By Dr. Stephen Blake DVM
Dogs Naturally Magazine
If you’re tempted to reach for spot-on flea treatments, then here’s why you’ll want to be one of the 1% of people who never touch them!
It can be tempting to use toxic chemical products to eliminate fleas … but it can be done using natural methods and a little persistence.
A Healthy Foundation
The most important factor in preventing fleas from taking over your home is your dog’s overall health and immune system. A healthy dog will naturally repel parasites and fleas will seek weaker animals who are easier targets.
Always feed a natural diet and never vaccinate or use drugs or chemicals on your canine friend, either internally or externally. Also avoid chemical cleaners in your home and never use pesticides or herbicides in your yard, as these products will also impact your pet’s immune system.
There are some simple remedies that will help to maximize your dog’s immune system as well. These include:
A Healthy Environment
The second part of the puzzle is the environment.
If the energy of your home has any disharmony in it, this too can make your dog anxious and weaken the immune system. Try to make sure everyone in your household is as content as they can be; encourage your family members to be open with each other so your dog doesn’t stress over his concern for you.
I often have my clients make a mixture of the Bach flower essences walnut, crab apple, holly, wild rose and wild oat.
Spray it around the house to help detoxify negative energy from the environment.
The Flea Life Cycle
Fleas are highly productive; a pair may produce 20,000 fleas in three months.
Eggs hatch after two to 12 days into larvae that feed in the environment – generally on digested blood from adult fleas and other food matter. The food required at this stage is microscopic, and even clean carpets often offer plenty of food to the larvae.
The larvae are little wiggles about three or four millimeters long; you may see some if you inspect your pet’s bedding carefully. Larvae molt twice within two to 200 days and the older larvae spin a cocoon in which they remain for one week to one year. When in this cocoon stage the young flea is invulnerable to any kind of insecticide and to low, even freezing, temperatures. Only sufficient warmth and the presence of a host can cause them to emerge. This long cocooning period explains why fleas are so difficult to eradicate.
To get rid of fleas in your house, you must break this cycle.
As a practical matter, this means you’ll almost certainly have to repeat your flea elimination efforts a few weeks apart to catch the fleas from the larvae that didn’t get destroyed the first time around. This is also why it is essential to address the problem of the eggs and larvae as well as the adult fleas.
It’s not enough just to rid your dog of fleas. Fleas don’t spend all their time on your dog, but will hop on when they need a meal.
The eggs can be shed anywhere your dog spends time – including your own bed, if you share it! Your house and yard must also be treated to prevent reinfestation.
Deflea-ing Your Dog
To get rid of fleas on your dog, a soapy bath with any natural shampoo will kill them on contact. You can also place several drops of lavender and frankincense essential oils into a chemical free shampoo to prevent and kill fleas (as well as ticks). I have even used natural dish soap and find it kills them as well as anything. There are recipes on my Recipe Page.
I also recommend using a flea comb soaked in soapy water several times per day after the initial bath, until your friend is flea free.
Once your dog has dried off after his bath, spray him with a mixture containing one drop each of the essential oils lemongrass, lemon, cedar and RC (a Young Living blend) per ounce of water.
You can also spray him with this solution to repel pests any time he’s going into an area that is flea, tick or mosquito infested.
In The Yard
Use a yard hose sprayer with two ounces of dish soap and 10 drops each of neem oil and cedarwood oil to kill adult fleas in your grass and areas where your dog plays or lies. I recommend doing this once per week during the flea season. Do not spray succulent plants with this mixture because it may harm them. You can also order Wondercide, which makes cedar oil products for use on your yard, as well as your dog and home.
In Your Home
In my experience, steam cleaning a rug will kill all of the adult fleas immediately. When the carpets are completely dry, put a mixture of one part Borax salts to three parts table salt and rake it into all carpeted areas of the house. Leave for a week and then vacuum very thoroughly. Pay attention to cracks in the floor where eggs may have been laid. Dispose of the vacuum contents by burning or placing them in a closed plastic bag in the outdoor trash so that the eggs don’t hatch in your broom closet!
Wash your dog’s bedding (and your own, if he spends time on it) and dry in a hot dryer if the fabric will stand it. It’s helpful to follow up with food grade diatomaceous earth. Sprinkle it on bedding, upholstered furniture, carpets and other surfaces in your home; work it in with a broom and leave it down for a few hours or overnight; then vacuum thoroughly. (You can also sprinkle the food grade DE on your dog’s skin to prevent or get rid of fleas. Be careful not to get DE in the eyes, nose and mouth.)
To help eliminate the eggs, add one teaspoon of wintergreen essential oil to a quart of hot water in a mist sprayer. Then mist carpets, upholstered furniture, pillows and other places where flea eggs can hatch. The mist will not kill fleas but it will kill the eggs. Spray about three times a year. The odor goes away in a few days and you are safe for months without the danger of pesticides.
Since oil of wintergreen is used on babies, I do not believe it can hurt cats or dogs when used like this in their environment (and not directly on the animal).
Remember that carpets, rugs, and upholstered furniture are the prime places for depositing flea eggs. It’s a drastic measure, but some people have success ridding their home of fleas by removing their carpets and replacing with tile or hardwood floors.
Another very old, safe method of removing fleas is soapy water under a light bulb. Hang a light bulb one foot above a low container about a foot wide and two to three inches deep. Add at least an inch of soapy water to it. The fleas will jump to the light and fall in the soapy water. You will need to move it around about five feet a day or have several traps in the areas where your dog hangs out and sleeps. You can use these traps indoors, as well as outdoors in damp or shaded areas where fleas proliferate – under porches, decks, carports, at the edges of woods and especially in places where your pets lie down outdoors.
Here are some SAFE Methods for Dealing with Fleas
Fleas are the concern of every dog and most dog owners, but unfortunately most commercial flea treatment products are highly toxic, often doing more harm to your dog's health than good. Some dry arid climates don’t have the problem that more humid climates do.
WHAT NOT TO DO!
Flea collars, shampoos, sprays, and dips contain many toxic chemicals that are harmful to your dog, and are known to be responsible for pet poisonings.
Spot-On Flea Killers are popular because of their effectiveness and ease of use, but contain ingredients that have been linked to serious health effects including nasal cancers, anemia, and liver damage.
WHAT YOU CAN DO!
Your Dog's Overall Health plays a vital role in flea prevention. A proper diet and stress-free environment act as immune-boosters, and will make your dog a less likely target for fleas. A balanced raw grain free diet can be a great immune-booster.
Vitamins, supplements, oils and herbs can act as a flea repellent, and also are beneficial to your dog's overall health. We have successfully used essential oils to help control fleas. We also use food grade vitamins & supplements to build the immune system.
Diatomaceous Earth, or DE, is calcium dust that you can use inside your house and in your yard to destroy adult fleas and flea larvae - and fleas cannot develop resistance! You can use a little on your pet if it is the food grade Diatomaceous Earth product.
Practical and Common Sense Solutions such as frequent vacuuming and diligent flea combing are obvious, but there are many other simple things you can do in and around your home.
Flea collars and powders with essential oils can be made to assist in controlling fleas.
I am a Subtle Energy Animal Practitioner & Healing Touch for Animals Practitioner. I am P4EO Certified in using Essential Oils with animals.