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Wednesday, September 8, 2010


Dealing with Tiny Critters

A few weeks ago, we noticed that our daughter had some bites. Not quite sure what caused it, I waited a few days to see if they would go away. I began to notice our dogs also scratching themselves. Fleas came to mind and it was confirmed when one morning as I picked up Leah from cleaning the horse stalls, she is currently cleaning horse stalls in exchange for natural horsemanship lessons. I noticed a few around her ankles. We are so grateful that Leah's instructor is very conscious to use only natural means in dealing with bug control. It puts us at ease. Although I experienced the whole flea thing growing up since we owned dogs, I was somewhat concerned as I know that if it isn’t dealt with immediately, it can sometimes become an issue.

Flea Facts
A flea is known as an ectoparasite as it lives outside the body where as a tapeworm that lives inside the body is called an endoparasite. Other ectoparasites include lice and ticks. A flea is a flat tiny wingliess insect which can jump when you least expect it making it hard to catch. Imagine pulling a bow string to shoot an arrow. The legs of a flea work in a similar manner. The flea bends its leg and at the same time a tendon holds the bent leg in place. There is a pad of elastic protein called resillin that stores energy. As soon as the flea releases the tendon which holds the leg in place, the leg will straighten which then causes the flea to almost immediately accelerate like an arrow. Its claws will grasp the surface it lands on.

As a parasite, It needs to feed on a host to survive. Fleas usually prefer a four legged host over a human. It has a needle like drinking tube which comes out of its mouth. Using its mouth parts, the flea is able to cut the skin of its host to make an incision and then insert the drinking tube which is used to suction the blood.

Female fleas will reproduce by laying eggs. The worm like larvae will cocoon itself and will later emerge. Larvae can stay in their cocoon for up to one year. Their cycle resembles that of a butterfly. A flea can only lay eggs if she is able to have a meal, if not she will die without reproducing. A female flea can lay about 20 eggs at a time and if lives her entire life span can lay about 500 eggs. A good environment for flea eggs to develop, is a climate temperature of 70 degrees Fahrenheit and 70 to 85 percent humidity. It takes about 12 days for eggs to hatch. Larvae will live on skin cells not blood.

It is a fact, fleas can carry diseasesn and can transmit parasites to humans and to animals. Fleas can feed on the eggs of tapeworms. The tapeworm will start to develop in the flea. If an animal swallows the infected flea, the animal then becomes infected, the tapeworm will grow in the animal’s intestine shedding the egg sac near the animal’s rectum when it sleeps. If the flea larvae continues to live, the cycle will likely begin once again. Children can also become infected with tapeworms if they swallow fleas while petting the animal. People can also become infected if they are in contact with contaminated waste and do not wash their hands and infect their mouth.

We know that fleas live on four legged animals, like dogs and cats but can also live on other rodents. If you’re interested in learning more flea derived diseases, you can research bubonic plague, murine typhus.

Our first concern was the health of our daughter, knowing that fleas may carry diseases, we didn’t want this to be an issue for her since she was dealing with flea bites. Keep in mind that not all people are prone to flea bites. Growing up, it seemed that fleas gravitated to only a few family members. Does it have to do with alkaline and acidity of one’s body? I have yet to research this so if you have any information on this, please share.

In order to control fleas and bites with to our daughter, we dealt with it accordingly:

  • We made sure she would bathe as soon as she came home from cleaning the horse stalls.
  • Her clothes would be washed that day.
  • She also applied Dr. Christopher’s Bite and Sting salve. I reinforced to not scratch her bites.
  • We also had all her linen washed immediately.

According to Pesticide.Org, many of the chemicals found in pet products sold for flea control can be of concern.  Knowing this, we made a choice to choice safer ways for our family.  Here is a list of concerns according to Pesticide.org:

  • Imidacloprid (often sold as Advantage) Imidacloprid is toxic to animal nervous systems. In a test conducted by an imidacloprid manufacturer, it caused tremors in laboratory animals.
  • Imidacloprid (often sold as Advantage) Imidacloprid is toxic to animal nervous systems. In a test conducted by an imidacloprid manufacturer, it caused tremors in laboratory animals.
  • Scientists from the Chinese Academy of Sciences showed that imidacloprid causes damage to DNA (the genetic material in living cells) in laboratory tests with human blood cells. In a test conducted by an imidacloprid manufacturer, pregnancy loss (miscarriage) was more common in laboratory animals exposed to imidacloprid than in unexposed animals.
  • Fipronil (often sold as Frontline) Fipronil insecticide products disrupt hormone function. Brazilian scientists showed that an application of Frontline to laboratory animals caused dramatic changes in the levels of two sex hormones and disrupted the animals' reproductive cycle.
  • The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) classifies fipronil as a carcinogen (a chemical that can cause cancer). Fipronil insecticides are persistent. Researchers at Murray State University showed Frontline persists for at least 56 days on pets' skin.

For more information on sources please visit Pesticide.org

We decided to take a different approach and try to rid the fleas on our dogs without the use of chemicals. After researching on how to rid of fleas, we came up with our protocol.
  • Immediately washed all dog blankets and bedding. We had to throw out one of our dog beds since it had been chewed open and could have had fleas in the stuffing.
  • We washed the dogs in water and vinegar mixture every other day for almost a week.
  • Vacuum was done daily. Its slowed a bit but we are still trying to vacuum at least every other day.During the intense week of ridding fleas, we would search for fleas on both dogs when we saw them biting or scratching themselves. It is probably best to wear gloves when dealing with the dogs.
  • We kept the dogs out of as many rooms as possible to control possible flea infestation.

Other helpful tips.
Here are a few other helpful tips which may others may think of using if they are in a similar situation.
  • Our friend is able to control fleas in her barn by using diatamaciaous earth along with Borax.
  • She also uses mixture of certain essential oils mixed with water in a spray bottle, this can be sprayed on clothing and skin and helps if needed. Here is what she does, using a bottle that holds at least 16 ounces, use 9 to drops each of clove, lemongrass and tea tree essential oil.in the spray bottle. You can add a little more of lemongrass. Add water to the bottle. Shake well. When needing to apply, shake well before and in between shaking.
  • I’ve read heard that salt can be added to carpet area and left on for a while and then vacuumed.
  • Using the dish washing soap Dawn is also known to kill fleas. Simply lather real well, leave on for a few minutes and rinse.
  • Use a flea comb when grooming.

This was shared at Simple Lives Thursday  at GNOWFLINS

If you have dealt with a flea situation and would like to share what natural ways without the use of chemicals worked for you, please leave a comment below. I know others would benefit from this information.


  1. I would suggest using GOOT or just coconut oil on her skin to help with the bites.

    To take care of the fleas themselves I would suggest Diatomaceous earth. It is natural and will kill the fleas while causing no harm to humans. We used this on our goats when they had mites as it is also safe for animals. You can put this in your house where the fleas might be and on your dogs. :)

  2. Thank you Jocelyn, I will look at your site for GOOT, as I recall reading it from there. I've heard great things of diatomaceous earth, i'm planning to go to the feed store this week. I hear it is great to rid of parasites in animals, something i need to research some more.

  3. Oh No! Well I hope you can get rid of them :) When we had our chigger bites we bathed in oat meal, maybe that could help too :)

  4. Great information!!! Thanks!!!


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