The Ultimate Guide to Fleas : For Cats

December 19, 2019

There are over 2000 species of fleas (1)) with the most common being Ctenocephalides felis or the cat flea (2). Let’s face it, fleas are a pain in the ass. I would put them in the same category as cockroaches. They seem to never die and are resistant to many things that should eliminate them.

Flea Life Cycle

 

There is a common set of myths that if you keep your house clean, don’t have animals that go outside, don’t have carpeting in your home, have animals that are raw fed and that you can’t get fleas in cold weather. THIS IS  ALL WRONG. Humans can bring eggs into their home on their shoes for example, they can live in your yard and fleas can find refuge in your comfy home hoping to find a host.
 

While you may only see a few adult fleas, this is only part of the flea population, 1-5%. 8-10% of the population is only in the cocoon stage, 35-37% is in the larval stage and 50-54% are flea eggs (3).

Adult fleas typically live for 60-100 days laying approximately 10-50 eggs each day (4). They do require ideal conditions but laying dormant (5) until warm, more humid conditions aren’t out of the question. 75-95 degrees and 60-85% humidity often are the preferred conditions (6).


Adults lay eggs on their host where they develop into larvae and pupae (7). In the summertime eggs hatch much quicker in less than 24 days while in the winter they can take up to 200 days to hatch (8). The larvae typically take 1-10 days to appear but on average lasts 5-11 days. Followed by the pupal stage which lasts for 5-9 days on average but could remain in this stage for 6 or more months until conditions are ideal (9,10). If temperatures are cold and dry, things will progress slower versus warm and humid environments. In addition to environmental conditions in humidity and temperature, other influences include vibrations, increases in carbon dioxide and body heat that are emitted by your companion animal, inspiring the pupae to exit the cocoon and find a host (3, 7).
 

So in short 

Adults lay 10-50 eggs per day and live for about 60-100 days

The Larval Stage is 5-11 days

The Pupae Stage is 5-9 days and can live in this cocoon for days up to 6 months or more.

 

Commercial Chemical Flea Treatments

 

Typically the first thought is two-fold 1) treat all year round whether you have fleas or not so you (hopefully) never get them and 2) treat with a chemical-based product often easily obtained from your veterinarian. 

 

Below is a list of the most common and most widely available flea products available on the market not only through veterinarians but online pharmacies and pet suppliers as well.

 

Activyl (topical)

Adams Plus (topical)

Advantage Kitten (topical)

Bio Spot (topical)

Bravecto (topical)

Capstar (oral)

Catego (topical)

Cheristin (topical)

Comfortis (oral)

Easy Spot (topical)

Frontline Gold (topical)

Frontline Plus (topica)l

Hartz Ultraguard Plus (collar)

On Guard (topical)

Pet Armor (topical)

Revolution (topical)

Sentry Fiproguard (topical)

Sentry Purrscriptions (collar)

Seresto (collar)

Shield Tec (topical)

Vectra (topical)

Virbac (topical)

ZoGuard Plus (topical)


All of these products contain chemical agents that are designed to kill and inhibit fleas, ticks and/or mosquitoes, typically “protecting” your companions for up to 30 days. Many of these products do not repel these pests. Often the product is absorbed through the skin or orally ingested making its way into the bloodstream and then into the skin. Fleas must bite your companion for the product to work. This is the only way for the product to affect the fleas therefore your companion will still be bitten and any potential disease that can be contracted from fleas (7, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16) can still afflict your companion. Many of these products cannot be safely used on pregnant females or kittens younger than 8 weeks old, some 12 weeks and others younger than 6 months of age. Each product is different in regards to what age they can be given and the ingredients they contain so make sure you are aware of ingredient lists and label instructions.

One concern for cats is the use of pyrethroids and pyrethrin (which are in the pyrethroid family) in products. Pyrethrins are produced by the flowers of pyrethroids such as Chrysanthemums. Pyrethroids are derived from pyrethrins and are a synthetic anti-parasite and insecticide (17). They affect the nervous system in insects, causing muscle spasms, paralysis, and death (18).

Ok so we need to get a little sciency about pyrethrum. In the natural form, pyrethrum extract is made of six esters (19), a type of organic compound that reacts with water to create alcohols and other organic and inorganic products (20). The synthetic type only has one. Natural or synthetic, the liver needs to break down the compounds however this can result in a hospital visit or death due to the increase in toxic levels, a risk for animals and humans that use these products (21, 22, 23).

 

In one case, an 11 year old girl was washing her dog with a shampoo containing 0.2% pyrethrin. The girl suffered and acute asthma attack and unfortunately died two-and-a-half-hours after being exposed to the shampoo (24).

These are extremely dangerous to cats especially because cats cannot properly metabolize these chemicals. Typically the liver and an enzyme called plasma esterase breaks down the insecticide and then metabolizes and excretes it via the urine. Unfortunately cats either do not have or do not produce enough of the proper enzyme in the liver resulting in build-up and toxicity in the body (25, 26). Because it can dissolve in fat, pyrethrins can build up in the nervous tissues but at 1.5-7.5 times what is in the plasma (27). This also means they are rapidly absorbed. In fact, pyrethroid toxicity is one of the most common toxicities seen in veterinary clinics when it comes to cats (28).

Pyrethrins especially Type I adhere to sodium channels located on nerves affecting how the channels operate. This causes a reversed extended duration of sodium flow resulting in repetitive nerve flow (29) which then cause signs of neurological distress (30).

 

On many product labels, although not always the case, you often will not find pyrethrin listed however there are many ingredients that are pyrethroids. These include but are not limited to:

 

  • Allethrin

  • Bifenthrin

  • Cyfluthrin

  • Cypermethrin

  • Cyphenothrin

  • Deltamethrin

  • Esfenvalerate

  • Etofenprox

  • Fenpropathrin

  • Fenvalerate

  • Flucythrinate

  • Flumethrin

  • Imiprothrin

  • lambda-Cyhalothrin

  • Metofluthrin

  • Permethrin

  • Prallethrin

  • Resmethrin

  • Silafluofen

  • Sumithrin

  • tau-Fluvalinate

  • Tefluthrin

  • Tetramethrin

  • Tralomethrin

  • Transfluthrin

 

In general, the chemical ingredients found in flea products aren’t good for our sensitive feline friends. The following is a list of the ingredients found in the above-mentioned flea products, what they do and the reactions they can and often cause.

 

(S)-Methoprene-a pesticide product that mimics a hormone that regulates growth in common pests. It prevents growth, shedding, moling, egg release and hatching. Skin, eye, respiratory irritation, vomiting, pupil dilation, behavior changes as well as breathing and movement. Can be stored in the liver, kidneys, lungs and blood, or be eliminated in urine and feces (31).


Allethrin-the first pyrethroid synthesized from chrysanthemum flowers that paralyzes the nervous system. Highly toxic to cats. Toxic via skin absorption and ingestion, itching, burning, tingling, numbness, warmth, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, hyperexcitability, incoordination, tremors, convulsive twitching, bloody tears, incontinence, muscular paralysis, coma, mutagenic (32, 33, 34, 35, 36).

 

Amitraz-insecticide and repellent. Works by over exciting and paralysis that leads to death specifically for those in the spider families. Low blood pressure and pulse, hypothermia, lethargy, reduced appetite, vomiting, increased blood sugar and digestive issues,  skin irritation (itching, eczema, alopecia) conjunctivitis, dilated pupils, seizures, coma, drooling, bloating, collapse. Classified as likely or possible carcinogen by the EPA (37, 38, 39).

 

BHT- Butylated Hydroxytoluene is a preservative used to prevent oxidation and rancidity of fats (40). Lower doses produced increased liver weight and decreased the activity of several hepatic enzymes. In addition to liver and kidney effects, BHT applied to the skin was associated with toxic effects in lung tissue (41, 42, 43, 44).

 

Bifenthrin-an insecticide in the pyrethroid family. It is an active ingredient of Talstar, Capture, Ortho Home Defense Max, and Bifenthrine. Vomiting, diarrhea, reduced activity, twitching ears, flicking paws, drooling, hyperactivity, incoordination, depression, dilated pupils, chewing, head bobbing, partial paralysis, tremors. Classified as likely or possible carcinogen by the EPA (45).

 

Cyfluthrin-an active ingredient in Baygon, dichlorovinyl derivative of pyrethrin. Skin, eye and respiratory irritation, toxic if ingested, vomiting, burning of the mouth, dizziness, fatigue, nausea, abnormal walking, drooling, hyperactivity, loss of weight, fluid in the lungs, seizures, coma, death (46).

 

Cypermethrin- is an insecticide in the pyrethroid class that acts on the stomach as a poison and attacks the nerves paralyzing or causing the pest to die. Toxic to cats. Includes isomer alpha-cypermethrin, dichlorovinyl derivative of pyrethrin. Vomiting, incoordination, tremors, loss of movement, convulsions, diarrhea, weight reduction of organs. Classified as likely or possible carcinogen by the EPA (47).

 

Cyphenothrin-a synthetic pyrethroid insecticide causing hyperactivity and paralysis that leads to death. Toxic to cats. Resistance is common. Ataxia, hyperactivity, tremor, skin sensitivities, lethargy, drooling, vomiting, diarrhea, urinary incontinence, fever, low body temperature, difficulty breathing, disorientation, cramps, spasms (48).

 

Deltamethrin-An insecticide from the pyrethroid family that disrupts the nervous system. Dibromovinyl derivative of pyrethrin. Vomiting, drooling, incoordination, muscle tremors, skin sensations like biting, scratching, licking the area (49).

 

Dinotefuran-An insecticide that causes hyperactivity, paralysis than death of the flea. Drooling, gagging, vomiting, agitation, pruritus, pain (50).

 

Esfenvalerate-A synthetic pyrethroid insecticide that causes paralysis in fleas leading to death. Muscle incoordination, tremors, convulsions, nerve damage, weight loss, nausea, vomiting, weakness, eye irritant, maternal toxicity in the second generation (51, 52, 53, 54, 55).

 

Etofenprox-A pyrethroid derivative developed and imported from China that causes hyperactivity, paralysis then death of the flea. Respiratory distress, seizures, sores/lesions, vomiting, lethargy, liver damage, loss of appetite, heart failure, carcinogenic (56,57).

 

Fenpropathrin-A pyrethroid insecticide known to be a dopamine neurotoxin, harmful to the skin, fatal if inhaled, toxic if ingested. Eye and skin irritation, sound or touch irritability, prickling, tingling, creeping skin, numbness, dizziness, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, drooling, fatigue (58).

 

Fenvalerate-A synthetic pyrethroid insecticide causing hyperactivity and paralysis that leads to death. Restlessness, tremors, piloerection, diarrhea, abnormal walking, skin irritant, death.

 

Fipronil-A broad spectrum insecticide that causes hyperexcitability that affects the nerves and muscles and GABA receptors. Sweating, nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, dizziness, agitation, weakness, seizures, carcinogenic. Classified as likely or possible carcinogen by the EPA (59).

 

Flucythrinate-A pyrethroid insecticide that acts on contact and in the stomach. Eye and skin irritation, convulsions, motor impairment, skin lesions, weight retardation, heart arrhythmias, slowing of the heart, lactation and litter mortality increased ( 60, 61, 62).

 

Flumethrin-A pyrethroid insecticide that cause hypersensitivity, paralysis than death. High resistance is seen with several pests including fleas. Skin lesions, ataxia, hyperactivity, tremors, paresthesia, lethargy, drooling, vomiting, diarrhea, urinary incontinence, fever, lowered temperature , impaired breathing, incoordination, cramps, spasm (63, 64, 65).

 

Fluralaner-Oral insecticide which inhibits the nervous system of fleas via GABA and glutamate channels (66, 67). Convulsions, hair thickening, weight loss, vomiting, skin irritation, eye irritation/damage, respiratory sensitivity, organ toxicity, germ cell mutagenicity, genetic defects, reproductive toxicity, lethargy, lesions, diarrhea, itching, decreased appetite (68, 69, 70).

 

Glycol Ether-A group of solvents often used in paints and cleaners responsible for keeping other ingredients stable. Hazardous on the skin and when breathed in. Over exposure can cause anemia, intoxication, eye irritation, low level exposure shows birth defects and damage to the sperm and testicles, low birth rates, liver cancer (71, 72).

 

Imidacloprid-An insect neurotoxin affecting the central nervous system. Vomiting, drooling, incoordination, tremors, lethargy, skin reactions, convulsions, breathing impairment, cramps, thyroid impairment (73).

 

Imiprothrin- A pyrethroid derivative causing paralysis to pests like fleas. Eye irritation, weight loss and reduction in appetite, developmental and reproductive toxicity (74, 75).

 

Indoxacarb- An oxadiazine pesticide that works by blocking neuronal sodium channels. Nasal and eye discharge, immobility, lethargy, tremors, spasms, drooling, rapid weight loss, paralysis, death (76).

 

Isopropyl Alcohol-A type of alcohol (common rubbing alcohol) that kills and repels fleas. Incoordination, vomiting, lethargy, tremors, drooling, weakness, collapse, decreased respiratory rate, low blood sugar.

 

lambda-Cyhalothrin-A synthetic pyrethroid insecticide causing hyperactivity and paralysis that lead to death of the flea (77, 78).

 

Metofluthrin-A pyrethroid insect repellent primarily to repel mosquitos. Vomiting, increased organ weight, tremors, hyperactivity, abnormal vocalization, ataxia , convulsions, hypothermia, abnormal movements, drooling, kidney lesions, fatty liver disease, death (79, 80). 

 

Nitenpyram-An insecticide that blocks neural signals in the nervous system leading to paralysis and death. Increased vocalization, obsessive grooming, vomiting, diarrhea, appetite loss, drooling, trembling, increased heart rate and seizures (81, 82).

 

Permethrin- Anti-parasite and insecticide in the pyrethroid family. It affects the nervous system in insects, causing muscle spasms, paralysis and death. Sichlorovinyl derivative of pyrethrin and most widely used pyrethroid. Flicking  paws, twitching ears or skin, rolling on the ground, drooling, lip smacking, anxiety, abnormal walking, tremors, seizures, death. Classified as likely or possible carcinogen by the EPA (83).

 

Prallethrin-A pyrethroid insecticide and repellant generally used against mosquitos. Reduced motor activity, tremors, effects of the thyroid, heart, kidney and liver, drooling, exaggerated reflexes, decreased birth weights, acute dermal, oral and inhalation toxicity (84.85).

 

Pyriproxyfen-A pesticide that mimics a natural hormone in pests that disrupts their growth. Reduced activity, gained weight, diarrhea, abnormal breathing, loss of muscle control, vomiting, incontinence, increased cholesterol, increased liver weight, other effects on the liver and kidney, reduced birth weights, skeletal and digestive abnormalities, potential effects on androgen and thyroid pathways (86).
 

Resmethrin-A pyrethroid insecticide that works by interfering with a nerve cell's ability to send a normal signal. An active ingredient of Scourge. Numbness, itching, burning, tingling, incoordination, twitching, incontinence, seizures, eye irritation, liver enlargement, increased thyroid weight, behavioral changes, decreased blood glucose, premature/stillbirths, decreased birth weight , skeletal abnormalities, adverse reactions in the central nervous system (86, 87, 88, 89).
 

Selamectin-A topical parasiticide to kill and repel fleas causing paralysis, muscle contractions and death. Irritability, hair loss, drooling, rapid breathing, lack of coordination, vomiting, diarrhea, fever, tremors, loss of appetite, allergic reaction, hives (90).

 

Silafluofen-A pyrethroid insecticide. Excessive drooling, agitation, restlessness, vomiting, loss of coordination, difficulty in moving like jumping, standing, walking, shaking, twitching, tremors, shaking, abnormal breathing (91).
 

Spinetoram-An antiparasitic that acts on GABA and nicotinic receptors. Lower thymus weights, arteritis, bone marrow necrosis, reproductive effects including ovarian follicles, resorption, difficult births (92, 93).

 

Spinosad-An antiparasitic that acts on GABA and nicotinic receptors that is made by a soil bacterium . Irritation, redness, vomiting, gland and immune cell effects, increases in protein and fat in the blood, low body weight, organ effects, abnormal vaginal bleed, abnormal labor, abortions (94).

 

Sumithrin-Also know as Phenothrin is a pyrethroid insecticide. An active ingredient of Anvil. Drooling, depression, ear twitching, facial twitching, tremors hyperthermia, vomiting, anorexia, seizures, death (95).

 

tau-Fluvalinate-A synthetic pyrethroid. Conjunctival discharge, swelling and redness, vomiting, diarrhea, dehydration, neurological abnormalities, maternal and fetal toxicity, impaired learning, temporary memory impairment, mutation, skin irritation (96).

 

Tefluthrin-One of the most toxic pyrethroids. Tremors, increased thyroid weight , ataxia, neurological effects, skin irritation, behavioral changes, death (97, 98).

 

Tetramethrin-A potent synthetic insecticide in the pyrethroid family. Tremors, seizures, incoordination, twitching, excessive drooling, weakness, agitation, vomiting, diarrhea, shock, respiratory difficulty. Classified as likely or possible carcinogen by the EPA (99).

 

Tralomethrin-A pyrethroid insecticide that cause spasms, paralysis than death. Flicking tail, twitching ears and skin, shaking paws, abnormal movement or behavior, tremors, seizures, hypoglycemia, kidney failure, hyperthermia, drooling, stomach/gastric irritation, death (100).

 

Transfluthrin-A fast-acting pyrethroid insecticide. An active ingredient in Baygon. Effects on liver and kidney (increased weight, tubule degeneration, increase of protein in the urine), increased fluoride in teeth and bones, carcinogenicity, liver proliferation, tremors, tumors, thickening of the skin, thyroid toxicity, death (101, 102, 103).

 

These products aren’t just a serious concern for your companion animals, these chemicals are detrimental to the fish, amphibians and bees as well. Many of these chemicals are excreted in urine and often will find its way into main water sources (104, 105, 106).

Targeting Other Sources of Fleas

 

Often when dealing with fleas, treating your companion is not enough. Fleas and their various stages will also be in your home, so it's essential to also treat your home as well (107). Many options exist including flea bombs, pest exterminators as well as aerosols and sprays.

 

Flea bombs or foggers are aerosol canisters that are set off in your home and contains an insecticide such as Cypermethrin, Methoprene, Nylar, Permethrin and Tetramethrin. It is advised to remove yourself and your pets from the home for at least 8 hours and allow proper ventilation by opening windows and doors to air out the home from the insecticide. Exposure to these pesticides can very well poison and severely harm not only your human family (108, 109) but your furry one as well.

 

Unfortunately there are some things to be aware of when using this product.

 

They often don’t reach under or in things that fleas could be hiding. The pesticide is shot straight up in the air than drifts down to settle on surfaces. This problem is two-fold. The incesticide does not penetrate deep into the carpet which means it may not kill tiny eggs and other flea life stages. You will also have to clean all the surfaces of your home as the residue will be on your furniture, counters, cabinets, bedding etc (110).  That being said make sure all consumables are put away. Flea bombs also don’t take care of the fleas on your pets.

 

In addition, there are other things to think of before using these types of products.

These chemicals and pesticides are often quite flammable so all electrical appliances should be turned off and unplugged and those outlets should be covered.

More is not better. Do NOT use more than one bomb per room. The more residue build-up, the more risk to your family and pets (111). 


Never use this product if your family or companions have asthma or other breathing problems. Foggers can induce an attack even days after treatment (112).

 

Another popular solution is often a pest exterminator. These are often companies that come into your home to spray a pesticide. Similar concerns exist as flea bombs such as the toxic and chemical fumes, making sure your family and pets aren’t at home and residue left behind (113, 114).

 

Many of these companies, including those that make flea treatments as well as extermination companies also have a line of sprays to treat pests. Such products include Ortho, Raid, Frontline, Sentry, Bio Spot and include similar if not the same ingredients as topical, oral and flea collars and carry the same risks mentioned above in the ingredient and side effects list.

Natural Alternatives

We are going to start with a warning. Just because something is natural doesn’t actually mean it is safe for your companion. One great example is essential oils. In general they need to be used appropriately, which may include diluting. While this is a great option for dogs it is never a good option for cats INCLUDING properly sourced quality oils. This is not just from personal experience and anecdotal references but for scientific reasons.

Similar to a cat’s inability to break down pyrethroids, they also have a hard time breaking down essential oils. They lack a process called gluconuridation, a process needed to break down many things. While other animals may be able to metabolize these compounds properly, when cats attempt to do so the result is a toxic end product (115, 116). One compound that fits in this category includes phenols which are often found in essential oils including:

  • Anise

  • Basil

  • Birch

  • Calamus

  • Cinnamon Bark

  • Citronella

  • Clove

  • Eucalyptus citriodora

  • Fennel

  • Marjoram

  • Nutmeg

  • Oregano

  • Parsley

  • Peppermint

  • Mountain Savory

  • Tarragon

  • Tea Tree

  • Thyme

  • Wintergreen

  • Ylang Ylang

    (117, 118).

 

In addition to phenols,  terpenes are another compound to be concerned about. Terpenes contain thujone which are neurotoxins. They are harmful to cats when applied to the skin or ingested. They are often found in:
 

  • Angelica

  • Cistus

  • Cypress

  • Dill

  • Douglas fir

  • Eucalyptus

  • Fir silver

  • Juniper

  • Myrtle

  • Nutmeg

  • Pine

  • Rosemary verbenone

  • Spruce

    (119, 120)


In addition to the lack of this process, cats are very small increasing the ease of poisoning. They also groom themselves so not only are these oils quickly absorbed in their sensitive skin (121) they also are then ingested orally via grooming. Finally their respiratory tract is extremely sensitive and can easily go into respiratory stress via inhalation.

To learn more about the specifics of Essential Oils and Cats stay tuned for an upcoming article on the topic.

Many natural flea products contain essential oils such as:

Wondercide
Cedarcide
Sentry Natural Defense
Sentry Purrscriptions
Tropiclean Natural
Natural Care
Richard’s Organics
Earth Animal
Vet’s Best

Some of these products come as sprays and while they aren’t the best idea to use on your companion, you can use them on bedding, clothing, floors, furniture etc while your companions are removed from the room. 

The following are common essential oils in these products (this is not an exhaustive list)


Almond Oil-an oil used as a carrier for essential oils in natural or DIY flea products (122).
 

Cedarwood Oil-an essential oil known to repel and kill fleas. Depending on the source of the oil it can be toxic to cats who cannot metabolize the phenols (123).
 

Cinnamon Oil-an essential oil known to repel fleas unfortunately it may attract ants. Generally not toxic to cats unless in large doses. Low blood sugar, liver disease or other organ failure, vomiting, diarrhea, changes in heart rate, rashes, redness, burning, vomiting, diarrhea, thinning of the blood are all common potential side effects (123).

 

Clove Oil- an essential oil known to repel and kill fleas. Salivation, vomiting, seizures, muscle tremors, rashes, hives, liver and kidney failure, lower blood sugar, death (123).

 

Peppermint Oil- an essential oil known to repel and kill fleas. Aspiration pneumonia, breathlessness, fever, increased heart rate, irritation of the nasal passages, eye irritation, liver damage, central nervous system damage, drooling, loss of appetite, lethargic (123).

 

Lemongrass Oil- An essential oil known to repel fleas. Cats do not have the enzyme to break down this oil in the liver. Drooling, vomiting, tremors, ataxia, respiratory distress, foaming at the mouth, low heart rate, low body temperature, liver failure, kidney distress (123).

Questionable Natural Alternatives

Lemons/Citric Acid

In very small and diluted amounts lemon and/or citric acid can be safely used on cats but there are a few things that need to be taken into consideration. Lemons contain psoralens. These light-sensitive compounds readily absorb ultraviolet light resulting in ultraviolet radiation. While they can be used to treat various skin issues, it can damage DNA when they bind to DNA as well as killing other cells resulting in burns. In addition they are sensitive to oxygen which creates free radicals. This is much more a concern when lemon/citric acid is used in high concentrations, animals that are outside a majority of the time in the sun and animals with less fur, however caution should always be taken regardless.

Rosemary

 

Rosemary is not considered toxic to pets according to the American Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals however along with 

 

  • Kava kava

  • Skullcap

  • Evening primrose oil

  • Borageseed oil

  • Goldenseal

  • Ginko

  • Ginseng

  • Wormwood

  • Eucalyptus Essential Oil

  • Fennel Essential Oil

  • Hyssop Essential Oil

  • Pennyroyal Essential Oil

  • Sage Essential Oil

  • Tansy Essential Oil

 

rosemary can decrease the seizure threshold this means increasing the chances of seizures. However that being said the herb does not increase seizures only the essential oil in animals with epilepsy. 

 

(123, 125, 126)

 

Aloe Vera

Aloe vera can be used to soothe itchy and irritated skin (127) however the white latex of the plant is quite poisonous. The saponins in the latex are chemical compounds found in many plants. They operate by increasing the mucus and water in an animal’s colon which can cause digestive upset and intestinal damage when ingested (127, 128).

 

While the latex is toxic the gelatin is not. Most aloe products have the latex removed however be cautious and avoid labels that claim “whole leaf” is used or those with the latex (129).

 

Hydrogen Peroxide


Hydrogen peroxide can be used to dehydrate fleas and damage the outer layer of the flea (130). It is not dangerous for cats however it can dry out the skin and lighten your companion’s fur. Hydrogen peroxide breaks down melanin pigment (131, 132)  so the effects of hydrogen peroxide are more noticeable on dark colored animals. Depending on the strength of the solution, it can also severely damage the hair. 


It should also be noted if your companion is being bitten or have open wounds from scratching the hydrogen peroxide can prevent healing and eat away at the tissue (133).
 

Baking Soda


Generally baking soda is safe for cats. It only can cause chemical imbalances if high dose are fed. Some say 1 cup others say 2-4 teaspoons per kilogram of body weight (134). It should be noted that while it has no bleaching abilities it does help hydrogen peroxide adhere to the hair and penetrate the hair cortex thus allow it to lighten the hair (131, 132, 135). 


Salt

 

Salt is safe to use in small doses. Large doses not only can dehydrate and irritate the skin, but also cause chemical imbalances when ingested (136). On the plus side, the particle sizes are abrasive and cannot not only dehydrate fleas (137) but also break down the outer protective layer of the flea. 

 

Diatomaceous Earth


Diatomaceous Earth or DE  comes as a white flour like powder made of tiny silica particles or diatoms that are abrasive and sharp enough to breakdown the outer layer of the flea (140, 141. Technically DE is safe for humans and animals but there are a few things to make sure you are aware of. It is extremely drying when applied topically (142). It can be extremely messy when sprinkled on carpet or hardwood. It is very dusty so their is an inhalant warning and it can irritate the eyes and respiratory system (143) . Make sure it is applied in a well ventilated area and try to avoid upsetting the powder into a dust. It must be dry however to work so wetting it or mixing it in with food will not be very effective. When wet, the sharp edges are no longer sharp and the pores that normally absorb fats and oils from the flea’s out layer are filled with water instead.

If you choose DE as your method of flea treatment, make sure it is human grade. There are DE products for pools or charcoal filters, but you do not want to purchase this. 

 

 

Safe Natural Alternatives

So while many options recommended on the internet and through veterinarians are clearly not worth risking the use of, there is still plenty one can do naturally to combat fleas. It takes work and time but absolutely worth doing especially proactively.

Cleaning should include a combination of:

Sweeping

Vacuuming (144)

-You add diatomaceous earth to the canister of your vacuum or sprinkle 

it on carpets let it sit for 1-2 hours than vacuum up and make sure it is food grade!

**please be aware of inhalant irritation for your companions and yourself (142.).

-Vacuum your pet if they allow it

Mopping

-You can add herb infused vinegar, borax (145), hydrogen peroxide, wondercide (146) as well as castile soap (147) . 

Sprinkle carpets and hardwood with:
-Salt

-Borax

-Diatomaceous earth
*Keep in mind not to allow your pets in theses areas until these products are vacuumed up. Too much salt can dehydrate, borax is toxic if ingested and DE has an inhalant warning (148).

 

Wash Bedding and clothing with:
-Castile soap 

-Borax

Spray the whole house with WONDERCIDE (including bedding, cat trees, cat beds, furniture, curtains etc.)

  • Make sure your companions are not in the room and let it air for a little before letting them reenter

 

Spray your companion with herb infused vinegar 

Spray or sponge

 

  • 8 oz distilled white vinegar

  • ½ tsp baking soda

  • 4 oz warm lemon water

    • Pour 3 cups of water into a pot and add in 3 lemons, steep three hours

  • ½ tsp salt

  • 1 teaspoon Powdered Rosemary

  • 1 teaspoon aloe juice
     

Bath your companion in a:

  • Salt Water Dip let dry for a few hours (1 cup salt : 5 gallon bucket) than rinse

  • Mix a tablespoon of baking soda with 1 1/2 cups of water and wash

  • Wash with a fatty soap
     

Flea comb daily

Hand tweezer fleas off

Rub a SMALL amount of coconut oil into their fur (149).

-Be very careful with kittens they have a lowered ability to deal with extra fats

Bath daily with a fatty soap to smother fleas and prevent air bubbles ( Gary R. (150, 151, 152)

 

Keep them isolated
-Do not allow them access to outside, to other animals that have them

Bath daily with castile soap AND ACV right after (do not mix this is a two part bath)

Administer Psorinum 30c 

- 30c potency, given once daily, for five or seven days. After this dose only 1x a week.

Administer Psorinum 200, Ledum palustre 200 and Antimonium crudum. 

-At the first sign of a flea attack: one dose of Psorinum 200 every seven days; one dose of Ledum 200 twice a day; one dose of Ant crud 6 two to three times a day. (153, 154, 155)

Flea traps using light and soapy water underneath

Fleabusters powder

Feed a species appropriate raw diet


Despite popular belief do not spray or feed your companion any type of yeast. Flea larvae actually feed off of this. Only 12% of fleas that feed off of blood matured where as almost all matured when feeding off of blood, yeast and pets fed a commercial kibble/canned diet (156).

There are many options out there for addressing fleas not only on your companion animals, but inside and outside of your home. One thing to keep in mind no product chemical or natural (157) is 100% guaranteed to work nor safe. All animals are different and can have an adverse reaction. It is very important to know whatever you put on, in or around your animal is fully researched and understood. Always be proactive first, treat naturally and if all else fails and your animals are truly suffering (158, 159.) resort to a chemical product sparingly. 

 

 

Tips for Using Any Flea Products

Read the label before you use it. If you don’t understand something including an ingredient look it up or ask someone. Understand all warnings and compare to an old products to see if the ingredients have changed.

Understand what the product directions are. Is the product for a cat or dog? How often can it be used (daily, weekly, monthly)? It is for your home, pet or yard?

Seperate your companion animals to avoid grooming each other and a potential side effect until the product dries.

Do not give a product to a weak, old, medicated, sick, pregnant or nursing animal or very young kittens and puppies unless 100% safe.

Do not give a product to a companion that previously had a reaction which could include but is not limited to poor appetite, depression, vomiting, diarrhea, or excessive salivation. Immediately bath or otherwise get the product out of the system ASAP.

Always monitor your companion and look out for reactions or side effects.

Store products away from children and animals.

Reporting Problems

Always keep labels and boxes from any product in case a side effect occurs. It will also contain the information of the manufacturer.

 

  • To report problems with spot-on flea or tick products, contact the National Pesticide Information Center
     (NPIC) at 1-800-858-7378.

  • To report problems with FDA approved flea or tick drug products, contact the drug manufacturer directly (see contact information on product label) or report to FDA's Center for Veterinary Medicine on a Form FDA 1932a.

  • If your pet needs immediate medical care, call your local veterinarian, a local animal emergency clinic, or the National Animal Poison Control Center at 1-888-426-4435. The NAPCC charges a fee for consultation

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