Have you watched your pet furiously scratch their ears, stop with their foot in midair, and let out a yawn? While that action means your pet’s just bored and there’s nothing to worry about, other scratchings warrant more concern. So when should you worry about your pet's scratching? When there are fleas afoot. Here's how to spot an infestation on your pet and learn how to treat and prevent those itchy bugs naturally. (If the scratching is not due to fleas but general itchiness, you may want try our EcoSpot Hot Spot solution to calm your pet's skin.)Pedro Nuñez de Villavicencio (1644–1700) "Boy Looking for Fleas on a Dog"
The Warning Signs
When we have an itch on our body, we scratch it and it goes away. But if your pet bites and fusses over the same area on their body or near their tail, you’ll have to do some investigating.Inspect your pet daily and use a flea comb weekly to check for fleas, ticks, and droppings. Found your first tick? Get Fido or Fluffy to a vet to keep you both safe from diseases and learn the proper removal.If you find a few fleas, which look like tiny brown or dark red bugs, you’ll need to take some action ASAP.
We've Got Bugs*
You may be wondering how those gross fleas got on your clean furry family member. Well, your home and yard can be breeding grounds for fleas and ticks. Make sure to mow your lawn weekly to chop up bugs. Empty your vacuum after each use and check the contents.Wash your pet’s bed, blankee, and anything else they snuggle in. Clean rubber and rope toys with natural detergent.Now, if you’re heavily infested with fleas, you may need to go the chemical route first. But if you caught the infestation early, there are lots of chemical-free options to try. (When the culprit isn't fleas, scratching could also be the result of the tiny mites that cause mange, in which case we recommend trying our 5-star natural mange treatment, EcoMange.)
Home remedies that involve garlic won't work! But there are items in your cupboard that will:
You can spray natural pest deterrents on a bandanna. (Here: Petite, Precious, Bambi & Bella, courtesy of B&B Multi Productions)
Citrus - the oil in citrus rind contains limonene, which is effective, but is a skin irritant and harmful if ingested. Quarter a lemon, pour boiling water over it, and leave overnight. Spray your pet and bedding with this. Spray a bandanna as a flea collar alternative. Citrus juice can be added to your natural pet shampoo for bathing.
Rose Geranium or Cedar Essential Oil - this can only be used on dogs because the constant licking by cats causes them to ingest too much. Apply 2-3 drops in 1-3 Tbs. of water to your dog’s collar or bandana.
Apple Cider Vinegar- dilute 1 tsp. of Braggs Apple Cider Vinegar into 1 quart of their drinking water for every 40 lbs. animal weight. Spray cats with undiluted vinegar for 5 minutes then rinse off.
Rosemary - Make a flea dip using 2 cups fresh rosemary and 2 pints water. Boil 30 minutes, cool, and strain. Add 6 pints warm water and pour onto your pet. Don’t rinse. As an anti-inflammatory it will relieve the itch, too.
Remember: Good hygiene such as routine inspecting, bathing, and vacuuming is important in preventing fleas and ticks, as is the routine maintenance of applying these natural alternatives.