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    Natural Flea Control for Pets

    Keep you and your pals happy with these least-toxic methods.

    Light traps

    Ever go away on vacation and return to find your home infested with fleas? While your pet was away, the fleas were at play, still laying eggs, eating organic debris on the carpet, multiplying exponentially and waiting eagerly for their next blood meal. But you can put flea control on autopilot while you're away with a simple light trap.

    Hang a lightbulb 6 to 12 inches above a pan of soapy water or a board covered with sticky paper (like duct tape) on the floor. In the absence of a warm body, fleas will be attracted to the heat of the bulb and hop to their soapy or sticky grave.

    "Most Herbal Methods Simply Won't Work".

    Michael Dryden, professor of veterinary parasitology at Kansas State University in Manhattan, Kansas. Considered a leading expert on flea control, Dryden says natural flea preventives, such as adding garlic to the pet's food or using the aromatic oils of cedar, lavender, mint and rosemary, are ineffective. Some herbal treatments, such as citrus extracts or pennyroyal, can be toxic to pets and humans.

    PREVENTIVE MAINTENANCE

    The good news is prevention is the best approach to flea control. The bad news is you'll have to vacuum and vacuum and vacuum.

    "You can eliminate up to 50 percent of flea eggs in a single pass with a vacuum," Dryden says. His experiments done on nylon carpets have shown vacuuming provides the same level of control at the pupal stage as permethfin, a widely used synthetic pesticide. Dryden recommends vacuuming carpets at least once a week or as often as every day during peak flea season, usually middle to late summer. Pay special attention to any areas where your pets may lie and remember to clean underneath sofas and chairs. Wash pet bedding regularly and vacuum cushions, pillows and between crevices on upholstered furniture. Dryden suggests removing the vacuum bag weekly and tossing it in an outdoor trash container.

    You won't want to allow a flea-infested Fluffy or Fido into your freshly cleaned home, so treat them to an occasional shampoo. No need to lather them up with a pesticideinfused potion: Plain soap and water usually will drown the fleas. just work up a good suds and allow it to stand for a few minutes before thoroughly rinsing your pet.

    Flea combs are another good method for controlling mild infestations of adult fleas. These combs have tightly spaced teeth that comb out fleas and their manure (which serves as food for the larvae), but still allow hair to pass through. Dip the comb into soapy water to dislodge and drown the fleas.

    Pets usually enjoy the extra attention, and by combing regularly, you'll be able to monitor the flea population and spring into action if numbers begin to swell. Outdoors, fleas are highly susceptible to fluctuations in temperature and moisture. They like damp environments, but they're also vulnerable to drowning. Mow infested lawn areas short, and allow them to dry out during the heat of summer if possible. Dryden says fleas are found most often in moist, shaded areas such as under porches and around dog pens. He says to use your garden hose to give the shady areas a good flooding. "Run the hose until you have mud puddles and you'll drown the fleas."