There’s no denying this summer has been bountiful in terms of pests. A couple of months ago it seemed like you couldn’t go outside without someone warning you about the abundant tick populations. Now, it seems the issue is fleas.
I wasn’t aware of the recent population explosion until I was confronted with it. I was sitting in the car, scratching my puppy’s stomach when a tiny reddish brown bug scampered across her belly. Instinctively, I picked it off her, squeezed it between my fingers and took a closer look. I knew even before I confirmed it, I found a flea.
And the panic started.
Peanut sleeps in my bed, lays on the furniture and has full range of the house. Would there be anywhere without fleas if she got infested?
I’ve always thought the best first line of defense for pets is using a flea and tick preventative recommended by my veterinarian. When I had Great Danes and later Bloodhounds this approach never failed. However, this time was different. My daughter wanted a Chiweenie — a Chihuahua and Dachshund mix. At 3.2 pounds, Peanut was too small for preventative maintenance when we took her in for puppy shots.
She couldn’t have an oral treatment until she reached four pounds or a topical treatment until she reached five pounds. So we tried flea and tick shampoo and a flea collar.
Those did nothing to combat the fleas. She scratched her neck raw, itching under her collar. We even tried two more flea baths before branching out to alternative methods for flea control.
Using apple cider vinegar to get rid of fleas
Apple cider vinegar. I was definitely skeptical when this was suggested to me as a solution. It seems like people use it for everything, but it actually works. I added two cups to her bath water and scrubbed her down with Dawn dish soap, and her fleas dispersed into the bath water. Although fleas can swim, the suds and vinegar kill them.
Once she was out of the bath and dried off, I mixed a solution with equal parts water and apple cider vinegar and dabbed some on the back of her neck with a cotton ball. Now, I simply mist her coat before going outdoors and haven’t seen a flea since.
Another method for using apple cider vinegar is to put it in your pet’s food or water. The suggested ratio for water is one to two tablespoons of apple cider vinegar for every quart of water. For food, you only need to use one tablespoon for a large dog and 1/4 tablespoon for a small dog or cat.
Note: For the above flea control strategies to work, you need to make sure you’re using raw, unfiltered, unpasteurized apple cider vinegar.
Other natural ways to get rid of fleas
Combing. You can get rid of fleas and flea eggs by using a fine-tooth comb to remove them from your pet’s fur. After you remove them, drop them in soapy water.
White vinegar. It seems like the uses for white vinegar as a cleaning agent are never-ending. If fleas have spread throughout your house, you can make a white vinegar solution with equal parts water and vinegar to spray on carpet, baseboards, furniture and under furniture.
Salt. When it’s sprinkled on to the carpet salt will work as a drying agent to kill flea eggs and larvae. Sprinkle table salt on the surface of your carpet before bed, leave it overnight and vacuum it up in the morning.
Sunlight. Open windows to increase sun exposure. Flea eggs and larvae exposed to sunlight will dry out and die.
Vacuum. Frequent vacuuming has been shown to reduce up to 95 percent of flea eggs, some larvae and adults, according to Ohio State University Extension. Vacuuming combined with other methods to kill adult fleas and larvae can be effective in managing infestations. Always toss the bag out to prevent flea eggs from hatching in your house later.
Laundry. Wash and dry everything your pet has come into contact with — bedding, clothes, couch covers, blankets, rugs — on high heat to kill any eggs, larvae or adults.
Flea lamp. You can make a simple flea lamp by placing a shallow, rimmed white plate with soapy water beneath an outlet light at night. In a dark room, fleas will be attracted to the light and jump into the soapy water.
Keep up on yard work. Keeping the grass mowed and your yard free of debris will eliminate places that fleas like to hide. Additionally, replace cedar chips used for landscaping on a regular basis or avoid them all together. Old mulch can attract fleas.
Insect Growth Regulators. These products interrupt the flea life cycle and can effectively control flea larvae with little or no effect on human or pet health. Oral pet products that contain lufenuron will stop flea eggs from hatching, but won’t kill adult fleas. Methoprene and pyriproxifen are available in sprays and flea collars. Products with methoprene break down quickly in sunlight but work well indoors. Pyriproxifen does not break down in ultraviolet light, so it can be used indoors or outdoors.
Flea collars. Flea collars should only be used as short-term treatments for six days or less.
Ultrasonic devices. Ultrasonic devices are ineffective in fighting flea populations. Flea adults and larvae don’t hear ultrasonic sounds.
Botanicals. There are many plant-based products containing pyrethrum that claim to be effective; however, many flea populations are resistant. Additionally, feeding pets garlic, brewer’s yeast or B vitamins hasn’t been effective against fleas. Pennyroyal, eucalyptus, rosemary, tea leaves and citronella have been ineffective as well, and too much exposure to these materials can be toxic to pets.
Always make sure you’re treating your pet relative to its size. Whether you’re using preventative care, shampoos, flea collars or even natural methods, you don’t want to overexpose your pet.