How to keep pets at bay all year long
By Stacy Mantle
You don’t have to share your home with pets to find yourself falling victim to a flea infestation, but the chances of you seeing fleas are a lot higher with pets. While chemical-based flea repellents are the easiest way to treat, they are also the most dangerous method and [could] pose a risk to you, your pets and your family.
Late last year, the EPA agreed that many of the flea and tick collars on the market are dangerous and have cancelled registrations of collars containing the flea-fighting agent, propoxur, which includes collars manufactured by Wellmaker International and Sergeant’s Pet Care Products Inc.
According to the EPA, “The registrants agreed to phase out the products by producing them until April 1, 2015, and stopping distribution after April 1, 2016. Although the products do not meet the current safety standard they do not pose a public health risk if label directions are followed.”
Don’t despair. There are many ways to control flea and tick infestations without waging chemical warfare on your family.
Know Your Enemy, Know Your Environment
The life cycle of a flea is three to four weeks, which is important to keep in mind when you first do battle with the pests. This is important to know because it can take you at least that long to eradicate them from your home. Fleas are notorious for learning how to adapt to situations, so be very vigilant to any symptoms of flea bites. As fleas can lay up to 60 eggs a day, and a cocoon surviving on average a year without feeding, infestations can happen quickly.
Temperature and humidity levels increase the likelihood of a flea and tick infestation. To see when conditions are at their worst in your area of the country, use the weather channel’s handy app.
Bathing Your Pet
Last year, DERMagic released the first “Flea Bar” that is formulated with diatomaceous earth (DE). This all-natural shampoo is made in the USA and provides protection against the pests. [DE is a desiccant; it works by drying out fleas’ waxy outer layer. They dehydrate and die.]
If you decide to purchase DE on your own, you need to ensure it is food-grade. DE used in pools has been processed by heat, which nullifies the insecticide benefits. It is often treated with toxic chemicals and is dangerous to use around you or your pets.
After shampooing, use a fine-toothed flea comb seeking out adult larvae or flea dust. The use of a flea comb should be done daily.
Cleaning Your Home
Vacuuming is one of the most effective ways to rid your home of fleas and it should be done frequently. After each vacuuming, you should remove the bag and clean filters right away. You should also plan on washing your pet’s bedding each week.
Apply DE in areas that flea infestation are most likely to occur. This includes pet bedding, carpeted areas, nooks and crevices where larvae are most likely to live.
Natural Pest Spray & Flea Traps
Other natural pest control favorites that I know work include: Buzz Guard Natural Insect Repellent, Mad About Organics Natural Insect Repellent, and NatuRepel from A Balanced K9. They are all highly effective and safe for dogs (although remember to use with caution – too much of anything is dangerous!) Remember, less is more with essential oils and they should never be used on or around cats. If you are in need of a household deterrent, one of the more effective (but natural) ones I’ve found is BioDefense. But, look around and you’ll find dozens of others that are all natural and safe if you follow directions closely.
Remember, all natural does NOT mean that they are safe to use on cats, so pay very close attention to labeling.
At night, placing a dish of soapy water beneath a small nightlight near where your pet sleeps can help trap the little creatures overnight. If you’re not comfortable having your pets around soapy water, there are many electric flea traps available that are safe and effective.
Flea infestations in pets are often linked to nutritional deficiencies and poor diets. One of the most important things you can do for your pets is keep them on a good diet. Feed your pets a superb diet that is natural and free from additives or preservatives. Other digestive aids such as omega 3s, fish oils and plant enzymes can sometimes help strengthen their immunity. While many “natural” websites tout the use of garlic or onion for your pets, these things can cause extreme toxicity in dogs and cats and should be avoided.
There has been a great deal of success in using nematodes, which are microscopic worms that eat flea larvae. Nematodes can be purchased at your local pet and garden stores (but they are virtually useless in the West where temps exceed 100 degrees). While studies are still ongoing, it’s widely accepted that nematodes do best in climates that have a sandy, moist soil. Initial results with studies in California, Texas and Louisiana have seen up to 95percent reduction in fleas. However, areas such as Florida have not seen those types of results.
Natural Control to Avoid
- Essential oils can be either very beneficial or extremely toxic in pets. For this reason, it’s important that you avoid using them on pets unless you have consulted with an expert.
- Brewer’s Yeast can result in skin allergies in many pets.
- Garlic can result in damage to your cat’s red blood cells, which may result in hemolytic anemia and eventual death. Dogs have also shown severe reactions to garlic, and so this common home remedy should be avoided.
About the Author: Stacy Mantle is the founder of PetsWeekly.com and the bestselling author of “Shepherd’s Moon.” Learn more great tips for living with animals by visiting PetsWeekly.com or get to know a little more about the author at www.StacyMantle.com.