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Welcome to Speak Your Art Blog Hub. This blog combines posts from seven of my other blogs: In the Flow Studios Arts, In the Flow Studios Body, I Love Shelter Dogs, Mana Keepers, PaaMano Eskrima & Performing Arts, Self-Actualization thru Women's Empowerment and Speak Your Art Poetry. It brings my organizations together and offers my readers an easier way to follow new posts in one convenient location.

I hope you will find something that inspires you, empowers you or reminds you of the limitless possibilities that dwell within you. Thank you for visiting. I wish you Peace today and everyday.

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Natural Flea Control; Rid Your Dog and Home of Fleas Naturally

We love our pets and want what is best for them. We know that fleas carry diseases like a tapeworm called Dipylidium caninum, Haemobartonellosis which affects red blood cells, another parasite called Dipetalonema reconditum, Plague caused by Yersinia pestis, Typhus caused by Rickettsia typhi, Tularemia caused by Francisella tularensis. In short fleas can transmit diseases that untreated can be potentially fatal to your dog(s). Large numbers of fleas can cause anemia, especially in puppies and kittens. Some pets have been known to die if the anemia is severe. Flea bites may be unnoticeable on some pets, cause slight irritation in others, and produce severe itching, red lesions, hair loss, and even ulcers in a third group. The severe lesions are caused by a hypersensitivity to the flea saliva and is called flea allergy dermatitis.

Natural flea control encompasses three major fronts of attack to be effective. Your dog's pH balance and nutrition are the foundation. Providing relief and healing of affected skin area and keeping fleas off your pet is the second one. Controlling fleas in your home and garden is the last but is very important in preventing recurrences. 

Some of the holistic tools I'll be sharing with you like Certified Organic Raw Apple Cider Vinegar and diatomaceous earth (DE) work on all three fronts. Fleas reproduce at an incredible rate. Ten female fleas can produce over 250,000 more fleas in a single month. Estimates are that for every adult flea on your pet, there are around 10 more wherever your pet spends time. That’s why you must eliminate not only the adults on your dog or cat, but the eggs, larva and pupa in your home, yard and your pet’s bedding (1).

Parasites are drawn to the weakest of the species. So the first battle to be engaged in your war on fleas is insuring your pet’s health is optimum and her immune system is strong. Feeding a high quality, species appropriate diet is paramount for your pet’s good health. Over-vaccinating your pet can devastate immune system functioning, as can the overuse of drugs like antibiotics and corticosteroids (1).

To effectively address a flea infestation in your environment or on your pet, you must first understand the life cycle of the flea as what works to kill an adult flea doesn't work with other stages and vice versa.   

Fleas go through the four lifecycle stages of egg, larva, pupa, and imago (adult). Adult fleas must feed on blood before they can become capable of reproduction. Flea populations are distributed with about 50% eggs, 35% larvae, 10% pupae, and 5% adults.

Eggs: The flea life cycle begins when the female lays after feeding. Eggs are laid in batches of up to 20 or so, usually on the host itself, which means that the eggs can easily roll onto the ground. Because of this, areas where the host rests and sleeps become one of the primary habitats of eggs and developing fleas. The eggs take around two days to two weeks to hatch.

Larvae: Flea larvae emerge from the eggs to feed on any available organic material such as dead insects, feces, and vegetable matter. In laboratory studies, some dietary diversity seems necessary for proper larval development. Blood-only diets allow only 12% of larvae to mature, whereas blood and yeast or dog chow diets allow almost all larvae to mature. They are blind and avoid sunlight, keeping to dark places such as sand, cracks and crevices, and bedding.

Pupae: Given an adequate supply of food, larvae pupate and weave silken cocoons within 1–2 weeks after three larval stages. After another week or two, the adult fleas are fully developed and ready to emerge. They may remain resting during this period until they receive a signal that a host is near - vibrations (including sound), heat, and carbon dioxide are all stimuli indicating the probable presence of a host. Fleas are known to overwinter in the larval or pupal stages.

Adult flea: Once the flea reaches adulthood, its primary goal is to find blood and then to reproduce. Its total life span can be as short as one year, but may be several years in ideal conditions. Female fleas can lay 5000 or more eggs over their life, allowing for phenomenal growth rates. Average 30–90 days.

Newly emerged adult fleas live only about one week if a blood meal is not obtained. However, completely developed adult fleas can live for several months without eating, so long as they do not emerge from their puparia. Optimum temperatures for the flea's life cycle are 21 °C to 30 °C (70 °F to 85 °F) and optimum humidity is 70%.

Your Dog's Insides:

Flea infestation is a sign of a problem with a dog's immune system. A homemade diet provides best the type of nutrition for a dogs' physiology, meaning it provides nutrients in a way that dogs can easily digest and fully utilize as opposed to most commercial pet foods and all commercial (kibble) dry dog foods. 

Once you understand the basic elements needed to provide a balanced, nutritional and readily digestible meal, cooking becomes quite an enjoyable and relatively effortless experience. It is an intelligent investment not only in a dog's health, vitality and longevity but also financially. When you add up all the money saved on veterinary visits and medications the cost of making home made food pays for itself. One of my favorite books detailing the importance of homemade meals is Dr. Becker's Real Food for Healthy Dogs & Cats

Another important tool in preventing flea bites is making sure your dog's pH levels are in balance. Raw Unfiltered Apple Cider Vinegar (AVC) has been used for hundreds of years to balance the intestinal system and bring pH levels into balance throughout all the systems in the body. 

Keeping a good pH is important, since pests like fleas, ticks, flies, bacteria, parasites, ringworm, fungi, staphylococcus, streptococcus, pneumococcus, and mange are less likely to bother dogs with an alkaline system inside and slightly acidic mantle outside. Since apple cider vinegar makes the skin more acidic but has an alkalizing effect inside the body, it's the perfect treatment for pets.

You can check your dog's ph balance status with pH strips available at any local pharmacy. Just slip the strip into the stream of your dog's urine first thing in the morning. A reading of 6.2 to 6.5 shows a healthy dog pH. Readings around 7.5 or higher are a bit too alkaline but acidic readings below 6.0 are too acidic. Adjust your dog's diet accordingly and using ACV will also re-establish the correct balance.

Suggested Dosage: Start with a one-teaspoon dose mixed into your dog's food twice a day for a 50 lb dog (adjust accordingly by weight) and if necessary increase up to about 1 tablespoon twice a day for the same size dog. By gradually increasing the amount suggested you can make sure your dogs aren't reactive to it and it gives their digestive systems the ability to adjust. Adding a splash of unpasteurized apple cider vinegar to your dog's water bowl can act as a flea repellant, help prevent urinary tract infections and also improves your pet's overall health. 

Another important natural product for the internal health of your dog is  diatomaceous earth (DE). Food grade diatomaceous earth absorbs methyl mercury, E. coli, endotoxins, viruses, organophosphate pesticide residues, and drug residues. Its positive effects include killing intestinal parasites, balancing the intestinal flora, killing viruses, and absorbing toxins. It is also a natural de-wormer. 

There are different grades of DE, we are looking for food grade DE. Since most grades of DE are mined into a fine powder, it can be tricky to distinguish food grade from the others. Food grade is not harmful to humans or other mammals but some of the other grades can include harmful additives, so it's important to choose the kind that's completely organic and food grade.

Warning: Be sure to use food grade diatomaceous earth. Unlike food grade DE, DE for pool filters has been superheated and chemically changed. If the diatomaceous earth you have mentions anything about being used in a pool filter, please make sure it's only used in your pool filter and not for the purposes discussed on this post. The surest way to tell one grade from another is simply to read the product label and ingredients list. Food grade should have no additives or treatments performed to it.

The suggested doses are: 

(I always start with a fourth of the suggested dose for each of my dogs and slowly work my way up. DE is powerful, effective and natural but it will dehydrate your dog (and yourself if you use it) so you must make sure your dog is drinking plenty of water (more than when not consuming DE) and voiding (urinating) regularly. If your dog has kidney problems I would stay away from using DE internally. It is always a good idea to consult with your Holistic Veterinarian before giving something new to your dog. 

Puppies & Small Dogs: ½ tsp

Dog under 50 lb: 1 tsp
Dog over 50 lb: 1 tbsp
Dog over 100 lb: 2 tbsp

 (If you find your dog has contracted tape worms or another type of intestinal parasite please read this article from Wolf Creek Ranch about how to use DE to naturally eliminate them from your dog's system.)  

I did not introduce both ACV and DE to my dogs at the same time. Too many changes can overwhelm and already weakened physiology. I started with DE because my dogs had visible tape worms in their stools. I feed a healthy home cooked diet with added minerals, vitamins and probiotics and added the DE to their meals. (I slowly increased the doses until they had reached the suggested dose for their weight) Once I was satisfied that they had cleared all the parasites from their digestive track I stopped feeding DE daily and began introducing ACV. If you don't have a concern with intestinal parasites you may want to bypass the DE and just use ACV.

Your Dog's Coat and Skin:

Fleas on your dogs' coat must be dealt with on a daily basis during flea season. If you suspect your dog is susceptible to flea allergy dermatitis it is even more important to stay vigilantly on top of preventing flea bites. Once they experience an allergic reaction to a flea bite they may need weeks to calm their immune system and balance their gut and pH levels again. An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, for sure! Thank you Benjamin Franklin. 

(If your dog is having an allergic reaction to flea bites that present with red bumps, pimples, hair loss, excessive itching, or lessons try Nu Stock. I'll be sharing more about this remarkable product as it pertains to fleas and your dog's coat later in this article.) 

One of the best tools we have to get rid of fleas from your dog's body is a simple flea comb. Comb your dog daily on a white or other light colored towel so you can see what you’re removing. Drop the combings into a bowl or other container of soapy water and flush it down the toilet when you are done. Even when you’re no longer seeing fleas or flea residue on your pet, it’s a good idea to continue to comb him/her daily until you’re sure his environment is completely flea free. 

Another great tool is our versatile friend Raw Apple Cider Vinegar. We can use ACV on our dog's coat to repel fleas as well as to offer relief from irritated and itchy skin. Here are three ways you can use ACV on your dog.

1. You can prepare a simple ACV, chamomile tea, and water rinse for after bathing. First bath your dog with the correct type of shampoo to address your dog's skin condition. (Please refer to the two Dr. Becker videos provided below to learn about the correct shampoo to use.) You combine 50% ACV with 50% chamomile tea water in a gallon jug (I use about 5 tea bags per gallon mix). Leave ACV rinse on coat and let it dry. Do not rinse with water. The dry rinse will not only repel fleas it will help calm and sooth your dog's coat.

ACV Rinse Preparation:
Use only Raw Apple Cider Vinegar not white, rice, balsamic, etc. Boil two bags of chamomile tea. Let them sit for 15 minutes and remove tea bags. Let tea cool to room temperature. Use one cup of ACV in gallon container. Then add the tea and fill with water. Cover container and shake well. You can use this rinse all over your dog's body and even on and in-between their foot pads. Please be careful not to get inside eyes or ears. I like to pour off my gallon container into a squeeze bottle with a long tip. It makes the rinse much easier to apply and helps avoid getting the rinse in the eye or ears. 

2. For skin application you can spray on or rub apple cider directly on coat. If  sore or open wounds are present, mix the ACV with equal parts water before application to the dog's skin. You can also spray your dog with apple cider vinegar before going out for a walk, in order to repel fleas and ticks naturally. Applying diluted apple cider vinegar to your pet's skin can make your dog seem unsavory to fleas and ticks. You can rub a bit of it into your dog's fur or dilute ACV with water in a sprayer and spray your pet whenever he or she is going outside. Please be careful not to get into the eyes.

3. ACV is great for relieving red or irritated foot pads. Once again you want to dilute ACV with water. To prevent reactions from allergens, chemicals, bacteria or other potentially irritating things your dog might have stepped in on your walk, place a shallow basin at the door and have your dog submerge each paw in it until fully saturated. Do not rise off, let dry naturally. 

If your pooch has a hard time submerging their paws in the mixture you can use the mix in a spray bottle and spray the bottom of your dog's pads making sure to saturate the entire area. Again, let mix dry naturally. 

Diatomaceous Earth is another great tool you can use on your dogs coat. It works by slashing the exoskeleton of the flea causing the flea to dehydrate and die. Going into a little more detail, the diatomaceous earth is formed from algae with siliceous shells. When extracted, they are already dead, but their shells remain. These are razor sharp and while they are too small to even have a small effect on humans, they are deadly to pests. In fact, food grade diatomaceous earth can even be used to kill other pests like bed bugs, chiggers, ants and gnats. You can use DE directly on the fur rubbing it in with your hands, starting from tail to head.

While many people use DE this way on farm animals as well as domesticated animals it can be drying to the skin. DE also works best on adult fleas not their eggs so I choose not to use it on my dogs' skin but many farmers swear by it. If your inspired to learn more about using DE topically on your dog please read Food Grade Diatomaceous Earth for Flea and Tick Treatment from Wolf Creek.

For those of you that have a dog with flea allergy dermatitis I've never tried a product as effective as Nu Stock topical ointment to heal red bumps, bald patches, or secondary skin infections due to excessive itching. I have a dog that was diagnosed highly allergic to multiple environmental allergens. He also suffers from flea allergy dermatitis. Here is a picture of my boy during a "mild" outbreak and an after picture of his healed skin 4 weeks later. 

Nu Stock has been around for over 30 years and has been safely used on animals of all shapes and sizes. It is not easy to find as most commercial pet stores don't carry it. You need to look for a feed store or you can also order online. Their website is minimalistic at best but here is a link to their testimonials page Nustock Reviews. You will be amazed at the before and after pictures and comments. Dogs: Use for many skin related ailments. Application every three days promotes rapid healing of many skin disorders. I have never seen anything work so quickly and completely to eliminate my dog's scabs, welts and red bumps. It is very strong smelling as its composition is 73% sulfur, 25% mineral oil and 2% pine oil. Apply thoroughly to affected areas and let dry completely. Careful of furniture and clothing as it will stain. You may apply Nu Stock every three days, no sooner. You must also make sure to bath your dog and throughly wash off all the remaining Nu Stock and any dirt and dead skin before applying new dose. If your dog is like mine you'll see progress after the very first application. I have used Nu Stock for many things besides flea allergy skin reactions. It's so amazing a product I will be writing an entire article dedicated to it.

Always do a spot check on your dog before applying any new product on your dog's entire body. It's important to remember that each dog has a unique biochemistry due to genetics and environment so not all dogs will react the same way with any given product or supplement. Best to take it slowly with any new element in your dog's life.

Bathe your pet frequently while you’re fighting a flea infestation. Fleas are less attracted to clean animals and the shampoo will kill any fleas on your pet if the water doesn’t get them first. The good news is even parasites can drown! Your dog will feel better after a soothing bath as well. For detailed information about bathing pets for fleas, yeast and/or skin sensitivities please watch Dr. Becker's videos. Important point DO NOT USE OATMEAL PRODUCTS for bathing.

Your Dog's Environment Home and Garden:

Flea Killing/Repelling Tools:

Diatomaceous Earth works best with adult fleas as it destroys their exoskeleton. DE can be used in the garden as well as in the home. It is milled to a fine powered so it's a good idea to cover your nose and mouth as well as wear eye protection when applying in windy conditions or if concerned with irritation of lungs by breathing in the powder.

In the garden, DE can be applied to grass, dirt, in flower beds and in the cracks and crevices where pest like to hide. While FOOD GRADE DE is nontoxic to humans and pets it fatal to all forms of insects. To prevent hurting beneficial insects like bees and butterflies only use close to the ground as these insects usually land on flowers located higher up on the plant. For DE to be effective it must remain dry.

DE can be used inside the house as well. After cleaning affected area thoroughly spread DE on floors, corners, dog bedding, furniture. Give all your carpets a brush (stiff bristles) and a thorough vacuum. This will aggravate the fleas and get them moving about in preparation for your natural flea powder attack. You can rub the powder into the carpets with a broom to make sure it reaches the fleas. Just be careful you don’t get too much powder puffing into the air when you apply it to the targeted area.

Research shows that once the fleas come into contact with the powder, they usually die about 4 hours later. Since flea eggs hatch after about a week of being laid by female fleas (in most scenarios), it’s recommended that you repeat this process once a week for a total of 3-4 weeks. This will prevent a repeat infestation after you get rid of the adult fleas. Make sure to vacuum up all the powder as you will find dead flies. 

Beneficial nematodes kill fleas without the need for dangerous chemicals or toxic pesticides. The beneficial nematode is a type of roundworm and is harmless to humans and our pets. 

The nematode, Steinernema carpocapsae, hunts down fleas in the pre-adult, pupae, and larval stages of their growth, which account for 95 percent of the flea population, even searching out the fleas that lie dormant in cocoons before reaching maturity. The killer roundworm enters the pest's body through any convenient opening, such as the spiracles, where air is taken in, and releases a bacteria that kills the flea within 48 hours.

When the host is dead, the nematode sheds its skin and begins to reproduce inside the corpse. The offspring hunt for new prey, destroying the remaining fleas in the wake of the nematode life cycle. If there are no host bugs to be found, the nematodes starve and biodegrade, leaving no harmful backyard bug alive to tell the story.(3)

Using Apple Cider Vinegar to mop floors, clean counter tops and wash dog bedding is a great way to kill and repel fleas from your home. ACV is one of the best natural cleaning agents there is, and this is largely due to its antimicrobial properties. When added to food, the organic acids in vinegar (especially the acetic acid) pass into cell membranes to kill bacteria.  Foods fermented with vinegar have a natural arsenal of antimicrobial organic acids, including acetic, lactic, ascorbic, citric, malic, propionic, succinic, and tartaric acids. One study found acetic acid to be lethal to even E. coli O157:H7, while other research has shown substances such as acetic acid, lemon juice, or a combination of lemon juice and vinegar to be effective against salmonella.(4)

I know this is a huge amount of information especially if you are just learning about these products and their uses in fighting flea infestations. You can research further with the links I've provided. Using a holistic approach to health means education on multiple levels, as the name implies, we need to look at the whole of the systems not just the parts. The better we understand how things are interconnected the more effectively we can restore balance.

Resources and References:

(1) These Natural Flea-Busters Help Your Pet Enjoy Summer More... by Healthy Pets, Dr. Karen Becker

(2) How to know if your DE is food Grade Diatomaceous Earth at Diatomaceous Earth.com

(3) Natural Flea Control: How to Get Rid of Fleas Naturally Nematodes are natural flea killers. 

(4) How Apple Cider Vinegar Can Change Your Life, Dr. Mercola

Official website for diatomaceous earth

Wolf Creek Natural Pet Care Products

Wishing you and your pack Peace today and everyday. 

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