PETA’s latest undercover investigation, which took place inside Professional Laboratory and Research Services (PLRS), a North Carolina lab that tests products on dogs, cats, and rabbits, has upset a lot of animal lovers―and not just because of the sadistic behavior of the employees at the facility. Some of the products tested there were topical flea treatments, which are viewed by many as absolutely essential to the well-being of our animal companions. If we want to boycott such products, what are we supposed to do? We can’t let our animals become flea-bitten and miserable. Anyone who has ever had poison ivy or hives or any kind of allergic reaction that causes itching knows how torturous it can be when your whole body is itchy.
Let me just say right up front that unfortunately, in some cases, you might not be able to boycott these products, even though they are animal-tested, without making your own dog or cat miserable, and that is not acceptable. I’m speaking of dogs and cats with flea allergies. A flea allergy changes the whole equation, because animals with flea allergies are so sensitive that they will break out in hotspots if even one flea gets on them. The flea may not even need to bite them to cause an extreme reaction. Holistic measures are unlikely to create an environment that is 100 percent flea-free (although it’s not impossible), so in households with allergic animals, you may need to bite the bullet and stick with the chemical flea treatments, which, sadly, are all animal-tested.
However, for people whose animals are not allergic to fleas, using holistic flea-control measures is a great idea because not only do you avoid supporting animal testing, you also provide your animal companions with a healthier environment by preventing them from absorbing harsh chemicals through their skin. Admittedly, holistic flea control is more time-consuming and labor-intensive than simply applying a topical chemical treatment, but it’s well worth it for the sake of your animal companions’ health and for the sake of the animals suffering inside the laboratories that test the products.
Here is a solid 10-point cruelty-free action plan for ridding your home and animal companions of fleas (you probably won’t need to take all 10 actions, but the more you do, the more successful your flea-elimination program will be―just see what works for you):
1. Purchase a good flea comb and use it every day to remove adult fleas from your animals’ coats. This will provide instant relief as well as helping you keep tabs on the flea population.
2. Bathe your animals with a gentle shampoo containing calendula, oatmeal, or aloe once every week or two. Throw their bedding into the washer while you’re at it.
3. Vacuum your house as frequently as possible, and stow the vacuum bag inside a plastic bag in your freezer to kill any fleas or flea eggs that you happened to vacuum up.
4. Give your animals a B-complex vitamin supplement every day to boost the health of their coat.
5. Make a natural flea repellent by adding six or seven drops of the essential oils of rosemary, peppermint, eucalyptus, tea tree, and citronella to a cup of water and shaking well. Use a spray bottle to apply the solution to your dog’s coat every other day. (Do not use this on cats―they are too sensitive to essential oils.)
6. Black walnut capsules are a good flea repellent for dogs―adjust the dosage by bodyweight and give several times a week.
7. Diatomaceous earth, which consists of fossilized algae, will kill fleas by causing them to dehydrate. It is very important that you buy the natural diatomaceous earth sold in gardening centers rather than the kind that is used in pools. The latter has been treated and contains dangerous chemicals. Spread diatomaceous earth on your carpets and hardwood flooring and leave it down as long as possible, then vacuum it up along with the dead fleas. It’s a very light powder, so be sure not to let your animals (or children) breathe it in while it is being applied.
8. Your yard can also be treated for fleas. Keep your grass cut short, and try dousing it with beneficial nematodes―these are roundworms who are more than happy to dine on flea larvae. You can purchase them online. Fleabusters has them (see below), as do many other companies.
9. Fleabusters/Rx for Fleas is a cruelty-free professional flea-control company that will treat your home for you or sell you the products to do so yourself.