Can I Eliminate Fleas without Using Poisons?
You can treat flea infestations naturally using Integrated Pest Management (IPM). There are non-toxic methods of flea control.
Remove area rugs during the flea season. (If you are considering a remodel or new construction, choose alternatives to wall-to-wall carpeting, cork, wood, ceramic or linoleum (not vinyl) flooring.)
Vacuum carpeting daily during most intense infestation, cutting back to weekly when it is under control. Seal the vacuum bag each time and put it in a freezer to kill the fleas before reusing.
Wash dog bedding weekly in hot water and a low toxic detergent such as Ecover,, vinegar or hydrogen peroxide (this is a whitening agent)
Comb daily with a flea comb to establish the number of fleas and to keep them in check. Comb around the tail, stomach, face where they tend to collect in greater quantities.
Fleas have a respiratory system and are killed by drowning. Bathe your dog weekly with a non insecticidal soap. Frequent bathing can dry out their skin—do not over bathe. Increase the essential fatty acids in their diet to help compensate for more frequent bathing. If you use a soap or shampoo, use a non scented hypo-allergenic shampoo such as Logana “Free Shampoo and Shower Gel” 800 648-6654.
Hire a professional to steam clean your carpeting, furniture and dog bedding. Use only hot water in the steam cleaning—no additives. The hot steam will kill the adult fleas and larvae and encourage the flea eggs to hatch. Vacuum daily within 2 days after the steam cleaning treatment to capture the newly hatched fleas. Be thorough—move all furniture and vacuum underneath and in all corners.
Bathe your dog right after steam cleaning.
Keep your dog confined to areas of the house that are easy to manage when a flea problem exists (close off basements, bedrooms)
An infrared heat treatment is an alternative to steam cleaning your furniture and carpet.
A light trap will attract and kill adult fleas. A sticky tape or pan of low toxic soapy water beneath a hanging light bulb will catch the flea that is attracted to the warmth of the bulb. Commercially available flea traps can be found through Whitmire Research 800 325 3668
Outdoor flea infestations can be diminished by:
Flooding the yard with water––the areas your dog frequents are the most effective. Use this strategy during the peak flea season to help keep your inside flea population down.
Apply beneficial nematodes, a tiny worm that infect and kill the flea larvae. They need moist soil and soil temperatures at least 55 degrees F. They are available through Gardens Alive 800
A healthy dog is less likely to be the target for fleas. Fleas seem to ‘know” who is under the weather in the canine household. If you are not already feeding a raw meat diet, or a human quality canned dog food, this is the time to shift gears. A healthy immune system will make your dog less tasty to a flea.
Garlic in their diet helps some dogs repel fleas
A vitamin B complex (with vitamin B1) helps deter the fleas as well. Brewers yeast contains vitamin B1—note that some dogs are allergic to brewers yeast.
Topical: essential oils can help deter infestation—Mix 10 drops of an essential oil to 1 tablespoon of olive oil:. Spray on your dog as a repellent (prepared products often contain a synergist—identify and research the inert before using):
cedar, tea tree, eucalyptus, pennyroyal (toxic to cats) citronella, lavender or a lemon rinse-steep a cut up lemon or two in a quart of boiling water and allow to coo. Use liquid as a rinse or sponge onto the coat.
Consult a holistic veterinarian to help boost the health of your dog’s immune system: acupuncture, Chinese herbs, Homeopathy, Vitamins
Least Toxic Methods of Flea Control
(Avoid if asthmatic or in upper respiratory conditions)
Dusts applied to the carpeting can effectively kill adult fleas. Care must be taken when applying since the dusts can cause breathing problems in humans and animals and exacerbate asthmatic conditions. Wear a mask when handling and apply close to the carpet surface ( avoid creating airborne dusts). They will dehydrate the flea and within a couple days, will have the adult flea population under control. Vacuum areas to remove the residual. Apply at the beginning of your flea season.
Diatomaceous earth and silica aerogels are chemically inert dusts. Use only food grade (natural) diatomaceous earth—avoid swimming pool grade.
Twenty Mule Team Borax (without scent)s available in your grocery store
Boric acid (avialable through your state Organic Society)
Commercial Flea Busters /Rx For Fleas (800 765 flea) can be hired to apply sodium polyborate (100% active ingredient) to your carpets.
While tests show toxicity, the chemical is toxic when exposed to broken skin. Be careful when applying any dust to your home environment.
Less Toxic Methods of Flea Control
Insecticidal soaps made by Safer, Inc. are available for treating animals in indoor and outdoor environments Pyrethrum is added to the soap and is toxic to humans, animals and insects. Cats and children are particularly at risk.
Very Toxic Methods of Flea Control
Products that contain active and inert ingredients that are not fully identified in their literature are the most dangerous products to bring into your home and yard. If the inerts are not fully disclosed, there is often a toxic chemical’s identity being hidden. Pesticides applied to our outdoors will be tracked inside. And those applied inside will be breathed and or ingested.
Organophosphate containing products—flea collars, dips, shampoos, foggers and sprays. These organophosphates cause cancer and neurotoxic damage to humans and animals. Cats are particularly at risk.
Carbamate products––flea collars, dips, shampoos, foggers and sprays are toxic to the brain and nervous system and can result in acute poisonings. Their damage to the endocrine system is well documented––increasing miscarriages and decreasing sperm count.
Pyrethrins and synthetic pyrethroid products––most commonly found in shampoos, sprays and dusts as well as some spot on preparations. (see health chart for health effects).
Spot on liquid flea products containing fipronil, imidacloprid, permethrins and methoprenes as active ingredients while newly introduced in this application, have a myriad of health problems associated with the active ingredients (see health chart for health effects).
D-Limonene products––sprays, shampoos, dips and spot on products can cause neurotoxic poisoning and it is suspected of causing cancer, birth defects, kidney damage and immune system damage.