What blood-sucking, pinhead-size, living organism can be frozen and go without food for a year, then stretch a little and move with the velocity of a small aircraft? It is a Flea!
According to the great writer and thinker, Herodomus, fleas were notorious as long ago as the 5th Century BC. They probably traveled with Marco Polo on several of his trips to Asia. During the Dark Ages, fleas helped spread plague epidemics that killed much of the human race. So they have definitely learned how to survive.
If you live in an area where the climate ranges from 650 to 850 Fahrenheit, and the humidity is over 70 percent, you have an excellent chance of having flea infestations all year long. An El Nino season causes a substantial increase in flea outbreaks. Fleas live in gardens, bushes, weeds and tall grass. They are most often carried into the home by pets, and then settle into a variety of hiding places like sofa pillows, carpets, cracks in wooden floors and especially in the hair of a dog or cat.
Each mature flea lays several hundred eggs in its short lifetime. These eggs develop into larvae, cover themselves like a cocoon and later emerge as a full grown, voracious adult. Their hind legs come with a pad of protein called "resilin". When the flea's legs push down on this rubbery pad, it springs back and can catapult the flea upwards to over one hundred times its body length. When a flea gets hungry, this springboard action enables it to jump onto a passing victim for a feast.
Unfortunately, their favorite food to feast on is mammal blood. And it doesn't matter if it's your pet's blood or your blood. Fleas can suck enough blood over a period of time to actually lower an animal's red blood cell count, even causing anemia. Since each flea may bite up to fifty times, skin disorders can become a problem. Even if your pet is healthy, allergic reactions such as redness, welts and itching can be triggered by these bites. Constant licking of these areas by the animal can cause "hot spots" in a very short time.
If a pet is not regularly de-fleaed, it might become so irritable from the bites that it is no longer the sweet-tempered dog or cat you know and love. However, trying to get rid of fleas with harsh chemical powders or liquids can cause even more severe skin, lung and other tissue problems. For example, chemically impregnated flea collars have been known to harm a pet's sensitive eyes. Dermatology studies at several veterinary colleges have shown that these chemicals may not only be dangerous but vary widely in their effectiveness. In addition, these so-called remedies can be quite expensive.
Luckily, there are many safe, inexpensive and more natural methods of getting rid of fleas. However, fighting fleas must be done on three fronts. They are outside the home, inside the home and on the pet.
If your pet goes outside or stays outside, then the first line of defense must be out there. Keep grass cut, trim bushes and dispose of dead shrubbery and debris. Dust-infested areas with Diatomaceous Earth, which is made from natural deposits of shells formed by single-celled sea plants and other ocean materials. Diatomaceous Earth is harmless to mammals, birds and even the lowly but beneficial earthworm. Because it is made from non-synthetic substances and has trace minerals, it even improves the soil while keeping fleas away.
An even less expensive way to prevent infestations is to plant garlic around the outside of the house and along outer fences. Tasty as garlic is to humans, it is hated by most insects including fleas.
To protect the inside of a home, start right at the entrance. Lemon juice made into a spray and used across the door sill can deter many a flea from entering. However, the key to keeping fleas out of the home is to vacuum rugs and floors as often as possible. This is also a good place to use that potentially dangerous chem-ical flea collar. Cut the flea collar into one inch pieces and place a few at a time into the vacuum cleaner bag. Then when vacuuming, the fleas from rugs and floors are sucked into the bag and killed by the chemicals in the pieces of collar rather than allowing them to slip out and attack again.
On the third front, it must be remembered that the invading hordes are almost invisible. Sometimes the only way they can be seen, is to place the pet on a white towel, and then brush and comb thoroughly and often. Always brush from the head toward the tail. Keep in mind, this brushing is to get rid of fleas and not for grooming. Those dark specks which fall onto the towel are flea droppings and indications that fleas are present.
If a comb is used, make it a metal or plastic one with narrow spaces between the teeth. A little petroleum jelly on the comb will make the fleas stick and easily plucked off. Remember to wash the comb thoroughly in hot soapy water right after each combing. Brushing and combing should be performed twice weekly and more often if possible.
The prospect of giving a pet a bath usually sends even the most avid animal lover heading for the hills. Bathing must be done to aid in the fight against fleas. There are some very good organic anti-flea shampoos on the market today, but it can sometimes be less expensive to buy and mix certain herbs at home.
Pennyroyal, peppermint and eucalyptus makes an excellent non-toxic shampoo if brewed properly. Local health food stores usually stock these ingredients. Instructions and recipes for making shampoos, sprays, foods, dips and other natural flea-fighting techniques are outlined in a recently published manual called "FLEA-AWAY: The Natural Way To Flea Control". This handy little publication also gives the best ways to free pets and households from the age-old flea problem using items which are found around every home. It outlines the most effective plan to fight fleas outside and inside your home and on your pet.
The writers of this manual are pet owners themselves who are seriously concerned about the dangers of toxic chemical products. Their research resulted in this easy-to-read guidebook which describes in simple language effective plans to control fleas in nat-ural ways.
To obtain a copy of "FLEA-AWAY, The Natural Way To Flea Control", send $6, cash, check or money order (postage and handling included), along with your name and address to: KAUFMAN, 14846 Sutton St., Sherman Oaks, CA 91403.
Return to the July/August Issue Index page