Monday, February 14, 2011

Natural, Non-Toxic , Hound Dog Flea Control

Here is my tried and true three pronged approach: a flea comb, a homemade flea spray, and a non-toxic flea powder are put to good use.

To start, I really recommend getting a flea comb and combing them every day. You may want to bathe the dog before you start treatment, and then repeat baths once a week or so, if they are well tolerated. If the dog(s) in question have matted hair or long hair, a trip to the groomers or a grooming session including a good clipping is in order.

You can purchase a flea comb from the groomer, at a pet supply store, or from a veterinarian. Have a flat bottomed bowl of warm slightly soapy water (I recommend Dr. Bronner's or any other organic liquid soap) to drop the fleas into, and something handy to push any dog hair you also collect down into the water. If the dog is antsy--some small treats to reward them for cooperating is a good idea. Dry cat food usually works well.

Once you have collected the fleas, leave them in the water for 6 hours, and then if you have a pile of dry leaves, grass, or other organic matter, or if you compost pile needs some moisture (and you have used organic soap) you can pour the slightly soapy flea and hair ridden water on your pile. But, be sure to let them soak a good six hours--as fleas can revive if they are not well drowned. Flea combing is most effective if it can be repeated daily until the infestation is under control. After which it should be done at least once a week, or whenever the dog is showing signs of discomfort.

A good sweeping, vacuuming, and laundering of animal bedding in all areas where the dogs hang out, on at least a weekly basis is a must. Most flea eggs fall off the dogs to develop into larva and pupa on the ground, the floor, in your carpet or furniture, or in the animals bedding. Food or agricultural grade diatomaceous earth can be sprinkled in the outside areas where the dogs spend time, in the bedding, in their dog houses, and, if they are outside dogs--even on the dogs themselves. Here is more information on diatomaceous earth: The diatomaceous earth kills the fleas by abrading their exoskeleton—and in the process of dying they become dehydrated. Which makes them bite more, so you really need to do the flea combing and drowning first—or everyone is going to be extremely miserable.

You can use diatomaceous earth inside, if you wish, but it is dusty, some people are allergic, and it will speed the breakdown of the fabric in your furniture and carpet. However, it is the best way to control bed bugs and many other vermin. So you can make your own decisions here about the effects on bugs versus the effects on furniture and carpet.

An alternative indoor spray that you can use on your furniture and rugs is very easily made. Dissolve two heaping tablespoons of ordinary salt in a quart of warm water. Once the salt is dissolved, you can add a few drops of pennyroyal, eucalyptus, citrus, or any other essential oils you may have on hand, and then spray the dog, the dogs bedding, your furniture and carpet, etc. The salt does not have much effect on the mature fleas, but it is deadly to the flea larva. The essential oils improve the doggy odor, and the specific ones mentioned are believed to have some flea repealing affects; and they may have some small disruptive action on flea reproduction—but not enough to keep the fleas under control on their own. This can be repeated as needed. Be sure to patch test fabric to make sure the colors don’t run. And while it is not as harmful to fabric as diatomaceous earth, too much salt build up is not good for the longevity of the fibers either. Salt is not the best thing for your soil, so this is primarily an inside option.

Using the spay in the initial stage of fighting the infestation is very helpful. After which if you are handy with the flea comb, and use the diatomaceous earth in the animals outside quarters, you can keep things under control without any need to continue spraying. In the initial stages, you can give the fleas a double whammy, by spraying with the salt / essential oil solution, allowing it to dry, and then following up with a sprinkling the diatomaceous earth powder, if you are in a hurry to turn the infestation around.

I have lived with animals for most of my life, and this program works for me. It is absolutely more labor intensive than using poison, and it won’t completely eliminate all fleas. But if you stay on it, the fleas will become few and far between.

Another little trick that also seems to help a lot, is to add nutritional yeast to your dog’s food. A teaspoon is good for small breeds and a tablespoon or more for larger dogs. Start with a pinch though, so they and their digestion get used to it. Some people find that adding some garlic to their food—either raw, cooked, or powdered is also helpful. I haven’t ever given the later a good test—as my dogs were never fond of garlic; however they, and my cats also, loved the nutritional yeast.

Be aware that the salt, the essential oils, and the diatomaceous earth can dry out the dog’s skin. Only use as needed, and as the infestation tapers off, reduce the frequency of your applications. Bathing the animals with a mild hydrating shampoo (Dr. Bronner’s castile soap is perfect) and follow it up with a soothing conditioner made for dry skin will help if you find that the treatment is having an adverse affect. This was only an issue with my animals if I let the fleas have their way for too long and found myself combating a serious problem.

If any of you have other tips on controlling fleas naturally, please feel free to add them to comments.

Copyright 2011, Harvest McCampbell


dog tricks said...

I think the things you covered through the post are quiet impressive

Harvest said...

Thank you! I hope it works for you . . . My dogs always loved getting flea combed. It was great bonding time and really very relaxing for all of us. I no longer have any animals, at least for now, so it was fun for me to read back over this and remember how they would line up and impatiently wait for their turn!