Fleas… oh the horror!

We love our pets, and we give them the best care we can. Sometimes though, things happen. Getting rid of fleas can be a nightmare! Especially when you have multiple animals in your home. It takes vigilance, and a good preventative program. Obviously, we all know about topicals like Frontline and Advantage. As much as we hate to put chemicals on our pets, there aren’t a lot of other options to keep ticks and fleas off our much-loved animals. But there are some alternative and natural treatments that can help too.

kitten in the grass

First though, the best offense, as they say, is a good defense. Once fleas get into your home, they can be incredibly difficult to get rid of. So the best plan is to keep them from getting there. Keep a close eye on your pets, especially after being outside for any length of time. Bathe them and groom them once or twice a month – not more or the natural oils of their coats will strip away –  feeling over their bodies for any bumps or bites. Get a flea comb and once or twice a week, run it over each pet, checking for any flea “dirt”. If any signs are present, bathe with a flea shampoo. If you use a topical, apply it regularly each month, especially in the spring/summer months. Mark reminders on your phone or other calendar so as not to forget to apply.

Check your pets bedding regularly, and wash it weekly. Fleas lay their eggs in bedding, and in areas where pets spend a lot of time. Fleas will not survive a trip through the washing machine. If you have hardwood floors, sweep them every few days. Carpeting can be more difficult to deal with a flea issue, but regular vacuuming will help.  Shampooing and/or steam cleaning can also help, but there are mixed views on this, as fleas thrive in warm/moist environments. The best method is to keep floors clear and pet bedding washed.

There are sprays and topicals which can be used on pets, and also sprays designed for home use, on bedding, fabrics, carpets, and upholstery. Of course, the chemicals in these products are not always pleasant, and sprays can leave a residue. These produts all contain pesticides, so be extremely cautious with their use. Do not use them anywhere near food prep areas. And honestly, many pets do have reactions to them.

An alternative, popular – and non-chemical – treatment, is Diatomaceous Earth. DE is a naturally occurring, soft, silica type sedimentary rock, that is easily crumbled into a fine white to off-white powder. The fine powder absorbs lipids from the waxy outer layer of insects’ exoskeletons, causing them to dehydrate. DE is safe to use on pets and around your home. It can even be ingested by animals and humans. It is often fed to livestock to kill internal parasites. To use DE to get rid of fleas in your home, make sure you get food grade diatomaceous earth. You can purchase it at garden stores, and livestock feed stores for about $10-$15 for a 20lb bag. First thoroughly clean/sweep/vacuum all floors and bedding areas. Then spread a fine layer of DE on your floors wherever pet bedding is down, in corners, under furniture, and anywhere that is not easily reached by a broom or vacuum cleaner. DE can be put directly on your pet’s bedding. It can also be safely used directly on your pets. Rub it into their coats, down to the skin, similarly as you would flea powder. DE is a very fine powder. Be very careful that you or your pets not inhale it, and be careful not to get it in your pets eyes, ears or mouth. DE will kill fleas in 48-72 hours. You can leave a fine layer down indefinitely, as it will continue to work to rid the area of fleas. You can reapply on pets 2 or 3 times, every 3 days until the fleas are gone.

There are many options out there for controlling fleas. Choose carefully, and always do the best for your pets!

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