Monday, April 15, 2013

Fighting the Outside Battle with Fleas


As I said in my last blog entry, I pay only about $2-5 per month for flea prevention, heartworm and intestinal parasite prevention. In my book Secrets of a Vet Tech, I tell you how I do that.

One of my biggest challenges has been how to eliminate fleas outside so that they do not jump on my pets to begin with.

I am hoping with the long cold depressing winter we had here in Tennessee, that the flea population will be reduced. Last year, we had little winter and the fight against fleas seemed all but lost.

I'm not a fan of using chemicals on the yard as I have wildlife that nibble on the grass. So after doing some research, I now use two natural items. One I buy at Tractor Supply, the other I buy at Amazon.

Before I go into what those items are, lets talk about how you know your pet has fleas. If I had a dollar for every pet parent that swore that their pet, who was scratching, did not have fleas and that there were no fleas in the house, I'd be driving a new car.  Some even assumed that because they had hardwood floors that they wouldn't have places for fleas to hide.

Pets with allergies to fleas can have a terrible reaction from just one bite. Its called flea allergy dermatitis

One of the first indications that there are fleas around is WHERE  your dog in particular, starts scratching. If its just above the base of the tail, you've got fleas somewhere. (This is usually when the pet parent starts saying "but Fifi doesn't have fleas and I KNOW I don't have fleas in my house". ) This is when a smart vet tech or veterinarian will get out the flea comb and look for flea dirt.

Flea dirt is basically flea poop. The way to differentiate flea dirt from regular dirt is to place the questionable dirt on a white paper towel and get it wet. If it turns reddish in color, that's flea dirt. for a heavier infestation, the picture is typical of what you will find.

Rest assured that if you have one flea on your dog or cat, you have a significant population in your house. You may not see it, but it is there. Fleas don't invade our lives and make them miserable by being easy to find, so the chances that you are going to sweep your house and find them are unlikely. You can sometimes vacuum up their eggs and throw away the vacuum bag, but you just will not know for sure as you can't see such microscopic eggs.

So for me, the fight starts outside. As soon as it is warm enough, I buy two products: Food Grade Diatomacious Earth and Beneficial Nematodes. Keep in mind that before it gets warm, I apply fipronil on each pet using the method and dosages in my book.

The Beneficial Nemotodes are tiny bugs that eat bad bugs including fleas. It used to be a pain to apply the nemotodes to your lawn, but recently, they came out with a spray formula that you can use at home. It takes a lot of them to cover a small space. I use 7-10 million in my dog lot. My property is nearly an acre, so I concentrate the nemotodes where the need is the greatest. Normally you only have to apply once a season.

Food Grade (and that's SUPER important) Diatomaceous Earth is my other natural solution. It is a powder commonly used with livestock. Its incredibly safe except you have to be careful not to inhale the dusty residue. I surround my cat house with it and most of my yard. A big bag only cost about $12 at Tractor Supply. One important note is that it must be applied to a dry ground and the ground will need to be dry for 12-24 hours. So make sure you know what the weather is calling for. DE can be applied as often as needed.

For the full story on flea control with all my secrets, please don't forget,  Secrets of a Vet Tech. My readers will tell you, its the best $10 you can spend.

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