Safe Flea Control
Poisoning the fleas on your pet's body is a losing battle because most of the fleas are living in your pet's environment, rather than in its fur. Further, fleas proliferate at an alarming rate: a single flea can lay as many as 60 eggs per day. It's probably impossible to keep up with that rate of reproduction. With fleas living for about 90 days, that's a lot of eggs, and it means there is always a fresh wave of invaders to take the place of those that have been poisoned.
Chemical repellents are equally ineffective, exposing your pet to toxic chemicals while only temporarily warding off these blood-sucking parasites. The repellents may have worn off by the time flea eggs hatch, leaving the animal vulnerable once again to their hungry bites
The best approach to controlling fleas is to start with the least toxic and most natural choices, resorting to stronger measures only if reasonable control is not achieved. As a prerequisite to any flea-control program, it is recommended to build up your animal's health and resistance as much as possible through a healthy diet and lifestyle. Along with that, it is important to practice thorough sanitation and cleaning.
The following measures are recommended or options:
- Get your pets on a topical flea preventative, such as Frontline, Revolution, or Advantage. Do NOT use Advantix or any of the OTC products you can get in pet stores, as those are toxic to pets and ineffective.
- A great choice is Diatomaceous Earth. You can get it at any home and garden center. It's an all-natural organic pest control solution - an abrasive powder made from mineral remains of single-cell aquatic plants. It kills by abrading and dehydrating crawling insects, like slugs, ants, cockroaches, earwigs, grasshoppers, and fleas.
- Cedarcide has many applications, including flea control
- Borax*: Borax* laundry soap is effective against even heavy flea infestations and it's cheap. Although safety with pets and small children is an issue. Don't take any chances. Remove them from the area to be treated and wear a protective mask over your nose if you are in the treated areas. The first step is to thoroughly vacuum your carpet. Then sprinkle the Borax* over your carpet. Use a broom and work it down into the fibers of your carpet with the broom or with your feet. The process of working the Borax* deep into the fibers of the carpet is the key. Don't vacuum for a week unless you have to. The fleas will eat the Borax and it will cause them to dehydrate and die. Borax also renders fleas sterile. Fleas reproduce every 3 to 5 days. So if you kill one cycle of fleas you still have several more cycles to kill. There are eggs everywhere, so you have to be patient. It normally takes from 4 to 6 weeks to kill all stages of fleas. Repeat the process every week or so for a month. (*Be VERY cautious when using Borax [sodium borate], which can also cause serious health problems, including death.)
- Repel Fleas with Herbal Repellants:
Essential oils: The following herbal mix is safe to be used on plants, pets and people and will repel fleas:
- 2 cups water
- 4 drops lavender, lemongrass, peppermint, rosemary, and sage essential oils
- Combine ingredients in a spray bottle; shake well before use.
There are lots of options to disperse the scents of the essential oils.
Steam clean your carpets. Steam cleaning is effective in killing flea eggs.
Thoroughly vacuum and clean floors and furniture at least once a week to pick up flea eggs, larvae, and pupae. Concentrate on areas where your pet sleeps and use an attachment to reach into crevices and corners and under heavy furniture. If there is a heavy infestation, you may want to put a flea collar (or part of a flea collar) in the vacuum bag to kill any adult fleas that get sucked up and might crawl away. Or else immediately dispose of the bag or its contents because it can provide a warm, moist, food-filled environment for developing eggs and larvae. Mop vinyl floors.
Launder your pet's bedding in hot, soapy water at least once a week. Dry on maximum heat. Heat will kill all stages of flea life, including the eggs. Remember that flea eggs are very slippery and easily fall off bedding or blankets. So carefully roll bedclothes up to keep all the flea eggs contained on the way to the washing machine.
Bathe the animal with a natural flea-control shampoo. Use a nontoxic shampoo as recommended above, such as one containing d-limonene (dogs only).
Use a flea comb to trap and kill fleas that are on your pet. Most pet stores carry special fine-toothed combs that trap fleas for easy disposal. Make a regular habit of flea-combing your pet while you watch TV or talk on the phone. Depending on the degree of infestation and the time of year, this might be daily (at the onset of the flea season), weekly, or monthly.
Gently but thoroughly comb as many areas as your pet will allow, especially around the head, neck, back, and hindquarters. As you trap the little buggers, pull them off the comb and plunge them into a container of hot, soapy water (or dip the comb and pull the flea off underwater). Cover your lap with an old towel to catch extra clumps of hair and flea dirt and to wipe the comb off as you work. (Please refer to article on the negative effects of anti-bacterial soaps)
When you're finished, flush the soapy water and fleas down the toilet.
- Nutritional Suppot:
- Garlic: Fleas particularly dislike the flavor of garlic and nutritional yeast. Mixing fresh garlic and nutritional yeast with your pet's food can render their blood unpalatable to fleas; garlic pet supplements are also available for this purpose. You need to be careful not to give your cat or dog too much garlic, so consult your veterinarian as to dosage. Use nutritional yeast rather than traditional brewer's yeast because some animals are allergic to the latter and it may exacerbate any skin problems they have as a result of fleas. Diane Stein, author of The Natural Remedy Book for Dogs and Cats, recommends a teaspoon daily for cats and small dogs, and a tablespoon daily for a 50-pound dog.
- Vitamin B1 (thiamine) is another natural repellant, as is apple cider vinegar. See your veterinarian for the correct amount of vitamin B1 supplement for your pet. The dosage of apple cider vinegar is one teaspoon daily in the pet's drinking water, according to Diane Stein.
- Peppermint Oil Repellent - Kaetheryn Walker, author of Homeopathic First Aid for Animals, suggests using peppermint oil soap in daily vacuuming. To do this, vacuum up a piece of tissue paper that has been soaked with undiluted peppermint oil soap, then vacuum your house. The peppermint oil inside the vacuum cleaner will suffocate fleas. She advises discarding the vacuum bag (in a trash can outside the house) after each use.
- The Cedar and Eucalyptus Offense - After thoroughly cleaning your house, use natural repelling substances, such as cedar and eucalyptus, to help keep fleas from returning. Cedar chips in a washable cover is a good idea for pet bedding; change the cedar filling every week. Putting eucalyptus nuts on the floor around the rooms of your house can also serve as a flea deterrent. A eucalyptus nut necklace can be used as a flea collar. !) ... Note: "Eucalyptus Essential Oil" is toxic to birds, as well as being non-edible and poisonous to humans. Only use as directed. Do not use Cedar chips for birds as it is toxic to them.
- The Boric Acid Solution - Sweeping boric acid, which kills fleas, into the carpet and sprinkling it in corners and cracks has long been used to prevent flea proliferation in indoor spaces. Various natural borate-based products expressly made for this purpose are available. However, applying boric acid can be a dusty process which may not be good for your health or that of your pet. Professional application is one way to avoid the dust problem and is recommended as a safer and more thorough approach.
- Fleas Flee From FleanixR - FleanixR is a concentrated boron (the element in boric acid) compound which is safe to use on your own, according to the manufacturer, Ecology Works, of San Rafael, California. You mix it with water and apply it using a carpet cleaning machine (usually available to rent at supermarkets). The method provides twofold protection, says James Burnett, president of Ecology Works. It gets the boron deep into the carpet and it kills fleas in all stages of development. "Only about 5% of the fleas in a home are adult. The other 95% are in the egg, pupae, and larvae stages," Burnett explains, adding that only one Fleanix application is necessary to protect your home for the entire flea season. The product is safe, Burnett says, as the toxicity level of boron is less than table salt.
- Flea Death by Dehydration - Another approach involving boron in a dry mix is called FleaGo. This boron-based crystal (made from sodium tetraborate decahydrate, with a texture similar to fine sugar) is applied directly to the carpeting and under cushions (but not on the pet). According to the manufacturer, FleaGo causes the fleas to die by dehydration, not poisoning, and kills 96.7% of fleas within five days of application. FleaGo dehydrates fleas in a manner similar to the way salt dries out slugs or snails.
- Control Outdoor Fleas: With Nematodes-While you can't kill off the fleas that your pet is going to encounter when it goes outside, you can keep the population down in the area around your house by using nematodes. These microscopic worms eat flea larvae (and reputedly ignore the "good" bugs) and are therefore a natural way to control the flea population. You can purchase nematodes at pet and garden stores. Place them in moist, shady spots near your house; neither fleas nor nematodes survive in the hot sun. As nematodes multiply rapidly, you have only to introduce a small number to have the desired effect. What Fleabane Can Do: Keep in mind that anything applied topically is only a temporary measure; as soon as it wears off, so do its effects. You also need to proceed with caution here because even natural ingredients sometimes can be harmful to your pet.
- Common anti-flea ingredients in natural pet sprays, dips, and powders include pyrethrum (from the African chrysanthemum), tea tree* (Melaleuca alternifolia) oil, pennyroyal oil, cedar, eucalyptus, and lavender. However, strong scents can disturb an animal's sense of smell, according to Advanced Enzyme Technologies, the manufacturer of Pure Comfort. This is a line of flea control and skin care products containing Canadian fleabane (Erigeron), which only has a slight odor. Fleabane is safe for animals and has no effect on their skin because it works on fleas by dissolving their shells rather than overwhelming them with a chemical or other strong substance, claims Advanced Enzyme Technologies. While the Pure Comfort line is designed to repel fleas and soothe irritated skin, the company recommends using it as part of a total flea treatment program that addresses the health of the animal and its environment. *NOTE: Tea Tree, Eucalyptus and Cedar Essential Oils are Toxic to Birds - do not use around them
- Homeopathic Remedies Against Fleas: Homeopathic remedies may also be helpful, although the reports of their success is mixed. Commercial homeopathic preparations for pets are available and aim at discouraging fleas and/or easing skin reactions to the fleas, such as allergic dermatitis. You can also administer single remedies for flea-related conditions. According to Kaetheryn Walker, low-dose Natrum muriaticum (homeopathic table salt) is useful for chronic flea allergy dermatitis. Typical symptoms indicating it can be used include "itchy, twitchy skin, small brown scabs, excessive licking/chewing, skin odor of stale corn chips, alternating thirst and thirstlessness," and if the animal is clinging and whiny, says Walker.
- For acute conditions, give four pellets (in 12X or 30C strength) of Natrum muriaticum initially, then repeat the dose every hour or two for up to four times, until the condition has been alleviated, Walker recommends. For a chronic condition, give the initial dose of four pellets, followed by two doses daily or until the symptoms are better.
- If this doesn't seem to help your pet's flea allergy, you can add occasional doses of Pulex irritans. Pulex irritans is the indicated remedy when your pet's skin is inflamed from flea bites, the skin has a sour, foul smell, and the animal is "irritable, impatient, and cross."
- Sulfur 30C for fleabite allergies is effective when the animal scratches and has dry, flaky skin. For red, blotchy, swollen bites,Apis is indicated. When scratching produces hair loss and sticky-wet skin patches, use Mercurius solubilis. Arsenicum might help in cases of chronic scratching and dry, scaly, and/or inflamed skin.
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