In warm climates, fleas are a year-round problem. Even as autumn comes upon us with cooler temperatures, fleas will hold on until the first frost, and if they’re comfortable inside our homes, they might never leave.
What’s worse, fleas are difficult to control. To get rid of them for good, you’ll need to treat your pets as well as your house and your yard. You’ll need to adopt an approach which allows you to kill both adult fleas and their eggs, preventing them from returning.
Natural Flea Killers
There are some ways you can tackle a flea infestation without resorting to dangerous chemicals. Let’s take a closer look at how fleas can become a problem, how you can make your own natural flea killer, and how you can get rid of these pests, once and for all.
Why Are Fleas Such a Problem?
Fleas are small insects that live on mammals, including dogs, cats, and ferrets. They feed on blood, and their bites are extremely itchy. Some pets become allergic to flea bites, leading to skin infections, dermatitis, and other skin issues. Furthermore, some fleas carry tapeworm larvae that can be transmitted to cats when then groom themselves.
In recent years, scientists have discovered that fleas are becoming immune to many over-the-counter and prescription flea control products, making them more difficult to control.
That said, there are some natural remedies that you can use to try to get rid of these pests.
Treating Your Yard For Fleas
To prevent fleas from ever getting a toehold in your home, you should start outside. In the early spring, treat your yard with beneficial nematodes (Steinernema carpocapsae) that will kill flea larvae as well as adult fleas. According to Mother Earth News, these nematodes are safe for your gardens and can kill more than 90% of flea larvae in the soil within a single day.
In addition to nematodes, make your yard less hospitable to fleas by trimming back weeds and keeping your lawn mowed throughout the year.
Treating Your Home For Fleas
While many people focus on killing fleas on their pets, they often overlook their homes. Here are some things you can do around the house to eliminate fleas.
- Vacuum regularly to capture fleas and eggs in carpeting and floorboards. (Don’t forget cat trees!)
- Launder all pet bedding (and human bedding if pets sleep there).
- Sprinkle pet bedding and rugs with diatomaceous earth, a natural, nontoxic powder. Leave it for a few hours and then vacuum it up.
- Use products containing cedar oil or shavings. These are safe for cats and dogs and will repel and kill fleas around the house.
- Try flea traps that use incandescent light bulbs to attract fleas, which will get caught on sticky paper.
Don’t Forget Your Pets!
Fleas can be such a nuisance that it’s tempting to grab topical flea treatments and foggers at the store. Keep in mind that many of these contain chemicals harmful not just to your pets but everyone in your family. And even flea collars are not pesticide-free. Leading brands contain toxic chemicals that can nerve damage to both pets and children who handle the collars.
What can you try instead? Here are some alternatives.
- PetMD suggests trying apple cider vinegar as a non-toxic flea repellent. Add equal parts of vinegar and water to a spray bottle, and apply to your pet’s fur as well as to their bedding. Avoid getting the spray in your pet’s eyes, noses and ears. For dogs, you can add a few drops of lavender or cedar essential oils to the spray, but don’t add oils if using the spray on cats.
- Give your dog a bath with a nontoxic flea shampoo or Dawn dishwasher detergent (which works equally well and is safe for pets and the environment). Work up a lather and leave on for at least 5 minutes before rinsing.
- Use a flea comb on cats. As you catch them, you can drop the fleas into a cup of soapy water to kill them.
- Non-toxic sprays made with cedar oil (like Austin-based Wondercide) are a natural flea killer, and even are safe for puppies and kittens.
- Just like you did for carpets, you can dust your pets with diatomaceous earth. Work the powder into the fur, but try not to get too much dust in the air as it can be irritating to the lungs for both you and your pets.
- Consider a fabric “flea collar” for your dog. You can add small amounts of safe essential oils to the collar to repel fleas.
For more ideas for safe flea treatments for your pets, check out this handout from the Northwest Center for Alternatives to Pesticides.
Still Need Help With Fleas?
At ABC Home & Commercial Services, we know just how aggravating fleas can be. Our pest control experts can come to your property and develop a treatment plan with you to help control fleas in and around your home.