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16 July 2010


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I called my vet about fleas once when I didnt have much money - I had just spent the last $20 I have on some flea shampoo on Petco and after the bath I noticed about 10 fleas in the water. My vet said to never buy any flea shampoo again and just get something like a $2 bottle of Dawn or Joy dishsoap. I tried it out. After the bath I noticed at least 30-50 fleas in my tub (My huskies were covered in them) The only drawback is it is drying to their skin so I followed up with an oatmeal bath. Apparently an ingredient in the soap will remove a layer of their "shell" which protects them and makes it easier to kill them.

Gina Spadafori

Knock on wood here, but I haven't seen a flea in my house or on my pet in years.

None. Not one in at least a decade. Frontline still cuts it, at least for my pets and house.

Now ticks, that's another story ... but of course you're still going to pick up ticks no matter what.

I remember the pre-spot-on days. Nothing worked. Nothing.

H. Houlahan

Keep a flea comb handy and use it often on every pet -- especially cats -- to check for fleas and flea dirt so that you can get on top of a problem before it gets out of hand.

Always include the area around the base of the tail in these spot-checks.

I have a flea comb down in the barn so I can check the barn kitties regularly.

A flea trap -- you can make one yourself with a night light and some sticky tape -- is another early-warning system

Rotate your IGRs -- don't always use methoprene. Alterate with something like archer or nylar.

And if you are going to bomb -- something I've done twice when moving into a house where the previous tenants' pets had fleas -- definitely use one with an IGR in it.


Frontline hasn't worked for me in years and now Advantage is starting to be iffy. So this is going to be really helpful.

And back in the good old days it was just horrible. I had an unhealthy older ex-street ex-tom who loved to sleep beside me at night, but the fleas crawling on me would keep me awake. Daily flea combing didn't do more than put a dent in his population. So he slept in a pillowcase and kept his fleas to himself. Boy, just knowing how to have bathed him would have made a difference. Live and learn.....


I sprayed my dogs with human insect repellent (OFF!) before I took them somewhere where they might pick up fleas. Then I bathed them when I got home. Prevention was the key.

These days, Capstar seems to be the pill equivalent of a good flea bath. It is a godsend for times when you just can't bathe a dog, but need to get the fleas off them immediately. But I wouldn't call it a natural, non-toxic alternative.

Susan G.

I have Chinese Cresteds and have never had a flea problem with them. This year for the first time, we have a huge tick infestation. I even resorted to using K-9 Advantix. Although it worked OK for about 2 weeks, the ticks are back. I have all tile floors, wash & check bedding frequently, and check the dogs daily. I still cannot seem to beat the ticks. Does anyone have any good tick-fighting methods?

Leslie K

We haven't had trouble with them in years [knock on wood]. But I used to use many of the methods you described. I also would take anything non cleanable [decorative throw pillows,etc] & seal it in a plastic bag for a few weeks & then air out & beat to loosen any dead fleas.1 good use is still true for those flea collars, put them in the vacuum.Especially for the newer bagless types.

Kim Thornton

Christie, what kind of steam cleaner do you have? We are having an issue now for the first time in years. I haven't used the spot-ons in several years because the dogs always seemed even more itchy afterward.

Gina Spadafori

At AAHA I almost bought a Ladybug, as in "almost if I it didn't cost more than I paid for my truck." But still, wow.

Check out these three on some review site:

That first one seems pretty reasonable, the McCullough.

I know the one Christie has is no longer made, because I wanted to buy one.

I still want a Ladybug. :)


I will give up my Frontline (also Revolution and Advantage) when you pry my cold dead fingers from the tube. Having a dog with flea allergies even one could cause misery. The house and yard was a toxic mess but it never lasted. Frontline was a genuine miracle: no more fleas, period.

After 20 years Frontline didn't seem effective this year but a switch to Revolution was. I hope to be able to switch back in time.

Christie Keith

Make sure whatever you get is an otherwise well-reviewed machine that is a TRUE vapor steam cleaner, which will deliver pressurized vapor at between 240 and 260 degrees Fahrenheit. Mine (a no-longer-made Delonghi that I love) cost around $400; the top of the line residential models come in around $2000, but if *I* didn't need one of those, I don't know who would.

From a Pet Connection feature I wrote:

They're as easy to use as a vacuum cleaner and are completely safe for you, your kids, your pets -- including birds -- and the environment. Unlike extraction cleaners, including those with onboard hot water heaters, true steam cleaners will also kill fleas, flea eggs and dust mites, will wipe out mold, mildew, fungi, bacteria and viruses, and won't leave any chemical or soapy residue behind to attract dirt.

Christie Keith

Scott, I'm certainly not suggesting you should fix something that's not broken, but I will say this: What started me on my holistic pet care journey back in the 80s was a cat with flea allergies so severe his veterinarian was advising me to put him to sleep.

The reality is that most people who try a "natural" approach aren't doing everything, and you have to do EVERYTHING or it won't work. It's definitely harder than putting on a persistent topical pesticide or popping a pill in their mouths, but for those who for whatever reason don't want to do that, I thought I'd share my approach, which DID work back in the day.

Those who didn't have luck with it were often skipping at least one of the steps, usually the one involving the diet change. ;)

Nancy Freedman-Smith

Thank you Christie. Great stuff. I have done everything here, except the home cooked diet, but I did add $upplements and vitimins. In the end, it was the Revolution that did it, not Frontline, nope, not the Frontline. the thing was, I had to wait a month (even though I was told I didn't have to) for the Front line to go the full 4 weeks. If I did the drowning shampoo again, I would use something like an oatmeal bath, leaving regular shampoo for 5 intues dried out all the dog's fur.

Gina Spadafori

if *I* didn’t need one of those, I don’t know who would.

Comment by Christie Keith — July 16, 2010

When we finally have our pet-friendly co-housing community, we're collectively buying that Ladybug steamer. I tell ya, the demo at the convention was more fun than a pile o' dead fleas.

Nancy Freedman-Smith

Actually, no, I have not tried everything. I didn't know about Fleabusters. I may git me some of those nemotoids. Squirrels and birds still bring them to my yard.


Another one here who is knocking on wood--no fleas on our house and we live in flea-haven near the beach. I have always held back on using Frontline except for during the Summer, this year have only applied it once so far. Am thinking I may risk not using it at all and see what happens.

I remember as a kid, fleas being a huge problem. We had a house with mostly wood floors that was cleaned diligently, both by my mom and a weekly house keeper. My room got the most sun and the cats would congregate in there to sun bathe (we had indoor-outdoor cats back then). My room was always the worst, I vividly remember walking in and being absolutely attacked by fleas. So, so gross.

In hindsight, I am sure our poor Springer was horribly allergic to fleas. She was miserable in the later years of her life and I know my mom tried to put her on better foods, but knowing what we know now, I realized we could have managed it much better. :(

I think the difference in our current flea-free environment is that our dogs are very short-haired, we bathe them regularly (just normal dog shampoo), and they eat a very high quality diet (Orijen with dabbles in home cooking and raw, but we are not fully on the "program" yet). It probably doesnt hurt I am a clean freak as well, or that the single carpeted room in our house the dogs are gated off from.

My assumptions are totally non-scientific as well, but I am happy to jump on the healthy-dog-is-a-flea-free-dog bandwagon.


I recently wrote an in-depth assessment on the mechanisms by which ticks and fleas may be developing resistance to fipronil (the active ingredient in Frontline).

We just fought off a minor flea infestation. Baths for all dogs with regular shampoo, LOTS of cleaning - and treating with diatomaceous earth appears to have done the trick.

After the dogs dried thoroughly I powdered them up with the DE, I also powdered rugs, mattresses and nooks and crannies. Left rugs and nooks over night and vacuumed in the day. Left beds in the day and vacuumed before bedtime. It seems to have worked.


??? MY comment was swallowed up somewhere so I'm reposting. AGAIN. (grrrr)

I recently wrote an in-depth assessment on the mechanisms by which ticks and fleas may be developing resistance to fipronil (the active ingredient in Frontline). Spam filters apparently have decided I am apparently not allowed to post the link here. Whatever.

We also recently had a minor flea infestation. Baths for the dogs with regular shampoo, lots of cleaning (I have a steamer) and then treating dogs, rugs, beds and those pesky nooks and crannies with diatomaceous earth (DE) seems to have done the trick.

DE is great stuff, just wear a mask when you apply it (inhalation of any dust is not good) and vacuum beds before you use them.


Is is something I said?

I've tried three or four times now to post a comment and they all disappear into the ether....

Ericka Basile

as I read this section i paused :

"If you really want to go all the way, think about getting rid of any wall-to-wall carpeting in your home. It’s full of bacteria, mold, mildew, fungus, dust mite feces and all kinds of allergens and dirt. It’s impossible to clean, unlike hard floors, and can’t be taken up, shaken out, and exposed to sun and the occasional deep professional cleaning like area rugs can."

I am sitting here waiting for a wood flooring company to come to my house and give me a quote to take up carpet on second level and put in hard floors.

Your post about carpets have now grossed me out and will soon make a wood flooring salesman's day.

David S. Greene

Hi Janeen -- I don't know why, but for some reason our spam filter was trapping your comments and keeping them in Comment Jail, until a warden could come by and free them. I happened to have my Warden's Key Chain on my belt loop today, so I let them loose. They were unfairly imprisoned. I'll talk to the prosecuting attorney about it. Sorry about the glitch.

Gina Spadafori

Janeen ... sometimes even MY comments end up in the spam filter.

And Ericka: I have never lived in a house with wall-to-wall carpeting. We kids all had asthma/allergies, and the pediatrician said "no carpeting."

He also said "no pets," but my folks ignored that one, God love 'em.

Wall to wall carpet in hotels creeps me out. Can you imagine what lives in THOSE fibers?

Nancy Freedman-Smith

No one mentioned Neem oil. Any thoughts on it?


Thank you Christie. I was just wishing I lived somewhere with a "better" climate. But what I might like better the fleas would like too. The only time the dogs have a flea is when they catch a bunny and pick up a bunny flea.

I can live with the dryness, the altitude, and the cold...whatever it is that keeps the tiny livestock at bay.

We do have the occasional tick too. Ick.


No one mentioned Neem oil. Any thoughts on it?

Comment by Nancy Freedman-Smith — July 16, 2010 @ 12:52 pm

I was wondering the same. I used some to combat a cabbage beetle invasion in my veggie garden. I 'won'. If it combats fleas, YES!

I was worried when I got my dog I would bring home fleas to my cats. 8 yrs no problems. Now with the move though, I've been wondering if that would hold up. One kitty and the dog are in/out (4 months). So far {knock on wood!!!} no probs. I'm trying to maintain an organic yard where some pests exist, but nature does it's own thing and there's a balance. An invasion I will combat against though, as I will fleas on my pets. My biggest prob so far seems to be the freakin' ants!!!


Here in North Texas, I used Frontline effectively for many moons. I've just switched to Comfortis and it seems to work well, too. Back in the days before Frontline, when only Program existed, my apartment got infested. I used DE to eradicate those little buggers, but like a fool vaccumed it up while I was shoeless and sockless (I'd sprinkled it everywhere, as if it were Carpet Fresh). I WAS smart enough to wear a mask, which is a good thing, indeed! After a couple of weeks, the incredibly dry skin on my legs healed. :-) I use it to combat all kinds of creepy-crawlies. It'll kill anything with an exoskeleton.


Donna - In my experience, non-glossy tile with slightly recessed grout works the best to minimize slippage. Even if the dog starts to slip, when their foot hits the grout line, it gets "caught" enough for them to recover their footing. Tile size should be no bigger than the distance the dog can safely splay without hurting themselves.

Christie Keith

My experience is that hardwood provides a decent surface for dogs, while laminate flooring does not.

Tile can be good or bad, depending on the size of the tiles and the dogs -- the grout lines are a good surface.

But it's not like I have vast expanses of slick flooring. I have Persian carpets in my home -- some of them room sized. And if that's not in the budget, sisal runners, mats and area rugs are CHEAP, as are many area rugs -- they've come down in price massively. There are lots and lots and lots of options to wall to wall, once we take that off the table.

Plus, speaking as a dedicated HGTV viewer, LOL, area rugs are much more interesting from a design point of view than wall to wall or uncovered hardwood, tile, etc. As David Bromstad says, "The floor is the fifth wall. Use it."


Any thoughts on how to best provide good footing for the dogs on non carpeted flooring? I like the idea of getting rid of the wall-to-wall, but my dogs do the major slip 'n slide on the vinyl flooring as well as the small amount of uncovered hardwood we have at present. I have a serious fear of CCL injury.

Gina Spadafori

I thing your "serious fear" is overblown. Take up the carpets. If your dogs are fit and not fat, a blown ligament is pretty low on your list of things that could happen.


"don’t ask me why, only the cats know why they prefer vomiting on the rugs,"

Splash back.


The smartest change i made to patio home i bought 8 yrs ago (villa in some parts of country) was to have the off-white wall-to-wall carpeting removed. There already was hardwood flooring in flex room (i use as office) and hall leading to back of home. But i had tile put down everywhere else. Have not-very-expensive area rugs on hard surface floors except kitchen. No carpets a much easier way to live with pets! I don't buy expensive area rugs because my cats usually make a bee-line to barf up hairballs on the rugs; don't ask me why, only the cats know why they prefer vomiting on the rugs, rather than the tile floors! I'm a natural-born klutz. When i knock over or drop something, i don't have to have heart attack worrying i've ruined carpet or designer-quality area rug. Don't know why anyone wants wall-to-wall carpet these days. Most of the new houses have far less carpeting than previously.

Gina Spadafori

I have never been to Ikea. Evah. The scale of the place freaks me out. But I might have to for a washable, durable rug at a decent price.

Serious color suckage, though. Boring.

H. Houlahan

When our Mel became both incontinent and unsteady on the tile floors, I bought a bunch of these:

Yeah, they only come in that brown/tan color.

But despite the care instructions, you can throw them into a front-loading washer. I've washed mine regularly for 3-4 years, and no peeling or damage from the washer.

They don't slip, and are impervious to fluids.

I use one now in the work area of our kitchen. Works great.

Very economical for the utility. I do wish there were some more choices for color/pattern, but I guess a rug named Karby is brown and tan, period.


Thanks for the flooring suggestions. So far the cheapest option I've found is a grooved vinyl runner (major yuck); however, I have not yet investigated sisal and will do so right away. Maybe in my next lifetime I can have Persian carpets. I love that look.

Of course, I do hope my concern about CCL ruptures in my fit-not-fat dogs is "overblown." Unfortunately, other things correlate besides obesity/overweight condition. Regardless, particularly I do not like to see my older dog wipe out.

Kim Thornton

We have wood (bamboo) floors, but the Persian carpets have been taken up for now because of Bella's incontinence. The younger two don't have any problem on the floors and Bella doesn't move quickly enough anymore to wipe out, although she does slip a little when she's standing up. Check Ikea; they often have inexpensive area rugs that aren't vinyl.

H. Houlahan

Tractor Supply

Harbor Freight


LL Beane


Question: What are stores where Houlie will shop without requiring a blow to the head beforehand?

Seriously, for some unfathomable reason, I luuurve Ikea.

Is it the lingonberry juice? The vats of fluffy sheepskins? My ongoing affair with a bookcase named Billy? Who can say?

But how can you not love a furniture/housewares store that sells these:

Per their website, they now also have these runners:

And this small rug in three colors:

Kim Thornton

Oh, they have lots more choices in rugs/colors than brown and tan. It's where I get all my rugs to put under the birdcage.

H. Houlahan

Retroactive spam filter?

I posted with some links to other Ikea products with the rubber backing, realized that it would likely not go through with so many links, it appeared, then disappeared. (I was actually checking back to find the link to one of the rugs so I could write down the name.)


Christie Keith

Our spam filter from time to time gets POSSESSED. There is no other word for it. Right now it's grabbing comments, including from longtime regulars, and slamming them into the spam folder for no reason I can determine. I'm sure one of yours was the links and formatting -- but that didn't explain the others of yours, and of Janeen's, and of other people's, that I have liberated today.

Time to call the techies!

David S. Greene

Although I didn't see Heather's excised comment, I've been keeping a very close eye on the spam filter recently, and Christie's so very correct. The filter seems particularly hungry for certain regulars (Janeen, Marge, and yes, Heather), and I haven't a clue why. Even staff writers like Kim are getting snagged, so you're in good company, Heather.

Liz Palika

We tore up the carpet, put down tile and throw rugs about ten years ago and love it! It's better for my allergies, better for flea control, and for overall cleanliness of the house.

The dogs don't have any trouble on it at all.

Gina Spadafori

Even staff writers like Kim are getting snagged, so you’re in good company, Heather.

Comment by David S. Greene — July 19, 2010

Hey ... *I* am getting snagged. Every comment.


Be patient, gang. We'll have the Black Dog kids look into it.

In the meantime, don't repost a comment it it disappears. Just e-mail and we'll liberate.


Why do I NOT have a love affair with my hardwood floors? What am I missing? Aside from being pretty to look during a few short hours post-mopping, my floors take 3 times the work to keep clean. Sweeping generally keeps the dog hair whirl winds under control. But with 4 indoor/outdoor dogs, only vaccuuming will get the serious grit picked up. And then I need to mop to get rid of the pawprint paths. Not to mention all the area rugs that need vacuuming/cleaning too. Sigh. There are days when I long for a darkish shade of wall-to-wall that only needs vacuuming and the periodic deep clean.

As for injuries, it hasn't been an issue for us. Even Nicky No-Hips learned to scamper across our hardwood floors without wiping out. He's also the best area rug surfer of all 4 dogs.


Hi there, found your blog through Google. I'm fortunate enough to live in the Sierra Nevadas at 7500 feet and I've been told all my life that you can bring adult fleas on your pet to this elevation but they cannot reproduce so eventually they'll all die and problem solved. I'm starting to wonder about the accuracy of this claim now though. The last time I went to a flea area was July 1st and now today, August 11th they are still thriving. My poor dog must have been covered in them on the way home because I kill at least 15 per bath, brush out 5, pick off 5, and find 5 dead ones so about 20-30 are dying each week since then and yet they're still hanging around!! I've steeped lemons an turned it into a spray, used Sentry natural essential oil flea drops, apple cider vinegar both internally and externally. Even ordered some diatomaceous earth which is supposed to work in the same manner as flea powder. Vacuumed and bleached the house multiple times. I don't get it, these disgusting creatures are so strong!!What the heck am I doing wrong? I'm fearful because I'm taking the dog to college with me where fleas are rampant and don't die because of the altitude and I can't even maintain them here at home. I'm planning on trying nematodes for the yard where I'll be living for school. What else can I do?

Dan Walsh


If you vacuum (hoover) the fleas up, you should use a fibre vacuum bag, it normally has 5 layers of filtration to stop 99%+ of dust/hair and fleas getting back into the air. Bosch also do a bag that has a lid you close after you remove it and you can make sure the little blighters don't escape !!

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