Friday, May 18, 2007

Flea Free

Ok, let me first state, I don't panic about fleas, even though I live in Coastal Southern California (otherwise known as Flea Central). First of all, my dog rarely has fleas. Second, I'm more afraid of the nerve toxins people are using on fleas than I am of fleas.

It wasn't too long ago that a few fleas were considered normal on a dog. Now if the dog itches the owners reach for the chemicals, even if they haven't found a single flea! So let's run down a list of ways to limit and deter fleas:

First - diet! The healthier the animal the less attractive they are to parasites. This doesn't happen overnight, so start now. Fresh, preferably raw food is #1. Certain foods added to the diet can help to condition the skin to be less attractive: small to moderate amounts of garlic (some people like the ease of garlic and yeast tablets) up to one clove a day for large dogs, a small amount of raw organic unfiltered apple cider vinegar to balance the pH, fish oil for omega-3 fatty acids, and even tonics like nettle, burdock, and dandelion for a round of detox.

Any soap kills fleas!! There is no need for flea dips or anything else. Just plain dog shampoo is fine. If you need to wash frequently get the gentlest you can (labeled hypoallergenic).

The flea comb is your best friend! Even heavily coated dogs can be combed on their belly. Just have a small dish of soapy water and push the fleas from the comb into it (keep the comb dry for ease of use on the next pass).

Treat the environment. If you must have carpet spend an afternoon scrubbing a boric acid product deep into it for longlasting help (buy one designed for this). No matter what kind of floor, when you vacumn suck up a little borax to dry out anything that my sprout in your vacumn bag. Use diatamacious earth under baseboards or other dark nooks. Pyrethrum powder (the real thing, from flowers, not pyrethrine the chemical) is another deterrant, though it is dark orange in color so be careful if that matters. Wash bedding at least every two weeks.

Use topical deterrants that won't harm you or your pet. BIG CAVEAT - essential oils can be dangerous to cats, so if using packaged products only use those that are labeled for cats). Use sprays before walks, they don't last long so daily use is needed. Neem spray is one option (works great for mosquitos too).

Here are a couple recipes you can make yourself, these are from "Holistic Aromatherapy for Animals" by Kristen Leigh Bell.

Dog Flea Spritz
(makes 8 oz, store in dark bottle, shake well before use).
1 tsp vegetable glycerin
1/2 oz grain alcohol or vodka
1 tsp sulfated castor oil
10 drops grapefruit seed extract
7 oz distilled or spring water
4 drops Clary Sage essential oil
1 drop Citronella essential oil
7 drops Peppermint essential oil
3 drops Lemon essential oil

If you want to use just drops rather than a spray, use the essential oils above in 1/2 oz of carrier oil (like sweet almond or hazelnut oil).

Cat Flea Spritz (note: this uses hydrosols, not oils!)
1 oz Lavender hydrosol
1 oz Lemon Verbena hydrosol
1 oz Rosemary hydrosol
1 oz Vodka (or 1/2 oz grain alcohol)
4 oz spring or distilled water.

Notice I didn't get into ticks - that's another story!