Dear Ms. Green Clean,
We are traveling to visit my parents, and I am concerned because they routinely have flea issues because of their four dogs that are outside much of the day and inside on carpets, couch, and beds in the evening. I love my parents, but don’t want to bring fleas home to our house and cat, not to mention the flea bites my children leave with from playing with the dogs on the floor. Any advice?
—Flea Bitten in Kansas
Dear Flea Bitten in Kansas,
Fleas are not fun! Nor should they be tolerated. Many do not know that fleas can lead to tapeworms as fleas consume tapeworm eggs. If the flea is infested with tapeworm, once the flea bites into the victim, the tapeworm can be released into the blood stream. In addition, anemia is an issue for animals if they are repeatedly bitten over a long period of time. Sadly, traditional methods of treatment are known for their toxic ingredients, and have side effects to both pets and humans.
In April of this year, the EPA reported intensifying its research on spot-on flea and tick treatments due to increased health issues. Concerns ranged from mild irritations, to seizures, and even death. The products being evaluated are primarily the spot-on flea and tick treatments, but also the flea collars, sprays, and shampoos— many of which caution contact by humans. Some of the more common insecticides to watch out for are methylcarbamate, carbaryl, sevin, rotenone, pyrethrins, and piperonyl butoxide. With this in mind, it is extremely wise to seek out natural solutions to protect the health of your family, pets, and home. Highlighted below is a breakdown of steps to take to prevent, treat, clean, and even eat your way to ward off and get rid of these pesky pests.
Seven Steps to Prevent & Treat Fleas
1. Grooming: Comb though your pet’s coat with a flea comb designed to reach deep into the hair shaft and retrieve not only fleas, but their eggs. Next, thoroughly wash your dog or your own hair with natural shampoo. For the final rinse of your hair, use a 32- to 64-ounce container that the following drops of essential oil have been added to, then pour over your hair/pet’s hair, from the roots down. (Note: This recipe is for dogs and humans, not for cats, as they are highly sensitive to essential oils). When using avoid the eyes, nose, and mouth.
• 10 drops of the following: peppermint, lavender and lemon
• 20 drops of the following: geranium and rosemary
Do not rinse or apply hair products after this; simply pat your hair and your pet’s fur with a towel and allow to air dry. To prevent reoccurrence, consider applying a final rinse of all essential oils (using only 1/4 amount of oil drops) to rinse hair/fur weekly.
2. Diet: Mix into your dog’s food, 1/4 teaspoon of finely minced raw garlic and one tablespoon of Brewers Yeast (also known as Nutritional Yeast). Note: Avoid feeding a pregnant pet garlic, as it may cause it to lose its litter. Some research shows that cats can not tolerate garlic in any amount. If in doubt, contact your veterinarian clinic for guidance.
3. Laundry: Bedding, towels, and clothing must all be washed in hot water (or the hottest your clothing material will allow) with natural detergent mixed with 2 cups Mule Team Borax. If fabric-safe, dry on hottest setting in dryer, or hang out in full sun.
4. Vacuum: Vacuum carpet with a high-suction vacuum. Vacuum well, remembering to pay close attention to all edges, under furniture, behind doors, and make sure to vacuum all upholstery and couch pillows. Disposing of vacuum contents is also very important to avoid contaminating the area again. For bag-less vacuums, take outside, remove canister, and dump into garbage bag. Seal immediately and place in can outside of your home. If you have a bag in your vacuum, throw the entire bag away in a sealed garbage bag and place in a can outside of your home.
5. Applying Treatment: Make sure that all children and pets are out of the room and will not re-enter until the process of the next step is complete. Place Mule Team Borax in a large shaker container (32-ounce spice bottle size), or simply open a small hole on the side of box and with a wide, sweeping motion, apply an even coating to vacuumed, dry carpet. Generally one box of Borax will cover a 9 by 6 room. Leave Borax coating on for 15 to 24 hours and vacuum with a clean shop vac.
6. Carpet Cleaning: Once the above treatment is finished, rent a professional grade/high-extraction carpet cleaner from your local hardware store. Using 1/8 cup of Natural Vegetable Soap, mix in 20 drops of organic peppermint oil to soap and add to a full tank of hot water. Wash carpet in several directions to lift the fibers thoroughly. Allow to air dry naturally or use a drying fan/dehumidifier to speed the process.
7. Exterior Treatment: Since your pet is bringing fleas in from the outdoors, consider the locations you allow your pet access to. If your pet’s primary stomping ground is your backyard, taking matters into your own hands will be easier. Fleas love shady, moist areas, and locating these hot spots in your yard is the first step. Once located sprinkle a product called Diatomaceous Earth around all shrubs and beds, avoiding the root systems of vegetation. Follow all instructions on the packaging and remember to wear a mask when applying this fine powder material. Diatomaceous Earth is made of the crushed shells of tiny sea creatures and works wonders. Another excellent solution, but little known is Nematodes. Nematodes are microscopic worms that eat flea larvae. Just place them in shady areas (they can not survive in the sun), and allow them to do their work. You can purchase Nematodes at www.gardensalive.com. For more information on pet health and safety tips: www.epa.gov/pesticides/health/pets.html.
Good luck and happy traveling,
Ms. Green Clean
If you have a question for Rebecca Reynolds, a.k.a. Ms. Green Clean, contact her at Rebecca@greenclean.biz.