If you’ve ever seen a dog suffering from lots of flea bites, then you have an idea of how uncomfortable your dog will become if you don’t treat the fleas on your dog right away.
Plus, if your dog has fleas, then technically you do too. They get into the nooks and crannies inside your house — from the floor boards to the baseboards to the carpet, rugs, and furniture.
And it won’t be long before the fleas are biting on you — and everyone else who comes inside your home too!
A single female flea can lay 10 to 50 eggs per day and upwards of 2,000 eggs in her lifetime. Thus 1 adult flea can literally lead to an infestation of tens of thousands. Only 1% of the flea population will actually live on your pets which leaves the other 99% lurking in your house and yard in various live stages. The adult female will lay eggs on your pet, who will then act something like a salt shaker, spreading the eggs in the house. The larval stage will emerge within 1 to 10 days. The flea will remain in this stage for 5 to 11 days. This stage is the period of vulnerability where you can kill the juvenile pest. Next the flea will spin a cocoon where they will safely rest for 1 day to 6 months. During this stage, your only hope is to vacuum or wash bedding where the cocoon lies. The flea will remain in the protective cocoon until conditions are right and then emerge to begin the life-cycle all over again. —Dr. Tracy Lord, DVM
The very first time you find a flea on your dog or in your home, it’s time to take action!
While there are a number of popular flea products for dogs available, you may want to try a safer, natural alternative first.
Here are the best natural flea home remedies to get rid of fleas on your dog and in your home…
How To Kill Fleas Naturally
Boric Acid is a natural insecticide. Sprinkle Boric Acid on all surfaces that your dog has been on — inside and outside your home — including carpet, furniture, and hardwood flooring. The Boric Acid kills fleas and the larvae by dehydrating them and drying them out. Let it set at least overnight… or longer. Then vacuum it up and throw away the bag.
TIP: Boric acid is available in many forms. However, many veterinarians (including Dr. Sherry Weaver, DVM) prefer the Fleabusters brand, because it stays in the house longer. Boric acid is safe and effective, and it can offer protection for up to a year or more as it remains deep in carpet fibers and floor crevices.
Another natural powder that kills fleas is Diatomaceous Earth. This is safe to use directly on your dog and on your furnishings. Simply sprinkle the Diatomaceous Earth along your dog’s spine (when his coat is completely dry). Massage it in — working your way to the extremities and avoiding the eyes. Next, sprinkle some Diatomaceous Earth on your carpets, rugs, flooring, and furniture. Brush it in lightly and let it set for about 4 days. Finally, vacuum it up and throw away the bag.
TIP: When sprinkling fine powders like Diatomaceous Earth and Boric Acid in confined spaces, it’s best to wear a mask (or wet bandana) over your mouth & nose. The reason: even though they are non-toxic, these products are super-fine and — when airborne — they can dry out your mucus membranes. Also, there are many varieties of Diatomaceous Earth available. Don’t use the kind that’s used in swimming pools. Use natural Diatomaceous Earth that is available from gardens supply centers, health food stores, and natural pet sites.
Nematodes are used outside to control fleas in your backyard or other outdoor areas with grass and soil. Nematodes are bugs (worms) that enjoy hunting and destroying flea larvae and cocoons. They won’t harm anything but fleas and garden parasites, like grubs. You must follow special watering instructions in order to prevent the ground from drying out too much for the nematodes to be able to survive and do their work.
TIP: Nematodes tend to work quite well at ridding outdoor spaces of fleas. They have been known to reduce the flea population by 80% in 24 hours. They are most effective in moist, sandy soil away from direct sunlight. The worms don’t survive in the hot sun. Nematodes can be purchased at pet stores, nurseries, and online.
#4. Salt + Vacuum
Once you’ve discovered that your dog has fleas and you’ve seen them inside your home, vacuum your carpet, throw rugs, dog bedding, and the upholstery on your furniture regularly. The vacuum will suck up the fleas (and eggs) — just remember to empty the vacuum into an outside garbage can each time! However, to kill the fleas on those surfaces in your home, sprinkle some fine table salt onto your rugs and furniture and leave it for one week to 10 days. The salt will adhere to the fleas and larvae and ultimately kill them. After a week (or 10 days), vacuum up the salt (and dead fleas). Warning: Do not sprinkle salt directly on your dog’s coat. It’s too harsh for a dog’s skin.
TIP: Flea eggs hatch every 3 days, so by sprinkling your floors for at least 9 days, vacuuming each 3rd day for 9 days takes you through the complete lifecycle of flea life.
Combine 2 cups of fresh Rosemary leaves and 2 pints of boiling water. Allow the mixture to boil for 30 minutes. Strain the Rosemary leaves out and discard them. Add 6 pints of warm water to the mixture to make 1 gallon of flea dip. As long as it’s not too hot, slowly pour the mixture over your dog’s coat (either in the bathtub or outside, if it’s hot out). Don’t rinse; just let your dog dry naturally.
TIP: In addition to repelling fleas, the Rosemary is an anti-inflammatory, so it can help relieve itching and scratching from fleas. Rosemary can be used around the house as well as on your dog to help repel fleas. Grind up rosemary leaves into a powder. Sprinkle in areas your dog sleeps and in areas he frequently plays around the house.
#6. Cedar Oil
Cedar oil (also known as Cedarwood oil) is an Essential Oil derived from the foliage, wood, and roots of various types of conifers. It has anti-bacterial properties and pesticide effects — which is why it works so well on fleas (and ticks). It can be used directly on your dog and on things within your dog’s environment.
TIP: If your dog is in need of a new dog pillow, consider getting a cedar dog bed. They’re popular for their ability to repel fleas. While the scent alone won’t kill any fleas, it will effectively repel them. Don’t want to buy one?… Then make a cedar dog bed yourself!
#7. Lemon Spray
Cut a lemon into 4 sections (including the peel) and place them in a glass jug. Pour boiling water over the lemon wedges, and leave it overnight. The next morning, pour the lemon water into a clean spray bottle and spray your dog’s coat with it. Make sure to get behind your dog’s ears, all around his head (but not near the eyes), under his armpits, and around the base of his tail. Just be careful not to spray on tender parts!
TIP: Lemons contain limonene, a chemical that kills and repels fleas. It can be used daily on your dog’s skin and coat.
A Word Of Advice…
A natural flea remedy isn’t a “once & done” type of treatment.
It needs to be repeated, regularly, in order to be effective. Otherwise, the fleas will indeed return!
Plus, if you’re trying to control fleas from a natural and holistic perspective, then you have to be sure to treat all of the parts involved — and some spaces (like your dog’s indoor bedding, compared to your dog’s space outdoors) may require different forms of treatment than others.
Sometimes — depending on the severity of the flea problem — it may be necessary to resort to a chemical flea product that is commonly used on dogs. If that’s true in your case, then check this list for the safest ingredients to look for in flea products.
In severe cases, it may be reasonably safe to apply an insecticidal product to kill the existing flea population in the house. —Dr. Jeffrey Levy, DVM
IF a pet really needs these chemicals, I’ll use them short term (1-3 months as needed.) In my practice, this means most of my patients rarely if ever need flea and tick prevention (my own dog and cat have never been administered these products.) I prefer to prevent fleas and ticks by treating the yard with beneficial nematodes (they work better than chemicals; natural pyrethrums or diatomaceous earth can also be used.) I then recommend an herbal flea and tick shampoo containing citrus oils; the pet is bathed 1 to 2 times weekly for several weeks until the parasites are controlled. Remember that fleas and ticks do not die upon contact with shampoo. Rather, the shampoo works over time. This is why I suggest leaving the shampoo on for at least 20-30 minutes before rinsing. Also, pay special attention to the area between the toes and around the ears, since ticks love to hide here! Between bathing, I recommend either an herbal collar (containing an herb such as citronella) or an herbal powder, containing natural pyrethrum made from chrysanthemum flowers. —Dr. Shawn Messonnier, DVM
Finally, it is also important that you do a few additional things to ensure that new fleas don’t find their way onto your dog (and into your home). The following natural flea preventatives are your best bet, after you’ve taken care of the initial flea problem.
How To Prevent Fleas Naturally
In addition to living in your dog’s fur, fleas also live in your furniture, your flooring (hardwood floor creases, carpet, and rugs), and your dog’s bedding.
To keep fleas at bay, it’s important to do 2 things very regularly:
- Wash your dog’s bedding and clothing frequently. This includes any clothing or bedding of yours that your dog regularly comes in contact with — so be sure to wash those frequently as well.
- Vacuum all carpet, rugs, and upholstery to suck up any fleas and larvae that may have decided to take up residence there.
Vacuuming removes many of the eggs, larvae and pupae developing within the home. Vacuuming also stimulates pre-adult fleas to emerge sooner from their insecticide-resistant cocoons, thus hastening their contact with insecticide residues in the carpet. By raising the nap of the carpet, vacuuming improves the insecticide’s penetration down to the base of the carpet fibers where the developing fleas live. Vacuum thoroughly, especially in areas where pets rest or sleep. Don’t forget to vacuum along edges of rooms and beneath furniture, cushions, beds, and throw rugs. After vacuuming, seal the vacuum bag in a garbage bag and discard it in an outdoor trash container. Source
Bathe your dog regularly. This is an excellent way to kill fleas. In effect, you’re suffocating and drowning them. Your best bet is to use a dog neem shampoo or a dog oatmeal shampoo — especially if your dog has irritated skin from all the scratching. Lather it up real good all over your dog’s coat and leave it on for 10 to 15 minutes. Finally, rinse well.
Brush your dog regularly. Any dog brush will work in a pinch, but the Furminator tends to get into your dog’s undercoat better than a standard dog brush. And when a dog has fleas, then a flea comb works even better due to the comb’s teeth being really close together. (Hint: A flea comb with a double row of teeth works best of all!) Depending on the severity of the flea problem, you should comb your dog at least once a week or as much as twice a day.
Essential Oils will also help to repel fleas. You can mix them in with any other water- or powder-based flea home treatment that you choose. According to the Green Flea & Tick Products Directory, these are the most effective ingredients to look for in storebought “herbal” or “natural” flea control products: D-limonene, Linalool, Citrus oils, and Essential Oils of Tea Tree, Lavender, Cinnamon, Citronella, Clove, Geranium, Bay, Eucalyptus, or Rue. The only downside with using Essential Oils is the fact that they evaporate quickly, so they must be reapplied frequently in order to be effective.
Speaking of Essential Oils, you could also make…
- A homemade flea collar out of a bandana, a piece of webbing or a rope collar. Simply rub a few drops of Tea Tree, Lavender, or Eucalyptus essential oil into the material of the DIY flea collar. Keep in mind, flea collars only repel fleas around your dog’s neck. They do very little for the rest of the body. Most likely, the fleas will just find another spot far enough away from that collar to hang out. Also, most flea collars, especially anything non-toxic, are only effective for a short time.
- A safe and effective insect repellent for dogs by combining 5 drops each of Tea Tree oil, Citronella oil, Rosemary oil, Peppermint oil, and Eucalyptus oil with 1 cup of water in a clean spray bottle. Shake to mix thoroughly, then spray directly on your dog, his bedding, the carpet, etc. This is safe enough to use daily, and it smells great!
Healthy animals are less attractive, for reasons that science has yet to determine, to fleas. Dogs and cats on the kind of ‘junk’ foods that are still widely sold are far more prone to fleas and other parasitic and infectious health problems than those who are on a wholesome, whole-food diet, ideally organically certified and of course nutritionally complete. So many are not, so I strongly advocate the use of the following inexpensive nutrient supplements. I advise giving Brewer’s yeast or nutritional yeast (not Baker’s or bread-making yeast); about 1 teaspoon per 30 lb body weight mixed into the animal’s food every day, plus 1/2 a teaspoon of cinnamon per 30 lb body weight. Begin by giving only a pinch of these nutriceuticals so the pet will get used to them. Most love them. A teaspoon of Flaxseed oil per 30 lb body weight will also help improve skin and coat condition, (though cats do better on organically certified fish oil). For most breeds of dogs, but not for cats, one garlic clove per 30 lb body weight, chopped up daily and mixed into the food, may also help increases resistance or deterrence to fleas and other opportunists from the insect world. —Dr. Michael Fox, DVM