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Aack! Fleas!!

How embarrassing – my dogs have fleas!  Now it’s not anything particularly out of the ordinary for dogs to pick up fleas, but seeing as I am a very big advocate of natural rearing and avoiding all chemicals, this is a particularly touchy issue for several reasons.  First, there is considerable room for finger wagging and ‘I told you so’ing’, or just a ‘knowing’ silence from my many dog-owning friends who have debated with me about whether or not to use neurotoxins on their dogs to avoid pests.  I have for years boasted that I use nothing, and have no problems.  Silly, utopian hippee!  Thinks she can just ignore nature and nothing will happen.  Second, I am fully aware of how hard it is to get rid of these nasty little invaders once they have set up camp, unless you do resort to pesticides.  They may end up forcing me to make some very uncomfortable decisions.

The reality is that I have not had an outbreak of fleas since the mid-1990s.  And I have not used any chemicals on my dogs since at least 1998, which is the same time that I switched to feeding a home prepared and eventually raw diet.  Certainly I have never used – or needed to use – any insecticides on any of the dogs currently living in my home, the oldest one having been here nearly 7 years.  So until now, my aversion to chemicals has been working out just fine!

I am not sure where these fleas came from.  I suspect we may have picked them up when we traveled south of the border at the end of September.  The climate is different there, and perhaps so are the fleas.  Or maybe they are just more abundant.  I know the person I was visiting was having a flea problem, and it’s quite possible that I brought some of that back with me.

It really doesn’t matter, however, how they got here.  What matters is that they are in my house.  And on my dogs.  Who are itching and itching and itching.  Poor things.  Ross is by far the most sensitive to them, which is not surprising given his weakened constitution.  Fleas are parasites and are attracted to the weak, and also an off-balance life force is more likely to develop allergies.  So poor Ross both attracts more fleas, and reacts more strongly to them.

So this morning I declared war on the fleas.  I set up a dog wash and soaped up and soaked down all four dogs in a row, using a lovely lavender pet shampoo made locally by Lavender Blue.  Lavender is a natural insect repellant and so the shampoo worked well as a flea shampoo, as well as making them clean and soft.  Certainly there were a number of dead fleas in the bathwater when we were all done.

Next I put my wet dogs outside so the fleas could vacate out of the house.  While they were drying off in the sun, I vacuumed the house top to bottom.  I stripped all linens – from my bed, the dogs crates, the dog beds and so on – and put them through a hot, soapy washer, and hot dryer.  I sprinkled Diamataceous Earth (DE) on my mattress, the bare dog beds, the floor around where they sleep and hang out, and on the carpets.  I then washed all my floors with lavender castille soap and hot water.  My house has never been so clean!  You’d think I had relatives coming for a visit, rather than a flea problem.  One upside to all this at least!

Tonight the dogs are all relaxed and lounging comfortably.  No one is scratching, no one is chewing.

While I may have won the battle today, I am concerned that I may lose the war in the longer term. I certainly will have missed a few adults, and there will be eggs hatching regularly over the next weeks.  I think the flea cycle (I need to look this up again) is about one month long, so I will need to do what I did today roughly once a week for the next four weeks.  And even then it might not work if I miss any adults.  Which is highly likely to happen, given the size of my house and the number of animals in it.  It is really, really hard to get rid of fleas without resorting to pesticides.

I have already given myself permission to apply an insecticide if absolutely necessary.  I am not going to leave Ross to suffer – my homeopathic vet already advised me that this would be more harmful than a dose of something to kill the fleas, and I agree.  Furthermore, I am visiting other homes over the holidays and don’t want to pass on the problem!  But I am still not  going to resort to toxins without trying other options first.  So I’ll be cleaning and scrubbing regularly, and the dogs will be dipped in lavender shampoo as often as necessary for the next couple of weeks.  Oh, and I’ll be adding raw garlic to their diets, which I am told is an excellent deterrent for fleas.

Wish me luck, and I’ll keep you posted on our progress!

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