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Alternatives to Poisons - Natural Methods for Flea Control

Flea control can be the most frustrating and difficult problem we can have with our pets. And where it's tempting to want to give your dog a pill or chemical application to make it go away, these methods carry real risks for your pet and even for you and your family. Controlling fleas using natural methods takes some dedication and consistency, but the benefits of removing toxic chemicals from your environment are invaluable.

Did you know that adult fleas represent only about 5% of the total population? Eggs, which are laid on and off the host animal, make up about 50% of the total population. Larvae, which feed on debris and organic matter in carpets and soil, make up 35% of the total. And pupae, 10% of the total, are suspended in a cocoon and are resistent to control efforts until they hatch. So, statistically speaking, your best efforts should be directed to controlling the eggs and larvae, which will prevent more fleas from being born.

Most flea control products are directed at adults, and most of these products are toxic chemicals that are poisonous to both you and your pet. Using flea bombs, sprays, dips and spot applications creates resistant-fleas, sick people and sick pets. More powerful, (and toxic) products are developed as new resistance levels develop. That's why you may have noticed that your spot application or flea pill isn't working?

The good news is that there are effective, safe ways to address fleas that are non-toxic. Start by addressing the major segments of the flea population, the eggs and larvae (85% of the population).

Outdoors
If your pets spend time outdoors, there is a biological control that preys on the flea larvae in the soil. A nematode, which is a tiny worm, is applied via lawn sprayer, and, within 24 hours, brings about a 90% decrease in the number of flea larvae. Find these products (brand names include Bio Flea Halt!, Interrupt, and ANTidote (which preys on both fire ants and fleas)) in pet stores and garden suppliers. They kill only the pest and they'll help keep your garden healthier as a bonus. Re-introduce these predators periodically - as they eat all the prey, the nemotodes will also die off for lack of food. Application is easy, just follow the label direction.

Indoors / Carpeted areas:
Boric acid products are a very inexpensive treatment that effectively kills larvae, without significant toxicity to people or pets. These products are marketed as flea controllers and carpet deodorizers. Sprinkle the powder on the carpet as directed, brush it in with a broom, and then vacuum the carpet. Flea larvae are killed via contact with the fine particles of borate power, yet the you and your pets are safe due to it's extremely low toxicity. Find Boric Acid products in your grocers cleaning aisle. Amazingly, applications remain effective for up to a year! Wear a face mask while applying, to avoid inhaling the dust and remove your animals during this process.

Indoors / Non-carpeted area: Keeping flooring and kennels clean is key. In addition, spot treat areas where your pet rests (the sofa, the pet bet or favorite blanket) with a boric acid product. Be sure to treat cushions and cracks in the furniture around your pets favorite spots. If your pet sleeps with you, regular washing of sheet and blankets in hot water and drying in the dryer will prevent any further breeding.

How do I get rid of the adult fleas on my pet?
The best tool for eliminating adult fleas is a good flea comb. Use this while you wait for the egg and larvae control to start working. Adult fleas can live for weeks, so attention must be paid here and you will be rewarded. A combined effort on all fronts will take about a month to show a noticeable decrease in the flea population. Use the flea comb over your pet every day. As you catch fleas, drown them in a glass of soapy water.

Bathing
Did you know that simply shampooing your pet with a thick lather will drown fleas? Leave the lather on for 3-5 minutes, and no toxic chemicals need be used. This method is not recommended if you are using a detergent shampoo, as detergent dries out the skin. Use an all-natural pet soap or organic castile shampoo instead (Tamarinda offers both!), to minimize harm to your pet's skin and coat. It is also not recommended that you use this method as a primary control for fleas, but, if fleas have exploded, it can be a quick solution to get you and your pet some relief. Natural shampoos with essential oils (lavender, citronella, pennyroyal, eucalyptus, etc.) provides a natural repellent that will discourage fleas from jumping on your pet.

Natural flea repellents
Other repellent essential oils and herbs are good for applying before walks in the park to deter new fleas from jumping onto your pet (Tamarinda's Lavender & Cedarwood spritz!). Most effective are essential oil based formulas (lavender, rosemary, mints, cedar) that are misted onto your pet's coat, paying special attention to legs and undercarriage, and avoiding eye contact. Not only is this method non-toxic to your pet, they also work as an effective deoderizer between baths.

A word about flea pills....
Flea pills subject our animals to an array of chemicals that their bodies simply cannot process. Our pets are not equipped to absorb, detoxify and eliminate these new, foreign compounds. Companies claim safety, however testing data is limited. No one is yet following these products over the long term to determine increased incidence of cancer, allergies, autoimmune disorders, etc. These products essentially alter the blood of your pet as a way to get to the flea - nothing about this method is natural and we never recommend exposing our pets to this.

Overexposure to everyday toxins
Our pets share our lives, our homes, our yards, and yet we unintentionally expose them to a multitude of toxins that make our lives easier, but are harmful to our most devoted, four-legged friends. Remember the fertilizers, herbicides and pesticides we put on our lawns? What about the detergents, cleansers, carpet cleaners, bug-sprays, disinfectants and anti-oder sprays we use in the house? Protect your pet (and you and your family too) and banish these products from your home. Reducing these toxins is a big step toward enjoying a healthier, longer-lived pet.