by David Beart
Flea control is a major concern for many dog owners (and their dogs). In some parts of the U.S. temperatures never get cold enough to completely kill off these pests. Even in areas where fleas are rare it’s possible to find an occasional infestation. Many people turn to “spot on” treatments and sprays to get rid of fleas. They may even use dips and other pesticides. However, some owners are concerned about the potential side effects these chemicals may have on their dogs and family members. Here are some suggestions for a more natural approach to flea control.
A natural approach to flea control means that you will need to groom your dog daily, especially during summer months when fleas are most active. Fleas are often easier to see if your dog has short hair or a light-colored coat, but you will need to brush and comb your dog thoroughly to look for any signs of the pests. These signs can range from a visible flea to the detritus left behind where the pest has fed. This debris is a crusty red-black material that is coarse and somewhat gritty, like dried blood. Be sure to check close to your dog’s skin, especially around his ears, head and tail where fleas are likely to congregate.
If you suspect that your dog has a flea or two you should start using a flea comb to comb him. A flea comb is much finer than a regular dog comb and it will pick up any of the pests on your dog’s body. You should then quickly (very quickly!) deposit the flea in a bowl of soapy water to kill it.
If you do find fleas on your dog then you will need to give your dog a good flea bath. Look for flea shampoos that have citrus ingredients to help keep the pests away. Eucalyptus products are also effective.
There are some supplements you can give your dog that have been shown to be effective in keeping fleas away. Some people like to give their dog a small dose of garlic daily. The garlic odor from your dog’s skin is a flea repellant, although humans can’t smell it. Some people combine garlic with brewer’s yeast in their dog’s food. You may also wish to consider adding apple cider vinegar to your dog’s diet. Organic apple cider vinegar has many health benefits and it is claimed that it helps build the immune system. Anything that keeps your dog’s immune system stronger will make him a less attractive target to fleas.
You should be aware that fleas spend about 85 percent of their time OFF your dog. So, if you find one flea on your dog you should assume that he has many little friends nearby in your home. You will need to treat your home.
You don’t have to use flea bombs or chemical pesticides to treat your home. There are some good natural alternatives to help keep your home free of these pests. Whether you have carpets or hardwood floors you will need to vacuum daily if you suspect that you have any fleas. For carpets you can sprinkle borax powder over your floor. Use 1 to 2 cups for an average-sized room. Leave the borax down for 24-48 hours (or longer). Then you can vacuum it up. Any fleas should be dead. You can repeat as needed. You can use 20-Mule Team Borax detergent for this job.
You will also need to wash your dog’s bedding often during flea season. This is one of the places where the pests will most likely be found, hopping straight from your dog to his bed. Use hot water.
Don’t forget to treat your yard. A very cost-effective way to treat your yard for fleas is to buy a bucket of diatomaceous earth (garden/pool type) from your garden center. Sprinkle it all over your yard. The diatomaceous earth has sharp edges which will shred bugs and insects and dry out their exoskeletons.
You can keep fleas away by planting marigolds, chrysanthemums and other plants with naturally-occurring pyrethrins in your yard. Use cedar chips as mulch since fleas stay away from cedar.
You can also use herbal flea collars on your dog. These do work though they will not stop a strong flea infestation. Be careful using an herbal collar if you are pregnant since they usually contain penny royal and other herbs which can cause miscarriages.
Finally, you can spray your dog with a nice citrus spray. Fleas hate a citrus scent. Use lemon or orange peel, place it in a pint of water, add a few drops of citronella oil and a sprig of rosemary. Allow the mixture to sit overnight. You can use this mix as a good flea spray for your dog.
There are many different ways to control fleas besides using chemicals and pesticides. However, there may be times when your dog is suffering, especially if he has a flea bite allergy. In the case of these allergies, the bite from even one flea can send your dog into a frenzy of itching, gnawing and self-mutilation. Your dog may scratch and bite himself and end up chewing off his coat trying to stop the itching. If your dog has a flea bite allergy or you can’t get rid of fleas by natural means, you may need to consider temporarily using one of the flea products currently on the market.
Do talk to your veterinarian about which product may be right for your dog and his circumstances. Some products act very quickly to get rid of fleas starting in just a few minutes. Some products get into the skin or hair shafts and will last for several weeks, giving your dog some long-lasting relief. Some products work in combination with heartworm medication, and so on. If your dog does need a commercial flea control product, please talk to your vet instead of simply grabbing something off the shelf at the pet store.
Natural flea control can work for many dogs. Try some of the suggestions here and see what works for your dog. If you are vigilant and stay alert for these pests you can usually keep them at bay in many places.