Please help me get this flea problem solved
October 25, 2012 6:29 AM   Subscribe

How would you handle this? I need to get my roommate to: 1) accept there are fleas in the house and that his dog has a really bad case of them; 2) accept that if there are fleas, that it's a problem that we need to try to fix; 3) treat his own room.

Two months ago I moved into this house. My two roommates have lived together and been friends a long time (but not a couple). I am a few years past college and they are in their 40's or 50's. I'm female and they are a man and a woman.

My dog is on two flea preventatives: Program and Frontline. Shortly after I moved in, I noticed my dog itching a lot. I found a flea on him, figured he picked it up somewhere random, and just gave him a bath, figuring the preventatives would take care of the rest. I have now gone through 3 or four cycles of finding fleas on him, bathing him, vacuuming and treating my room and the public areas of the house, giving him his flea medications on schedule or sometimes a bit early... then finding ever more fleas on him.

By the second time this happened though, my dog had been chewing his skin, creating wounds. He's allergic to fleas. That is the point where I brought this up with the male roommate. I said to him: "I just wanted to let you know that I've been finding fleas on my dog. He has a flea allergy, so that's why he's been chewing his skin." He emphatically replied: "No, your dog doesn't have fleas and he doesn't have a flea allergy."

I was not expecting that answer at all so I didn't know what to say. I was confused and said, "Well, I keep finding fleas on him and his flea allergy was diagnosed by his vet." My roommate said: "Dogs always have fleas. And maybe your vet said that, but I know why he chews his skin, it's because he doesn't like to be alone." I said I didn't think that was why since in the last place we lived he was alone the same amount of time and this didn't happen. But I didn't know what else to say, so I dropped the topic.

Since then I have brought up finding more fleas on my dog, and his skin chewing, several more times, and my roommate keeps saying, "Yup, he's been alone a lot today, he only chews when he's alone, I've never seen him chew in front of me." I find it a bit intimidating and hard to respond to when he makes statements like this. I don't think he's trying to be intimidating on purpose at all though.

My roommate has a dog, and his dog has been scratching like CRAZY, way more than my dog. I think that my dog is continuing to pick up fleas from this dog, and possibly from the carpet in my roommate's room. I do think that this dog is on a flea preventative, but it might not be effective enough by itself. And if the fleas are in the carpet they will just keep reproducing. The female roommate also has a dog, and her dog is scratching a lot more than usual now too. I asked her if she had seen any fleas on him, and she said no; she also said he just got a dose of Frontline.

How would you handle this? What more can I say? This flea problem is really, really bothering me and making me very uncomfortable, and it's making my dog continually uncomfortable too. I was woken up multiple times in the night last night by crazy amounts of scratching, and I am exhausted at the idea of another round of baths, at the idea of spending hours combing him with the flea comb, and so on...
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (29 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Option 1: Personally, I would move if at all possible. The denial about this situation would be a huge red flag for me as to how future problems would be solved.

Option 2: If that isn't possible, bring in a professional to do and evaluation and make a determination that is communicated directly to the room mate by the professional, with your insistance that the roommate pay to mitigate the problem.

If that doesn't happen, return to option one.
posted by HuronBob at 6:35 AM on October 25, 2012 [19 favorites]

Time to start looking for a new place. If you're living with someone who is convinced that "dogs always have fleas," and is forty years old, he's not going to change his mind and nothing you can say or do is going to change his mind for him. For the sake of both you and your dog, get the hell out of there.
posted by griphus at 6:36 AM on October 25, 2012 [48 favorites]

I would find a new place to live. Or call animal services on this guys dog, as he obviously isn't willing to properly care for a pet if he thinks it's normal for a dog to have fleas. Or, if you can't/won't, treat his dog when he isn't home and either bug bomb the house when both dogs are going to be out, or figure out a way to get rid of the fleas in the non-common areas.
posted by DoubleLune at 6:37 AM on October 25, 2012 [4 favorites]

My mom is the same way about fleas. They are such a huge hassle to get rid of that she will go into panic and denial when we see a flea in her house (she often cannot see them as well as people with better eyesight). She has done so many flea treatments that she simply cannot believe that they are back. Finally she took it seriously and they are gone from her home, but it took a lot of work and dedication to accomplish. Your roommate may simply not want to deal with it. He's also gaslighting you and being a jerk. You are never going to get the total cooperation you need from your roommates to deal with this problem, so you need to move out for the sake of your dog's health.
posted by chaiminda at 6:37 AM on October 25, 2012

I'm really sorry you're living with a dingbat, but you need to move. This is putting your dog's and your own health and well being at risk.

Try one more time, and be extremely clear and firm, and do it in writing.

"Roommate, this house has a serious flea problem. You need to treat it immediately, by [extremely soon date] or I will be moving out on [very soon date]."

Document the flea problem. Take pictures, make notes, take video of your dog scratching and of his dog scratching. If/when he tries to sue you for breaking the lease, show that it was a completely unlivable home condition for you, and be able to show that he didn't do a damn thing about it when you asked.
posted by phunniemee at 6:37 AM on October 25, 2012 [4 favorites]

Flea comb his dog, put the fleas in a bowl of soapy water to show him and offer to pick up the deep cleaning vacuum rental.

If he's already made up his mind, you might consider moving.
posted by dragonplayer at 6:38 AM on October 25, 2012 [1 favorite]

It's not entirely clear from your question, so I'll ask: Have you been completely explicit with your roommates about what you would like them to do? For example, "We have fleas in this apartment, and I need to eliminate them. Please begin treating your dogs with regular flea preventative and your personal spaces with environmental treatment."

If you have, and they are still not responding, you need to move.
posted by Rock Steady at 6:42 AM on October 25, 2012 [3 favorites]

I would start making plans to move, because this guy sounds like a complete moron with stupid, dangerous ideas. If I could not immediately move, I would take care of the cleaning of the house and the treatment of the moron's dog myself, because I don't like having repeated fruitless conversations with stupid, willfully ignorant people.
posted by elizardbits at 6:45 AM on October 25, 2012 [2 favorites]

Set up a simple flea trap by warming a dish of soapy water with a desk lamp. When the fleas jump in and die take the evidence to your roommates.
posted by The 10th Regiment of Foot at 6:49 AM on October 25, 2012

How horrible.

Nthing move if you can, or get both roommates together and say:

"There are fleas in the house and it's not acceptable. I believe that the animals need to be treated and we need to do a flea irradication in every room of the house. I do not want to live in a space where fleas are present, and I do not want to expose my dog to fleas. We live in the 21st century and there is no reason for any member of this household, two or four legged to be exposed to fleas. If either one of you chooses not to treat this issue, I will break my lease and move because this makes the house unihabitable."

Then follow up with an email stating pretty much the exact same thing and save it.

Don't blame, don't try and say that it's your roommates fault, but absolutely DO NOT live in a place with fleas.

Now I'm so itchy I need to scratch.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 6:54 AM on October 25, 2012 [7 favorites]

In this situation, where the roommates in question are a lot older than you and have lived there much longer than you have, and there are multiple dogs and thus reasonable doubt about whose "fault" the fleas are (and they are being weirdly adamant that your dog doesn't have fleas at all, which, WHA?), I would probably take the course of least resistance and move.
posted by Sara C. at 7:09 AM on October 25, 2012 [4 favorites]

I said to him: "I just wanted to let you know that I've been finding fleas on my dog. He has a flea allergy, so that's why he's been chewing his skin." He emphatically replied: "No, your dog doesn't have fleas and he doesn't have a flea allergy."

I don't know of any way to sugarcoat this. Your roommate is a dick and a shitty pet owner. Your only recourse is to move out and move on.
posted by slkinsey at 7:10 AM on October 25, 2012 [2 favorites]

People have very different standards of care for pets; your roommate is not at a good end of that particular continuum. Likely his theoretical Ask question is about how to get you to understand that these are just animals, etc.

Perhaps you could offer to do all the necessary flea eradication work for all concerned, framing it as a "I dunno, it's what my vet says I gotta do here" not-your-fault low-key thing, and perhaps that would fix the fleas with a minimum of roommate drama -- but perhaps not, and it's really unlikely that these people will turn into desirable, or even compatible, roommates.
posted by kmennie at 7:19 AM on October 25, 2012 [2 favorites]

This person is an idiot. You can get a flea trap, which is basically a nightlight with a panel of flypaper around it. This will provide evidence that there are fleas in the house, but I suspect your roommate will stick his fingers in his ears and sing "LALALALA CANNOT HEAR YOU."

Removing fleas from a house is really hard. You can treat both dogs, and if the fleas have gotten established in the house, they'll still be there. It normally takes two treatments, two weeks apart.

I lived in a house that had critters living in the crawlspace underneath. They were constantly reintroducing fleas. Something to take into consideration.
posted by adamrice at 7:32 AM on October 25, 2012

I would personally agree with you and find this completely unacceptable.

However, you've just moved into a place where two people who are 1) older and more set in their ways, 2) much better friends with each other than they are with you, 3) clearly not paying attention to the reality of their own dog's issues.

This is like telling people that they are problem drinkers or political hypocrites or similar: there is no way you will win this argument. No amount of persuasion or "facts" (I say this in quotes because clearly they don't believe them -- because they don't NEED to believe them!) will convince them that you are correct, particularly because things were JUST FINE until you showed up...

...which is the more serious problem here: even if you do get this flea situation taken care of, you will have upset the balance of their supposedly comfortable lives, and things will not get better.

You really have no choice but to move. Who knows what other things they might deny? I sympathize with you tremendously, but this is not something that will get fixed.
posted by Madamina at 7:40 AM on October 25, 2012 [7 favorites]

I said to him: "I just wanted to let you know that I've been finding fleas on my dog. He has a flea allergy, so that's why he's been chewing his skin." He emphatically replied: "No, your dog doesn't have fleas and he doesn't have a flea allergy."

This is a power play, pure and simple. Your roommate has no way of knowing whether or not your dog has allergies: he was just trying to assert social dominance over you by making you back down from a proven fact simply to avoid confrontation. (Which you did - bad mistake!) I suspect this is only the start of such things: now that he has tested your boundaries and found that they crumble in the fact of opposition, he will continue to do so in other situations as well.

The only cure that I know of for power-tripping assholes like this is to create negative consequences for this gaslighting until he fears you so much that he will actively repress his urge for social dominance while in your presence. It's possible, but takes way too much work and will cause a lot of stress for you. I think you'll be happier in the long run if you simply move.
posted by wolfdreams01 at 7:43 AM on October 25, 2012 [3 favorites]

Do be prepared to deal with more of this asinine argumentative crap if you stay there.

Do be prepared to have, at a bare minimum, occasional fleas on your dog unless everyone is on board with a solution/prevention plan.

Don't treat the guy's dog without his permission. If, by some random chance, his dog has a bad reaction to the meds and, god forbid, gets sick or dies... guess who is on the hook? That aside, what if he goes crazy pants, which doesn't seem all that unlikely, and takes this affront out on you and/or your dog? Not a good idea. Sucks for the dog but you shouldn't do that.

Don't call animal control unless the dog is being mistreated in ways other than what you've described here. Some fleas and moderate to serious scratching are pretty low on the ASPCA hit list. For it to be at that level of concern (i.e. getting animal services involved to get the dog taken away/abuse charges filed) I'd imagine you'd have to be seeing the dog inundated with fleas. It would literally look like his hair is moving he/she has so many fleas. Or if the dog is covered with sores/wounds akin to what your dog is experiencing you might have a case. Or if puppies are involved, because fleas/lack of medical care with them is a bit more relevant.

Good luck, the carpet and other dogs are going to trump any efforts you alone make in this. It's all or nothing here.
posted by RolandOfEld at 8:56 AM on October 25, 2012

I had a similar situation with roommates (who thought their dog was immune naturally to fleas, wtf) and moving out solved it.

A sortof different take: suggest that it might not be the animals but the environment near/around your place, and see if they'll agree to go in on a pest control evaluation.

My mom was in denial for YEARS of my life about our house's flea problem. It wasn't that the animals were affected - the fleas were biting ME. I'm allergic to fleas, and they drive me crazy. Finally, she agreed to get an exterminator, and it turned out there were places in our house fleas had nested. The animals were on flea control, but I wasn't. After 14 or so years, finally the house is flea free.
posted by nile_red at 8:56 AM on October 25, 2012

Sorry, I meant to add above: Documenting the fleas won't help people who have convinced themselves of some weirdo flea belief. You will end up giving them hundreds of dead fleas in a bowl, cleaning their pets multiple times for them, and investing lots of time. They will claim it's an anomaly, and continue acting like YOU have the problem, possibly without intending it maliciously, but still.
posted by nile_red at 9:02 AM on October 25, 2012

There's something very wrong with this guy and the other roommate. Two months in and this is how they respond to a serious issue? Time to move. Even if you did manage to miraculously solve this flea crisis, there will be other problems that are bound to crop up and these two people have shown you that they're unreasonable to deal with. Get out now while you have a legitimate excuse. Take phunniemee's advice: document the problem, find a better place to live and break the lease. Good luck.
posted by LuckySeven~ at 9:03 AM on October 25, 2012

To handle the flea problem:

Get a small bowl (like one that cats can drink out of, so it's not too big) and fill it half-way with water. Then you put in a little bit of dish soap (I use about 3 little drops) and stir it in, just enough for the water and soap to mix together nicely.

Place it under a source of warmth (desk lamps work wonders I've found, as do night lights). You can either do this during the day or night, but I tend to do it at night. Let it sit for about 6 hours and see your results. Every time I've done it it's been about 6-7 fleas caught.

This is the cheapest and really best way to catch them. You're taking advantage of how they live (they thrive on warm, moist areas) to make them drown.

Just keep doing this until you catch no fleas. I'd try 2-3 times after no catches just to be on the safe side.

And vacuum, of course. Get some old-style flea collars at the pet store and put them in your vacuum bag. Makes sure that any fleas that go into the vacuum are killed

To handle the roommate issue:

Your roommate very obviously doesn't give a shit about your dog or you. Maybe he gives a shit about himself--I don't know if fleas carry diseases to humans, but if they do, you might want to point that out, and that if dogs "always have fleas", then we wouldn't live with them due to the risk of disease.
posted by magstheaxe at 9:52 AM on October 25, 2012

I find it a bit intimidating and hard to respond to when he makes statements like this. I don't think he's trying to be intimidating on purpose at all though.

Yeah, well, he's not trying NOT to be intimidating, on an issue of important medical relevance to your dog AND TO YOU.

Your dog has open wounds, and you cannot handle this situation alone. You cannot get your roommate to accept what he will not accept, despite its factual basis.

Untreated pest infestation renders a place uninhabitable. If you've signed a lease, contact your local Tenant's Rights group. Document, document, document -- get your vet's opinion on your dog's current state, send your roommate explicit email ("the apartment is flea-infested, X Y and Z steps need to be taken for the health of the inhabitants") (it won't happen) and then, when you've got those ducks in a row, move.

Because, as others have said before, this guy is not a good roommate. This is the START of his reckless disregard for you and your dog's legitimate needs and rights. Get out before it gets worse than your miserable pet chewing open sores in his skin.
posted by endless_forms at 10:02 AM on October 25, 2012

aaaaaah fleas.

My cats had fleas once. I tried everything, EVERYTHING, to try and get rid of them, but the only thing that worked finally was using Capstar on my cats while I flea bombed the entire apartment at once. Things I tried: frontline/advantage, capstar (kills any feeding fleas on them), program (put it in their food and the fleas stop being able to breed), vacuuming every day (important), putting diatomaceous earth into the carpet (kills larvae and adult fleas, in theory, by scratching up their exoskeletons and desiccating them). STILL FLEAS.

Grown up fleas are only a small part of the life cycle of a flea: the majority of it is spent as eggs, larvae, and pupae in carpets and bedding and whatnot. Vacuuming helps with eggs and adult fleas, but larvae and pupae cling to carpet fibers and are not dislodged, although vacuuming might help trigger the pupae to hatch which is also good because you want to be able to then get that flea through other means as killing the pupae is freaking difficult.

Trying to get rid of fleas without being able to treat all of the pets won't go far, and inconvenient and drastic environmental treatment like bug bombing might be necessary. Without your roommates' cooperation, getting rid of the fleas seems nearly insurmountable, but if you're determined to stay there and try to make this happen, I'd start with vacuuming daily and putting food grade diatomaceous earth (orderable on the internet) into the carpet.
posted by foxfirefey at 10:04 AM on October 25, 2012

If there is an infestation of this magnitude you need a carpet treatment like Fleabusters as well as stuff on all the dogs in the house. If he is unwilling to do that, you can't do much except move or treat his room secretly without his permission.

There is reported resistance to some products, though. Frontline and Advantage both have plenty of stories where owners who followed the treatment schedule still found fleas after weeks or months. The only way that happens is if new fleas come in from outside, or the product stops working. You may ask what he is treating his dog with and suggest you both switch to a new product. Worked when Frontline stopped working on my cats.
posted by slow graffiti at 10:22 AM on October 25, 2012

I am amazed by the sheer number of people who don't flea treat their dogs and react with surprise when the dog inevitably gets fleas. I am broke as an egg and I buy flea treatment for my big dog. Your roommates sound nuts.

Move. Please. I don't know you or your dog, but I'm worried for you. This is a bad situation, and possibly a harbinger of things to come.
posted by ablazingsaddle at 10:46 AM on October 25, 2012

Cripes, if my dog had open wounds the very first thing I would do, TODAY, would be to start by treating the whole dwelling, inside and out in the yard, and the other animal too. You can't just treat certain areas and not others, it doesn't work that way. Fleas are mobile. That's how they keep getting on your dog even though he's been treated. I am 99.99% sure that the other animal is not going to have a reaction and die from being treated. In fact you will be doing this animal a favor by taking better care of it than his owner is willing to do. Most likely your roommate just doesn't want to pay for the treatment, but in the long run it is less expensive for you to pay for it rather than treating your dog for his flea allergy after the fact over and over again.

Oh, and if your roommate asks you if you put something on his dog or in his room, look him straight in the eye and tell him "No. I decided you were right - there were no fleas".

Work on moving out.
posted by vignettist at 11:00 AM on October 25, 2012

Get the dog out of there ASAP. Then follow en suite. Then call animal protection.
posted by oceanjesse at 11:22 AM on October 25, 2012

I would definitely move if it were an option. Can you set up a house on your own or with someone who sees eye to eye with you, so you can be in more control of the living arrangements?

You should bring it up with him again. I do agree with others that at that age, people often are set in their ways and reluctant to change things - but - you need to make yourself heard on the issue nonetheless because theres a small chance of improvement for everyone involved which is a positive outcome (and one you'll feel good about). From reading your post, it doesn't sound like they would want you to move out on account of something like this, maybe you can bring it up casually when you are next altogether, say that your "dog is getting really sick because of the fleas and you'd like to treat the whole house and both dogs possibly 2 or 3 times to try eliminate the problem once and for all, would they be OK with that"? If they knock you back and say you are being unreasonable then let them know that you hadn't expected the flea problem to be so bad in the house and will probably need to look for some alternative arrangements.

If they can't accommodate such a simple request why live with these people?

I lived in a sharehouse before were fleas became a problem (multiple cats and dogs) and one day a housemate just came home (with no prior discussion) with flea bombs and treatments for the animals and that was that, no one argued or said 'no you can't do that'. We agreed on the date and all helped out with clearing the house for the bombs etc.
posted by Under the Sea at 4:55 PM on October 25, 2012

Roommate situations are tough. They become really complicated when you add in animals or children. I've dealt with both (well one was a younger sibling but the roommate became the legal guardian), and none has gone well. Everyone is very touchy about how they "parent" and everyone has an opinion on other people's parenting. It's a lose-lose situation. Get out.
posted by radioamy at 9:39 PM on October 25, 2012

« Older Where should we go for a short break from Ottawa?   |   HIPAranoia.... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.