Natural Flea Control

Controlling dog fleas naturally is good not only for the dog's health but also for the environment. We can use remedies such as herbs and essential oils to repel fleas, as well as supplements to strengthen the dog's immune system. Dogs with strong immune systems are less likely to be bothered by parasites such as fleas and worms. Natural products such as diatomaceous earth can also be used to rid the environment of fleas.

Puppies in a Tub If you have dogs (and/or cats!), then controlling fleas can be a year-round challenge, especially if you live in a place where it is warm and humid most of the year.

Fleas flourish in warm and humid environments (65-80°F; with humidity in the upper 70% range or higher).

The flea is an intermediate host of tapeworms, so if a dog ingests a flea infected with tapeworm eggs, the dog will get infected by tapeworms. Some dogs also develop fleabite allergies. It is therefore important to make sure that your household environments (both inside and outside) are flea-free!

The Danger of Flea Control Products

There is a host of flea control products (e.g. flea powder, flea bombs, dips, and flea collars) that can be found on the market. However, if you read the labels of some such flea products, you can find warnings like:

  • (flea collars): "CAUTION: Do not allow children to play with this collar. "
  • (flea bombs): "CAUTION: USE ONLY WHEN AREA TO BE TREATED IS VACATED BY HUMANS AND PETS. Harmful if swallowed or absorbed through skin. Avoid breathing vapors or spray mist. Avoid contact with skin and eyes. Do not apply directly to food..."
  • (flea shampoos): "WARNING: Causes eye irritation. Do not get in eyes. Harmful if swallowed."

In fact, many such flea remedies contain "nerve poisons" that can cause nerve damage to humans. If it is toxic for humans, chances are the products will have some adverse effects on our pets' health as well.

Prolonged use of such "poisons" on our pets will naturally weaken their immune system. For example, some flea collars and powders can cause severe conditions such as skin irritations and permanent hair loss on pets. Flea bombs are extremely dangerous, as they virtually explode and fill your entire house with particles that are not only poisonous, but also highly flammable. Dips are dangerous too. One study found that more than 3 dips per year led to an increased incidence of cancer in dogs.

As we and our pets are weakened by these poisons, our enemy (the fleas that is), on the other hand, will grow stronger over time. It's a losing battle!

How about "spot-on" products? Are they safer to use? Let's look at some statistics. According to one veterinary report, in 2008, there were over 44,000 reported cases of pets developing adverse reactions to spot-on products in the USA. These reactions ranged from mild (e.g. skin problems, digestive disorders) to serious (nervous system disorders) to fatal. Small breed dogs are particularly at risk. Two common chemicals that are responsible for most of these reactions in such products are cyphenothrin and permethrin. On top of that, even some inactive ingredients in these products can cause health problems to our pets.

So, what's the alternative? Natural flea control? Does it work? You may wonder. The answer is a reassuring "yes", although it takes more time and work on your part.

Let's now look at how we can control fleas the natural way.

Detailed Information on Natural Flea Control

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Natural Flea Control For Topical Use

Natural flea control powder can be made using various herbs. They are easy to make and safe to use.

Herbal Flea Powder

Use equal parts of the following dried powdered herbs:

  • Eucalyptus
  • Rosemary
  • Fennel
  • Yellow Dock

Mix the herbs together and store them in a jar, preferbably with a shaker top. Use the herb mixture topically on your dog's coat 2-3 times per week. While these herbs cannot kill fleas, they can nonetheless repel them. Therefore it is advisable to let your dog outside after applying this herbal flea powder so that the fleas will not jump from your dog to you or your furniture in the house.

Essential Oil Flea Powder

As always, be sure to use 100% natural pure essential oils. This formula was developed by S. Catty (author of Hydrosols: The Next Aromatherapy), and I found it easy to make and effective.

You need the essential oils of:

Combine the essential oils. Use 12-15 drops of this essential oil blend per cup of baking soda. Shake to mix well. If your dog has fleas, put this flea powder on the dog and, after vacuuming, sprinkle it on furniture, floors, carpets, your dog's bedding, and places where you think fleas might hide. Let the powder stand for 30-60 minutes, then vacuum again. Do this once a week.

Multiple-herb Flea Rinse

Another natural flea control method is to use the following herbs to make a potent flea rinse:

  • Feverfew flowers: Contain certain compounds known as pyrethrins* which have paralytic effects on fleas.
  • Yarrow flowers: Yarrow has insect-repellent qualities.
  • Mullein flowers: Contain the volatile oil limonene which has flea-killing effect.
  • Calendula flowers: Calendula is anti-bacterial and is effective in healing wounds.

Add the above herbs to boiling water. Let the mixture steep and wait for it to cool down. Use it as a flea-repellent rinse on your pet.

* When using herbs that contain pyrethrins, be sure to use the potions right away as the compounds will break down and lose their potency easily.

Essential Oil Flea Collar

Finally, this essential oil collar is an easy natural flea control that can repel not only fleas but also mosquitoes.

To make a flea-repellent oil, we need:

Dilute the oils in half an ounce (15 ml) of base oil. Add a few drops of the oil mixture to your pet's bandanna or a cotton collar, seal it in an airtight plastic bag and leave overnight, and voila, you have made a natural, safe, and nice-smelling flea collar for your four-legged friend! Note that the oils will not kill the fleas, but since the smell repels them, a herbal flea collar will stop the fleas from camping out in your dog's fur.

Corgi Puppy

Apple Cider Vinegar Works Well Too!

ACV can also be used to repel fleas and soothe skin irritations caused by fleabites. Visit this page for more information.

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Herbs for the Immune System as Natural Flea Control

Understand that as in many health problems, strong adverse reaction to fleas and flea bites, i.e. flea allergies, is indicative of a poor immune system. Dogs with a strong immune system usually are less bothered by a few flea bites here and there. Those with a weakened immune system, on the other hand, may develop severe allergy symptoms just from one or two flea bites. It makes sense, therefore, that if we want to fight a winning battle against the lowly fleas, we have to build up our dog's health and resistance through a healthy natural diet and lifestyle, aided by natural supplements.

The following herbs can do an excellent job in this regard:

  • Echinacea, St.-John's Wort, Astragalus - These herbs are excellent in boosting the immune system.
  • Burdock root, Dandelion, Red Clover - These herbs help eliminate wastes and also strengthen the body's natural defense systems to cope with fleabites.
  • Nettle - The antihistamine action may reduce allergic reaction to fleabites.
  • Garlic - Effective in boosting the immune system. Some people also say that the smell of garlic can also repels fleas (so does brewer's yeast). (Some people think that it is dangerous to feed garlic to dogs - in large amounts and on a regular basis, yes; but in appropriate amounts, no. See Garlic for Dogs for more information.)

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Natural Flea Control for the Environment

Instead of resorting to harsh, harmful chemicals, we can also use other natural flea control methods that are safe and environmentally friendly ways to get rid of all the unwelcomed "bed and breakfast backpackers" on our pets.

Cleanliness and Sanitation

Two Dogs Since about 95% of the flea's life cycle exists in the environment, it is extremely important to constantly clean our living environment. The longest stage of the flea life cycle is the egg. Eggs are resilient and can remain dormant in the living environment for months. They tend to be found in cracks and crevices, in the carpets, etc. Therefore, cleaning and vacuuming regularly will interrupt the flea life cycle.

If there is a flea infestation in your household, you need to steam clean the carpets to kill off the eggs. Also, regularly vacuum and clean the floors to make sure that the eggs as well as the larvae and pupae are eliminated. In a recent study, it has been found that vacuuming kills fleas in all stages of their lives, with an average of 96% success in adult fleas and 100% destruction of fleas in other stages (eggs, larvae, pupae).

When vacuuming and cleaning, pay particular attention to the surrounding area where the dog sleeps. The dog's bedding should also be washed once or twice a week with hot soapy water.

Diatomaceous Earth

Many people have also reported successful use of natural diatomaceous earth (DE) in killing fleas (and other creepy crawlies for that matter, such as ants, cockroaches, mites, bed bugs, etc.) DE is actually the fossilized remains of some prehistoric planktons. The fine particles in the earth cut through the exoskeletons of insects when they walk on it (kind of like people walking on broken glass - ouch!), resulting in dehydration and the insects will usually die in a few hours.

If you want to try using DE, be sure to get the unrefined type (not the type used for swimming pool filters). Wear a mask (especially if you have a sensitive nose!) when you sprinkle the earth along the walls, under the furniture, and places where your vacuum cleaner cannot reach. You can do it once or twice a year to make sure that some bugs on the loose hiding out in some cracks and crevices in your house are "properly dealt with".

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Don't Want To Concoct Your Own Flea Remedies?

Visit this page for suggestions of some natural flea and tick control products.