With rising temperatures comes a familiar problem for many pet owners, fleas. These little bloodsuckers sleep through the winter in some areas. But in hot weather, especially where it’s hot and humid, fleas are most active. And they are looking for a meal and a place to lay their eggs, preferably on your dog or cat. Luckily, you don’t have to poison your pets, yourself, or your home; keep fleas away with these natural prevention tips.
Not only do fleas make your furry friends itchy and cause skin problems, they can also cause anemia if left untreated. They too spread disease, including tapeworms. But spotting them can be tricky.
Because flea infestations can occur in any home, even those without pets, it is crucial to recognize the signs of flea infestation as early as possible to treat them effectively. But you’ll want to avoid many industrial products, which often contain permethrin and pyrethrins. These insecticides are toxic to cats, warns the NRDCand also cause side effects such as vomiting and diarrhea if too much is used on a dog.
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Detect a chip problem
Your pet may provide the first sign you recognize. If you see excessive scratching, licking or biting on the skin, check your pet’s lower back or base of the tail. However, fleas and their droppings, which look like grains of dirt, can be found anywhere on an animal’s body.
Fleas prefer to feed on pets, but it is not uncommon for them to bite humans. Flea bites on humans often appear as small red spots surrounded by reddish halos. You will usually find these itchy bites on the lower half of your body. If your pets sleep with you, check your bedding for “flea dirt” and wash all your sheets before sleeping in them.
Fleas also like tall grass and shady areas near patios, woodpiles, or storage buildings. If you suspect an infestation, flea traps can be an effective way to confirm your suspicions. These non-toxic traps use light and heat to attract fleas to a sticky surface, but are ineffective against infestations. You will need to bring more firepower to end your chip problems.
Prevention is better than medicine
Start with a few preventative measures that can stop a flea before it starts laying up to 40 eggs a day. PetMD suggests just one female flea on your pet can result in 20,000 live, biting fleas in 60 days.
Diffusion food grade diatomaceous earth in areas your pet frequents, inside and outside your home, should help kill fleas as soon as they arrive. This drying soil kills fleas by depriving their bodies of moisture. When spreading diatomaceous earth, make sure your pet does not ingest or inhale it. Check with your veterinarian before deciding to put it directly on your pet. It is a good idea to vacuum interior spaces to pick up dead fleas a few hours after applying this material.
Nematodes feed on many outdoor pests and are often used to protect homes and gardens. These helpful creatures can also help prevent fleas from gaining a foothold in your garden. You can buy beneficial nematodes by the millions for a reasonable price and spread them using a spray attachment on a hose.
Baking soda and salt
Like diatomaceous earth, you can spread a mixture of salt and baking soda to kill fleas and their eggs in areas inside your home. Leave this mixture in place for a few days before vacuuming. Be sure to empty the vacuum bag outdoors or replace the bag to ensure no fleas survive. Be aware that salt causes rust, so be diligent about cleaning surfaces with metal.
When fleas attack, fight back
THE American Kennel Club recommends using DIY shampoos and sprays to prevent fleas naturally. Mixing a quart of water, 1 cup of white or apple vinegar, and a cup of baby shampoo or liquid dish soap in a spray bottle will make a shampoo that you can apply twice a month to help prevent fleas.
The AKC also recommends applying lemon juice to repel fleas. When making a lemon wash, you will need four slices of fresh lemon, one tablespoon of salt, and six cups of water. Heat the water until it boils, then add the lemon and salt and remove from the heat after two minutes. Let the ingredients infuse for 24 hours. Strain the lemon before applying the mixture to your pet after bathing.
Before using essential oils, it is important to note that they can be toxic to pets. Use caution when using them where your animals or wildlife are active, and always consult your veterinarian before using these oils. The harmful effects of essential oils vary depending on the size of your dog or cat. Never use essential oils on or around your pet in a concentrated form, warns the American Kennel Club. Dilute them before using them on your pet.
cedar oil is a very effective flea repellent, but before application, dilute with distilled water – 10 drops of cedar oil per 200 ml (about 6 ¾ ounces) of water. Be sure not to spray anywhere near your pet’s face or anywhere they might lick. Apply it to your pet’s neck by misting it into your hands and rubbing it into the neck area. You can also treat their bedding and support with cedarwood oil to repel fleas and ticks.
Lavender is a powerful flea repellent; herbs and lavender oil are effective. To make your pet shampoo work against your dog’s fleas, add five to 10 drops of lavender oil. This essential also helps reduce skin irritation caused by flea bites. Do not use it on cats, as they have toxic reactions to lavender that dogs are not as sensitive to.
Lemongrass is an active ingredient in many natural flea sprays. Make your own flea repellent by adding five drops of lemongrass oil in a four-ounce spray bottle, then fill it with water, shake it up, and use it on your pet, furniture, or carpet for flea control. Always avoid spraying essential oils near or on your pet’s face.
Rosemary is the last of the essential oils to consider for flea control. Add five to eight drops to your dog’s shampoo to help ward off fleas and soothe existing bites. If you have a rosemary plant, take some of the needle-like leaves and rub them into your pet’s coat to refresh their flea defenses. With cats, it is better to use the leaves than the oil, because ingesting rosemary oil can upset their stomach.
The natural choice is yours
Fleas are a recurring nuisance, especially in hot climates, affecting pets and humans. Essential oils can be helpful, use them with caution and with the advice of your veterinarian. In severe cases, professional pest control may be required.
Prevention is crucial. Inspect your pets regularly and choose non-toxic methods such as diatomaceous earth, beneficial nematodes, and homemade flea sprays to keep fleas away without harming yourself, your pet, or the wildlife near you.