Does your pet have fleas? Fleas are more than just a nuisance to your pets (and humans); they can also result in severe skin problems.
As with everything, prevention is key. Once they take hold, it’s hard to get rid of them. Bathing your pet regularly, using a flea comb daily, regular vacuuming of pet areas and washing pet bedding will help stop fleas. You don’t need chemical shampoos either – the lather will drown them. Fleas attack weaker pets, so it’s important to keep your pet healthy with regular check ups and nutritious food. Garlic and yeast supplements in your pet’s food help repel fleas from the inside out. The odor and the extra B vitamins make the pet less tasty. Most pets however, succumb to fleas at some point.
The female flea lays her eggs in dark, damp places such as cracks in the floor or a corner of the basement. The flea spends the majority of its lifecycle away from the host animal and attacks the pet only when they need food. But most flea control products are aimed at the adult fleas and are highly toxic to the pet and humans. Also, much like humans and antibiotics, a certain amount of the flea population becomes resistant to the chemicals, requiring more and stronger chemicals for effective treatment. The best control should be directed instead at the eggs and larvae to prevent future generations from being born.
If your dog spends a lot of time outdoors, a biological control using nematodes, tiny worms, can be sprayed on your lawn and brings about 90% decrease in the number of flea larvae. Inside, try sprinkling a boric acid product in your carpet. Boric acid is inexpensive and effective in killing flea larvae, yet does not harm pets or humans due to its extremely low toxicity.
Another product to sprinkle on your carpet or directly on your pet is Diatomaceous earth, a fossilized algae that resembles chalk dust. It penetrates the waxy coating on a flea’s exoskeleton, causing the flea to die from dehydration. Use a mask when applying so you don’t get it in your lungs.
Several herbal sprays, shampoos and flea collars whose odors repel fleas can be found at natural food stores, garden shops and on line. Their primary ingredients are cedar wood, citronella and rosemary. Of course you can always make your own repellant – See below for a simple recipe from Jill Reichert’s The Joy of Green Cleaning.
Natural Flea and Tick Repellant
6 drops lavender oil; 6 drops cedar oil; 6 drops peppermint oil; 1 cup witch hazel
Combine all the ingredients and place in a spray bottle. Shake until mixed thoroughly. Shake bottle before using. This does not need to be worked into the skin. The smell will repel fleas and ticks.