The Natural Approach to Flea Control

October 09, 2017

The Natural Approach to Flea Control

The Natural Approach to Flea Control

1. Why the Flea is Such a Fierce Enemy

Fleas have a number of strategic advantages in this war:

  • 1. Masters of Maneuvers – Fleas are tiny, hard-shelled insects with incredible muscle power in their hind legs; they can jump 4-5 feet horizontally (or nearly a foot straight up). They're fast. They're adaptable. And they're hard to kill.

  • 2. Stormtrooper Mentality – Fleas come with three basic marching orders, or biological imperatives: to survive, to eat, and to reproduce. They are entirely devoted to these orders. And they are very, very good at all of them. They are especially good at reproducing; an adult female lays about 20 eggs at a time. In her lifetime (depending on conditions, up to 1-1/2 years), she may produce hundreds, even thousands of eggs.

  • 3. Effective Recruitment - The female flea typically lays her tiny white eggs in dark, damp places. If she lays any eggs on your pet, they will fall off…but they could travel all around the house or yard first. Within their hiding places, the eggs will hatch in about a week (although they can delay hatching until conditions are ideal) into larvae. The larvae then pupate by spinning cocoons, in which they can finish their development in a week, but they can survive in their cocoons for up to 6 months.

  • 4. Subterfuge Specialists – For every single adult flea you see, there are about 10 cocoons, 35 larvae and 50 eggs hiding in carpets, pet beds, cracks, corners, and furniture.

  • 5. Weapons of Mass Annoyance – Flea bites are itchy because, when fleas bite to feed, they inject blood thinning compounds to prevent clotting during dinner. Not only do these anti-clotting proteins cause itching, but they can also cause the immune system to mount an allergic reaction. Flea-allergic dermatitis is one of the most common skin complaints in pets. For an allergic animal, just one flea bite can cause a massive and prolonged reaction. Fleas can also transmit diseases such as bubonic plague, typhus, Lyme disease, and Rocky Mountain spotted fever, as well as tapeworms.

  • 6. Efficient Defenses – Most chemicals, including bombs and sprays, kill only adult fleas or adults and larvae. That leaves thousands of tough little eggs and cocoons just waiting for the proper conditions, when they'll renew their assault once more. Fleas are also well defended against famine conditions—one blood meal can keep an adult flea alive up to two months.

Only Natural Pet offers a wide variety of natural flea remedies.

2. Natural Defensive Strategies for Pets

Inner Defenses

Like other parasites, fleas target less healthy hosts, as well as puppies and kittens with undeveloped immune systems. Therefore, the first defense for our pets is to optimize their health and immunity.

Diet is the foundation of health. After years of experience and research, we have come to believe that the best diet for most dogs and cats is a biologically appropriate diet. 

Garlic and B-vitamins seem to make blood less attractive to fleas, so many guardians supplement with garlic and brewers yeast during flea season. 

Outer Defenses

The ultimate weapon in the battle with fleas is the Flea Comb. It is the best method to discover whether fleas are present. Comb through your pet's fur and gather a bit of hair and dirt. Then put this between two damp white paper towels and press them together – if the "dirt" creates rusty reddish spots on the paper towel, then a flea has been there (the dirt is actually flea feces). If you keep combing (especially around the tummy and tail), you will likely trap some of them in the comb. Drown them in SOAPY water – fleas have been known to jump out of plain water. Daily flea combing may sound tedious, but it is very helpful while you are working on your companion's health and taking environmental action.

Many topical sprays and shampoos claim to repel or kill fleas. However, many of them contain chemicals and pesticides with serious toxic potential. Cats are particularly susceptible to such products, because they are constantly grooming themselves and ingesting whatever is on their fur. Even sprays or chemicals from the dog can transfer to furniture or rugs, and from there to the cat. So, be extremely cautious with chemicals.

 

Safe flea-repellents for dogs

We recommend essential oil-based, non-chemical products to help keep fleas away from your dog. Spray and shampoo which contain essential oils not only help repel fleas, they can also help soothe and heal irritated skin. Herbal Defense Oil Blend is another good repellent for use on dogs. You can put a drop on the collar, and dilute it into a spray to mist your dog. Combining a little essential oil repellent spray with your flea combing is a great way to both spread the essential oils throughout the coat and give you extra help with catching the fleas. Pay particular attention to the base of the tail, and under the legs and belly on dogs. When using any strong-smelling product, keep in mind that your dog or cat has a much stronger sense of smell than you do, so don't overdo it.

Geraniol is an extremely effective flea repellant derived from geranium flowers. Geraniums have long been planted around homes and in window boxes to keep pests like fleas and mosquitoes away. Going forward with this idea, scientists were able to extract geraniol, an oil that is 400% more effective than citronella at repelling fleas, ticks and mosquitoes.

 

For killing fleas once they are on your pet,

we recommend natural flea powders. Only Natural Pet All-in-One Flea Remedy is a powder made from calcium carbonate, geraniol and peppermint oil that is safe for use on dogs and cats as well as around the home. It kills fleas in all life stages by dehydrating them, a method that is not only non-toxic to pets, humans and the environment, also a method that fleas cannot develop an immunity to, as they do with all other pesticides over time. It is a very fine powder and a little goes a long way. Suggested use is approximately 1 teaspoon per 10 lbs. of body weight. Work it in well with your fingers, or use a flea comb to distribute it. It needs to be on the skin for it to affect the fleas.

 

Bathing your companion is an excellent way to kill fleas. Use an essential-oil based repellent shampoo like Only Natural Pet Herbal Defense Shampoo or a soothing shampoo such as oatmeal-based varieties. You can add a drop or two of flea repelling essential oils to oatmeal shampoo to make it more "flea unfriendly." Lather the neck first, so fleas can't run up onto the head. Leave the lather on your pet for a few minutes to help smother any persistent fleas, and then RINSE WELL. Soap residue can dry the skin and make the itchiness worse. 

 

Why not use flea collars?

Most flea collars are treated with chemical pesticides that you do NOT want your pet wearing around their neck all the time! 

 

3. Defending the Home Environment

Remember that most of the flea population lives and develops in your house and yard, not on your pet. Treating the environment is essential if you want to win this war. However, flea "bombs" and other products do not kill all life stages of the flea, and are generally made with chemical pesticides, which are NOT something you want to spread over every nook and cranny of your house.

Carpets, Flooring, Bedding, and Furniture

Vacuuming and washing hard-surfaced floors often – daily during the height of flea season – is the least toxic way to control fleas. This will remove most of the adults, and some eggs and larvae. Keep in mind the larvae don't like light, so vacuum under furniture and around baseboards, anywhere near your pet's favorite places to hang out. Remember to either vacuum some Only Natural Pet All-in-One Flea Remedy or an herbal flea powder into the vacuum bag to kill any fleas in the bag, or immediately remove the bag and discard it in a sealed plastic bag after use. Otherwise, they will just jump out of the bag and back into your home.

Vacuuming alone can't control severe infestations, and not everyone has the time to clean all the floors daily. That's when we recommend using one or more of the natural "powders" available for ridding your home of fleas. The least toxic products are diatomaceous earth and boric acid products, which both work by dessicating (drying out) the fleas, larvae, pupae, and eggs, which kills them.

Only Natural Pet All-in-One Flea Remedy can be used on carpeting, on pet bedding, on furniture and on hard floors (and on your pets – see above). It is a very fine powder, so it gets into cracks and crevices on hardwood, tile, and linoleum floors easily. You can work it in with a broom or carpet rake so it creates less dust when walked on. It acts more quickly than boric acid products, and a difference in the flea population can be noticeable in 24–48 hours. Calcium carbonate, however, does not last as long as the boric acid products. Monthly applications are recommended in areas with heavy flea populations, especially during the height of flea season.

With all flea powder products, follow package directions carefully. Natural flea control powders are drying agents, and their dust can irritate nasal passages and lungs if inhaled directly. Avoid overzealous shaking of the container while spreading the powder onto the floor so you don't create clouds of dust.

Bedding

Pet beds are a favorite flea hang-out. Wash your pet's bedding in hot, soapy water at least weekly. You can even add some flea repellent essential oils to the water for extra flea-zapping power. 

4. Securing the Perimeter (Your Yard)

Last, but certainly not least, treat the yard, the major source of fleas. Larvae avoid light – so rake up leaves and thatch, and keep the grass cut. A majority of fleas and larvae will be within 50 feet of your companion's favorite resting spots, so focus on those areas, especially shady areas under trees, bushes, and decks. Only Natural Pet All-in-One Flea Remedy or diatomaceous earth can safely be applied to grass.

Beneficial nematodes (worms) are another way to control fleas in the yard, especially during wet weather. Beneficial nematodes are a flea parasite. They are tiny little critters that prey on both adult fleas and larvae. They can be applied with a hose sprayer or, on a smaller yard, with a watering can. Some garden centers and nurseries carry them (or can order them for you), as well as some of the "natural" pet stores. An Internet search will provide many sources as well.

The Pre-emptive Strike

If you live in a high-flea area, don’t wait until you see fleas on your companion to treat your environment! If you live in an area with a predictable flea season, begin the treatment a month before they appear. If you live where flea season is every season, start now and treat your home regularly. Using natural methods takes more effort than dropping a blob of pesticide on your cat's or dog's back, but in the long run your pets, your family, and your environment will be healthier!

Source: Only Natural Pet




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