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I’m always looking for the safest way to deal with my family’s minor health issues – and that includes our pets! Fleas are a common problem in cats and dogs, but traditional flea products are high in chemicals. I wanted to find a safer option to keep fleas out and deal with an infestation if they did occur. So I did some research and found these natural pet flea remedies.
How did my pet get fleas?
Adult fleas are tiny bugs (no larger than 1/8 inch) that can be brown or black in color. They feed on the blood of pets and other animals. Fleas move by jumping – this is how fleas can easily get from pet to pet in your home or neighborhood.
Fleas are most problematic in spring and summer when the weather is warmer. They need a host (your pet) to live their entire life cycle, but they can live in your home, yard, or local park for a few days. It’s very easy for pets that go outside to get fleas!
Does my pet have fleas?
If your pet scratches more than usual and feels uncomfortable, it may have fleas. The easiest way to tell if your pet has fleas is to put them on a white towel and brush them. If a lot of dirt falls off, you likely have a flea problem. This dirt is called flea dirt and is a mixture of flea droppings and blood. To make sure you see flea grime, moisten the grime on the white towel or on a paper towel. If it turns red or reddish-brown, you know your pet has fleas.
Natural flea remedies that work
Once a pet has fleas, they can be difficult to get rid of. They can even infest your home! Here are my favorite natural flea killers to use when my pets are itchy from fleas:
The best way to prevent your pets from getting fleas is to optimize their health so that they are less likely to get a flea infestation. A healthy body is better at fighting off fleas.
Feeding your pets whole foods is a great way to optimize their health. I make homemade dog food for our dogs as it is the cheapest way to feed them. But I also bought this high quality (raw and grain-free) dog food and I am very happy with it. They also sell good quality cat food if you have cats in your house.
You can also give your pet probiotics and other nutritional supplements that can help as well. I am discussing this with veterinarian Dr. Rob Franklin on a podcast episode where he shares some strategies for optimizing pet health (including emotional health!). One of my favorite supplements to my pets’ diet is coconut oil, for high quality fat that helps support healthy skin, coat, and digestion.
Use a flea comb
A flea comb has narrow teeth so it can remove fleas from your pet. This is helpful in getting rid of the flea process, but it can also be helpful in determining how badly your pet is really infected. If possible, do this outside to keep fleas out of the house.
Give them a bath
After your pet is combed, a bath is the next step. As with most parasites, fleas don’t like clean hosts as much as dirty ones. So bathing your pet can help. The soapy water will also help remove fleas and drown them. Use a natural flea shampoo or citrus-scented castile soap (unscented for cats).
Apple Cider Vinegar
Apple cider vinegar (ACV) is a must-have for everything in my home from food poisoning to dandruff. But ACV is also helpful with pets. ACV is said to help balance the pH in your pet’s body, which will help fight off fleas. While there are no studies of this action, many pet owners find that it works to keep fleas away and control an infestation.
Add ACV to your pets’ food (not water) to get rid of fleas. For dogs, use ½-1 teaspoon of ACV per 25 pounds of body weight. For cats, use only ¼ teaspoon.
You can also use ACV in a topical natural flea repellent spray. Mix 1 part water and 1 part ACV in a spray bottle. Spray on your pet (not in the eyes!) To keep fleas from coming along. This may not be all that helpful if your pet already has an infestation, but it will help keep fleas away.
There are a number of essential oils that deter insects such as ticks and fleas. Some of my favorites are:
Essential oils must always be used carefully as they are highly concentrated oils. But we need to be even more careful when using essential oils in cats. According to the Pet Poison Helpline, cats do not have an essential enzyme to process essential oils and remove them from the body. This means that essential oils can build up in your body, causing toxicity. For this reason, many veterinarians recommend avoiding the use of essential oils on cats.
However, cedarwood essential oil is likely to be safe for cats when used safely and will help with fleas.
Always dilute essential oils in a carrier oil before application. You can also add them to the apple cider vinegar spray mentioned above.
Diatomaceous earth (DE) is a finely powdered natural fossil form of diatoms (a type of algae). Because of its microscopic rough edges, it can cut through the flea’s exoskeleton and kill it. To use DE, sprinkle on your pet’s dry fur.
DE can also be used in your home to get rid of fleas that have jumped off your pets. Fill an old stocking with DE and shake it out on the edges of the rooms in your house. You will have a fine white powder on the floors that will kill insects but will not harm your pets or children. Make sure you are using food grade DE.
This is how you get rid of fleas in your home
If you don’t get rid of the fleas and flea eggs in your home, your pets are likely to get infected again. Here is what you need to do:
Vacuum everything – Vacuuming will help remove fleas and eggs that are on carpets, wooden floors, curtains, and other places that are easiest to clean with a vacuum cleaner.
Wash all bed linen – Especially places where your pets hang out. Use hot water whenever possible.
Use DE – As mentioned earlier, scattering DE around your home can easily kill fleas. Leave the DE at home for a few days. Then sweep and vacuum (try to sweep up as much as you can as DE can be tough on vacuum filters). If you can’t get DE, salt or baking soda can work too.
Create a flea trap – Put a bowl or shallow bowl of soapy water (dish soap works well) in your home near infested areas. Fleas jump in and drown because of the high viscosity of the soapy water.
House cleaning should be done once you have used the natural remedy you have chosen on your pet. You want to try to minimize the chance of fleas from your home pet or fleas from your pet re-infesting your home.
Flea Home Remedies: Keep Your Pets Safe and Healthy
Flea infestations can be a huge frustration for you and your pets! But these natural flea treatments are easy to use at home with ingredients you may already have on hand.
This article was written by Dr. Rob Franklin, a veterinarian with Full Bucket Health, medically reviewed. As always, this is not personal medical advice and we encourage you to speak to your veterinarian.
How do you get rid of fleas? Did you find a natural method that works?