Then a few nights later at about 1:30am, I looked over at my white dog, Glacier, and saw a bug crawling across her face. As soon as it hopped away from my approaching fingers, I knew what it was... a flea.
The only other time I have ever dealt with fleas was when I moved into my summer cabin at the camp I worked at in California. I sat down on the floor and saw bugs jumping all over me... It took several weeks of bombing the house to knock back those little suckers and we certainly didn't want to deal with that!
As soon as I caught and ground between my fingers that first flea that I found on Glacier's face, I immediately went to work looking both dogs over carefully... and found both had fleas in their nether regions - not a ton but one is too many! Yes, it was 1:30am. Yes, I was home alone. (I'm sensing a theme here... Every time I had to wash skunk off our old dog Jericho, my husband was conveniently in another state. :-)) But regardless of time or on-hand staffing, BOTH dogs got a bath and all sheets, dog beds etc went right into the washing machine. I only got two hours of sleep before work... but it was worth it!
After 15+ years of dog ownership and nary a flea in sight, we suddenly had to become flea experts in a hurry. Thank you, Google! Here is what we've learned about how to manage fleas without the use of chemicals.
First... fleas are tenacious little buggers that require a multi-faceted, full-force, constant and steady long-term attack if you are going to get them before they get you!
Second... it IS possible to manage them without introducing chemicals or other harsh or toxic treatments into a home that is otherwise cleaned and maintained naturally.
The first step in the process is to toss all hosts (yep, you too!) into the shower/bath as soon as possible. Wash them with Dawn dish detergent - it kills them pretty much instantly and isn't too terrible on their skin if you rinse and rinse and rinse them clean. If they've got a thick undercoat, like Brody does, this step takes a while - be patient.
The next step, while the dogs are drying, is to strip everything - sheets, linens, dog bed covers etc and get them through a hot wash and dryer as quickly as possible. The detergent will take care of the mature fleas and the hot water and the heat of the dryer will also tackle the eggs and larvae. I'll bet that you are feeling all creepy-crawly now thinking about the eggs and larvae, right? Me too!
The next step is to purchase a good amount of food grade diatomaceous earth - we found it in 4.5lb bags and bought two bags for our 1,600 sf house that is about half carpeted/throw rugs and our half acre property. You can usually find this at garden center or the like. Do NOT use pool grade diatomaceous earth - it is different and can cause health problems for you and your animals. Always get the food grade!
Also purchase a big bag of baking soda - we found it at our local bulk purchasing warehouse.
And while you are out shopping, buy a couple of large bottles of organic apple cider vinegar.
Here's how and why to use each of them...
Diatomaceous earth (DE) - Wear a mask! DE junks up your lungs like any other fine particle. There is nothing toxic about it but lungs aren't designed to handle dust.
|Diatomaceous Earth -|
Off-white with a flour-like consistency
- Sprinkle a generous amount covering all carpeted surfaces that your dogs have come in contact with (and ones that they haven't... might as well!) and including furniture etc. Then work it into the fabric with a broom or brush and leave it there for as long as you are comfortable - a few hours at least. Then vacuum it up. The vacuuming excites the fleas into leaving their cocoons and they get nailed with the DE and then they get sucked up and die. DE has fine, sharp edges that cuts the exo-skeleton of the fleas and dehydrates them (and slugs too!).
- Then when your dogs are completely dry, rub a good amount of DE directly into your dogs coat including gently around the ears and muzzle. Don't forget the nether regions (taking care not to overwhelm the truly sensitive parts) and full length of the tail. The DE will stay in their coat for a day or so depending on how thick their coat is and how wet they get. Feel free to re-apply daily until the little buggers are gone.
- Sprinkle DE on dog beds or any other place that they spend time.
- Walk around your yard spreading DE all over it. Repeat after the yard has dried if it rains - water "melts" the DE and renders it ineffective. Pay particular attention to areas where fleas hang out... like for us, along the fence line that borders our neighbors yard. He told us last summer that he had a flea infestation but Brody never got it.
Baking Soda - Wear a mask. See lungs v. dust explanation as to why.
- Spread a thin layer of baking soda into all of the same places that you used the DE in the house. The DE only works on mature fleas but the baking soda works to dry up the eggs and larvae before they even hatch. Work it in with a broom and leave it for as long as you can - up to 48 hours if possible - and then vacuum up.
- Toss some in with the washing that you are doing too - it can't hurt!
Organic Apple Cider Vinegar -
- Add a tablespoon or so to your dog's drinking water. The acid of the vinegar increases the pH in the dog's body and fleas don't like it.
- You can also make a spritz with one part water and one part vinegar and spray it directly on their coat. Rub it in well and really soak them well. Do this every day if fleas are bad, every other day as the problem eases.
Things to remember...
- Repeat the dusting and vacuuming every day or every other day for several weeks to make sure you've killed all of the fleas in the various stages.
- Once you are done vacuuming, you MUST empty the vacuum bag immediately. In order to fully kill what's in there, you can freeze the bag for a few days before putting it out in the trash. That will keep them from crawling out and starting all over again.
- Vacuum cleaners with Hepa filters can get jammed up with the fine dust so if you've got a shop vac, that's probably your best bet.
- A clean dog isn't enough. A clean house isn't enough. You have to tackle ALL fronts simultaneously or you'll just end up chasing your tail... literally and figuratively.
- Keep at these multi-faceted approaches for several weeks. If you give up early, you are giving in.
- DON'T go to the toxic stuff. It's bad for you, your pets, your family. It stays in your house much longer than you think. It's bad stuff. Don't do it!
This is the best website we found - http://www.richsoil.com/flea-control.jsp