Fleas are a nuisance to both your dog and your household. To combat them, you can choose between commercial chemical products and natural remedies. In this article, you will learn about the benefits of natural home remedies, many of which can be made from ingredients you likely already have in your pantry.
Regardless of where they live, what their daily life is, or what breed they are, many dogs are affected by fleas. These small pests, the bite of which makes them itchy, irritate dogs endlessly, resulting in endless scratching.
However, scratching is just the tip of the proverbial iceberg. Dogs allergic to flea saliva can develop skin redness, welds, and swelling, not to mention skin lesions from constant licking. Flea bites can also cause anemia and, if fleas are ingested during the dog’s continuous grooming, tapeworm infestation.
Then there is the housework. A dog’s constant scratching will spread loose hair and dead skin. In addition to being challenging, fleas lay eggs in inaccessible and difficult-to-clean areas of your home, including along baseboards, under furniture, and in cracks in floorboards.
Of course, you have to fight back, both for your dog’s health and for your own. Here are some home remedies to get rid of fleas.
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On your dog …
Depending on where you live, fleas can be a seasonal or year-round problem. In general, they’re the biggest threat in summer when dogs spend more time outside. Fleas themselves are very small and move quickly, so a simple visual inspection is not always enough. To find out if your dog has fleas, check their fur and skin for black spots. These are flea droppings (gross!). Or, look for stains by sliding a white handkerchief over your dog’s fur. Here are some natural next steps if your investigation produces evidence.
As an affordable and practical solution, a flea comb is a must have for dog owners looking for a natural flea killer. They come in a variety of sizes, but all have closely spaced teeth that remove both eggs and fleas from the dog’s fur. (Soak the comb in soapy water after each pass to kill the eggs and adults the comb picks up.) This is a great first step in your war against these pests.
Lime or lemon comb / lemon bath
Dip your dog’s comb in fresh lime or lemon juice and make multiple passes through their fur. (If your dog has a short or smooth coat, you can use a cloth dipped in the juice instead of a comb.) Another option is to dilute lemon juice with water (1: 2 ratio) and add a splash of pet shampoo.
Apple Cider Vinegar (ACV)
The slightly acidic pH of ACV creates an inhospitable environment for fleas. Mix six cups of ACV with four cups of water (6: 4 ratio), add a pinch of salt, and spray the mixture on your dog’s fur and lower abdomen. Make sure you avoid his eyes and possible wounds.
While essential oils can keep fleas away, they must be used with caution as some are harmful to dogs. It is best to check with your veterinarian before taking this approach. That being said, some – including rosemary, peppermint, and highly diluted tea tree oils – are very effective flea treatments. Neem oil, which is extracted from the seeds of the neem tree native to the Indian subcontinent, is also highly effective. Essential oils must be diluted in a vehicle before spraying or applying them to your dog’s fur. You can also add them to your dog’s shampoo.
Dilute two to three drops of oil in one to three tablespoons of water and apply a few drops to your pet’s existing collar or a headscarf. (You will need to reapply this mixture regularly. For more information, see Barbara Fougère’s book, The Pet Lover’s Guide to Natural Healing for Dogs and Cats.) Lavender or cedar oil naturally repels fleas, but be sure to test it on your dog before you use them on something that goes around his neck.
In your house (and yard) …
One of the first things to do if you notice a flea infestation is to wash (with hot water if possible) any machine washable upholstered furniture your dog comes in contact with, including sofa and pillow cases, blankets, pillow cases, and curtains. Then tumble dry on high heat for about 20 minutes (or a little longer on lower heat if the material is shrinking). This kills both adult fleas and larvae.
Even if you don’t see fleas, it’s a good idea to regularly wash everything your dog sleeps on and vacuum floors and furniture at least weekly. A monthly steam cleaning can also help. The life cycle of a flea – from egg to adult – is approximately two to three weeks. The weekly cleaning prevents fleas from settling. Remember that more than 90 percent of the household flea population does not live on the pet but in the home environment in the form of eggs, larvae and pupae. Flea larvae don’t like light, so vacuum under furniture and around baseboards too.
Diatomaceous earth is basically the fossilized remains of microscopic diatoms that break down into a fine, white silica-based powder. When fleas and other pests (ticks, ants, bedbugs) come into contact with it, it destroys their exoskeletons and they dry out and die. Diatomaceous earth comes in two forms: pool / filter and food grade. Be sure to get the food grade that is low in crystalline silica and non-toxic to humans and animals. However, you should wear a mask when handing it out as it can irritate the eyes and throat.
Sprinkle it in areas where you suspect high flea activity – such as carpets – and let sit for about two days. Then vacuum the area thoroughly. Empty the canister or reinstall the bag. It can also be used outside on the lawn or in any area where your dog regularly stretches.
Baking powder and salt
Much like kieselguhr, baking soda and salt dehydrate fleas and their eggs. Sprinkle the mixture generously around your house and use a broom to make carpet fiber or under furniture. Leave on for one to two days and vacuum thoroughly. Then clean your vacuum cleaner carefully (salt can cause rust) and, as with kieselguhr, empty the canister or put the bag back in.
Small worms that eat insect larvae and nematodes live in the soil, and some species can be very helpful in fighting termites, maggots, and fleas. Mix the nematodes with water and spray them in your garden. Read the packaging carefully. It is very important to use the correct amount of water.
Put the needles in boiling water, strain and dilute. When the water is a comfortable temperature, pour it over your dog and work on his fur. You can also use a pestle and mortar to make a fine powder of dried rosemary, fennel, wormwood, and rue to spread around your home. Make sure your dog is familiar with the smell before using it as a dip or ingredient in the sprinkling powder.
Finally, many sources recommend giving dog yeast to ward off fleas. Although the science behind this is anecdotally small, it seems to be helping, although it takes time to get to work. (Check with your veterinarian before trying this). Above all, feed your dog well-balanced and pay attention to its health. Fleas are less successful in buying healthy, well-fed dogs.