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Flea Update

I’ve been going over old posts and comments (trying to catch up at long last!  I apologize if I have not replied to your comment – I do read each and every one of them and greatly appreciate your thoughts!) and was just reminded of my fall flea problem.  I thought I should post the results of my struggle to rid my home of these pests.

I really did struggle with these uninvited guests and got to the point of deciding to simply use chemicals to get rid of them.  I mean, the dogs were all scratching constantly and their coats were becoming dull and dry.  Clearly they were uncomfortable and I had to do something to put an end to it.  So I went to my new vet and asked for a package of some kind of topical flea killing toxin (other than Revolution, which in my opinion is simply too dangerous to put on my animals).  Well, the vet wouldn’t sell me anything without seeing all my pets first!  I simply did not have the time or money at the time, so I booked an appointment a few weeks into the future and went home, frustrated, to comb the internet for other options.

Surprisingly, I came across something that I had not yet read: a short article explaining that you can vacuum up as many as 95% of fleas & eggs if you vacuum regularly!  The trick is that you then have to dispose of the contents of the vacuum.  Otherwise they just re-emerge and re-infest.  Duh!  How simple is that?

I also went to a local feed store and bought a (40lb) bag of Diametaceous Earth, that turned out to be mixed with clay so it made quite a dusty mess. Nevertheless, I sprinkled it all over my floors, couch and bare mattress.  I stripped all bedding and took all dog beds etc. and put them in the shed.  Then I left for two weeks over Christmas.  When I got home I vacuumed the entire house, brought in and washed the bedding, and voila!  So far, no more fleas.

I do expect to see more of the little critters come spring, but I am now prepared with an action plan.  Basically I will simply vacuum regularly and then immediately remove the bag.  As these bags are expensive (and I am trying very hard to reduce my consumption and waste), I put them into my dog meat freezer and re-use them until they are full.  Only then do I throw them out.  But storing them in the freezer (or you can put them outside) kills any adult fleas and prevents eggs from hatching in your house.

This really is a simple way of controlling fleas and I really hope that it continues to work come spring and summer.  I will certainly post on any new developments.

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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!