By Paris Permenter & John Bigley of DogTipper.com
Spring means flowers, fun with Fido, and... fleas (not to mention ticks, ants, and plenty of other pests to bug you and your dog.) Instead of reaching for expensive chemical pesticides, consider using natural products that are not only a safer option for your pets but are also easy on your budget.
Plus, you might not even need to make a special trip to the store because many of these products are already in your home. Below you’ll find our top 10 ways to prevent pests in your home and yard while, at the same time, keeping your pets safe:
1. Prevent ants with vinegar. Worried about ants invading your pet’s bowl? A safe way to discourage ants is to spray the area surrounding the bowl with a 50/50 mixture of water and white distilled vinegar.
2. Prevent fleas naturally—and cheaply. Sure you can find numerous flea shampoos on the market but an excellent way to kill fleas is just to use your dog’s regular shampoo. When you soap up your dog, leave the shampoo on a minute or two extra if possible to help smother the fleas on his coat. Also, it helps if you can have your dog sit in the tub of water; many fleas congregate around his tail area and, by sitting in the tub, he’ll drown them!
3. Attract and kill fleas naturally with a lamp and pan of water. If you don’t have small children and you can close off a room from pets at night, try this method for attracting and killing fleas. Take a small table lamp and put in on the floor. Beside the lamp, place a shallow pan filled partially with water and a few drops of dishwashing liquid.
At night, turn on the lamp and shut the door. The heat from the lamp will attract the fleas, they’ll fall into the slightly soapy water, and drown. You don’t want to use this if the device is in a room that can be accessed by small kids or pets because of the danger of the light getting knocked into the water pan.
4. Kill fleas with banana peels. Yes, this one sounds a little wacky but banana peels tossed on the floor will kill fleas (we understand it’s the potassium in the bananas that does the trick). You might have to tuck the peels away if your dog tries to eat them or place them in rooms your dog doesn’t have access to at the time. This is a cheap, natural way to kill fleas (and think of the fun you’ll have making banana pudding and bread!) Once the peels turn black, toss them out and start all over!
5. Prevent fleas with rosemary. To use rosemary as a flea preventative, first make a rosemary tea. Add one teaspoon of chopped rosemary to a pint of near-boiling water, let the mixture simmer, then remove the mixture from the heat and allow it to cool for several hours until it is room temperature. Next, wash your dog with his normal shampoo. After rinsing, use the rosemary tea as a final rinse. It will discourage fleas and your dog will have a flea preventative that smells nice!
6. Wash your dog’s bedding. One very low cost way to control fleas in your home is to wash your dog’s bedding every week (or even more frequently during peak flea periods). Adding apple cider vinegar to the rinse is an inexpensive way to discourage new fleas. Is your dog’s bed on a rug that can be laundered? Toss that in the laundry, too! Hang it all out to dry and you won’t have the cost of the dryer and your dog bedding will come out smelling fresh as can be.
7. Vacuum frequently. Frequent vacuuming of your home is one of the best ways to control fleas. You’ll remove the fleas and flea eggs from your carpet and upholstery (and think what a clean home you’ll have!)
8. Remove the fleas from your house. Once you end the day’s vacuuming, be sure to change your vacuum bags or, even better, use a bagless vacuum that you empty in the outdoor trash after each use. It won’t help to leave the bag or canister contents inside the house or the fleas can find their way back into circulation.
9. Use Diatomaceous Earth. One of the safest ways to treat your yard is the application of Diatomaceous Earth (often just called DE). Diatomaceous earth, which is available at garden centers, is crushed rock that contains the fossilized remains of diatoms, an alga. The hard-shelled alga grates against the fleas and kills them mechanically, not chemically. Don’t buy the DE that is intended for pools; it has been chemically treated and isn’t for use around pets. DE is easy to use by sprinkling areas in the yard where fleas are likely to congregate, such as your dog’s favorite hangouts. Wear a filter mask when spreading the fine powder and keep your dog inside while treating the yard.
10. Use Beneficial Nematodes. Anatural way to treat your yard is by using beneficial nematodes, microscopic round worms that are safe for your family and your pets. Along with fleas, nematodes kill weevils, craneflies, grubs, corn borers, and other vegetable garden pests. The nematodes are microscopic so you won’t see them; you’ll purchase them on a small sponge (costing about $15-$20) which contains about one million live nematodes, enough for about 3,000 square feet of yard space.
After soaking the sponge in water, you’ll spray the yard with the mixture. You can purchase the nematodes as far in advance as about a week prior to the yard application; just keep the package in the refrigerator until you are ready to use it.
With a little extra thought, you can keep your yard and home free from pests—and free for you and Fido to enjoy some spring fun!
Paris Permenter and John Bigley are the publishers of DogTipper.com, a site featuring tips for dog lovers. The husband-wife team have authored 28 books including Barkonomics: Tips for Frugal Fidos.