Tuesday, June 14, 2011

World War Flea

My pets never get fleas.

I've boasted of this luck for years now, gleefully proclaiming "we never worry about those little bloodsuckers!" whenever someone brings up the topic of flea control. But recently I learned my lesson. Never, ever, ever boast about never needing to worry about fleas. NEVER. The flea gods will smite you down.

I don't know where the fleas came from. Did they hitch a ride with the new foster dog? Did they come from the neighbor dog? Did they sneak in through some crack or crevice in the basement? Where they came from is irrelevant - they came, they saw and they royally kicked our asses - at least for awhile.

First, I did what I always do when I see a single flea - I bathed the dogs, put some rose geranium oil on their collars, did a bit of light vacuuming and washed the dog blankets. Problem solved... yeah right. It became apparent that these fleas were no sissies. These fleas were on a mission.

I resorted to slightly more drastic measures. I rubbed diatomaceous earth into the carpet and sprayed a natural flea repellent on the yard. 'That'll kill 'em!,' I thought. Oh, how wrong I was. How very, very wrong.

After a week or so, I realized what I was up against. It was Fleapocalypse. Never before had I seen this many fleas! So I formulated my battle plan and put it into motion:

1. Operation Chemical X: Prescription Flea Products
The personal dogs got Vectra 3D (except for Revy, who got Frontline), the cats got Advantage, Katie got Advantage. I hate using chemicals like these to kill fleas, but in this case I had no choice.

2. Operation Rub A Dub: Bathtime
I ordered my trusty natural flea shampoo (Pure O Flee), but before it arrived I did an initial bath of 7th Generation dishsoap. The dishsoap suds were left on for 10 minutes. A quick rinse, then I sponged a 50/50 mixture of Bragg's apple cider vinegar (ACV) and water onto each dog. Let that sit for 10 minutes. Meanwhile, I thoroughly cleaned out their ears with a eucalyptus-based ear cleaner. Rinsed off the ACV, then spritzed the same ACV mixture onto their coats and worked it in with my fingers.

3. Operation Vey Nice: Borax
I sprinkled Borax into the sofa, the mattress, the rugs and the carpet. I worked it in with a broom, then let it sit for 24 hours before I vacuumed it up. I also dusted Borax under the washer and dryer, under the dog crates, into the cat tower and around every window and door. (Don't worry, I kept the animals away from the Boraxed areas at all times!)

4. Operation Suck On This: Vacuuming
Everything was vacuumed, every day. The sofa, the mattress, the hardwood floors, the rugs, underneath bookshelves and furniture. The basement, the basement steps. The foyer. The bathroom. Every square inch of my house was vacuumed every day.

5. Operation Salad Dressing: Bragg's Apple Cider Vinegar
ACV played a huge part in my war against the fleas. The dogs got spritzed with my 50/50 mixture three times a day, as well as had it added directly to their food. The corgis got 3-4 mL with each meal, and the Dobermans got 7-8 mL with each meal. The pit bull got 5-6 mL. The cats posed a problem - they eat raw so I couldn't put it on their food - so a few times a day I liberally sprayed the 50/50 mixture directly onto their coat, focusing on their front legs so they'd lick enough of the ACV off while grooming to be effective. Apple cider vinegar is one of the few substances safe for cats! I also mopped the bathroom daily with ACV, and sprayed the dogs' feet and legs before they went out in the yard to potty. (A pleasant side effect to the ACV regimen - everyone has beautiful coats and healthy skin now!)

6. Operation Peppermint Paradise: Yard Spray
I sprayed a natural flea spray in the yard, focusing on the areas where the dogs spend the most time. This is not a spray that uses harsh chemicals - instead, it's a spray that relies on various oils (peppermint and clove) to naturally kill and repel pests.

7. Operation Buzz Cut: Lawn Mowing
Fleas love to live in long, damp grass. I mowed every 3 days or so, to keep the grass incredibly short and uninviting. I left my shoes outside, and the socks/pants I wore while mowing were immediately tossed in the laundry, which brings us to...

8. Operation Crisp Linen: Tons of Laundry
Everything washable was washed, some items multiple times. I used the hot water setting, bleached when I could and added 1/2 cup of Borax to every load. Blankets for the cats, crate blankets and the sheets covering the sofa were washed daily.

9. Operation Midnight Skinnydipping: Homemade Flea Traps
I made my own flea traps out of pie tins, small lamps and dishsoap. I filled shallow pie tins with hot water, added dishsoap and placed them under warm lamps each night. Fleas and other insects are attracted to the warmth and the light, but drown in the soapy water. Every morning I'd wake up to several pie tins with 8-12 fleas in their watery graves! I placed these in key points - under the elevated cat beds and next to the pit bull's crate.

10. Operation Dry Ice: Low Humidity, Low Temperatures
I cranked up the air conditioning and ran the dehumidifier 24/7. Flea eggs need 70-75% humidity to hatch, 50% humidity to survive and temperatures of 70-90%. I did not give them that environment. As an added bonus, it was so chilly in the house that the fleas rushed to the flea traps (mwahaha!) to get warm.

And that, my friends, is how I won the war against the fleas. It was hard, it was expensive at times and it was time consuming. But I won, and that's what matters!

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