No doubt about it, our warmer winters the last few years mean more bugs, and that includes fleas! Flea season is already upon us. Your best bet to deal with fleas is to act before they arrive. Feed your pet a healthy diet, take them to their vet checkups, groom them regularly, vacuum your house frequently, wash pet bedding, and watch your yard.
If you still get fleas, be patient and diligent about treating your pets. There are many chemical-based treatments out there, but be very careful. These can be very toxic to your pets, and often they don’t work as well as they should. If you wouldn’t put it on your own skin, don’t use it on your pet, who is much smaller and often more sensitive than you. Also consider the fact that if you have children and you use a topical flea treatment on your pets, your children will end up with it on their hands any time they pet the dog or cat.
As is often the case, the best way to deal with fleas is not always the easiest, but it is usually better for your animal’s health (and your own!). Start by vacuuming your house (dispose of the bag immediately–you don’t want it in your house!), wash any pet bedding in hot water and a hot dry cycle, wash your pet with a non-toxic flea shampoo if necessary, and then sit down and use a good flea comb. Be methodical. If you groom your pets on a regular basis, it won’t be so bad. My cat actually loves the flea comb and will come running if he sees me bring it out! Have a basin of soapy water handy, and some sort of toweling. When you see fleas in the comb, dunk them in the water or pinch them to kill them. They are pretty tough so pinch hard! Dump the water down the toilet and flush them away. Remember to keep at it. It’s going to take more than a few groomings.
There are a number of non-toxic products that will help with fleas. Diatomaceous earth can be a big help. It comes in a powder form and can be used on carpets, furniture, and especially in areas where a vacuum will not reach. You can also use it directly on your pet if they do not have open sores from the fleas but be very careful to keep it out of eyes, ears, and noses (yours too). You must get food-grade diatomaceous earth. Absolutely do not use the kind that is used for pools or yards. Also, be careful, as it is drying to the skin. It’s something that shouldn’t be used too frequently. It’s a bit messy to apply, but it’s cheap and effective if used properly.
Many people add Brewer’s yeast to their pet’s food and apple cider vinegar added to drinking water can help, especially with dogs (you might want to ask your vet before using this with cats, as they have a very delicate system as far as acid/alkaline balance). Apple cider vinegar diluted with water can be a soothing wash that helps with fleas, as can a lemon rinse (slice and let sit in hot water overnight–don’t use citrus oil). There are also several treatments using essential oils. These can be effective but be careful if your pet has sensitive skin, and be aware that what is good for dogs is often not good for cats. Pennyroyal, tea tree, and eucalyptus are among the many oils that should be avoided for cats. It should be mentioned here as well, that if you do choose a treatment from the vet, or over the counter, DO NOT EVER use a dog treatment for a cat.