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SAFE, ALTERNATIVE
FLEA CONTROL

A"void contact with skin."
"Harmful or fatal if swallowed."
"This product is toxic to fish, birds and other wildlife."
"Harmful if absorbed through skin."
"Harmful if inhaled."
"Avoid contact with eyes, skin or clothing."
"Keep out of reach from children."
"Dust released by collar is a cholinesterase inhibitor."
[Cholinesterase inhibitors lead to an accumulation of the neurotransmitter acetylcholine. This produces paralysis and then death in insects.]

"Those are common precautionary statements on many readily available flea treatments. If it is so bad for a person, then what is it doing to your pet? There are countless stories of pets, and even people, who have suffered the ill effects of flea treatments, but finding alternatives can be a problem for most people.

A few facts about fleas:

* Fleas are similar to cockroaches in the fact that they adapt to their environment. They become stronger and more immune to these popular chemicals with each generation. * Most of the fleas are living in your pet's environment, rather than in its fur. (Every flea found on your pet means that there approximately 30 more living in your home.)

* A single flea can lay as many as 60 eggs per day. The lifespan of a flea is about 90 days. Controlling fleas does require some effort. But there are there truly safer and effective ways to control fleas than several well-known commercial flea control products.

"Buyer beware" -- Toxic products masquerading as "natural"

Even if all the ingredients in a flea repellent product are natural, this doesn't ensure that they won't be toxic to your pet. For instance, d'Limonene, which is derived from citrus peels and found in many natural anti-flea products, can be highly toxic to cats. Herbal flea collars, though they don't contain the poisons that conventional flea collars do, come with the same warning: do not let children play with the collar. If it's not good for your child, why would it be good for your pet?

It is advisable to read product labels carefully. For example, one line of supposedly natural flea sprays and dips contains "all natural synthetic Pyrethrin." Pyrethrins are insecticides derived from the African chrysanthemum (Pyrethrum). Pyrethroids are synthetic derivatives of pyrethrins. Both are commonly used in conventional preparations which make the product sound innocent because it's derived from a flower. But pyrethrins alone can be toxic to the animal and pyrethroids expose your animal to more chemicals.

Other natural ingredients known to cause allergic reactions or have toxic effects in some animals include Tea Tree (Melaleuca alternifolia) oil and Pennyroyal oil.

Cat owners take special note: Cats should not be given any essential oils, period.

The use of essential oils with cats is a potentially volatile combination. Cats do not efficiently metabolize essential oils and their use can lead to symptoms of toxicity. In addition to essential oils, cats have known metabolic sensitivities to certain herbal preparations and allopathic medications. Because the cat's body does not efficiently excrete essential oils, they can build up to toxic levels. Symptoms of toxicity include vomiting, dizziness, clumsiness, lack of appetite, lack of energy and shock. In addition, cats have very thin, delicate skin. Essential oils are absorbed rapidly into their skin and enter the bloodstream, overwhelming their systems. Cats dislike strong odors and generally keep away from strong scents -- even highly diluted essential oils.

Many people find that they can use essential oils on their cats with no obvious adverse effects. Although one or more applications of an essential oil product or blend may not cause immediate harm, the effects of essential oils can be cumulative and manifest themselves at a later date in the form of toxicity for which owners and vets often can find no attributable cause.

So what are the alternatives?

Animal health -- Nutrition first

Food- and plant-derived substances are a healthy substitute for chemical-based products. But are they strong enough to control fleas and ticks? Well, why are some people are more prone to mosquito bites than others? There's a nutritional reason, and it has to do with the strength of each person's immune system and the levels of B complex, zinc, selenium and antioxidants in the body and bloodstream. A strong immune system and high nutrient levels help repel insects.

If your cat or dog has a severe flea problem, it is often a signal that their health is not as it should be. Many commercial pet foods are nutritionally inadequate and contain harmful additives and by-products. By feeding your animals a high-quality, natural diet, free of additives and preservatives, you improve their health and dramatically increase their protection from fleas. A healthy animal does not taste or smell as good to fleas.

There are many excellent nutritional supplements that will provide your pet the raw nutrients missing from commercial formulas. Supplements will greatly enhance your pet's health and thus, strengthen their immunity.

You can also add these inexpensive, easy nutritional supplements (you may even have these in your cupboards right now).

Garlic and yeast

Fleas particularly dislike the flavor of garlic and yeast (nutritional or brewer's yeast). Mixing garlic and yeast with your pet's food can render their blood unpalatable to fleas.

Cat owners: Please be aware that raw garlic is known to be toxic to cats. According to Dr. Randy Kidd, the use of garlic, as well as onions, shallots and chives, has been shown to cause damage to feline red blood cells which can result in hemolytic anemia and eventual death. Raw garlic and onions can also cause ulcers and irritation of the mouth, esophagus and stomach. Other sources state it is perfectly okay to give cats garlic in reasonable amounts.

Use about a teaspoon of brewer's (or nutritional) yeast daily for cats and small dogs, and a tablespoon for a 50-pound dog. Some animals are yeast intolerant and will react with a skin allergy. Discontinue use if this occurs. Combine the yeast with the garlic in your animal's food, and consider doubling the dosage during peak flea season.

Other natural repellents include vitamin B1 (thiamine) and apple cider vinegar. (See your veterinarian for the correct amount of a vitamin B1 supplement for your pet.) The dosage of apple cider vinegar is about one teaspoon daily in the pet's drinking water. Apple cider vinegar helps strengthen the immune system.

Controlling fleas in the environment -- indoor control

Grooming

Combing your cat or dog daily with a flea comb is an important part of flea control. Bathing animals regularly is also advised. There is no need to use chemical flea shampoos. A water bath with a gentle soap that won't irritate their skin is sufficient to eliminate existing fleas.

Sanitize your pet's environment

Fleas lay their eggs everywhere -- in carpets, curtains, upholstery, animal bedding, cracks and crevices. Destroying the fleas' eggs by thorough weekly vacuuming and frequent washing of animal bedding goes to the source of the problem and will help eliminate the flea population in your house. Keeping clutter on the floor to a minimum also will deprive the fleas of hiding places.

Essential oils as flea repellent

Essential botanical oils such as eucalyptus, cedar, peppermint, citrus (dogs only), lemongrass, etc. are one way of combating fleas. While not an insecticide, these blended oils repel fleas with their smell. Even better, the scents are often quite pleasing for people. Mix a few drops with distilled water in a spray bottle and spritz infested areas.

Diatomaceous earth

Food grade Diatomaceous earth sprinkled under furniture and into other nooks and crannies around your house will kill fleas and flea eggs by cutting into their waxy skin and dehydrating them. It may also be safely applied to your pet for the same effect.Outdoor control

Nematodes

While you can't kill off the fleas that your pet is going to encounter when it goes outside, you can keep the population down in the area around your house by using nematodes. These microscopic worms eat flea larvae (and reputedly ignore the "good" bugs) and are therefore a natural way to control the flea population.

You can purchase nematodes at pet and garden stores. Place them in moist, shady spots near your house; neither fleas nor nematodes survive in the hot sun. As nematodes multiply rapidly, you have only to introduce a small number to have the desired effect.

Diatomaceous earth may also be used outdoors. Apply on dry walks, dry decks, dry patios, dry lawns.


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