The Dreaded Flea

29 May


How does a dog or cat spell misery? F-L-E-A-S. These little parasites cause your pet to endlessly itch, scratch and chew, sometimes to the point of baldness or bleeding. What attracts these pesky bugs to our pets? In my experience, there are three major triggers for flea infestation: a poor diet, a compromised immune system and over-vaccination. Since fleas are parasites that are attracted to a weak host, I have found that a healthy lifestyle is the best defense.

How to you check for fleas on your pet? It’s easiest, of course, if your pet has short fur. But if your pet has long fur, just part sections of the hair and look at the skin for fleas, bites or droppings. A common spot is on the rump, just above the base of your pet’s tail. Check there for black, dirt-like specs. Use a flea comb (a fine-toothed comb for combing out flea eggs and dirt) to brush your pet over a white piece of paper, and notice if flea dirt collects onto the paper. Then dip your finger in water and smear it across the “dirt”. If it turns red, your pet has fleas.

It only takes one or two fleas to start your pet scratching, and an infestation can spread quickly.

So what’s the best way to get rid of fleas, or even prevent them in the first place? First, look at what you are feeding your pet. Switching to a species appropriate diet such as the raw diet or organic/holistic kibble, can make a huge difference.

You can also add Apple Cider Vinegar (ACV) to your pet’s water or food. ACV balances pH and makes the pet’s skin and blood unappetizing to fleas. Nutritional yeast – available at health food stores – and garlic can also be added to a pet’s daily food.

Natural soaps and shampoos are a great way to get rid of fleas and flea eggs. For instance, if you brush your pet with a flea comb, bgallery-thumbnails-1e sure to dip the comb into soapy water afterwards. And giving your pet a weekly bath with natural shampoo really helps. Here’s a favorite tip – after your pet is all sudsy with shampoo, wait 10-15 minutes before rinsing. This suffocates fleas and they will rinse out of your pet’s coat.

I am not a fan of chemical flea collars, because they are toxic, but there are some safe and effective herbal flea collars on the market. And I am certainly not a fan of chemical treatments administered directly onto a pet’s skin. Even the packaging material on these products recommends that you wear gloves to protect your own skin from the poison! Instead, I recommend essential oils such as geranium or rosemary. Place the oil between the pet’s shoulder blades and just above the base of the tail. With cats, you should always be extremely careful with essential oils, because some are poisonous to them, such as Neem, Tea tree or Melaluca oils.

The animal herbalist Juliette de Bairacli-Levy recommends using a daily lemon skin tonic. Thinly slice a whole lemon, including the peel, then add it to a pint of near boiling water and let it steep overnight. The following day, sponge this mixture onto your pet’s skin and let it dry. You can use this daily even for severe skin problems that involve fleas. Whole lemons contain powerful natural healing and flea-killing ingredients, such as d-limonene.

There are also homeopathic remedies that can strengthen the immune system against flea infestations, such as Sulphur 30C or Psorinum 30C. Even if you are using some of the previous suggestions, these homeopathic remedies can help your pet resist an infestation.

-Written by, Brenda M. Tobin-Flood, Cert. C.N.

Please feel free to email me with any questions, or to schedule a wellness appointment for your pet to


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