It is that time of year again. The air is getting cooler, and fleas want more than ever to cuddle up to our beloved furry friends for a sip of warm blood. Sometimes they even decide to add us to their menu, causing us irritation and revulsion. What to do? Of course, we could call in our pest control team, and often that is what it will take to get rid of these horrid little blood-suckers, but there are some natural solutions to try first.
The Good Earth
My personal favorite and the favorite of many who have a house full of warm-blooded pets is Diatomaceous earth (DE). It also works to kill all insects and parasites. This powder can be bought at garden supply, hardware and feed stores. This powder is made from the microskeletons of diatoms, or algae, from fresh or salt water. Sprinkle this powder on dogs, young or old, cats and kittens. Also, pour it on your carpets and the fleas will die from dehydration.
The DE works by rubbing on the hard exoskeletons of fleas. These minute particles of silicon (sand) clog the flea’s respiratory system and joints. With each tiny flea breath, the silicon wears at the exoskeleton, finally killing the flea by suffocation or dehydration from water loss due to the compromised outer shell of the flea. In no time at all, the little blood-sucker is pushing up daisy’s.
Precautions Even For Nontoxic Remedies
There are some precautions to heed. Wear a mask when applying it to your pets and carpets and when you vacuum it, as well. Also, try to keep your pets from breathing it. It is nontoxic but still not good for lungs. Also, make sure you purchase natural DE, not the type used in swimming pools. Flour grade DE is the best. The swimming pool variety will cause scarring of the lungs. When you apply it to carpets, use a broom to brush it in and do not vacuum for about four days or even a week. Keep reapplying during the infestation. You will see an improvement in a couple of days.
Some suggest mixing together 1 1/2 pounds of diatomaceous earth, 1 1/2 pounds of natural borax and 1 cup of salt to use on the floors and carpets. This mixture will get at all those pests hiding in cracks and crevices, and the salt helps to dehydrate them even faster. Again, be sure to purchase the DE and Borax at a garden store, not at the pool supply departments. You will have to reapply because this method kills the adult fleas only, so you need to kill the newly hatched eggs immediately before they have time to reproduce. Considering these facts should sound down the warning that persistence is called for to eradicate fleas: Just one female flea will produce 20,000 eggs in only three months?’ It can take anywhere from three to six weeks for flea eggs to hatch?
New Control On The Horizon?
Insect Growth Regulators are viewed by some as a better alternative to broad-spectrum insecticides. They are often preferred because they are more selective, less harmful to the environment and more compatible with natural pest control methods. Insects are less likely to develop resistance to IGR’s. There are different types of IGR that disrupt different stages of insect development. Whether these will be economically feasible for further testing and use, remains to be seen.
Worth A Pound of Cure
Preventing a whole-house infestation is the best pet owners can ask for. If you see fleas on your dog, you can add some neem oil to shampoo and thoroughly lather him up. Leave the mixture on your dog for about 15 minutes. Any lather will drown fleas but the neem oil adds a little extra punch and mixed with eucalyptus oil, repels fleas. You can also make an insect repellent out of cedar, tea tree, lavender and citronella oils. Put some of this mixture on his collar, bandana, or dilute it with water and use it to spray on your pet.
Fleas can’t stand the smell of eucalyptus, so dilute the oil and spray it on your dog. Adding the oil to the final rinse of your dog’s bedding, putting eucalyptus leaves under furniture and rugs and adding some to your dog’s shampoo will discourage fleas. For you cat lovers, sorry, your finicky felines can’t tolerate eucalyptus or citrus.
Others recommend making a shampoo using the following essential oils: pine cedar, bergamot, rosemary, lavender, eucalyptus, citronella, juniper or geranium. Learning a lesson from the clever fox who rids itself of fleas by carrying a stick in its mouth as in jumps into the water, it completely submerges itself, the fleas escape by seeking higher, dryer ground so they climb the stick. The fox drops the stick into the water and gets out pest free. Lesson learned the fleas climb higher up the dog as you shampoo so start by making a very sudsy barrier around your dog’s neck to block the fleas. Also lather the face and ears with soap, don’t just rinse with water. Some suggest leaving the lather on 15 minutes, or more, to ensure all the fleas die. Some say adding white vinegar to your dog’s shampoo will prevent fleas as well.
If you are not sure how bad your flea problem is, you can make your own flea trap to see how many fleas you catch. Put a light next to a shallow dish of warm sudsy water, next to your pets bed. The flea jumps toward the light and lands in the water and is trapped in the suds. This method will only work to get rid of very light flea populations but can be combined with other controls.
Some long- range solutions are supplements to add to your dog’s diet. Garlic added to each meal, and sulphur added once a week are said to prevent fleas on your pet. Black Walnut Hulls come in a capsule form and will repel fleas, ticks and mosquitoes. It may take 4 to 6 weeks for these to work so don’t give up keep supplementing.
Let’s not forget fleas are not a trivial problem. The flea consumes 15 times its weight in blood, which can cause anemia in severely infested pets. Some dogs are very allergic to flea bites and may develop hot spots and/or infections.
Another suggestion is making a floor washing mixture by combining the juice of 4 lemons and the rinds in 1/2 gallon of water and wash the fleas away. They hate the smell of lemons. You can also wash down the walls of the dog house with a salt water solution. Doing this every coupe of weeks may keep the fleas from coming in on your dog.
The University of Florida did a study using Avon’s Skin-So-Soft, sponging dogs down with it. By so doing, they saw a 40% drop in the amount of fleas on the dog. You can try it by mixing 1-1/2 ounces of bath oil to 1 gallon of water.
Temporary relief can be given your dog by spraying on a mixture of 2 parts apple cider vinegar to 1 part water with a spray bottle. After being sprayed, the fleas ‘abandon ship’ and run for better smelling quarters, so only use this spray outdoors. If you drench your dog with this solution and comb it through its fur, it should discourage fleas for 3 to 4 days.
You can plant tansy, an herb, outdoors where your dog most often lays down. This will repel fleas. Cedar will also repel them but needs to be replenished often as it looses effectiveness quickly. The best way to get rid of fleas outdoors is to use nematodes. These microscopic parasites kill flea larvae yet are harmless to pets, plants and people. Feed stores usually sell them and will tell you how to use them. Ants and spiders eat flea larvae so whenever possible leave them alone to help control fleas.
One more set of recommendations for flea control starting outdoors. Seal up vents so flea infested rodents don’t contribute to the pest problem. Keep lawns and and weeds trimmed so not to have flea larva’s ideal living conditions near the house, get rid of piles of sand and gravel and keep pets fenced to keep pets away from infested animals.
Some swear by using 1 cup of aloe vera juice with 1 drop of any essential oil to kill fleas. Others suggest adding cayenne pepper to the juice to kill them. Ground rosemary leaves can be used to repel fleas or use 2 cups of fresh rosemary boiled in water 30 minutes to make a flea dip. Strain the liquid and add it to a bucket with 1 gallon warm water. Soak your dog with this mix and it has the added benefit of being anti-inflammatory, so it stimulates regrowth of fur lost from all that scratching and flea bites.
Not Just For Captain Picard!
Some of our more elite pet owners have put a new twist on tea time by opening up a few bags of Earl Grey and scattering the leaves on their carpet. They vacuum in a few days and claim the fleas are gone. Always toss leaves with your pinky held out with an aristocratic flair, for best results.
Lots of ideas to choose from. Hopefully, by implementing at least some of these options, you and your pets will enjoy a flea-free-fall.
- Household Fleas (moneyexpert.com)