‘Tis the Season For Fleas!

We’re coming up on a time of the year when fleas start to become more active. Here are a few quick tips to stay ahead of fleas (and ticks) effectively without harmful chemicals:

Protect your yard

  • Nematodes: When soil temperatures rise above 45 degrees for at least 2 to 3 weeks (spring, summer and fall in most areas), apply nematodes to your yard to minimize flea populations. Nematodes (microscopic worms) eat flea larvae and do not hurt beneficial insects. They can be found at many plant nurseries. (Portland Peeps: they stock them at Garden Fever right down the street from us).
  • Diatomaceous earth – sprinkle in the yard where dogs spend the most time, especially if they have regular “resting spots”.
  • Keep it Clean and Dry: Fleas like shady, sandy, and moist areas, so be sure to remove yard debris, and keep grass mowed short in shady spots.

Protect your House

  • Vacuum 1x per week: Give the house a regular deep vacuuming, concentrating on cracks between floor boards and between baseboards and flooring, and move slowly over carpets to ensure a deeper clean. Dispose of your bag/empty your canister or suck up some diatomaceous earth or boric acid to kill live fleas inside the vacuum.  An occasional steam clean might even be helpful.
  • Boric acid: After vacuuming, move pets out of the room and sprinkle a boric acid flea powder over carpets and use a broom to sweep the powder into the fibers and leave it there for a week. Less toxic than table salt (but it’s not to be used directly on the pet), Boric Acid will help to kill fleas as they hatch by desiccating them (they can’t build up a resistance). Make sure you put it in dark places like the bottom of closets, under beds and under couches, etc. You can use boric acid powder to protect hard floors (in the cracks and crevices) by dissolving 1/4 cup of powder in 2 cups hot water. Shake well to make sure fully dissolved, spray, and leave for 5 days before any mopping/cleaning of floors. Here’s a good article that discusses Boric Acid more completely.  Diatomaceous Earth could be used in similar ways, but it takes more effort to work it into carpets with a broom, and you want to make sure you protect yourself and others from breathing it too much – it can be an irritant as you sprinkle it around.
  • Wash your pet’s bedding: Use hot soapy water (and an unscented laundry detergent is best for your pets) at least once per week during flea season.

Protect Your Pet

  • Use a repellent on animals that go outdoors: Check out Mad About Organics products for cats or dogs (the spray is a great mosquito repellent for humans as well!) or Wondercide spray to keep fleas and ticks away from your dogs. (Wondercide says that it’s safe for cats, but we’ve had a few reports from customers that make us feel like it is not)
  • Use a flea comb to check your pets regularly: (especially after field trips to natural areas) to screen for fleas or flea dirt, so you can spring into action and prevent a full-blown infestation. Flea dirt looks like little black specks. Sometimes you see them in a flea comb even if you don’t find a flea, and they mean fleas are in fact present! When in doubt, put the specks onto a wet paper towel and see if they turn reddish – flea dirt is dried blood). Pro tip for using a flea comb: if your pet has fleas, put a few drops of dish soap into a little bowl of water and put the fleas into it as you remove them. Trying to kill them between your fingernails is difficult, and the soap makes sure they drown instead of hopping away.
  • Bathe pets more frequently: Natural flea shampoos kill fleas and often have herbal smells to help repel fleas after bathing. (Check out Mad About Organics gentle flea shampoos – there’s even one for cats, if your cats are cool with bathing). Truly, any pet shampoo will kill fleas as long as you let it sit. Pro tip for letting it sit when you have an impatient dog: smear peanut butter along the inside edge of the tub (not where it can get soapy) and let them lick it off to keep them busy. Ignore advice to use Dawn or other dishwashing soap – it can really strip the oils from the coat and create an itchy dry situation for the skin.
  • Protect pets internally with a product like Earth Animals’ Internal Flea Powder – By simply adding the Internal Powder to your animal’s daily diet, the combination of nutrients, vitamins & minerals helps change your dog or cat’s odor so that fleas, ticks, mosquitoes and insects do not like the scent or taste of the blood.
  • Take a Look at the Diet You Feed: One of the most important parts of the puzzle may be your pet’s diet. The better a pet’s nutrition is, the healthier their skin and coat will be and also the stronger their immune system will be. Fleas are parasites, and parasites prey on the weak. Pets that seem to be guaranteed to get fleas every year no matter what may be showing you their diet needs improvement. Here’s a link to help you evaluate the ingredients in your pet’s food and see if you can get rid of some of the ingredients that might be working against the health of your pet. Even better, transition your dog to a fresh, whole food diet and watch your pets become healthier and more flea resistant before your eyes! There are good safe commercially made raw, cooked,  dehydrated and freeze dried diets out there – check with your local independent retailer for alternatives to dry, processed kibble diets.

Happy Spring!

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