Getting Rid of Fleas – Naturally!

on May 21, 2011
Posted in Cats

We believe that the best prevention against fleas and other parasites is a healthy animal. Although animals in good health will be less prone to getting fleas, some still do…and certainly animals whose health is compromised, or those that are young or old, are more susceptible.

There are many flea control products on the market today but most use pesticides and toxic chemicals applied topically or given orally. What is deadly to a flea can have nasty side effects to the animal it is feeding on, and there are natural, harmless alternatives.

About Fleas:
Fleas are small, wingless insects who feed on the blood of their hosts. They have long legs and in fact are second only to the froghopper as the best jumpers of the animal kingdom – relative to body size. They can leap vertically up to 7 inches and horizontally up to 13 inches….200 times their own body length. The flea has an exoskeleton, which is hard and shiny…making it hard to kill. Fleas lay tiny white oval-shaped eggs. They have four life cycle stages. Egg, larva, pupa and adult. Eggs are laid in batches of up to 20 or so, usually on the host itself, which means that the eggs can easily roll onto the ground. Because of this, areas where your dog or cat rests and sleeps become primary egg habitats. Eggs take two days to two weeks to hatch. A typical flea population consists of 50% eggs, 35% larvae, 10% pupae and 5% adults. Completion of the life cycle from egg to adult varies from two weeks to eight months depending on the temperature, humidity, food, and species. Larvae can be found indoors in floor cracks & crevices, along baseboards, in carpet fibers, under rug edges and in furniture or beds. Outdoors they proliferate in sandy gravel soils, especially where an animal tends to lie. Most fleas overwinter in the larval or pupal stage with survival and growth best during warm, moist winters and spring. Fleas can be actively breeding year round in moderate climates. Newly emerged adult fleas live only about one week if a blood meal is not obtained. However, completely developed adult fleas can live for several months without eating, as long as they stay in their puparia. Optimum temperatures for the flea’s life cycle are 70°F to 85°F and optimum humidity is 70%.

If you find your pet scratching, the first thing to do is to check for fleas. Flea combing can catch adult fleas and checking for flea feces can confirm their presence also. Check for “flea dirt” by parting the fur at the base of the tail (most common area to look first). Put the “dirt” on a white tissue or piece of paper and put a drop of water on it. If it turns red, it’s flea feces!

Once you have confirmed fleas you can either do diligent flea combing or give a good bath. If you want to stay away from chemical flea shampoos, use an Aloe and Oatmeal pet shampoo and let them sit in the suds for at least 10 minutes. The soap will kill the fleas. Diligently flea comb until you see no more evidence of fleas. It is also important to treat the environment. Thoroughly vacuum, wash all the pets bedding in hot water and for prevention and flea repellent you can use natural remedies like Target Spray for Canine (and Feline) Fleas.

Warning: A flea problem on a very young animal can lead to anemia and quickly become potentially life threatening. Adult animals that are dealing with disease and elderly dogs and cats can also suffer serious health consequences from fleas. If this is the case, be sure to consult with a veterinarian.

One other note about fleas:
Fleas can carry tape worms!!! The adult form of the tapeworm lives in the small intestines of dogs and cats. The worm is made up of multiple segments. One at a time, the segments, full of eggs, are passed in the feces. While warm, the segments are active, but as they dry, they break open and liberate the eggs inside. A flea larva ingests the eggs. The egg develops into an immature form in the flea. When a dog or cat eats the flea (usually while the animal is grooming), the immature form of the tapeworm is released from the flea. This immature tapeworm then develops into an adult in the dog’s or cat’s intestine and the life cycle is completed. If your animal has had fleas, get them checked for tapeworms and treated if necessary 🙂

Read also: Controlling fleas in the Environment

Our Expert

Dr. Janice Huntingford
Janice Huntingford, DVM, has been in veterinary practice for over 30 years and has founded two veterinary clinics since receiving her Doctor of Veterinary Medicine at the Ontario Veterinary College, University of Guelph. She has studied extensively in both conventional and holistic modalities. Ask Dr. Jan

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