How To Get Rid of Fleas On a Dog Naturally
Our expert shares her tried and tested natural remedies for eliminating fleas, along with methods to make your home, yard and pets uninhabitable to these pests.
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I don’t give my dogs or cats conventional flea preventatives. These very products inspired me to become a master herbalist.
Many years ago, our veterinarian prescribed my young terrier a single flea and tick tablet from a big brand. A few hours later, we were in the emergency veterinary clinic. My boy had a bad reaction to the tablet and was fighting for his life.
Thankfully, he survived. But it made me more aware of what I was putting on and in him. In the 12 years since this harrowing incident, my dogs have never had fleas and only picked up three ticks between them. I’ve never applied a chemical flea product, and never will.
Instead, I spoke with holistic veterinarians and did my own research. Through my experience with herbs, I found some widely available natural products and came up with my own remedies to get rid of fleas on a dog naturally. Luckily, this also keeps fleas away to begin with.
My dog’s reaction to oral flea medication isn’t super common. But it happens often enough that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) released a fact sheet about the potential adverse effects of these medications in the isoxazoline class.
It’s worth noting a bad reaction can happen at any time, even if your dog was fine on the drug previously. The same goes for topical products. The Environmental Protection Agency warned pet owners about the potential risks of spot-on flea and tick products.
For me, it really comes down to not wanting to give my dog pesticides when there are safer natural alternatives. Here, I’ll share some of my tried and tested favorite natural flea control methods.
Best Natural Remedies to Keep Fleas Off Your Dog
Though there are great natural alternatives, know you’ll likely need a multi-pronged approach. I treat my yard, pets and home to make my whole property and everyone on it as unattractive to fleas as possible.
Here are some options:
This is one of my favorite preventatives and killers. The strong scent of cedar repels all kinds of crawling, biting pests, from fleas to ants. And it kills them on contact, too, since the oil suffocates them.
Quite a few cedar products aimed at fleas and ticks are safe for dogs, cats and humans. Before walks during peak flea season, my go-to is Cedarcide Original spray. The same brand also makes sprays for home use, as well as outdoor sprays, mulches and granules. I even use the spray on the lawn to get rid of ants, because they’re prolific here.
Diatomaceous earth (DE) is a non-toxic, natural way to control fleas on dogs. Made from the fossilized remains of tiny aquatic organisms called diatoms, it destroys the exoskeletons of fleas, making them dehydrate and die.
Make sure you only use food-grade diatomaceous earth. Sprinkle it on your dog’s bedding, carpets and other areas where fleas may be hiding. You can brush it into your dog’s coat for added protection, avoiding the head, eyes and face. Warning: It’s drying and shouldn’t be inhaled by you or your pets.
I like DE because it’s safe for cats as well as dogs, and you can use it outside to kill infestations of fleas, ticks, ants and other insects in your yard.
Natural flea sprays
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There are quite a few good options on the market. And, of course, you can make your own, if you know what you’re doing.
You’ll need to experiment some, because I’ve found over the years that different products work for different dogs and locations. What works well one year might not be so effective the next.
I tend to make my own blend, a really simple recipe that involves no essential oil:
- One quart water;
- 1/2-cup apple cider vinegar with the mother;
- One generous sprig of fresh rosemary;
- One generous sprig of fresh sage;
- One generous sprig of lavender;
- One generous sprig of lemongrass (optional).
- Put everything except the apple cider vinegar into a saucepan. Cover with a lid and bring to a boil.
- Once the mixture boils, turn off the heat and let it steep and cool in the saucepan overnight.
- In the morning, strain out and compost the herbs, then add the apple cider vinegar to the herb-infused water.
- Decant into a spray bottle and refrigerate.
This lasts up to two weeks in the refrigerator. You can apply it to your dog’s coat before every walk. You can also use it on their bedding as an extra layer of protection.
I’ve also tried a few products when I’ve been short on time or away from home. Vet-formulated Kin+Kind has been a pretty good repellent.
From the inside out
There are two parts to the idea of making your dogs uninhabitable from the inside. First, you need really good nutrition and gut health. As a canine nutritionist, I feed my dogs a balanced, species-appropriate diet and boost gut health with a good probiotic.
Plus, you can make your dog taste bad to fleas by feeding it garlic daily. No, garlic is not bad for dogs. That’s a myth from a study in the ’80s that has since been repeatedly discredited.
Coconut oil rubbed into your dog’s skin kills fleas due to the high concentration of lauric acid. Also nourishing for your dog’s skin and coat, it’s a good option to alternate with DE. So during flea season, I’d do DE one week, then coconut oil the following week.
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A good, natural flea shampoo combined with the old-fashioned flea comb eliminates any fleas that made it past your defenses. Just remember not to bathe your dogs too often. If you do, you’ll dry out their coat and mess with their pH balance, making them more susceptible to fleas.
Natural collars and spot-ons
You can find a wide range of natural flea collars and spot-on products for dogs. Some work well, while others are dubious at best.
If you want to go this route, make sure you research the ingredients so you know they’re safe. The Dr. Mercola brand offers safe, good-quality products. If you’re not sure, start there. I’ve used their natural flea collars and spot-on for dogs with good results.
General Yard and Home Maintenance
In the yard, use flea-killing nematodes, tiny parasitic worms that attack flea eggs and larvae. You can also try Cedarcide and DE, as mentioned above. Whichever you choose, apply in places where your dogs hang out the most, or where you know you’ve got a persistent problem.
Go with cedar mulch in flower beds. Keep your lawn short and the yard generally tidy and free of debris.
Inside your home, vacuum. A lot. If you’ve got an herbal flea collar, cut off an extra piece and put it inside your vacuum bag or canister to kill fleas and eggs you suck up.