Natural Flea Control
By Douglas Knueven, DVM
By the end of the summer, fleas often become a nuisance for our pets. Sometimes, the situation can become life threatening. One important principle to understand is that the problem really begins in the spring, when the fleas first emerge.
Flea prevention is always easier than trying to cope with an infestation. Once you see fleas on your pet, the first battle is lost and the war is about to begin. In the spring, before the bugs are out, is the time to start flea control.
From a natural, holistic standpoint, flea prevention begins with a truly healthy pet. A strong pet with a vigorous constitution is less susceptible to any parasite. Of course the foundation for a healthy pet is a natural, nutritious diet. (I have already written about natural diets.)
Ultimately, our pets contact fleas from the out of doors, so this is an obvious place to begin flea control. Treating your yard for fleas does not mean you have to address the entire 50 acres that you own. Even if your pet roams far and wide, setting up a buffer zone right around the house will help stop a problem.
For the treatment of your yard, I recommend the use of friendly nematodes. This natural flea control is so safe, effective and unusual that I'll go into a little detail to explain it.
Nematodes are microscopic worms that feed on the larvae of fleas and other insect pests. They are totally harmless to people, animals and insects that are not harmful to the lawn and garden.
More than 230 pests are susceptible to these little critters including cabbage root maggots, gypsy moth larvae, Japanese beetles, strawberry weevils and white grubs, as well as fleas. Nematodes are the good guys of the parasite world.
The best part is that these nematodes cause no problems of their own. If there are no insects for them to eat, they die off. You don't have to worry about the toxic effects that chemicals can have on animals, well water and the environment. Besides, isn't it great to kill a parasite with a parasite? Give them a taste of their own medicine.
Friendly nematodes may be difficult to find. I am familiar with a product called Scanmask. Look for it at garden stores or the office of your ecologically minded veterinarian.
Another means of keeping fleas off your pet is to use a natural, topical treatment that repels fleas. Aromatic oils such as citronella and pennyroyal give off a smell that repels insects.
The Halo Company makes an herbal dip that uses this principle. This versatile liquid can be diluted and applied directly to the pet, added to regular shampoo to make a natural flea shampoo, or made into a spray for daily application. As a bonus, this flea product actually smells nice, unlike many chemical dips and sprays.
A final natural flea tip is to get a flea comb and use it daily on your pet. A flea comb has finely spaced teeth that can pull the fleas and loose fur off your pet. This technique can serve as an early detection method allowing you to really jump on a flea infestation before it gets out of hand.
Remember that for every flea you find on your pet, there are 10 more in the immediate environment. These prolific creatures lay hundreds of eggs each day. Whatever method you choose to control fleas, do not procrastinate, and start flea prevention in the spring.
Make Your Own Natural Lemon Flea Dip
Here is a simple safe formula to make your own natural flea dip. Thinly slice one whole lemon, peel and all. Add it to one pint of near-boiling water and let steep over night. The next day, sponge the solution onto your pet's skin and let it dry. You can repeat the procedure daily for severe flea problems.
Lemons are a source of natural flea-killing substances such as d-limonene plus other healing ingredients. Be careful not to get the solution in your pet's eyes and do not apply to irritated skin.