Fleas! Get Rid of Them Naturally and Effectively

Fleas.

Just typing that word makes my skin crawl! Ick. I have seen more than my share of fleas in my 7 years of working at a veterinary clinic. Those nasty boogers have ruined many a pet parent’s peace and for some animals, fleas have caused miserable health conditions. Needless to say, all the knowledge and exposure had me lathering chemicals all over my pets and house for preventive measures. Ummm…not good, but I didn’t know better. I had it drilled in my head that all the medications, sprays and what-have-you were the best way to keep those nasty parasites away from my pets and out of my home.

Well, now I DO know better. And after experiencing a nightmare-ish couple of bug-filled (fleas, ants, earwigs) months last year, I have learned what does and does not work to prevent and eliminate fleas and other nuisance pests. So I thought I would pass my knowledge along to those who may be looking for a natural alternative to flea control.

Let’s Take A Quick Look at Fleas

Fleas are actually more than just a nuisance pest that make pets itch. Fleas need a warm-blooded ‘host’ in order to live and breed meaning, they need blood as a food source and warmth for reproduction to take place. So Fido, Fluffy or even you (gasp) could be on their “food and hotel” list. These little parasites can carry zoonotic diseases like bacterial infections, Bartonella (Cat Scratch Fever) and tapeworm to name a few. Many animals and humans are allergic to the saliva from flea bites leaving them with flea bite dermatitis… my animals have unfortunately experienced this. Not fun.

If you have found a flea or two on your pet, you can expect to have a flea army not far behind. A flea life cycle looks something like this:

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Adult fleas eat blood then mate. The female then lays a ton of eggs. The eggs hatch in 2-14 days. The larvae eat and 7-10 days later turn into pupae. The pupae develop into adults in another 7-14 days to several months depending on the condition of the environment around it. The adults find a host and the cycle repeats itself. And to add to the horror, the female flea can lay up to 5000 eggs in her life time.

And if you thought only dirty pets and houses get fleas, think again. Fleas love a clean host, but will very quickly turn them into a dirty mess. So as you can see, having a good, natural flea control plan is crucial in breaking the flea cycle and rid your home of them for good!

 

Prevention Is Key

While you can’t always control all the environment around you or your pet, you can control the areas in which you live. Here are a few preventive measures I found that worked for us.

  • Change your pet’s bedding frequently. Pets can carry and drop flea eggs in the areas they visit most. Staying on top of the flea life cycle by washing or vacuuming your pet’s bedding to  prevent eggs from hatching will keep infestations down or away completely. I change my dogs’ blankets weekly and thoroughly vacuum their favorite napping spots.
  • Keep the humidity as low as possible. Fleas eggs need higher humidity to hatch, around 70-75% to be exact. And larva also need higher humidity to survive. Try to keep the humidity in your home less the 50% to inhibit new flea growth. If you can, run a dehumidifier and/or air conditioning to control the humidity in your home.
  • Comb your pets daily during flea season. Once the humidity is up outside, you should start checking your pets daily for fleas. Get yourself a couple good quality flea combs and do a thorough run through their hair. Try combing them on a white sheet to make it easier to observe the presence of fleas or flea dirt (curly cue feces). If you come across a flea, promptly crush it between your nail and the comb. The less adults, the less reproducing.
  • Pre-treat your carpet. Getting your home prepared for the coming of these pests helps you get rid of them faster. I sprinkle a combination of food-grade diatomaceous earth and borax onto my entire carpet surface and work the powder combo into the carpet fibers with a broom… just a little will go a long way. This tedious task is dusty (you may want to wear a face mask) but essential in preventing larva from developing. These two natural powders work together to cut through the parasite’s exoskeleton and dehydrate them to death. It is very effective in cutting the life cycle of a flea. {For those who are concerned about borax being sprinkled in your household, feel free to check out this article by Crunchy Betty. I feel safe using borax in my home, but you can make that decision on your own.}
  • Vacuum often. The daily act of vacuuming is probably on of the best ways to prevent a flea infestation. Vacuum all floor surfaces daily, if possible; and at the very least, 3 times a week. Be sure to vacuum any furniture that your pets may frequent as well. Some people put a moth-ball in the vacuum bag or container, but I recommend tossing the contents out, away from your house, as soon as you are done to remove any buggers you may have captured.

 

I Already Have an Infestation… Now What?

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First all, don’t panic! Second of all, resist the urge to grab those chemical sprays and foggers. They aren’t good for anyone including your pets. Here are some natural elimination methods to try:

  • Continue the above prevention methods. Following those steps will help ensure that you keep the infestation under control and eventually completely eliminated. I would increase the bedding changes to daily though, if you have an infestation. And really try to vacuum daily, focusing on warm, dark areas wear the larvae will gravitate towards.
  • Bathe your pets frequently. I bathed my pets twice weekly when we had fleas last year. I am fortunate to have angel pets that allow me to bathe them without a fit :) I recommend staying away from over-the-counter flea shampoos, they are especially toxic to cats! I use a peppermint castile liquid soap on my pets (use with caution with cats, they are more delicate than you think!) to kill bacteria from the flea bites and soothe their skin. Fleas are susceptible to drowning, which makes frequent baths a good flea control choice.
  • Feed your pets fresh garlic. Dogs and cats can ingest garlic to repel internal and external parasites. This really worked well for my dogs. My cat was not a fan by any stretch. I would recommend working with a holistic veterinarian to find an appropriate dosage for your pet.
  • Dust your pets with diatomaceous earth. After my dogs were dry from their baths I would gently dust their entire body with food-grade diatomaceous earth. As mentioned above, it works to cut through the exoskeleton of the fleas running through their hair and dehydrates them to death. And since it is safe to ingest (read more about DE HERE), it doesn’t matter if your pet licks some of it off.
  • Treat your yard with beneficial nematodes. Beneficial nematodes are microscopic worms that feast on pests like fleas. Many people have, under the right conditions, had success using them in their gardens and yards to keep the flea population under control. They can be applied with a lawn sprayer and have been known to reduce the flea population by 80 percent in 24 hours. To more about this flea control option, head over to Everwood Farms. They have information about how nematodes work and how to use them effectively.
  • Don’t give up! It may feel like you are getting nowhere within first week. Just remember the flea life cycle. By the time you actually realize you have fleas in the house, the problem is huge! Be consistent with combing, bathing, vacuuming and cleaning. They will eventually go away and you will have peace again and life will go on as usual.

 

So, there are a few ways I keep fleas at bay naturally in my home. I have heard of other things like spraying ACV (my pets didn’t appreciate that), giving pets brewers yeast and flea trap methods, but I haven’t needed to try those. I hope this encourages you step away from all the chemicals and help your entire family stay healthier with these non-toxic methods.

What about you? Have you ever had to battle fleas? Did you use normal treatment options or natural? What worked best for you?

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p.s. Shared at Heathy 2day Wednesdays,  Thank Your Body ThursdayNatural Living Link-upThrifty ThursdayDude Sustainable

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Comments

Fleas! Get Rid of Them Naturally and Effectively — 4 Comments

  1. All good ideas! I’m the guardian of 3 pups and flea and tick prevention is always on my mind. I haven’t really had much of a problem. I feed the best possible dog food with all natural ingredients that I can afford. I don’t have any scientific proof but I think a dog’s diet helps keep these nasty parasites at bay. The extra money for the food seems to save $$ in the health department. Visiting here from Dude, Sustainable.

  2. Great tips! One minor point that might help is to vacuum before you apply the DE. This will break up the carpet fibers and allow the DE or borax to penetrate. I use both those things, and they’re quite effective.

    I like the peppermint castille soap idea too. Dr. Bronners?

  3. Great comprehensive article on how to get rid of fleas naturally. I have an entire website dedicated to getting rid of fleas, and the natural remedies are definitely my favorite. I especially like the Diatomaceous Earth method. In fact, after researching this stuff further, I bought a 20lb box of the stuff and now I eat it daily for health benefits! haha Who knew?! Kill fleas (and other insects) with it then eat it.

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