Fleas are sneaky. They only hop on your dog for a feed and to lay eggs. For every flea you find on-board your dog, there are dozens more who have taken up residence in your home, the car, in the kennel and any other area your dog hangs out. This means that the environment needs dealing with - even more than your pet.
Ctenocephalides canis - the Dog Flea
Fleas feed on blood of dogs and cats, and will also bite humans. Fleas can live without food for several months, but females must feed on blood before they can produce eggs. A flea’s total lifespan is about 3 months but hibernating flea pupae can lie dormant for a year deep in your carpet or between floorboards.
A flea has 4 stages of development - egg, larva, pupa, and adult. Once they’re on your pet, the female flea has a feed, lays eggs and hops off again. This is where evolution is really clever - the eggs are designed to roll off easily, helping spread themselves around. So places where your dog sleeps and hangs out can become heavily infested.
It’s important to fight fleas at all life stages. This means killing the adults, getting rid of the eggs and preventing the larvae and pupae from existing. All great in theory...
Luckily there are a whole lot of things you can do to combat fleas without reaching for chemicals. For the best results you do need to invest a wee bit of time and effort. But it’s worth it. For the health of your dog as well as you and your family.
Conventional flea and tick products are applied to a "spot" on the pet's skin – usually at the back of their neck. They are liquid pesticides, need to be administered in the right dose for the size of your dog, and could potentially put a toxic load on your dog’s system if you overdose. More is not better.
In America, during 2008 over 44,000 reactions ranging from mild skin irritation to foaming at the mouth, seizures and death (600 deaths in 2008) resulted in an advisory* being issued by the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in the following year.
Amongst animal health professionals, there is concern over the sale of topical flea treatment products is unregulated outlets such as supermarkets. There are increasing numbers of pets that react to the actives in many topical products. Every year, veterinarians see a growing number of pets that have had adverse reactions to flea products where owners have either applied too much product for the size of dog, or reapplied too soon after the first treatment.
Fleas adapt to the environment and can become immune to flea control products, particularly with too frequent use or mis-dosing of a topical product.
* Review of Enhanced Reporting of 2008 Pet Spot-On Incidents, Environmental Protection Agency, Washington USA
Luckily there are lots of things you can do to combat fleas without having to resort to using chemicals in and around your home. For the best results you do need to invest a wee bit of time and effort. But it’s worth it.
If your dog has fleas, you need to wash off the fleas first. A good wash with Original WashBar Soap for Dogs, Horse & Hound Shampoo Bar or one of our Natural Shampoos will do this. WashBar Soap for Dogs and Natural Shampoos are safe to use on cats as well.
Once your dog is cleared of fleas, apply WashBar 100% Natural Flea Repellent which helps create a natural ‘force field’ around your dog to keep fleas away.
If your cat or dog is short-haired, regular combing with a fine comb is a great way to catch fleas. It also helps monitor how successful your flea control program is.
Put a towel on your lap or wherever you are combing your pet, this will collect up the flea eggs that fall off your pet when you comb. Make sure you pick up the towel carefully to ensure you don’t drop these where they can hatch. Crush any fleas between your thumb nails (it’s strangely therapeutic) or pop them into a bowl of warm water.
Once you’ve taken care of your pet, you’ll also need to take care of all the places your pets love to hang out - their bedding, kennel and even the lawn!
Vacuum – this is the least toxic and most effective way of keeping your home and pets flea free. Vacuum your carpets, floors, on and under furniture, their kennel, the car and anywhere else your pets lay.
Sprinkling baking soda on the carpet draws out the moisture eliminating the food source for pupae. It also acts as a deodoriser. Sprinkle it on, leave it for 10+ minutes and then vacuum it up.
For severe infestations, consider having your carpets steam cleaned – the hot steam kills all stages of fleas.
And for your pet - adjust your vacuum to a low suck setting before gently using it on your pet. Not all pets have an aversion to vacuum cleaners, one of our test dogs gets positively huffy if the vacuum is brought out and he isn’t included in the clean-up!
Wash – not just your pet, but also their bedding at least once a week (preferably in hot water). Be careful not to let fleas and eggs fall off the bedding and onto your dog’s hangout spot.
Spray – bedding and kennels with WashBar Flea+Freshen Daily Spritzer (or sprinkle with Flea Repellent) at least once a week.
A good tip to see if there are any fleas in your carpets:
At night place a dish on the carpet filled with water and a few drops of dishwashing liquid. Place a lamp over the dish and leave this overnight. The dishwashing liquid softens the water tension so when the flea jumps towards the light they land and sink into the liquid and are trapped. This could help give you an indication of what you are dealing with.
Mow the lawn
Fleas like moist cool places to lay eggs and dogs like to lounge around on the lawn. Keep the lawn mowed short to discourage fleas from settling in. Mowing your lawn allows more sunlight in and discourages fleas from settling in.
Kennels should be vacuumed at least once a week and the bedding washed. Sprinkle clean bedding with WashBar 100% Natural Flea Repellent. Between vacuums spray the kennel & bedding with WashBar Flea+Freshen Spritzer - it'll help repel insects.
Diet & Exercise
Exercise and a good healthy diet keeps your dog is in top condition. Fleas are more likely to invade a sick or less active dog. If your pet isn’t well it is important to be even more vigilant.
It can be a little more time consuming to control fleas without using chemicals, but it is worth knowing you haven’t used a poison in your environment, on your pet or near your family.