For people, a warm winter followed by a hot summer is nice. For fleas, it’s ideal.
This year, with no chilly winter to kill them off, fleas are thriving-and driving pets crazy with unusually difficult infestations.
But many pet owners are reluctant to resort to harsh chemical treatments.
So Sam Wirsching at Sam’s Cats and Dogs, Naturally steers beleaguered pet owners to more natural alternatives.
“I recommend everyone have a metal-toothed flea comb,” he said. “That’s how to know if your pet has a flea or two, or an infestation.”
The comb may in fact be the best way to deal with the fleas if there aren’t too many of them, he said.
“If you’re not pulling out a lot of fleas and you don’t want to get a bunch of products, you can comb out the fleas and drown them in warm soapy water,” he said.
But when your pet is well and truly infested, a good topical treatment may be your best recourse.
For that, Wirsching prefers Sentry Fiproguard.
“That’s the safest,” he said. “It only affects non-vertebrates.”
The treatment also addresses chewing lice and ticks, including those that carry Lyme Disease.
One treatment lasts about a month, and it doesn’t take much to get the job done.
“You start at the back of the neck and go down the spine a bit,” said Wirsching, and that’s all that it takes.
Wirsching, himself the father of a young child, prefers not to use topical treatments at all for fear it will wind up on his child’s hands. He sticks to a metal-toothed comb, he said.
“I use it every day during flea season,” he said.
There are also medications that a pet can consume that get rid of fleas.
One of them is Bodyguard.
“If your dog is on it over month, your dog becomes resistant to fleas,” he said. “It’s got ingredients that not only strengthen the skin and coat, it has elemental sulphur that you don’t smell, but it comes out on the coat and makes it very bitter to the flea, and they won’t be on it even if they are desperate.”
Wirching recommends pet owners who want to consult a vet go to Harmony Animal Wellness Center in Monroe, which includes both traditional and alternative treatment modalities.
Getting fleas off your pet can be easier than getting them off the couch.
For fleas in the home, there are a couple of non-toxic options.
A solution of boric acid applied to carpets and upholstery can rid the house of fleas, and rubbing diatomaceous earth, actually a soft sedimentary rock that crumbles to a white powder, into the coat of the pet can reduce the chances that the fleas will return. The fine powder actually leaches moisture from the exoskeletons of fleas, which die of dehydration.
Fleas also need 50 percent humidity to live; in some homes it may be possible to get rid of them by dehumidifying. It will take usually two dehumidifiers per room to get the air dry enough to drive out fleas.
Room foggers (flea “bombs”) can help, but direct sprays work better. Make sure the spray or fogger has an ingredient to prevent larvae from hatching, as well. And vacuum regular and thoroughly.
Washing all pet bedding helps; fleas can’t survive soapy water.
Fleas can live in the lawn, and the lack of a cold winter can mean large colonies of them, but trying to address that with beneficial nematodes or harsher flea sprays is frequently futile, Wirsching said.
“Fighting insects in the outdoors, you don’t have enough chemicals,” he said.
Cedar wood chips and eucalyptus leaves do hold fleas down in the yard well, though.
Taking a few measures can help keep your pets comfortable through a challenging flea season, and healthy, natural choices of treatment can be beneficial to both pet and owner.