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Dogs: Flea Control, the natural way
Know your enemy:
- Fleas can jump as high as four feet
- Only about 5% of fleas are on your pet, the rest are in your carpet
- The female flea can lay 2,000 eggs in her lifetime
- Fleas live approximately two to three months
- The female flea consumes 15 times her own body weight in blood daily
- A flea can bite 400 times a day
- Fleas are in intermediate hosts for tapeworms and nasty diseases like the Bubonic plague
Scratchy, Itchy fleas!
It’s that time again. Yes, you know, that time. When all you hear all night is scratch, chew, jingle! When you roll out of bed you find a neat row of little pink bites on your ankles. Now you’re scratching too. As miserable as it is making you, imagine how your poor, itchy dog feels. Fleas are unfortunately part of owning a dog and they are an enemy you must do battle with yearly at the cost of peace and sanity.
However, as people are becoming increasingly “green” they start seeking alternative solutions to common problems they would normally throw toxic chemicals at. Of course, when your dog is a member of the family and you are a “pet parents,” you want a safe and effective treatment that won’t hurt your best friend.
I can hear it now, you’re going are you kidding me, are we going to relax the fleas to death? No, not exactly. While lavender is soothing to dogs and people, fleas hate it. Not a fan of lavender? Try lemongrass, spearmint, or rosemary. This will not kill fleas, merely make your house uncomfortable for them (and smell really good to guests). This cheap solution requires a cheap spray bottle, essential oils of your choice, and water. Mix a few drops of oil into your bottle of water and spray down your house.
Keep it Clean:
This sounds stupid to say, it’s so common sense, but it makes a huge difference in winning the war! Wash any bedding that your pet uses frequently with hot water. Fleas love to lay their eggs in fabric, which are just waiting to hatch and re-infest your pet. Sprinkle borax or salt across you house, making sure to get nooks and crannies and under the bed, and let it sit for 48 hours before vacuuming. Borax and salt draw the moisture out of the fleas’ bodies and vacuuming will pick them up. Or simply vacuum without it. Throw the vacuum bag away immediately, outside. It is best to do this right before trash day.
If your dog tolerates baths and doesn’t turn it into the next battle of the century, you can use white vinegar, eucalyptus, or Dawn dish soap to kill and remove fleas. Use warm water, lots of it, and a special flea comb from the petstore to remove the bodies after working the solution into the coat and skin.
Now you don’t normally think of dirt as a good thing but diatomaceous earth is definitely something you should consider. Diatomaceous earth is not actually earth but ground up shells. You can use diatomaceous earth both inside and out with no ill effects. However, make sure that you purchase diatomaceous earth from either a feed store or a garden center or flour grade also known as “Fossil Shell Flour” and NOT from a pool supply, as the latter grade is harmful to people and dogs!
Stylin' in Hemp
Okay, you actually just need a rope or even a regular collar, something to tie around your dog’s neck. Use a solution of essential oils to soak the collar, using a combination of the oils mentioned above: rosemary, spearmint, eucalyptus, etc. This lasts longer than spraying the oils on your dog every day.
You are What You Eat
Forget the stakes and silver, garlic makes blood highly unappealing to most parasites, including worms and mosquitos (for people too!) and requires only a clove or two a day. Garlic cloves work better than tabs or powder. Brewer’s yeast works similarly to garlic and can be added in tablet or powder form. Apple cider vinegar in your dog’s water, if the dog isn’t too put off by the taste, is another way to make him or her drop in tastiness level to fleas. Food additives are easy to administer but may take 4-6 weeks to build up to intolerable levels for fleas.
Bugs belong outside… not!:
Treat the outside of your house, where ever your pet frequents. Nothing is more frustrating than obliterating them inside only to have Fido bring some more in. Diatomaceous earth can be used outside. Also, planting tansy, fennel, or catnip around your house or your dog’s kennel will repel fleas. Cedar chips are another good solution to throw in out of the way places where the dogs or kids won’t get into it.
Diligence and Consistancy...
wait, you can’t buy those at the store, right? Stick with it, whatever you decide. Fleas season isn’t a week long and the chance is re-infecting is high, especially in hot, dry summers and early fall. Don’t invite your little blood-sucking friends back in after kicking them out because you decided it was too much work or forgot. Prevention is much easier and much less itchy!
If you must use chemical warfare, please consider your options carefully. Prescription drugs like Frontline and Advantage and Capstar are more expensive but they come with the expertise of your vet and are more likely to work than over-the-counter drugs. Revolution may be a good choice as it protects against fleas as well as heartworm and ear mites. Be aware of signs that your dog may be having an allergic reaction after application and have a plan if this happens. Make sure you follow the directions to the T. Your dog is counting on you to do it right.
Neem and Fleabusters are good shampoos and there are a ton of other “natural” products you can use on Amazon or through Google. Do a little research and you will find something you and your dog are both happy with! No more itchy flea bites.
Word of Caution!
Lastly, these remedies are intended for DOGS. Several of these remedies, including essential oils and garlic, are toxic to cats! This includes Frontline and Advantage for dogs. Do not use anything on cats that is not specifically made for cats because they have very different metabolisms than dogs do.
Dangerous of synthetic chemical flea products.