Tips on Natural Flea Control
These pesky insects can be the bane of pet-owners everywhere. In the South, the climate allows fleas to have a year round free-for-all. But even in the North, where frost kills outdoor flea populations, the flea can continue to flourish inside households.
To keep fleas and their immature forms under control means constant vigilance. An animal with only a handful of adult fleas in its coat may have literally thousands in the egg, larval and pupae stages. To gain control, both the animal and its environment must be treated.
TREATING YOUR PET
Healthy animals are a lot less bothered by parasites than the weak and unhealthy. A good quality diet is important. Plenty of fresh food in a balanced diet or high quality premium pet foods without preservatives are a plus. Adding nutritional yeast to the pet’s food helps make the animal less attractive to the fleas. Add 1/2 to 1 teaspoon yeast two times a day for cats or small dogs, up to 1 to 4 tablespoons per meal for larger dogs.
Flea Control Formulas
For natural flea control for your pet, an excellent formula is the lemon rinse recommended by Dr. Pitcairn in his book, Natural Health Care for Dogs and Cats. It is good for the skin, repels fleas and, if necessary, can be used daily.
Thinly slice a whole lemon and pour 1 pint nearly boiling water over it. Steep overnight. Sponge onto pet’s skin and let it dry. Repeat daily or as needed.
For bathing use shampoo with D-Limonene (made from citrus peels). It quickly kills fleas and is relatively safe, but does not have any residual effect. Alternatives are Dr. Bronner’s Castile Soaps with Almond or Eucalyptus.
Herbal repellents are also commercially available. These products contain repellent plant oils like citronella, eucalyptus, and pine oil.
TREATING THE SURROUNDINGS
For the environment we recommend steam cleaning carpets and vigilant vacuuming. The pet’s bedding should be washed weekly and its areas restricted (do not let it sit on furniture, for example).
Infestations can be treated by applying boric acid powder, such as 20 Mule Team Borax found in the laundry section of the grocery store, or diatomaceous earth to carpets and cracks in floors and baseboards. Vacuum frequently, at minimum weekly, removing the vacuum bag and contents each time and disposing of it in outdoor garbage or burn the bag.
For serious infestations pressure sprays with pyrethrin-based insecticides and Precor (Methoprene) or Nylar, an insect growth regulator, may be necessary. These products are sprayed on carpets, floors, furniture and pet bedding as needed. Follow directions carefully.
Another Herbal Approach
Greg Tilford, an herbalist with Apawthecary, recommends herbal cleansing and nutrition for skin problems and flea allergies. Probiotics, digestive enzymes and essential fatty acids (fish oil, borage oil, flaxseed oil, etc.) all help digestive absorption and improve skin quality. These improvements will help discourage fleas. Many commercial sources are available. Probiotics and digestive enzymes aid in food absorption and digestion. Essential fatty acids improve skin and coat quality or health.
This is his formula for an herbal flea rinse:
Triple Punch Herbal Flea Rinse
Cover the following herbs with boiling water and let steep:
1 part Feverfew flowers
1 part Mullein flowers
1 part yarrow flowers
1 part celery seed, freshly ground, or a
couple of drops of sweet orange
3 parts Calendula flowers
Use this as a rinse over the animal’s skin.
Many problems with fleas are due to an animal’s sensitivity to fleas, known as flea allergy dermatitis, which can cause even more serious skin conditions. For such pets just one bite from a flea can cause hours of licking and scratching. In this situation flea control is of utmost importance.
Dr. Pitcairn’s Complete Guide to Natural Health for Dogs and Cats by Richard H. Pitcairn, DVM, PhD and Susan Hubble Pitcairn, Rodale Press.
The New Natural Cat by Anitra Frazier, Plume Book.