We recently adopted a 6 week old Pug puppy named Sugar. She is absolutely adorable, but she brought with her a few friends (enemies?) Yes, I'm talking about Fleas. The problem I had with getting rid of the fleas was that Sugar is only 6 weeks old, and all over-the-counter solutions are toxic, and very dangerous for puppies under 12 weeks.
We had tried many home remedies like salt-water dip, cinnamon, etc with no success. The water dips would drown a few of the fleas, but that was the extent of it. Once she was dry, she had fleas again...
So when I took her to the vet for her first set of shots and worming meds, I visited with the vet for a bit on natural non-toxic remedies for fleas. Of course, my main goal was to rid the fleas for good, but I was also dead set on not using toxic chemicals on my new baby puglet. That's when my vet told me about Diatomaceous Earth - A 100% non-toxic and organic way of killing the little pests.
What is Diatomaceous Earth?
The name sounded familiar, and I'm sure I had seen it mentioned before as a way of controlling fleas, but it's such an exotic name that it just sounds dangerous. However, I was completely wrong. Diatomaceous earth (commonly referred to as D.E.) is simply ground up remains of diatoms - a type of algae with a silica coating.
D.E. is so commonly used in so many products, odds are you eat it everyday. To all mammals, its perfectly safe, and in some cases beneficial to digest. To insects with exoskeletons however, a very different story.
How does Diatomaceous Earth work as a pesticide?
The D.E. isn't necessarily "toxic" to most bugs, but it kills in a completely different way. D.E. may look like a fine powder to us, but on the microscopic level it is actually very sharp granules of silica. When an insect comes in contact with the D.E., it's oily outer layers are damaged allowing moisture to escape the body. Basically the bugs become dehydrated and die - Usually within a couple hours after contact. Probably not the most humane way to kill a bug, but it's a bug and I won't be losing any sleep over it.
Using Diatomaceous Earth for Flea Control
The most important thing to remember about using Diatomaceous Earth as a pesticide for your pets is to make sure you buy "Food Grade" D.E. There are several different grades of D.E. available on the market, and each may have additives that you simply don't want around your house.
To use on your pets, you simply sprinkle the powder into it's fur around the high-infestation areas. (base of the tail, scruff of the neck, etc.) Though I haven't found any health hazards of breathing D.E. into your lungs, it is an irritant and will put you or your pet into a coughing frenzy for a while. Take extra care to ensure that you and your pets aren't breathing in the dust.
Once foot traffic has settled around the house for the evening, sprinkle all of your carpets with D.E. and let it sit for the night, then vacuum it back up in the morning. You can also sprinkle it onto hardwood floors, linoleum or anywhere else your pets may roam. You could technically leave it there as long as you want without it hurting anything, but having a white powder all over the floor is unsightly and most people just sweep/vacuum it up after it sets overnight.
Once the inside of your house is taken care of, I suggest sprinkling it all around your yard to rid the fleas in the area. Diatomaceous Earth doesn't hurt plants and is even safe to use in the garden as a natural pesticide. The only downside being that once D.E. gets wet, it becomes ineffective.
Diatomaceous Earth works pretty fast. When I use this on our pug, the fleas are gone by morning. It's actually pretty inexpensive compared to buying flea shampoo, carpet pesticides, flea collars, flea drops etc. And since it's all natural and non-toxic, you can use it on puppies under 12 weeks old. It's a win-win method of getting rid of those pesky fleas so you and your pets can live healthier lives.
Where can I buy Diatomaceous Earth?
Diatomaceous Earth is actually easy to find. You can buy it at a local garden center, farmers coop, and even some veterinary clinics keep it in stock. If you don't have any of those places available, try any place that sells gardening supplies, or I've included a couple links to purchase Diatomaceous Earth below.
Good luck with treating your fleas!