Thursday, August 12, 2010

Fleas Fleas Go away (part 1)

Fleas are a huge deal here in the southern part of the U.S. It's hot, it's humid, and it's a year round joy making this pretty much flea heaven. (Not to mention all the other mean biting bugs). Tough economic times as well as a desire for less toxins in their daily lives have people turning away from traditional mainstream flea and tick preventives and looking to home remedies instead. I am often asked what can be done to prevent fleas in the home or get rid of them once they are already present in the home. The following are various methods I have either tried or am aware of for taking care of a flea problem. I think it's important to note that the flea life cycle. Adult fleas can lay thousands of eggs in their lifetime and those eggs hatch in short order, anywhere from a couple of days to a couple of weeks depending on the environment. It is also important to note that in most cases no one treatment or method is likely to completely control the problem, this is even true for prescription preventatives. Your best bet is to employ several methods to treat you home, yard, and pet over the course of several weeks to rid yourself of an infestation and to prevent the problem from recurring.

There are several recipes of various essential oils online that you can mix in water and spray on your pet. They include eucalyptus, lavender, peppermint, citronella, cedar, lemon. I have myself used combos of several of these oils together mixed 5-10 drops strong into a conditioner solution (conditioner and water) and sprayed on the dog via a spray bottle. Work through coat.

You can cut up two or three (depending on size) Lemons and boil them for a few minutes then strain the liquid and use as a flea spay - it smelled weird to me and honestly I didn't end up using it. I tried to add mint to it as well and that was a mistake because it just made it smell... well I can't tell you what it smelled like.. feet maybe? Anyway I ended up putting it in a spray bottle and forgetting about it and it molded... yuck! I don't know anyone by the way who uses this but I have read a lot of people do. Seems to me it would be easier to just use the oils... ? 

With either of the two methods above you can spray directly on your pet OR you can take a regular nylon collar or just a piece of nylon or cotton cord and soak it in the liquid to make a home made flea collar.The flea collars would need to be re soaked probably weekly. I have a friend who did this but used a bandanna. The collar should be dry when you put it on the dog.

Brewers yeast rubbed through the coat is said to get rid of fleas, do it outside b/c they'll jump ship into your home otherwise. I read this in a book of natural pet remedies that was written by a holistic vet and what do you know, it does kind of work :) I recommended it to another person on a forum recently and she too had success with it.

Borax and salt (or just pick one or the other) will kill fleas in your carpets. Sprinkle down leave for several hours to overnight and vacuum up. I do this one myself often. Also regular vacuuming and in my case I also run over my carpets quickly with my steam mop will help a ton. Borax is pretty easy to find but ironically I couldn't get it at Walmart. I found it in Publix I believe... or it may have been Winn Dixie. Anyway it wasn't where I expected to find it. I usually leave it down over night. I have to say though that borax alone or with salt has worked better than salt alone. Don't ask me why?

Deflea is a mostly natural product you can purchase, comes in a spray and a shampoo and effective at killing the fleas without harmful toxins. It's made by Natural Chemistry. The one and only thing I don't like about this product is the bottle it comes in. I would MUCH rather have a trigger spray that the pump kind. It can be use on bedding and pets so it's useful. It also will not interfere with any topical preventative you have applied to your pet which is nice. It comes in a shampoo as well, even nicer. Doesn't smell fantastic but it's not horrid either.

My mother once read that regular mouthwash like Listerine or however you spell it could be sprayed on dogs and would repel, didn't work. It only repelled people..Oh and it made the dog's coats feel weird and they were itchy. I wouldn't try this one myself but go ahead if you so desire, some people swear by it which is why it is included here.

Apple cider vinegar used as a rinse during baths or sprayed onto a coat right after a bath will not only deodorize but changes the PH of the skin for a very short while and will prevent re infestation. It's benefit doesn't last long though
Putting it in the drinking water is said to prevent fleas in a similar and longer lasting way but I don't notice that it does really, but I also don't notice that it does not if that makes any sense. Maybe it works?? I dunno. I do it for all four of my dogs and still have to keep up on other methods of flea removal to keep the house flea free.

Adding garlic to the diet, I did the stuff in a jar and then tried the garlic powder (my guys wouldn't eat raw garlic) is said to make the dog unappealing to the fleas. It might, your dog will smell a big like garlic if you feed them enough of it, just like a person would. I did this last year to help get rid of a flea problem one of my clients brought into my home. Some people are worried about the toxicity of garlic b/c of recent reports of it killing dogs. I don't buy that myself but you can look it up and decide. I researched it before I added it in and found that while garlic was related to the onion and those are toxic to dogs it had to be given in extremely high doses (waaayyyy more than say onions) to have an adverse reaction to it unless there was some underlying problem. I have given my dog's garlic in the past no issue. They even make brewers yeast and garlic tabs for pets and sell them over the counter. I did it at a time when we were struggling to combat fleas (this past November) and I did notice that this helped maybe a tiny bit. Use garlic with caution though just in case and definitely do your homework on it to decide for yourself if you think it is really toxic or not.

There is an all natural dog treat called Flea Treats which you can find easily online and are said to work WONDERS though it takes a little while to build up in the system.

Washing all bedding in hot water weekly will also get rid of any flea friends hiding there and frankly is just a good idea in general since even clean pets tend to bring in dirt and washing their beds will keep the house smelling nicer.

Disclaimer - While I have cats, I am not a certified feline master groomer (I work with very few felines, mostly I do dogs) and therefor my knowledge on kitties is limited at best. I don't know what is and is not 100% safe to use on your cat so some further research would be in order.

Other things to combat fleas are higher quality diets, especially raw food diets and frequent bathing. Before I got pregnant I bathed my two standard poodles weekly (you obviously need to be careful what type of shampoo you use so you don't dry the skin) and had almost NO trouble with fleabies at all. Now that my LO is here and 5 mo old they get a bath once a month on average and I have a much harder time keeping them flea free without prescription topicals which I don't like to use.

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