I've never liked the idea of giving my dog a pill that will cause him to basically sweat out poison so that he won't have fleas. Yes, it works to keep the fleas away, but I have to think cycling poison through his body isn't optimal for his health. Until now, I didn't have a better way.
Fleas are a much bigger issue here in Atlanta than in Dallas where we used to live. Our prescription for his anti-flea "medication" had run out and I noticed that the poor guy was scratching almost constantly. I felt terrible for him and I didn't happen to have any money to renew his prescription. It was time to get creative in finding a better solution. I tested a number of different approaches and one of them ended up working quite well: diatomaceous earth.
Step 1: Go Outside
Applying the diatomaceous earth (DE) is going to be a little messy, so I recommend going outside. The DE has the consistency of a powdered chalk, so you will also want something to clean off your hands afterwards. I suggest bringing a wet wash rag or baby wipes when you take your DE outside to apply the treatment.
At first, your dog will probably try to run away. I leashed him so he would stay in the same area of the yard while I applied the DE. Initially he protested, but over time he figured out what I was doing and started actively cooperating with me.
Step 2: Apply to Coat
Take one handful of the diatomaceous earth at a time, apply it to your dog's coat, and then massage the powder into the coat. I couldn't get any video of this because it was so messy. I applied the DE to the entire coat, focusing on certain key areas that need to get an extra handful. These key areas are: at the top base of the tale, underneath where the legs meet the body, and underneath the dog's belly.
I massaged the DE into his entire coat, with extra amounts being applied to the key areas. Then I took him on a walk so that any excess DE which was likely to fall off would fall off in the road and not around the house.
Repeat once per day until the fleas are gone. This took 4 - 5 days overall, with a significant drop-off in itching occurring within the first 24 hours. In subsequent applications, focus on any area your dog continues to scratch.
Does It Make the House Messy?
No. Some of the diatomaceous earth does fall off during the day, but it's not nearly as much as you might think. I also noticed that, insofar as the DE did fall off, it fell off in the areas of the house where my dog Jack likes to lounge. In other words, by applying the DE to your dog, you will end up applying small amounts of DE to all of his (or her) hangout spots. This is critical because otherwise the fleas living in these areas would simply re-infest the dog, even if all of the existing fleas actually on your dog have died.
How Does It Work?
Diatomaceous earth is a type of sedimentary rock that has been crushed into a fine powder. It is totally safe to eat for both humans and dogs. I really liked that because then I didn't have to worry about Jack licking the DE off of his coat after I applied it.
But how does it actually work? Well, a bug's body is different than a human's body or a dog's body. Bug bodies are basically made out of an exoskeleton (an external skeleton). For whatever reason, DE slices through these exoskeletons, quickly killing any sort of bug it touches. The great part is that the DE is able to cut the bug bodies without cutting you or your dog. Pretty neat, huh?
What About Sprays?
Diatomaceous earth doesn't work when wet, so do NOT combine it with spray-based solutions. In researching other possible approaches, I found a number of liquid flea control recipes online which used either diluted vinegar or citrus oil. Neither of these approaches proved to be effective when I tried them. I think you will be much more successful with the DE based approach described here. In addition, a lot of the other approaches which were based on a spray had an objectionable odor. The DE is completely odorless and non-offensive. If it does happen to end up getting wet, when it dries out it will start working again.
Now I keep a jar of diatomaceous earth around so I can proactively keep the fleas off of my dog Jack. I completely love that it doesn't use any form of poison because I want to maximize his overall health. It's an easy and effective way to control fleas. Best of all, it actually ended up being much cheaper than the conventional (medication based) solution I was using before this experiment. Try it out with your pet and let us know how it works for you.
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