The heat and humidity are ticking up here in Austin. While warm weather is great news if you plan to hit up one of the many pet-friendly spots in town, it also means the start of flea and tick season.
Should they pounce onto your pet, these pesky insects can cause mild irritation like constant scratching, or lead to serious health issues such as Lyme disease and tapeworms.
We’ll break down important facts about these fleas, how to prevent an invasion, and tips on natural flea treatment if you find your pet infested.
Facts on Fleas and Ticks
Let’s start by discussing some fundamental flea knowledge. A flea’s life consists of 4-stages:
- Pupa – hardest stage to kill
Adult fleas feed on blood, lay eggs that hatch into larvae in 5-11 days, and larvae follow behind and feed on the adult’s excrement. The larvae then spins a cocoon to become a pupa where it develops into an adult after 1-2 weeks.
But, the adult flea may lie dormant in the cocoon for up to 2 years before emerging in seconds when stimulated by a passing animal. Once it has hitchhiked on a host, a flea can survive up to one year in an ideal climate (hot and humid).
There are a few reasons why the warm, muggy weather that comes with a Texas Spring are ideal conditions for fleas and ticks:
- Temperature: Both fleas and ticks flourish in warm climates, preferring somewhere in the 70 to 85 degree range.
- Humidity: Fleas and ticks alike require a high humidity level, ideally around 70%, for survival.
- Landscape: Ticks generally live in the wooded areas with leaves and bushes, while fleas like shaded, damp spaces. Both rural and suburban areas, including the garden or dog park, could play hunting ground for these creepy crawlers.
- Light: Direct sunlight and a lack of moisture are a nightmare for fleas and ticks, as they prefer dark, humid areas.
Natural Flea Prevention
Pets are most at risk of catching fleas outdoors and tracking them inside. Thankfully, the outdoors is a relatively easy arena for preventative flea-fighting.
Adult fleas and larvae can’t survive for very long in direct sunlight, so focus your efforts on shady cool spots where your pet likes to hang.
1. Mow: Keep the grass short and yard neat to eliminate any patches or leaf piles where infestations can occur.
2. Water: Fleas drown, so hose down any flea-prone spots (shady areas, your pet’s favorite spots, etc) with water every few days to keep colonies at bay.
3. Diatomaceous Earth (DE): DE can be applied outdoors. Simply dust over shady spots with an old sock or glove once a month or less as needed. Let the dust settle out of the air before letting kids or pets near, but once clear, continue play as usual.
4. Beneficial nematodes: These little microscopic ninjas seek out and feast on garden-borne pests (i.e. fleas). Like DE, they are all-natural, chemical-free, safe for people and pets, and highly effective. Unlike DE, you don’t need to worry about inhaling them.
Beneficial nematodes are often sold on a small sponge pad, which you soak in a gallon of water and spray over shady spots in your yard. Just be sure to use a dedicated lawn sprayer, as one previously used for pesticides could kill the little guys.
5. Health: Fleas thrive on sickly animals, and are better repelled by dogs and cats with super strong immune systems. Take a peek at your dog’s food ingredients and make sure they’re up to par.
And during flea season, consider adding supplements like kelp or fish oil to boost their skin & coat defenses, and keep hungry pests at bay. Some of our favorites include Kelp Help (giant 1lb tub, packed minerals and micronutrients) and Fish Oil (all the natural Omega-3s of high end salmon oils, without the high end price tag).
Natural Flea Treatment
You’ve kept your yard neat and tidy, but your dog played with some friends at the park who were kind enough to share their fleas with him. Now what?
1. Bath Time: First things first–give them a bath! Fleas hate water, so use lots of it in tandem with a natural flea treatment shampoo. Then comb them down with a fine-toothed flea comb, paying special attention to the face, stomach, and tail.
Dip the comb in soapy water to kill any fleas you get off. Bathe no more than once every other week (over-bathing can dry out your pup’s skin), and groom with a flea comb daily.
2. Vacuum: Vacuuming sucks up 30% of larvae, 60% of flea eggs, and much of the larvaes’ food supply. Be thorough: get under furniture, cushions, etc. and pay extra attention to high traffic areas and your pet’s favorite spots.
Empty the vacuum bag contents into a plastic bag, freeze, and throw away, since fleas can live and reproduce unattended in the vacuum. As an added precaution, you can throw a chemical-based flea collar into the vacuum bag to kill any sucked up.
3. Laundry: Wash your pet’s bedding and any washable material he hangs around. Cover your pet’s bedding and any favorite napping areas with a towel or blanket, and wash every 2-3 days.
Again, immersion in water kills adult fleas and larvae, so washing your pets bedding every few days knocks out any budding colonies.
If you’ve had it up to high heaven with these fleas, or want to nip them in the bud stat, consider topical treatments. Tomlinson’s Feed carries a variety of traditional and natural flea treatments:
- If your pet has fleas, you can knock adult pests out with Capstar, and oral pill that kills adult fleas within 30 minutes. You can then kill eggs and larvae with your choice of the below treatments.
- Monthly topical medications like Advantage II, Frontline, Sentinel, and K9 Advantix are all options for flea and tick prevention.
- Or, if you prefer a gentler version or can’t remember to apply monthly topicals, Bayer’s new Seresto collar releases low concentrations of flea-killing potions to protect your pet for up to 8 months.
- These products and more can be found at any of our 10 locations.
- If you prefer a more natural flea treatment, Wondercide products
use organic, food-grade materials to protect pets, people, and property.
- The active ingredient in Wondercide Flea & Tick products is cedar oil, which works by blocking octopamine–necessary to regulate heart rate, movement, and metabolism in “bad bugs” like fleas and ticks.
- Use the EcoTreat formula, an insect control concentrate, to kill and repel countless pests, including fleas and ticks.
- Other treatment and prevention kits for homes, apartments, people and pets are safe for use on all surfaces, plants and animals.
Need natural flea treatment ASAP? Some of these products are available for delivery thanks to Instacart!
Are there other methods of prevention or treatment that work for you and your pets? Chime in below in the comments!