Finding an effective alternative to mainstream chemical flea treatments is difficult given how persistent and pervasive these pests are. A flea infestation is also not necessarily limited to the pet in question – human residents of a household are equally susceptible to exposure and contamination from fleas. And while chemical treatment options may be an effective solution, the pesticides they contain do come with a host of potentially negative side effects, including the potential for contaminating internal organs and may even be carcinogenic.
There are purported natural alternatives to this scenario, including cedar oil which has been valued through the ages in folk medicine as a decontaminate for homes, amongst a variety of other uses. For pets the good news is that cedar oil acts as an irritant to fleas, with few of the negative side effects of chemical based treatments. It works by being absorbed via the pores in a flea’s skin which causes them to involuntarily close, effectively suffocating them. Before we examine the many benefits of cedar oil, it is useful to know a little more about the lifecycle of fleas, which together with some simple remedial measures can help us to combat their seemingly perpetual proliferation.
More about Fleas
One of the primary problems associated with fleas is that their life cycle is relatively short, typically lasting seven to 21 days – which makes them especially difficult to control. Flea larvae thrive if they have shelter in the form of moist organic debris, which also provides them with their food source - essential to their reproductive success. They are also averse to direct sunlight, so will not survive in shade-free areas – one of the reasons that they find carpets and the cracks in between floorboards such an accommodating home. Upon emerging from their larval stage, adult fleas must soon locate a suitable host to provide a food source within the first few days – which is where you or your pet comes in!
Cedar Oil for Pets
Patty Walcott from Healthy Pets Naturally, a holistic health care service, advocates the benefits of cedar oil, and uses herbal medicine extensively to relieve chronic conditions, sometimes combined with conventional veterinarian prescribed medicines. “I trialled cedar oil recently and found it to be extremely effective, killing fleas on contact. It also kills lice and mites, helps to stop itching and will heal hot spots while promoting hair growth. It is also versatile enough to be used on both cats and dogs,” Patty said.
Benefits of Cedar Oil for Pets
Patty agrees that the broader therapeutic and other benefits of cedar oil for pets include:
- An anti-bacterial and antifungal effect on a pet’s skin.
- A 100% organic, natural and chemical free product.
- Promotes healing of damaged skin and hot spots.
- Moistens skin and eliminates dry skin.
- Biodegradable product and non-toxic.
- Kills lice and mites and deters ticks.
- Eliminates the need to use toxic flea treatments and collars.
Cedar Oil Precautions
Patty has not noted any problems with the ongoing use of cedar oil, though she does recommend applying it indirectly to cats - by spraying it onto your hands first before rubbing it through their coat. Besides following the care instructions on the product's packaging, other sensible precautions are to prevent anyone (including your pet) from ingesting cedar oil and to test it on your pet’s fur or skin first for a reaction. Also ensure that you are using a product that is specifically designed for pets, as commercial varieties for use in the garden are very likely to harm your pet.
Flea Control Tips
Cedar oil can also be used in conjunction with other simple measures to limit the presence of fleas in your home. These include:
- Vacuum your home regularly and thoroughly using attachments for corners, edges and crevices. If your vacuum has a vacuum bag spray it with cedar oil and afterwards empty the bag away from the house.
- Regularly wash items such as bedding, furniture covers, throws, pillows, stuffed toys and rugs, adding about half a cup of cedar oil to your wash.
- Spray cedar oil around the pet's bedding and sleep area to kill flea eggs and larvae.
- Spray items such as furniture and large stuffed animals that you cannot shampoo or launder with cedar oil and mist anything you do not launder.
- Flea combing is one of the safest and best methods for removing adult fleas from your pet, ensuring that you flush them down the toilet when your combing session is over.
- Bathe your pet regularly while you’re fighting a flea infestation. Fleas are less attracted to clean animals.
- Keep areas free of debris and moisture.
It is also worth making sure that your pet is always kept in tip top shape, by ensuring it has a balanced, nutritious diet and gets plenty of exercise.