Fleas – Taming the Creepy Critters

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puppy-1022421_960_720Advice on how to curb a flea and tick problem on your pets

Flea Facts:

  • Flea saliva has been called the most irritating substance known to man.
  • Fleas accelerate 50 times faster than the space shuttle after takeoff.
  • Fleas can jump 150 times their length equivalent to a human jumping 1000 feet.
  • Fleas can carry tapeworm, typhus, allergic reactions, and anemia.
  • One female flea can produce 200,000 in 60 days.

Of course the best defense is prevention. As far as prevention goes, fleas are less likely to attack a pet who is in good health and has a healthy coat. Good nutrition, including supplements and conditioners, go a long way in helping your pet cope with fleas.

Brushing your pet on a regular basis may also help, especially if your pet spends time outdoors. Brushing helps remove any fleas and flea eggs that your pet may have picked up.

Check your pet regularly using “Warren’s White Towel Test.” By rolling your pet in a white towel, you will see the fleas and flea dirt (brown specks) if fleas are present. If you suspect that you have fleas in your house, put on a pair of white socks, and walk around for a bit. Take them off, and dip them in water – if you see red specks, that indicates flea dung and you should treat for fleas. For people who live in suburban areas, keep your lawn cut short. This helps keep your lawn drier, and fleas prefer a moist environment.

Putting flea and tick collars and/or treatments on your pet can also help keep them safe. There are many options for you to use, both over-the-counter and prescription. Whatever treatment you decide to use, be sure that you read all directions, or talk to your veterinarian about proper applications, since these treatments often vary based on the weight and age of your pet. Many treatments offer protection against fleas AND ticks, but be sure to read the instructions first.

If your pet tests positive for fleas after the white towel test, he or she can be shampooed, dipped, sprayed or dusted with a flea control product. If you opt to treat your pet yourself (instead of having your veterinarian or groomer do it), always follow the manufacturer’s label directions, never mix products, and never use a product made specifically for dogs on cats or vice versa. Following the label directions is the best way to ensure the safe, effective removal without harming your pet.

If you opt to spray or dust, here’s a helpful hint – wrap a towel around your pet for a few minutes after the product’s application to help maximize the number of fleas killed.

If you find a tick on your dog, try to remove it as quickly as possible. Take a pair of tweezers, grasp the head of the tick, and pull it straight out. Don’t believe any of the old wives’ tales of putting alcohol or matches on the tick… that won’t help! Once you’ve removed the tick, put it in a container of rubbing alcohol. Watch the area where the tick bit for any signs of allergy or reaction. If there is a reaction, you can take the tick to be tested for diseases.

Ticks usually nest in the head, neck and paw areas of your pet. Check your cat or dog every time they come inside for ticks… the earlier you find them, the less chance your dog will have problems or catch diseases.

As fleas become increasingly resistant to the synthetic chemicals, manufacturers are making their products stronger, and in some cases more dangerous.

I prefer a natural approach. You may want to try some of these natural alternatives.

Three organic flea fighters:

  • Pyrethin – – derived from flower heads.
  • D-limone — by-product of the citrus industry
  • Organic Phosphates — Diatomaceous Earth — it’s messy but can work well.

You can use these herbs and essential oils:

  • Cedar
  • Eucalyptus
  • Pennyroyal
  • Rosemary oil

And among many natural products now on the market you could try HERBAL FLEA SPRAY by NaturVet for your pets and pet bedding. It contains essential oils of Cedar and Rosemary and you can find it in my online store.

Some people, who prefer a natural approach to flea control, swear by adding brewers yeast or garlic to their pets’ diets.

Use borax on carpets which will dry the fleas out

I make my own spray with lemons, grapefruit or limes – fleas do not like citrus! Take the skins of the citrus fruit, cut them into quarters and put them in a large pot. Cover with water and let them boil for several minutes. Turn off the heat and let them steep. When cool, strain off the fruit residue. You can spray directly on your dog or in the house. Since many cats hate citrus, it may not be a good idea for cats.

It is not sufficient to only treat your pet. The key to effective flea control requires a two-pronged approach – treatment of your pet, and treatment of your pet’s environment. And if your pet spends any time in your yard, that means treatment of the yard, as well as treatment of your home.

Ideally, your pet’s environment should be treated on the same day as your pet is treated. If you opt to do it yourself by using flea bombs in your home, it is critical to follow all the manufacturer’s directions and warnings.

Another approach is the application of a water-based flea spray on your pet’s bedding, carpets and other areas your pet frequents. Here, again, you must read and follow the manufacturer’s label directions. It’s also a good idea to wash your pet’s bedding frequently. And if your pet sleeps with you, you’ll need to wash your bedding frequently, too!

Vacuuming regularly will help pick up some of the fleas and their eggs. Cut up a flea collar and put it in your vacuum cleaner bag to ensure that the fleas and eggs you pick up will not survive to re-infest your home.

If your pet spends time in your yard, treat the outdoor environment with products commercially available. Remember, your pet might have been treated for fleas, but other animals (i.e., squirrels, stray cats) may carry them into your yard. Again, it’s important to follow all label directions and warnings.

If you’d rather not do the treatment yourself, you can hire a professional exterminating company to do the job. Be sure to let them know about all the pets in your home, and ask them to use nontoxic products which eliminate the need for your family (including your four-footed members) to leave the house.

The key to successful flea control is the simultaneous treatment of your pet and the environment. By following the above, you can be flea-free.