Fleas are tiny, brown, wingless insects that feed on the blood of your pet. Not only do they cause skin irritation, but they can also carry disease. Most veterinarians recommend a monthly flea, tick, and heart-worm preventative for cats and dogs, but for those of us who are concerned about toxins and chemicals in our environment, this simply is not an option. Commercial flea treatments rely on a family of chemicals called organophosphates, which work by interfering with the transmission of nerve signals. Many pets die after being exposed, and humans, especially children, develop cancer and Parkinson’s as a result of exposure. There are natural solutions for preventing flea infestations and getting rid of existing fleas.
1. Diatomaceous Earth
Diatomaceous earth (DE) is your first line of defense against all kinds of insects, including roaches, ants, bed bugs, fleas, ticks, and spiders. It is made from the fossilized remains of tiny aquatic animals called diatoms. It works by breaking down the exoskeleton of insects. Sprinkle the powder on carpets, pet beds, under couch cushions, and on mattresses under the vinyl cover. I sprinkle some behind my refrigerator and inside electrical outlets and light switches to kill any little critters that find their way into my home. A word of caution: do not use pool grade diatomaceous earth. It is heat treated, causing the formerly amorphous silicon dioxide to assume crystalline form. Pool grade DE is ineffective against insects and can cause lung irritation.
2. Herbal Flea Collar
You can make your dog’s cloth collar into a natural flea collar by putting 10 or so drops of essential oil on it once a week. You can also use a bandanna or similar piece of cloth. Essential oils that work well against fleas include lavender, cedar oil, eucalyptus, and citronella. Do not use essential oils on cats. Felines lack the enzymes necessary to break down essential oils and it can overload their systems.
3. Natural Flea Spray
Start by bathing your pet weekly with a natural dish detergent or diluted Castile Soap. Mix 1/2 cup of vinegar (either distilled or apple cider) with 2 cups of water in a spray bottle and spray your pet thoroughly, being careful to avoid their eyes and nose. If you are using the spray on a dog, you can add a few drops of essential oil for a nice smell. Vinegar not only kills and repels fleas, it also makes your pet’s coat soft and shiny.
4. Potpourri Sachet
Put a handful of cedar chips, a couple teaspoons of dried lavender buds, and the peel of a lemon into a breathable cloth bag and sew or tie it closed. Put the sachets under or near your pet’s bedding to ward off fleas. Change the mixture once a month to maintain effectiveness.
5. Natural Citronella Febreeze
Citronella is commonly used to ward off mosquitoes, but fleas don’t like it either. Use this spray on furniture, carpets, drapes, and even your clothes when you go outside as an alternative to bug spray. Mix 1/2 cup of rubbing alcohol, witch hazel, or vodka with a cup of water in a spray bottle. Add 30-40 drops of citronella essential oil and you have a homemade fabric refresher that wards off fleas.
Borax dehydrates flea eggs. Sprinkle some on your carpet and vacuum it up in three days. Repeat this process 3 times so that eggs in all stages of development are destroyed. If you live in a high humidity area, use a dehumidifier for this method to be effective.
7. Natural Flea Trap
Place a bowl of water with dish soap next to a night light or candle in each room of the house at night. The fleas are attracted to the light and the soapy water traps them.