Soon it’s flea season again. Everyone who has dogs, knows these itsy black shiny parasites, lightning fast and jumping up to 7 inches high and 13 inches long, that’s about 200 times their body length. It sets the world record for jumping for all known animals, relative to body size. Their anatomy is amazing, really, but I, for one, am not interested in seeing one up close and live. At least not anywhere close to where I live and most certainly not on me or my dogs.
Fleas come out of their hiding once it gets warmer. Their ideal temperature is 70 – 90 degrees and they can overwinter easily. Adult fleas can survive two months to a year without food. When you see a flea in your home, you need to know that there are over ten times more, hidden as eggs, larvae and pupae, which you can’t see. Creepy, isn’t it?
Dog fleas can be kept in check with once-a-month topics or flea collars, but not everybody wants to treat their dogs with these chemicals, if it is not necessary. Fleas are not a given fact, if you have a dog – even if you take your dog everywhere you go. Some dogs (and humans) will never encounter a single flea. Preventative medication is not without risk for dogs – some react with severe allergies or reactions. Furthermore fleas can become used and immune to some of these drugs. Unless your dog is severely allergic to flea bites or you suffer from a weakened immune system, monthly treatment can be avoided. Here are some tips on how to decrease the risk of having fleas without heavy medications:
- Vacuum often. A neat little trick is to keep a piece of a flea collar in the bag or container of your vacuum cleaner. The collars are inexpensive and can be cut into several pieces. Fleas will be killed when they come in contact with the collar. Otherwise you will need to empty the bag or container immediately, as fleas can survive and jump out.
- Wash the dog’s (and your) bedding once a week. Also clean kennel areas, dog houses and crates, if your dog uses them and don’t forget patios and porches.
- Groom your dog. At least check the fur every two days. Fleas like the area around the tail or the chest and stomach, where dogs can’t scratch easily. Special flea combs can help trap fleas. You can also find out if your dog has fleas when you find dirt in their fur. Take a white paper napkin, remove the dirt, add a little water and rub the dirt in the napkin. If it appears red, it may be flea dirt.
- Use a dehumidifier with air conditioning. Flea larvae need at least 50% humidity to survive.
- Washing your dog with a mixture of apple vinegar and water can help to repel fleas. You can also fill a spray bottle with this mix and spray your dog every once in a while. It is also said that giving your dog garlic can be effective repellents, but be careful. While garlic has many excellent attributes, too much garlic can be toxic to your dog!
- Eliminate food and water sources for flea carrying wildlife such as racoons.
Natural remedies for killing fleas include cedar oil and diatomaceous earth. Use the same care when applying these methods as you would with conventional products.
If you find fleas on your dog, by all means, use topical flea medication. But don’t forget that your dog might react to it. Watch your dog over a period of at least 48 hours. Because of possible severe reaction, I recommend topical solutions over pills. If your dog reacts, you can wash off the topical medication with soap and water. When applied with the above tips, you should be able to easily combat a flea infestation without the monthly chemical sledge hammer.