NATURAL FLEA CONTROL
With summer being at its zenith and the humidity being so high in the coastal regions especially, we are finding more and more unwelcome visitors into our homes from outside in the form of tiny little black biting jumping FLEAS!
Firstly it is important to realise that there are not any natural non-toxic products available that are 100% effective against fleas. There are some flea killing products that are less toxic than others; and these would be the ones I would recommend. On the whole, all products that are recommended by veterinarians if used correctly and according to instruction should be very safe to use. The following discussion is mainly aimed at alternative natural products, which can be used to discourage fleas from living on your pets and in your house.
Fleas can reproduce with amazing speed–in one month 10 females can generate a population of over 267,000 offspring. Since they have been doing this for millions of years without our interference, fleas are tough to fight. The "war on fleas" must be approached with the idea that the fight is ongoing; fleas will come back unless you adopt a maintenance system, all season long.
The secret to flea survival and to our control tactics is in the flea life cycle:
The adult fleas spend almost all of their time on your dog or cat, but remember those hundreds of thousands of offspring. The female lays her eggs in warm dark places (like your carpet and sofa, and cracks in floorboards). This is the reason that the primary flea defence must involve the house and yard. The real problem is in the pupa stage; it is resistant to just about everything, so that even when you kill all the adults, eggs and larvae with conventional insecticides, you will have fleas again in about 2 weeks when the pupae hatch. This is where growth regulators come into the picture, as they prevent the hatching of the pupa, and the chemicals last a long time in the carpets allowing a continued protection against hatching larvae. These products are only good if they do not break down and stop working. Some insect growth regulators are more able to withstand the harsh South African climates with high UV light and heat than other products. Ask the right questions to get the right product.
The basic protocol for flea control:
To start with a natural program against fleas it is important to have good overall health for the animal, and a natural, complete diet is absolutely essential. When the animal is healthy, s/he does not "taste" or "smell" as good to the fleas. I recommend a Raw Food Diet as which comprises mainly of raw meat and liquidised vegetables. The discussion of this is not in the scope of this article, but you are welcome to contact me or any of my colleagues who recommend a similar diet through our Complimentary Veterinary Medicines Group to discuss this further. There is also numerous websites available on raw feeding or BARF (Bones and raw food) as many people call it. Do a search and you will be amazed. A supplement of fresh garlic, garlic oil or the odourless garlic capsules may also be helpful as is brewers yeast as it changes the taste of the animals blood and makes them less desirable to the parasites. Another effective natural remedy is the tips of the Aloe Ferox plant which contains mainly the bitter sap. There are several natural insecticidal remedies available using this as the main ingredient. You can also just use one small crystal of aloe bitters per pet per week to clear out intestinal parasites and to change the taste of the blood to discourage the biting insects. Large dogs such as Labradors and German Shepherds would require a higher dose, say 2 crystals weekly, and obviously Great Danes and Boerboels even more; say 3 crystals per week.
Bathe and dip weekly as needed. One good natural remedy is to do Lavender rinses once or twice weekly. You can do this by boiling up some lavender leaves and making an infusion. Pour this over your pet once it has cooled down, without rinsing. You can di the same with Khaki Bos, but beware not to make the infusion too strong and do not use this on cats or puppies younger than 16 weeks old as it is very strong and quite toxic. Citronella, Lavender and Penny Royal essential oils can also be used if diluted properly. My advice is to put 1-2 drops of each to a total of 5 drops into a large mug of hot water and to dip a flea comb into this between strokes when grooming your pets. This can be done daily and can become an enjoyable time of bonding between you and your pet. Between baths, dips or insecticide applications use a flea comb daily.
I would still recommend the use of insecticides to kill fleas and ticks in troublesome infestations. Avoid the use of anything containing organophosphates.
you can get natural carpet powders containing a combination of essential oils that helps to de-odorise your carpets and can act as a deterrent for these unfriendly pests. These often contain Boric acid which kills the larval stage of the flea. Unfortunately there are not any effective natural products available for killing the pupae of fleas in the environment. Thus in infested situations I still recommend using conventional sprays or foggers containing pyrethrins with insect growth regulators to tackle the pupae. My recommendation is to rotate the different products you are using so as not to create a resistance to any of them. Spray some of this in your vacuum bags to prevent flea larvae from breeding out in the vacuum bag. I suggest vacuuming daily if you have an infestation. Avoid any products containing organophosphates. Remember to pay special attention to areas where your pet spends a lot of time or sleeps.
Control in the yard / garden is sometimes the most difficult and expensive, especially if your animal roams a lot. Just remember that the areas where s/he spends the most time are the most important.
Flea control is season long, co-ordinated attack that must be maintained whether you use conventional or natural products. The advantage to natural flea products is that they are safer to use in the frequent manner required and can be used as a top up in between toxic applications or to try increase the interval between toxic applications.
Good luck with your WAR on the tiny biting ones.