There’s no question that fleas represent one of the most annoying and difficult to control problems any dog or cat owner faces.
Conventional vet treatments for your furry friends involve powders, spray or collars that contain highly toxic chemicals and pesticides. Some have given pets immediate reactions, such as tremors, personality changes and even seizures, while long term use of these chemicals accumulate in your pets bodies, doing unseen damage to internal organs. Even the newer ‘spot-on’ treatments contain toxic chemicals that can have neuro-toxic effects and must be handled carefully, as they can wash off on your hands, your lawn, or any water your animals play in. To protect your family and the health of our ecosystem, Eco Lassie would like you to consider healthier alternatives when possible.
The most important thing you can do is to keep your pet as healthy as possible. It’s a fact that a healthy animal does not attract as many fleas ( or ticks) as a pet in poor health. (An aid to this is a natural diet, high in proteins and low in grains, but that’s another post.)
But that does not mean that healthy pets will not get fleas. Be aware that the area of the country you live in will affect the incidence of flea problems. For instance, the south east into Texas is a large flea belt due to the high humidity. And if you adopt a cat or dog, or domesticate a feral animal, chances are high that he or she will be bringing fleas with them. Most organic sites only recommend spot-on flea products for animals with severe flea allergies (white dogs seems to have more sensitive skin but any pet can develop a flea allergy) and in that case, Advantage (Bayer) or Frontline Top Spot (Merion) appear to be the least toxic. Follow directions and wash hands well afterwards.
Eco Lassie conducted extensive research to find natural flea control steps pet owners can take. Ideas which seemed to be repeated on many different sites are the ones I’m mentioning to you now, including those from The Whole Dog Journal (http://www.whole-dog-journal.com) and the American Holistic Veterinarians Association (ahvma.org)
1. Add garlic and brewer’s yeast to your pets diet. These create an unpleasant skin odor for fleas that is not noticeable to humans (25mg yeast to ten lbs body wt and a few big cloves of garlic added to food daily for dogs; for cats a teaspoonful of yeast flakes and small garlic clove daily added to food). Pets allergic to yeast can try rice-based B-complex vitamins instead. There are also treats sold with these ingredients in them. http://www.earthanimal.com has a nice line in tablets according to pet size. Garlic, like onions, in too high doses can cause pet anemia, so in this case, more is not necessarily better, and the tablets can control your dosage.
2. Try herbal repellents. You can rub ground cloves or eucalyptus oil into your pet’s fur. Add a large dropper full to a quart misting bottle and spray your animal’s coat at least weekly and before taking to dog parks. One brand that combines Peppermint Oil and Cedar Oil that got rave reviews can be purchased from http://www.natural-wonder-pets.com. Called TripleSure, it works three ways: Kills fleas and ticks on contact; repels fleas, ticks, mosquitoes, flies and bees; retards new insect infestations. This is sprayed on your pet once every two weeks, not a bad way to go. And it can also be used on their bedding, carpets and furniture after checking for staining. The cost of $39.95 seems steep, but this is for a six month supply.
Citrus oil for natural flea control is available at most health food and organic stores. Several varieties also contain Neem oil, Citronella, Lavender and Cedar. One called Herbal Defense Oil Blend for dogs ($14.99) contains all of the above plus almond oil, has a lovely scent, and also keeps biting insects away from pets. These oil blends are applied or brushed into the animal’s fur weekly and after bathing. Herbal Defense Spray is for cats. Both can be found on: http://www.onlynaturalpet.com. Neem oil sprays and shampoos help sooth and heal irritated skin and repel fleas if your pet is already infested. This site also carries Bite This Essential Oil Blend ($14.99), and Defeat de Fleas ($11.99 ).
3. Rub diatomaceous earth into your pet’s fur. (Donot use the type designed for swimming pools.) DE earth is a fine mineral powder that use can use on your pet, in your yard and in your house, even in pet’s bedding. This odorless powder has been used for centuries by gardeners,and it won’t pollute your home or the fragile water supply. Only Natural Pet Store sells All-in-One powder for $14.99.
4. Bath and comb your pet to control infestations. A good flea comb, rinsed in soapy water as you comb your pet, keeps tangles and fleas down. Any foaming soap will kill fleas, so at the first sign or scratching, give your pet a good soapy bath, leaving the foam on for a few minutes before rinsing well.
5. Inside the house, commercial Boric Acid formulas are quite effective and may last up to a year. If you have carpets, test an area first. Flea Terminator, Fleabusters, Fleago and PetOrganics carpet deodorizer are some product names. Besides carpets, any bedding your pet uses will need to be treated once your little darling brings fleas inside. Frequent washing of beds with a detergent will help, as will frequent vacuuming if you do get infested. Wood, stone or bamboo floors do not support the flea life cycle.
6. Outside in the yard, use a natural biological method for control, especially if your pets stay in an enclosed pen. The most promising brand, called Interrupt, contains freeze-dried nematodes when are reconstituted and sprayed in your yard or pen.
There are several flea ‘traps’ that I cannot speak for in terms of effectiveness but will mention for those who want to investigate them. Home Trends sells an Overnight Flea Trap ($10.99)which plugs into any outlet and contains a photocell that comes on as a nightlight, attracting and trapping the little varmints. And allpetfurniture.com wants you to shell out $69.99 for a GamaSonic Ecological Flea Trap. Both are environmentally safe and without chemicals, both claim to work overnight, but I could find no user reviews and remain skeptical.
With a little effort, you can remove toxins from your pet’s life and help to keep your environment safe.
In the next months, we’ll be blogging on topics concerning natural ways to keep your pets healthy. If you have any areas you’d like to see addressed, or specific questions researched, please let us know. Happy New Year to you and your pet~treats all around!