Did you know….
- fleas spend only 10% of their time on your pet
- the average flea lives 2-3 years
- one female flea can lay 1 million eggs in that 2-3 years
- eggs can live unhatched in your carpet for a year until the right environment occurs for hatching
- bark dust, wood piles, and ivy are ideal places for fleas to survive during the winter
- adult fleas prefer to feed on pets rather than people because pets are closer to the ground and have warmer body temperatures
- flea eggs are not destroyed by extremes in temperatures or pesticides
- fleas can transmit Lyme disease and Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever
- fleas can transmit tapeworms and heart worms
- for every one flea on your pet, there could be 100 in the nearby environment
Here’s a quick home test to see if your pet has fleas: lay out a piece of butcher paper and groom your pet for a few minutes as they stand on the paper. Do you see any black, comma-shaped things? If so, put a drop of water on it. If its flea feces it will turn pink (from your pet’s blood – yuck!)
Okay, now that we’ve covered the scary stuff, how do we deal with fleas in a natural, non-toxic, non-chemical way? A wise pet owner starts to prepare as soon as the ice melts, the flowers bloom and the temperatures warm. Preparation can ward off an infestation. Fleas and ticks are not as tough as you might think. Most people invite fleas and ticks into their homes by creating a pest friendly environment. If your dog has a flea problem, it is pointless to treat just your pet. You have to treat his environment, too, including your home, your yard and even your car if your pet travels with you around town.
Let’s look at some basics. When we’re out walking our dogs, where do they go when they “have to go?” to trees and shrubs. Many times grass, weeds and other types of flora are not trimmed around trees and especially under shrubs. Fleas and ticks love tall grass because its just a hop, skip and a jump to the next animal that happens along. Keep grass trimmed close in the areas your dog frequents on his potty stops and keep him away from lawns that don’t trim under trees and shrubs.
There are no shortcuts to preventing flea and tick infestations. It’s all about cleanliness, vigilance, and making the right choices. Let’s talk garbage. Your open or dirty trash receptacles are a tempting feast to birds and other dogs. Both can be infested with fleas and ticks. Keep garbags cans clean inside and out and keep trash picked up. Bird feeders should be placed in areas away from where your pet eats and drinks or exercises.
Dog houses, concrete pet runs and containment areas can become havens for all kinds of bacteria, pests and disease. Unless you have specific need for such areas, do without them. They require massive amounts of upkeep and cleaning.
Now for inside the house. Good housekeeping can be extremely effective in the war against fleas. Water is a breeding ground for fleas. Make sure all leaky pipes are properly repaired. Natural pesticides such as bay leaves, coriander, dill, lemon peel or clove in pantry shelves or stored in grain can be effective in keeping fleas away. Frequent vacuuming (my downfall – I HATE to vacuum) will remove flea eggs, pupae and the flea droppings used by larvae for food. Sprinkle flea powder on the carpet and let it work for a couple of hours (remove your pet first) and them vacuum and add a piece of a flea collar to each new bag to prevent fleas from completing their life cycle inside your machine. Vacuuming every day is essential if you don’t want to use chemicals. Occasional carpet shampooing (not dry-chemical cleaning) will suffocate the little buggers. Getting rid of carpet altogether helps a lot. For non-carpeted floors, mopping with soap and mild bleach water is quite effective.
Now that we’ve discussed environment, how about your pets themselves? There are lots of alternatives. Flea powders kill only adult fleas and have to be reapplied every week. They can tend to make your pet uncomfortable and can make pet asthma worse. Flea sprays vary. Most are alcohol-based which kills adult and pre-adult stages. Some contain a growth regulator that will kill eggs as well. If you use a spray, find one that is as organic as possible. Flea collars are only minimally effective and can be toxic. Ultrasonic collars can be ineffective and can cause hearing problems in your pet. Dips are highly toxic and can cause cancer. Spot-on products range from very toxic to not so much – you have to do the research. Look for one that does not contain organophosphates. Oral products are administered once a month. Flea shampoos can provide temporary relief and are good for getting rid of flea feces on the skin.
Here are some natural remedies that should be part of your arsenal. Cut up a lemon, allow it to sit in a spray bottle overnight and then spray liberally on your dog, avoided the eyes. Spray behind his ears and in his environment. When you wash your pet’s bedding, add a small amount of eucalyptus oil to the final rinse to help keep the little varmints away. Salt kills fleas. Apply a thin layer to your floor, carpet and furniture, then vacuum. Use lavender in your dog’s bath. use a natural soap that contains citronella and tea tree oils. The citronella helps ward off pests and the tea tree sooths irritated flea-bitten skin. Add brewer’s yeast and garlic to your pet’s diet. (Check out the Flea Fighter treats at www.naturalbarker.com/). Neither of these actually kills fleas, but they make your dog taste bad to the flea and will deter them. Scientific studies show a 20% decrease in flea numbers with the use of brewer’s yeast and garlic.
So, there you have it. Just a few suggestions to help make your pet’s summer and your life a little less stressful. Hope it helps.
Keep it simple,