A Natural, Non-Toxic Approach to Flea Control
This year has been a bumper crop year! The frequent rains & hot temperatures have everything growing like mad. Including the bugs. Mosquitos, ticks & fleas are the worst I have experienced them in years. Many of you have called me looking for a natural alternative to ridding your home of fleas- which travel in on you and your pets and can be extremely hard to get rid of once they are established. So today I will share with you my tested and effective flea control methods- without using a single drop of neurotoxic chemical pesticide.
First, though, I will share a story with you. Many years ago, I showed pure breed dogs as a hobby. People would send their dogs to me, and I would keep them with my own dogs for several months while showing. I often had as many as a dozen plus pups staying at my small kennel! These precious dogs helped me learn about natural flea prevention. The methods I am going to share with you kept my dogs, home, yard kennel 100% flea free. Some years later I shared these techniques with a friend who had paid a professional pest control company hundreds of dollars to treat a commercial space in downtown Martinsburg. These chemicals were so strong that all people had to vacate the premises for 12 hours after treatment. The fleas were so thick in this building that your legs would look like they were covered in pepper. After three very expensive treatments the fleas were still there. I helped her treat the building naturally- and the fleas were gone in 2 days. Save your money, save yourself from exposure to deadly chemicals, and save our environment. Please.
A little about fleas first. Did you know that there are several types of flea, and each has a preferred host? There are dog fleas, cat fleas, human fleas, rat fleas and fleas that prefer fowl. These fleas will bite others if their preferred host is not available. Fleas can jump up to 7″ vertically and over a foot horizontally- which makes them very mobile! They easily move from host to host, host to person, and host to HOUSE. Flea saliva contains chemicals that can cause a severe itch response in some animals and humans. This is known as flea bite dermatitis, and can lead to infection if scratching or biting the area is intense. However, some people have fleas in the house and never get bitten- or simply have no reaction to flea bites. Did you also know that fleas are a host for tapeworms? Tapeworm eggs travel inside the adult flea, and if the flea is accidentally swallowed or inhaled by an animal while licking or chewing , the animal then may become infected with tapeworms. The animal also becomes a host for tapeworms. And if that animal is YOUR PET, you may also be exposed to tapeworms. Yuck. Finally, flea eggs can lay dormant in your home for months, just waiting for their preferred host to arrive. Let’s get rid of them NOW.
How do you know if you have fleas in your home or on your pet? Watch for frantic scratching, digging and biting from your pets. Using your fingers, comb the hair backward around their rump, base of tail or tummy, where fleas love to live. Fleas are tiny brown spots that move quickly, and they leave small black dried blood spots in your pets fur. These tiny dots of dried blood are called “flea dirt” and is often the most noticeable sign of flea infestation. If your pet has flea dirt but you don’t see any fleas? THEY HAVE FLEAS. And fleas lay 20 to 50 eggs a day- which roll off the host onto bedding, carpets and furniture. If your dog has fleas- you have fleas. Get over it. You are not dirty or bad… you just have fleas.
SO! Here are some things to know about killing fleas. Firstly, they are very hard to crush. No matter how hard you squeeze, you cannot kill them, you must use your nails to break them. Yuck. Fleas need moisture to survive and prefer around 70-80% humidity. Without adequate hydration they struggle to live. Immersion in water, however, drowns fleas quickly. Armed with this knowledge, we begin our treatment.
Give your pet a bath in warm water with shampoo. ANY shampoo will do- it is the water that drowns the fleas. I do not use flea shampoos as I think the chemicals are dangerous and they are no more effective. The flea shampoos say they repel fleas up to 3 months, and I have found this to be false. I use tearless baby or pet shampoo on my animal’s head & face so that I can get right around the eyes. If you do not soap up the face, the fleas will actually pool around the eyes in an attempt to escape. Gross. I use a diluted castile soap on the body- Dr. Bronners Lavender Castile works well and has the added benefit of soothing any sore, bitten areas. The other blends work well too, choose your favorite scent. Use about 1/4 cup in a quart of water. Let the pet stand for 5-10 minutes in the shampoo. Rinse well. Watch the dead fleas run down the drain. In the meantime, wash every sheet, towel, comforter, blanket and throw rug that you can fit in the washer. Use warm or hot water. OK you have now killed most of the live fleas. But what about flea eggs and fleas still living in the house and yard?
Enter 3 flea killing friends: Best Yet Cedar Insecticide , boric acid powder & diatomaceous earth. These 3 inexpensive, non toxic ingredients will keep your home & pet flea free. Maybe you have heard of these- but it is important to know how to use them. Here we go. Go to your local dollar store or follow any link here to buy on Amazon and buy a plastic bottle of roach powder. It is often called Roach Prufe or similar. Read the ingredients- it should be almost 100% boric acid. It should cost a few dollars. If you buy boric acid at the hardware store it will be 2 to 3 times as much money to buy. While at the dollar/online store, buy one of those glass cheese shaker top jars. Take your bottles home. Open the boric acid and for each cup of powder you use, add 1 tablespoon of Best Yet Cedar Insecticide. Shake this up well and put into your shaker top jar. Shake this powder over every surface of the home. Carpets, under the furniture cushions, cracks of hardwood floors. Take a broom and sweep the powder into the surfaces so it is well-distributed. Leave for 24 hours then vacuum it all up. (I actually just leave the powder under the seat cushions of my furniture) Now take your spray bottle of Best Yet and spray the baseboards, your closets, any vertical surface that the powder will not adhere to. Do this once a week for several weeks. No more fleas. The boric acid dehydrates the fleas, and the cedar insecticide suffocates them. Boric acid has the same toxicity as table salt- so while it is relatively harmless, do not let children and pets lick or lay in a concentrated amount of it. It is not tasty, they won’t purposely seek it out. Don’t get stuck on this point- boric acid is hundreds of times less toxic than chemical flea sprays, bombs and powders. This carpet/floor treatment will also kill ticks, carpet beetles, roaches, spiders and anything else that dares to crawl around your home.
Now back to the pets. Kitty & puppy are all dry and clean from the bubble bath. But without protection, they will simply go back outside and bring back more fleas. With your new & continued boric acid and cedar insecticide flooring treatment, the fleas will not survive in the house. Remember to wash the pet’s bedding often. But the fleas will still dine happily on you and your pets. Boric acid is, in my opinion, to harsh for direct application onto a pet’s skin. But Best Yet Cedar Insecticide and diatomaceous earth are very gentle and totally non toxic to pets- even if they lick and chew after application. (ALWAYS test a VERY small amount on cats first- they are ultra sensitive) [Note: As of 3/11/16: CedarCide, the manufacturer of Best Yet, has recently marked a few of their products as “not for use on cats”. Best Yet is now known as “Original Formula” and is still approved by CedarCide for use on cats. Read this link] Those flea drops that you spread onto your animal’s neck? They are proving to be very dangerous. Google it if you want to see. I won’t press that point. Often a good wetting down of your pets coat with cedar insecticide spray is all that you will need to keep fleas away. Wet the pet’s coat down, covering all areas, once weekly during the hot summer months, less during the winter. It is so gentle you can use it on puppies and kittens, as well as your kids and yourself to keep mosquitos and ticks away. Apply directly to exposed skin and clothing. I practically BATHE in this stuff- the mosquitos LOVE me. It smells great, works great, and can be used for so many of your buggy problems.
Some pets, though, need a little extra protection. Just like with people, some dogs and cats seem more prone to attract fleas than others. For these pets, we will kick it up a notch. Go to your local pet store or to my online store and buy some diatomaceous earth (DE) that is made for pet application. It looks a lot like flour. If you wish to treat your yard, buy some additional DE for lawn & garden use (it’s cheaper) and follow the directions to treat the yard. Do not use lawn & garden DE on your pets. For the pets: Mix 1 cup of organic food grade DE powder with 1 tablespoon of Cedar Insecticide. Mix well and sprinkle over your pets coat, rubbing the powder in well. Use extra in the places the fleas like to live: tail, rear, and belly. You may even sprinkle a bit of this into your pets ears for ear mites. Do this outside or over a towel to keep the floor clean. I have found this powder & cedar oil mix to be foolproof, even during the height of flea season! And again, totally non toxic. Apply as needed- I apply once weekly during the hot summer months.
I hope you try these simple and effective natural flea treatments. They are better for your pets, your family, your wallet and our beautiful planet. Please leave a note with questions or comments. Hugs~