A Natural Approach to Flea Prevention

Fleas are a nuisance for you and a cause of discomfort for your pet.  These parasites can become especially problematic during the warmer Spring and Summer months.  Worse yet, the itchy little buggers have begun to develop resistance to the most commonly used chemical prevention methods.Closeup of a flea

Over the counter and prescription flea treatments typically contain either pyrethrin or permethrin, which are two chemical ingredients that are very similar to one another.  (The difference is that pyrethrin is derived from a plant source, while permethrin is synthesized in a lab to mimic the plant derivative.)  Newer products like Imidicloprid and fipronyl are also now available over the counter as well as at many veterinary clinics.

These compounds are used very frequently by pet owners, but the flea infestation is seldom resolved completely.  As a result, fleas are exposed to the chemical, but not terminated.  By being routinely exposed to the chemical, fleas have been able to become increasingly tolerant of the products until finally developing a resistance.

The worst part about chemical flea treatments is the cumulative damage to the animal’s immune system and liver function.  Each year, millions of pet owners saturate their pets’ skin with countless gallons of pesticides, only to find that they have not only been unsuccessful but also weakened their pet’s own defenses.  Fortunately, alternative parasite prevention methods are more effective, far less toxic, and much more budget-friendly.

When planning your natural parasite prevention protocol, it is very important that you plan to attack fleas from every angle.  In addition to treating the animal, you will also need to treat your pet’s home environment (both indoors and outdoors) in order to avoid an ongoing season-long battle against infestation.  You won’t need a hazmat suit or any special equipment for any of the suggested therapies that have been listed for you here.  All of these treatment methods are 100% safe for  your pet and your family, so you can relax and feel good about the care you are providing for the animals you love.

Let’s start with the home environment:

Inside Your Home

One of the most important things you can do to control flea infestations inside your home is to vacuum regularly.  Vacuuming removes fleas, eggs, and larvae from upholstery, carpeting, and behind baseboards.  It’s an essential part of the overall control of the flea population in your home.  Vacuuming may also speed up the emergence of adult fleas from the larval stage, which causes them to be exposed to other methods of control sooner.

Fleas are also attracted to warmth, so placing a dish of soapy water near warm areas (such as a sunny window sill) has been proven to help some.  Adult fleas will get bogged down by soapy residue and drown in the dish.  Keep in mind that this only helps with adults, however.  Electric flea traps (“plug-ins”) are also a very effective option and contain no potentially toxic substances.

Another beneficial treatment for the home is the use of either boric acid or diatomaceous earth. These are both fine powders that can be sprinkled on carpeting and furniture, and around baseboards. These powders penetrate flea respiratory systems and essentially asphyxiate them.  They’re both very cheap and can be purchased over the counter at pet stores, home improvement stores, and natural supplement shops.

To use either of these products simply sprinkle them on your floor and furniture and leave them down for 20-30 minutes. Working the powder into the carpet with your feet can improve efficacy. After 30 minutes simply vacuum it up. Your pets should be kept off the carpet for the 30 minute treatment, but after that it’s totally safe for all pets and people.

Outside Your Home

As you know, some of the most toxic substances are the ones used in lawn care.  These pesticides have serious potential side effects for both pets and humans.  As a natural alternative, many people have found great success with the use of beneficial nematodes.  These are tiny organisms that are naturally found in soil throughout the world.  They work by entering the body of the flea and releasing toxins that are only harmful to insects.  For pet owners who favor a natural approach to animal care, beneficial nematodes should be considered the first and best line of defense for the control of fleas and other insects in outdoor environments.

On Your Pet’s Skin

For the control of flea populations on your dog’s skin, essential oils are surprisingly effective.  Please note that certain oils can be harmful for cats, so essential oils should only be used for dogs.  Oils that have been proven effective in flea control include:

  • Peppermint Oil
  • Eucalyptus Oil
  • Citronella Oil
  • Lavender Oil
  • Lemongrass Oil
  • Rosemary Oil

Fortunately, these oils are readily available at most health supply stores, but you’ll need to make sure that you’re using only therapeutic grade oils.  They are also easily obtained from many holistic veterinarians.  Essential oils will not only protect your pet against harmful ectoparasites, but they also smell nice!  The oils will improve the condition of your dog’s coat and give the skin’s barrier function a boost.  It’s important to note, however, that many of these substances will require more frequent application than the commercially-available pesticide-based “spot on” preventatives.  Speak with your veterinarian to get recommendations for the amount you should apply, as well as frequency.

For cats, citrus is a great flea repellent.  It is perfectly safe and can be applied as often as you’d like.   Lemons are known to kill the fleas that are already on your pet, as well as deter any new fleas that may arrive.  Other citrus fruits, such as grapefruit and oranges, are also effective deterrents.  There are a number of ways that you can use citrus to prevent fleas on your pet’s skin, including rubbing the fruit directly on the coat, using the extract from the peels, or mixing the juices with water and applying the mixture as a spray.

Natural flea prevention is easy, affordable, and it works!  By taking a natural approach to parasite prevention, you are also protecting your pet from the harmful long-term side effects that come along with a lifetime of pesticide exposure.

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