Chances are that at some time or another, your dog is going to have fleas. In fact, if your pet has been with you for a while, it’s likely to have already been an issue.
Here’s a scary fact. You’re probably going to be seeing more of these annoying insects as time passes. A 2018 report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) indicated that parasites, including fleas, are becoming more widespread.
The world is becoming warmer. Whereas normally, fleas begin to die off as the cold weather approaches, now they are surviving, and the “flea season” is extending.
More fleas mean more flea treatments for your beloved dog. If you use the most common treatments, this translates to more chemicals and insecticides for your dog. You love your pet, and you want it to be flea-free. But using these sometimes dangerous chemicals is a concern for many pet owners.
The good news is that there are natural alternatives. This article will take you through the best home remedies to get rid of fleas on your dog, for both prevention and treatment. It will also point out some reasons to consider going with a natural flea treatment.
What’s the Problem with Traditional Flea Treatments?
There is nothing wrong, per se, with traditional flea treatments for dogs. When used correctly, they incur minimal risk.
They remain the most effective way of ridding your fur-babies of fleas. However, this isn’t to say they don’t have some downsides.
With the multitude of products available on the market—including flea collars, powders, tablets, and shampoos—taking care of your dog can impact your bank account.
It’s not just about treating your dogs once the fleas have taken hold. We want to use preventative treatments to stop the fleas returning, or finding a home on your pet in the first place.
The prices for some of these products may not be exorbitant, but they are still more expensive than most home flea remedy methods.
2. Health Issues
Think about how flea drops work. You put them onto your dog’s skin, and they are then absorbed.
These chemicals are spread through your dog’s entire dermal system—basically, putting insecticide inside the dog’s skin. When a flea takes a bite, it then ingests the insecticide which poisons it.
It makes me feel uncomfortable, thinking that my dog’s skin has become a large mass of insect poison. This doesn’t automatically have a negative effect on the health of the dog. However, studies have indicated that health issues related to flea drops are more prevalent than many people think.
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) examined the safety of these drops and found that:
- They can cause problems with the dog’s skin, digestive and nervous systems.
- Cyphenothrin, the most dangerous component, causes over 30 percent of health issues.
- Small dogs and those under 36 months were the most affected.
Let me clarify that these events are very rare—but still worth considering.
3. Flea Treatments Can Affect Humans
Most flea treatment instructions indicate that the insecticide should not come into contact with your skin. If it does, wash the area immediately.
Many people have allergic reactions to traditional insecticide-based flea treatments. This can be especially concerning if you have children.
If you stroke your pet after application, there is little chance of reaction once it has been absorbed. However, children with more sensitive skin are more likely to be affected.
4. Environmental Concerns
People are becoming increasingly concerned about the number of chemicals in our environment. They are being added to our water supply, food, and the air that we breathe.
Traditional flea treatments include chemicals such as methoprene, permethrin, and imidacloprid. In order to reduce the potential environmental impact, more and more pet owners are looking for natural flea remedies.
Home Remedies for Fleas on Dogs
We have put together six of the best and most effective home remedies for getting rid of fleas on dogs, for both deterring and eliminating troublesome pests. Most of the natural flea remedies include ingredients that you probably have in your home. If not, they are all relatively inexpensive and easy to find.
While these treatments have proven safe and effective for hundreds of dog owners, they should still be used with caution. Just like people, dogs can react differently even to the most innocuous of ingredients. If your pooch shows any reactions, cease use immediately.
Additionally, these practical and useful flea solutions are not meant to replace any medication that may have been prescribed by your veterinarian.
1. Flea Comb
What you need:
A flea comb
A bowl of warm water
Sometimes the simplest solution is often the best. Always ensure that you use a specialized dog flea comb, not just a normal human or dog comb. The teeth on regular combs are spaced too far apart to be effective.
Start using the comb at the head and work down towards the tail. Then comb the flanks, legs, and finally, the stomach. Each pass with the comb should be slow and deliberate.
Always ensure that the comb touches your dog’s skin with every stroke. Otherwise, some of the fleas could be missed.
With every pass, check the comb for fleas. If you see any, dip the comb into a bowl of warm water mixed with a little dish soap. This will remove the flea and prevent you from reapplying it to your dog. It will also kill the critter within a couple of minutes.
This an effective method for removing fleas at home that also puts you, as a pet parent, in control. Completed twice weekly, you are continually monitoring the flea situation.
2. Essential Oils
What you need:
Essential Oils (specific types as explained below)
Carrier oil (such as coconut, jojoba or grapeseed oil)
16 oz. spray bottle
Studies have shown that essential oils are a simple and safe way to make your own natural flea repellent. Firstly, these parasites abhor the smell. And secondly, the resulting sleek and shiny fur and skin makes it difficult for them to attach.
The important thing to consider is which essential oils to use. Oils that are known to repel fleas, and have little to no irritant effects (in dogs), are thyme, geranium, and lemongrass.
To treat your dog, mix a solution of one part essential oil to ten parts carrier oil. Then combine with water in a 50-milliliter spray bottle. During the flea season, spray your dog’s coat with the solution every other day, and gently rub it into the fur.
After the very first application, check to make sure that your pet hasn’t had any negative reaction to the essential oils.
Peppermint oil can be used to relieve irritation from any existing flea bites, although it doesn’t have any repellent properties.
If your dog happens to have a feline sibling, do not use the essentials on him/her. Cats react badly to essential oils as they don’t have certain liver enzymes, which are needed to metabolize the oils.
Finally, remember to always dilute the essential oils as instructed above. While you may love the fragrance, your dog’s nose is much more sensitive.
What you need:
Two pints of water
Spray bottle (optional)
Simple lemon juice has been shown to be a natural flea repellent. However, please take care to only ever use lemon juice, and never use lemon oil extracted from the rind. This can be dangerous for your dog.
Lemon oil contains limonene, which has wide-ranging uses, including insect repellent. But it may also cause aggravation to your dog’s skin, and it can be toxic. Limonene can also damage the dog’s liver and, in the worst-case scenario, this can be fatal. So never, ever, use the rind.
Lemon juice, however, is perfectly safe. Here’s how to make a powerful home flea remedy from just one lemon and some water.
Peel the lemon and then cut into quarters. Place the pieces into a pan with two pints of water and bring to the boil, allowing it to simmer for ten minutes. Leave overnight, to allow the maximum amount of juice to infuse into the water.
The next day, decant the water mixture into a spray bottle. Apply it all over your furry friend, concentrating on the areas behind the ears, beneath the legs and at the tail base.
Doing this daily will keep the fleas away. If your dog absolutely hates sprays, you can use a small sponge. Soak it in the lemon juice mixture and apply in small circular movements to the areas mentioned above.
This mixture can be kept for up to two weeks if refrigerated. Remove it from the fridge about 15 minutes before use, to avoid shocking the dog with the cold liquid.
What you need (for a flea collar):
Essential rosemary oil
An absorbent dog collar
For bath treatment:
Three cups of fresh rosemary
Eight pints of water
Although there have been few scientific studies, rosemary is considered to be an effective natural repellent and homemade treatment for dog fleas.
There are two main ways that this natural herb can be used, with a collar or as a bath.
Making your own rosemary flea collar is quite simple. Obtain an absorbent collar for your dog—cotton is usually the best material. Simply place two drops of rosemary essential oil onto it and allow it to soak in.
Once absorbed, place the collar onto your dog. The oil will repel any fleas. However, ensure you only use this essential oil on the collar. Placing it onto the dog’s skin could possibly cause irritation. Refresh the collar with rosemary once a week.
The second method is to make a rosemary bath. Boil three cups of fresh rosemary in two pints of water, for 15 minutes. Then, strain the liquid into a one-gallon bucket (or larger). Add a further five pints of warm (not boiling) water.
Test that the water temperature will be pleasant for your pet. Completely drench them in the liquid, from head to tail, then allow to dry naturally. This should be completed once a week, and can both remove and repel the unwanted pests.
5. Brewer’s Yeast
What you need:
Brewer’s yeast (available online and from health food stores)
Important for the production of bread and beer, brewer’s yeast is a natural compound that has numerous benefits for your dog.
Since the 1950s, it has been touted as a safe way to reduce flea numbers on many animals, including dogs. However, the exact reason how it works remains a matter of debate.
It’s high in B-vitamins, together with the minerals zinc, magnesium and selenium. Studies have tried to isolate which one of these elements is the enemy of fleas but to no avail.
It’s generally concluded that all of these work in combination to eliminate the unwanted pests.
The dosage for your dog depends upon its size. As a rough guide, use half a teaspoon of brewer’s yeast for small dogs. For large dogs, one teaspoon for every 30 pounds of body weight.
Add this yeast once daily to your pet’s food at mealtimes. Mix it in well, especially if you have a picky eater.
In addition to helping remove the fleas naturally, brewer’s yeast can also benefit dogs’ eyes, digestion, cardiovascular health, and immunity.
6. Baking Soda and Salt
What you need:
Baking soda and salt—amount depends on the treatment area.
Fleas aren’t limited to dogs. As travelers who are constantly looking for a new host, they tend to wander. This means that if your dog has fleas, you could also find them in your rugs and carpets.
Vacuuming is a good method to remove them. You can take this to the limit with a mixture of baking soda and salt. Mix one teaspoon of salt and baking soda together for every two square feet of area.
Sprinkle the mixture liberally over rugs and carpets and rub it into the fibers with a stiff brush. Leave for three hours, and then vacuum.
The combination of these two ingredients kills both adult fleas and eggs by dehydrating them. This, in turn, makes it easier to vacuum them away.
How to Prevent Fleas on Dogs?
If you are a dog parent, you must know that fleas are one of the most dreadful insects affecting your and your dog’s life, especially during the summer months!
Dogs come in contact with fleas through other animals or outdoor environments. Fleas prefer hot weather and high level of humidity. So, if you live in a humid place, you need to be extra careful about your dog’s health.
While flea bites can cause itching in normal dogs, fleas can cause extreme itching, scratching, and chewing if they are allergic to dogs or are sensitive. Sometimes, this can lead to hair loss, skin infection, and inflammation.
Besides, if your dog is hypersensitive to the saliva of fleas, it will itch even more. So, what should you possibly do to prevent fleas from attacking your dogs? Let’s see.
- Since dogs often come into contact with fleas outside your home, you can try limiting the time it spends outside. This may work better during the summer months or when there is a lot of humidity in the weather.
- Also, remember that dogs often carry fleas from animals like other stray dogs. So, even if you are taking your dog out for daily walks or to the dog parks, ensure that they do not come in contact with stray animals.
- Grooming is an important part of a dog’s life, which can help in preventing fleas. So, brush and bathe your dogs thoroughly as and when required (preferably with dog flea shampoos), which will take care of the dog fleas.
- Please consult your veterinarian regularly, and get your dog checked for fleas. Timely detection of fleas can help your dog. In addition, there are treatments for flea infestations that kill adult fleas and stop young ones from hatching.
- Talk to your veterinarian and if recommended, use flea control products. Use them as directed, and you will see the result.
- Fleas can also begin infesting your house, and there are professional services to eliminate them. Use such services to make your home a flea-free place, providing a cleaner environment for your dog to live in.
Final Thoughts on Home Remedies to Get Rid of Fleas
These 6 home remedies for getting rid of fleas on dogs may be an effective way of controlling the troublesome pests without using potent chemicals. You may find that, for your particular furry friend, some work better than others. As you well know, all dogs are not the same.
Speak to your veterinarian, especially if you are planning to use these in conjunction with medication. Working with natural ingredients can make for a happier life for you and your dog.
Dr. Lillian is a D.V.M. passionate about promoting awareness of dogs. She shares her expertise through her blogs on canineweekly.com and provides animal care services, including internal medicine, dermatology, and emergency care. Dr. Lillian is committed to contributing to animal welfare.