is gravel and exposed to the sun. Once in the entryway, the floors are seamless, with no carpet or upholstered furniture to offer refuge to insects.

“Inside the grooming and boarding area is the same,” Whitman said. “I have it so that all the cages, furnishings and equipment are up off the ground. This makes it easy to vacuum and mop under everything. We vacuum and mop daily. This is not a place a flea would be comfortable setting up housekeeping.”

Mobile pet groomers have to be concerned about flea infestations, as well as those with stationary shops.

“If I see fleas, or suspect them, the dogs go right into the tub and I let a soap based shampoo sit on them for at least 5 to10 minutes,” Liz Sines, owner of Wash n’ Woo Mobile Grooming, said. “I double check with a comb to make sure all fleas are dead before the pet comes out of the bath,” Sines said. “Although I’m not a fan of using strong chemicals at all, if I’ve had fleas on a dog the last thing I do when done grooming and the dog is back in the house, is use a flea spray purchased from a local exterminator around the table, tub, floor and any cracks around the floor edges.

“After vacuuming up really well, I also spray a bit into my shop vacuum, close the windows and run. When I get to the next house I open everything up again and turn all fans on while I wipe down all the surfaces that pets will come in contact with. At the end of the day if I know I’ve seen fleas, I shut everything down and use a flea bomb in my truck. I air it out really well in the morning and wipe down surfaces again. I don’t like using such toxic stuff, but feel fleas are worth the risk.”

Cutting the Risk

Most groomers feel that prevention is key.

“I check all dogs coming into the shop, if infested I have asked that they visit the vet to be treated with Capstar [an oral tablet that kills fleas quickly, but has little residual effect] and then return for grooming,” Lorena Robinson, owner of Dandy Dogs Pet Spa in Georgia, said. “If I don’t catch the fleas when the pet comes in, but find them later, I spray the shop with Adams flea spray while I bathe the pup with citrus shampoo from Groomer’s Choice. I apply to a dry coat to smother the fleas, then rinse.”

Performing a quick examination of all pets as they are greeted takes only a moment or two and is of vital importance. Showing the customer that the clear signs of fleas are present on their pet as they enter your work place can help eliminate confusion and misunderstandings.

Consider keeping a super fine toothed flea comb and a small, bright flash light in your pocket. A few swipes over strategic areas such as the base of the tail will pick up flea “dirt,” and often live, wiggling bugs.

Some stylists are concerned about prolonged exposure to the chemicals in flea products, and as a result use a more natural approach.

“Since I and my family have auto-immune health issues, it is very important to that I use natural products and stay away from chemicals,” Patricia Curran, owner of The Dapper Dog, said. “I don’t use flea shampoos or chemical sprays. I do use Sentry Natural Defense spray as directed to kill any straggler fleas that escape the bath.”

Some groomers employ professional pest control companies to treat their premises on a regular basis.

Keith Williams, owner of William’s Pest Control in Florida knows a thing or two about bugs. His approach is simple.

“Vacuum often,” he said. “Vacuum every day.”

The simple vacuum cleaner is on the front line of defense.The area where hair falls should be vacuumed after every pet is clipped or trimmed. If there is known area where fleas are present, vacuum several times during the groom.

“Fleas like dark, tight spaces,” Williams said. “Vacuum under every cage, get all the crevices.  Discard vacuum contents immediately, outside of the building, if you know you have vacuumed up hair with fleas. Even if you don’t suspect fleas are present, discard the contents at the end of every day.”

He also recommended a product that is popular for use in restaurants. It is called Mop Up and is sold by FMC. This product utilizes a wet-able boric acid powder, and is used as a floor wash. Insects such as fleas come into contact with the boric acid even after the floors have dried, and are eliminated.

“Boric acid is a low level material, and once the solution is dried it is safe for pets to be on,” Williams said. “I don’t recommend using it in cages, but it can be very effective on floors. This is one of the safest ways to approach a flea problem.”

Groomers can outsmart fleas without breaking the bank by being alert to their presence, and using simple steps to prevent them from setting up housekeeping where you work.

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