CARE2.COM – Fleas can be the bane of a dog’s existence, and yours too, if the pesky bugs get into your house. Fleas don’t really care who or what they bite. All they’re looking for is blood and it doesn’t matter if it’s canine or human.

Dogs can pick up fleas pretty much anywhere other animals are: at the dog park, on your lawn, my dog even picked up a flea once in our vet’s office!

In colder climates, fleas often die off after the first frost and don’t rear their ugly jaws again until temperatures rise in the spring. But some veterinarians recommend being vigilant twelve months of the year. Flea-repelling collars and monthly pesticide treatments contain toxic chemicals that you definitely don’t want your kids around, but fortunately, there are safer ways to prevent fleas.

Here are 7 natural ways to keep fleas at bay.

1) Comb your dog. Use a very fine toothed metal comb whose prongs are spaced so closely together you can barely get a fingernail in between. I have a short-haired dog, and use a comb designed to find head lice. I comb her head to toe at least once a day, but especially in spring, summer and fall. In addition to finding fleas and ticks, the combing makes my dog feel really good. If you have a dog with longer, thicker fur, consider getting the fur shaved or trimmed back during the spring and summer to make it easier to get a comb through the fur. The trim will keep the dog cooler, too.

2) Give your dog a bath at least once a week. Fleas hate water but fortunately, most dogs seem to love it. If your dog is small enough, you can put it in the kitchen sink or bathtub, or maybe a small kiddie swimming pool. My dog weighs almost 80 pounds, so I generally soap her up outside, let the soap stay on for a few minutes, then rinse her off with the garden hose. In the summer, I take her down to our local creek and she jumps in. She comes out dripping wet, but flea-less.

3) Vacuum your house regularly. Capture errant fleas before they have a chance to start biting and reproducing. If you think you may have sucked up a few fleas, remove the vacuum bag, put it into a plastic bag that you can tie securely, and put it outside in the trash. Make sure to vacuum furniture and throw pillows, too.

4) Wash your pet’s bedding. Once a week, launder your pet’s bed or the rugs it lies on, in hot, soapy water.

5) Keep an eye on playmates. Before you set up a doggie playdate, ask the other pet’s owner how healthy their pet is. You wouldn’t let your child play with a friend who had pink eye or a bad cold. You shouldn’t expose your pet to their pal’s fleas.

6) Cover up. You probably couldn’t do this with a cat, but for dogs, you can put protective clothing on them without too much discomfort on their part. If you’ll be walking in woods or tall grass where deer, raccoons, and foxes are likely to frequent, put an old t-shirt on your dog to protect the bulk of his body. Some people even cut the feet off old socks, and then pull the socks up the legs of their dog. Keep your flea comb handy; as soon as the walk is over, you can comb down your dog so you don’t take any fleas home with you.

7) Repel the little buggers. Some people have found that spraying  their dog’s fur, legs and paws with a solution of apple cider vinegar diluted with water works like a charm – just be sure to avoid your dog’s eyes, nose, mouth and ears. Others dab their dog’s collar with an oil essence, such as lavender, eucalyptus, or geranium, though many vets recommend against putting the oils on the dog if they can lick it off, as that could make them sick. I have never tried giving my dog garlic or brewer’s yeast, though some people believe this works.

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