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While there are a multitude of chemical options available for dog owners who are faced with fleas, not all dog owners want to risk the possible toxic side effects of chemical pesticides. If you are not interested in using chemicals for dealing with these pests, here are a few options that are considered more nature-based.
Depending on the level of flea infestation, you may have to work harder one year versus the next. You may find that some of these “home remedies” work great the first year and become less effective over time. In some cases, you may have to first use a chemical method for dealing with a severe infestation, and then switch to natural methods to control the population of fleas. No single method is going to work 100 percent, so it may be necessary to combine a few different options to reduce the level of infestation present in your home and on your dog.
If your dog spends lots of time outdoors, even just in a backyard, you will probably have more difficulty controlling fleas naturally, since they may be strongly established in the yard (or wherever your dog frequents) as well as in the home. Be aware that not every flea control method will work for every situation. You may need to use one method for the yard, another for the home and yet another for your dog’s body.
Your dog can benefit from a simple rinse with cool water to expel some of the fleas from the body and hair. Water alone will not get rid of the fleas, though. You will need to use a shampoo that is made with flea repelling ingredients. A cedar, eucalyptus, lavender, or citrus-infused shampoo may help to keep fleas at bay following the bath. Cedar has also been suggested for repelling fleas from areas where dogs sleep, and some say that fennel leaves rubbed into the dog’s coat is good for discouraging fleas.
Using a flea comb (a comb made with very close-set teeth) will physically pull fleas from the dog’s body. You will need to make sure the comb gets down close to the skin, but work slowly, as the comb may tug on the hair. Have a bowl of soapy water nearby so you can drown the fleas as you remove them. They can’t be squashed with your fingers and will jump quickly away. When combing, concentrate on areas on the dog’s body where fleas like to hide, like the groin, armpits and base of the tail.
If your dog is long haired and difficult to comb thoroughly, you may want to consider having her hair closely shorn for the season. Of course, not everyone likes the hairless (or nearly hairless) look on their dog, especially with certain breeds that are known for their full coats. If you don’t want your dog to look hairless, there are a lot of attractive cuts that groomers can style to keep your dog looking great during the summer flea season.
Adult fleas lay eggs in your dog’s bedding and deep in the carpet, so you won’t be able to get rid of the entire population of fleas by simple combing and washing. Be sure to also clean and treat your household and yard when fighting a flea problem.
You will need to be very diligent in vacuuming and cleaning the inside and outside of your home when dealing with fleas. You may wish to initially have your carpets professionally cleaned to help remove most of the deposited eggs and larvae, but this will not eliminate the problem entirely, since eggs and cocoons can get into corners and remain dormant for a surprisingly long time. You will need to vacuum all surfaces of the house every few days (disposing of the vacuum bag at least weekly) and wash all your dog’s bedding almost as often.
One home remedy that is commonly suggested is sprinkling Borax – a boric acid-like product sold as a laundry detergent. It works to dry out the fleas outer body and kills larvae and eggs in carpeting. The product is an abrasive and it can abrade carpets, so you will want to take precautions before covering your entire floor with it. Test an area of your carpet first. You want to use care when using it around your dogs as well. Before sprinkling the Borax, vacuum all the floors well, and then make sure the powder is allowed to settle deep into the carpets before vacuuming again.
The yard will also need to be kept free of debris (piles of leaves, etc.) to help reduce places where fleas can congregate. Planting certain herbs and plants in the yard may help direct fleas away from your property. Lavender, eucalyptus, fennel, marigold, and citrus, all known flea repellants, can make your yard less interesting to these pests.
Be sure to get the advice of your veterinarian before using any products to control fleas, even those touted as “natural.” It’s always best to err on the side of caution when using something on or around your home, family, and your precious dogs.