Fleas are small insects that feed on blood of mammals. They have no wings and cannot fly but they jump from one host to another, laying numerous eggs in the process. They can also transmit diseases like plague and myxomatosis (especially in rodents and rabbits) and are generally considered a big threat to the well-being of pets and families.
Today there are countless chemical products available that effectively combat the flea problem, but there are also some natural treatment options and measures you can take to get rid of fleas and keep them from infesting your home and your pets again.
Natural ways to get rid of fleas on your dog
1. Use a flea comb
A flea comb is the easiest and most effective way of getting rid of fleas. It keeps your pet well groomed, healthy and happy (as it gets all that attention!). Buy a good quality product that combs all fleas out of all sizes, including eggs and larvae. Most eggs and larvae do not reside on the pet but in case they do, you don’t want to leave them out. Before using a flea comb with narrow teeth, make sure the fur on your dog is not tangled to avoid pain when you comb it. I use these combs on my two dogs.
- Seat or stand your pet on a white (old) cloth or piece of paper. This will help you see exactly what you are removing.
- You can use the comb after a bath while the pet’s fur is wet. However, a flea comb also works effectively on dry hair.
- Start from the neck and run the comb all the way down to the base of the tail.
- Dip the comb in vinegar or soapy water to drown the fleas and eggs trapped by the comb.
- Repeat the process all over until you have completely combed out all the fleas.
- Use the flea comb daily to catch fleas, larvae and newly hatched eggs.
2. Enhance your dog shampoo
While there are many flea specific shampoos on the market, you can also turn ordinary dog shampoo into a flea shampoo at home. Add half a cup of any good dog shampoo to half a cup of freshly squeezed lemon juice and two cups of water. Pour this mixture in a bottle and use it to bathe your pet every week. For larger breeds, increase the quantities in proportion. After you bathe your pet, do not let your pet run around in grassy trails or lawns where fleas reside. Continue to comb the pet’s fur thoroughly and bag all the fleas.
- Add essential oils to the dog shampoo.
- The best essential oils for fleas are tea tree oil, cedar-wood oil, rosemary oil, and lavender oil. These oils are safe to use on dogs as long as they are diluted.
- Wet your pet’s coat thoroughly and then apply the shampoo-oil mixture all over. Work up a rich lather.
- Let the shampoo work on the fleas for 10 minutes.
- Rinse your pet thoroughly.
- To the final rinsing water, add half a cup of apple cider vinegar. This will eliminate all existing fleas and also add a rich, healthy luster to your pet’s coat.
3. Use apple cider vinegar to repel fleas
Add one teaspoon full of fermented apple cider vinegar to a quarter liter of water and let your dog drink this throughout the day. The apple cider vinegar keeps the skin/coat of the dogs slightly acidic which naturally repels fleas and even ticks for that matter. While it is a good idea to keep your pet’s coat slightly acidic, do not directly apply the ACV to the skin since it irritates broken skin. Consult your vet as to how much ACV your pet might safely ingest based on its body weight.
- Fill up a spray bottle with distilled water, half a cup of witch hazel, a few teaspoons of vodka and half a cup of organic apple cider vinegar.
- Shake the bottle well.
- Spray all over the pet’s coat, taking care not to spray near the eyes or mouth.
- Allow the coat to air dry.
- Repeat a few times a week, especially prior to walks when you visit grassy tick or flea infested areas.
4. Wash bedding and use heat
Wash all bedding designated for your pet and also any other fabric your pet is likely to lie upon. You will be surprised how easily you can get rid of the fleas, eggs and larvae when you wash with a strong detergent. Drying is effective too when it comes to killing eggs, larvae and adult fleas. If the fabric can be put in a dryer, you should dry it in the electric dryer on maximum heat for best results.
- Start by vacuuming the bed. This will suck up eggs, larvae and adult fleas.
- Soak the bedding in hot water mixed with a bit of bleach or mild detergent (use bleach only for light colored fabrics).
- Dry the bedding on the highest setting of the dryer.
- Wash pet bedding once a week to eliminate newly hatched fleas.
5. Use boric acid powder
Use boric acid powder (or Borax) to dust areas that are not exposed to sunlight and areas where the humidity is higher than 50 percent. Make sure your dog doesn’t lick off the boric acid powder as some dogs don’t tolerate it. After a couple of days, all the eggs will dry out and get neutralized. The larvae will also suffocate to death. Afterwards, all you need to do is vacuum away the debris and the boric acid powder.
- It is best to remove pets and kids from the rooms being treated, as Borax powder can be irritating to the lungs.
- Liberally sprinkle borax powder on the carpets, under furniture, on pet bedding etc.
- Ideally use a brush to really get the powder deep into the fabric, rugs, and carpets you are treating.
- The longer you allow the Borax to sit, the better it will be. Borax, being an abrasive material, cuts into the fleas exoskeleton and kills them instantly.
- Vacuum after 8-10 hours to get rid of dead fleas.
- Discard vacuum bags immediately.
6. Make a flea collar
Use two drops of lavender oil or tea tree oil in one teaspoon of water and apply the solution all over your dog’s collar or sprinkle the solution on a kerchief and tie it around your dog’s neck. This will keep the fleas at bay.
- Apply watered lavender oil or tea tree oil to a dog collar or kerchief.
- Afterwards, never allow the collars to get wet; moisture reduces their effectiveness. So always remove the collar while bathing your pet or before it goes swimming.
- Replace the collar with a new one every few months.
- If you are using homemade essential oil based collars, reapply the essential oil on the collar every few days to strengthen its scent. The strong aroma is repulsive to fleas.
- Flea collars are also available readymade in pet stores. They remain effective for several months. Note that some of them contain chemicals like pyrethrins or fipronil.
- Make your kids wash their hands after petting dogs wearing flea collars.
7. Periodically vacuum the floor
Fleas like moist and warm areas. If you are not diligent about cleaning and vacuuming, think again. Your pet goes around the home all day and probably rests in every nook and corner of the house. So do vacuum it periodically and thoroughly in order to prevent fleas from multiplying and infesting your entire house and yard.
- If you have a massive infestation, you must vacuum daily.
- Remove pets and kids from the areas being treated.
- Sprinkle borax or diatomaceous earth powder all over the carpets, under the furniture, on rugs and pretty much everywhere your pet lounges through the day.
- Allow the powder to sit for at least 3-4 hours.
- Vacuum thoroughly afterwards.
- Repeat every 2-3 days or daily if you have a serious flea infestation.
- Immediately discard the vacuum bags. If needed, dust diatomaceous powder inside the bags to eliminate fleas and larvae trapped by the vacuum.
A word of caution
Most essential oils are efficient and great natural ways of getting rid of fleas, eggs and larvae, but excess quantities could harm your dog and cause a lot of trouble. Consult your vet for the right quantities that will help keep fleas at bay without harming your pet. It largely depends on the percentage of concentration of the oil in question and the immunity and health of your dog.
Fleas don’t usually infest humans like they infest furry mammals, but they do bite humans if they get the chance. To avoid flea infestations and getting bitten, prevention is key. Vacuuming your floors often, keeping your pets clean and healthy and periodically grooming them are some easy measures you should take. You could also use some natural aromatic products, such as dried cedar chips and lemon rinds to keep fleas away from your surroundings.