Fleas — a nuisance pet parents do their best to avoid. They're one of the easiest parasites to catch and even harder to get rid of. Research shows that 1 in 7 dogs carries live fleas, whereas a tenth of these unwanted nuisances harbor all sorts of bacteria, some of which can put your family's health in danger. No wonder why thousands of dog parents every month search online for the most effective ways to get rid of fleas!
Can Dog Fleas Infest Your Home?
Unfortunately, flea infestations are a reality dog owners must always be ready to face. All it takes is brief contact with a carrier (e.g., the neighbor's dog, a wild animal encountered in the woods, etc.), and you might have your own flea problem to deal with. All of a sudden, your furry friend itches like crazy, and you notice flea dirt (i.e., flea feces) on their skin. There's no turning back at this point — you're dealing with a flea infestation. There's no negotiating with this invader either, so you need to bring out the big guns if you want to get rid of fleas indefinitely.
Don't expect your mission to end after the first wave of invaders. Although you have gotten rid of the adult fleas, a second flea infestation is just around the corner. Flea eggs need between one and ten days to hatch, after which you'll have to renew your extermination efforts.
Do I Go for Commercial Remedies or a Natural Flea Repellent?
Here at Volhard, we firmly believe that chemicals are not always the healthiest choice for getting rid of fleas. For example, although flea shampoo might kill the fleas on your dog in one fell swoop, its ingredients have caused unintended deaths within the canine population. A dog's skin absorbs the shampoo chemicals, sending them straight to the liver and other organs — quite the risk, considering that water and regular soap are enough to get the job done safely. These shampoos are pesticides that fix one issue while causing others.
Instead, what we propose is a gentler, more natural approach to flea control, one that's considerate of our dogs' health and well-being at the same time as eliminating these unwanted pests. That is why we've put together a comprehensive list of natural flea remedies guaranteed to slowly but surely bring a flea infestation under control!
Why Finding a Remedy for Dog Fleas Right Away Is Imperative
A flea problem symptoms go way further than the traditional bouts of unending itchiness. In some cases, flea infestations can even lead to an allergic reaction called flea allergy dermatitis (FAD). This severe allergic reaction occurs when the dog's body reacts to certain proteins in the flea's saliva passed on through a flea bite. Fortunately, only a small number of dogs and cats develop such a response to a flea bite, but when they do, FAD manifests itself through uncomfortable spells of itching, significantly affecting a dog's quality of life.
FAD will lead to even more severe itching when left untreated, causing the dog to relieve the unbearable sensation through scratching, biting, licking, and chewing at the inflamed areas. That is when skin inflammations, "hot spots" (i.e., oozing sores), and scabs, followed by bacterial or fungal infections, start to develop. Finally, hair loss and an unpleasant odor emanating from secondary infections will take over your furry friend's skin. These reasons and more call for immediate attention when dealing with existing fleas in your dog's coat.
Home Remedies for Fleas
#1: Your Dog's Food Can Go a Long Way
Getting rid of fleas on dogs is more than just dealing with the aftermath of an infestation; it's also about sound prevention methods. Parasites look for unhealthy animals as potential hosts because they are a much easier target than their healthy counterparts. A dog that receives an unbalanced diet has chronic health issues. Likewise, an unbalanced gut microbiome eating unhealthy food will have a harder time fending off parasites than a dog whose food intake makes them healthy and strong.
The nutrients associated with defending our canine companions against parasites are:
- Omega-3 and Omega-6 fatty acids: imperative for a strong immune system and optimal skin and coat health. Best sources include krill oil, fish (e.g., mackerel), flaxseeds, and freshly ground hemp.
- Sulfur: for proper cell functioning. It can be found in eggs and various vegetables (Brussels sprouts, broccoli, cabbage, and cauliflower).
- Probiotics: for a balanced gut microbiome. Add yogurt and kefir to your dog's diet.
- B vitamins: known for keeping fleas and ticks away. Grass-fed organ meat, fish, eggs, kelp, and molasses are valuable vitamin B sources.
#2: Use a Flea Comb
But what happens when prevention is not enough to keep flea infestations away? That's when a hands-on approach becomes imperative. First, we need to ensure that your dog's coat is free from these pesky parasites, and there's no better tool to get the job done than a flea comb. By using this tool, you can rid your dog's skin of adult fleas, dead fleas, flea dirt, and, most importantly, flea eggs. Combing your dog's coat will deal with the origin of these parasites, although there's more work to be done before containing the infestation.
#3: Remove and Clean Every Item and Surface Touched by Your Dog
The next step is damage control. Fleas are depressively effective at infesting our homes — virtually every object or surface touched by your dog is a haven for these parasites. If you thought combing your dog's fur would do the trick, remember that 90% of an infestation deals with the home environment, not the dog. That is why you must act quickly.
Gather every piece of fabric (e.g., the dog bedding, blankets, cushion covers, pillows, curtains), wash them in hot water, and tumble-dry them for 20 minutes on a high-temperature setting; the high temperature will kill the fleas, larvae, and eggs. Likewise, thoroughly vacuum your floors and furniture at least once per week, especially poorly lit areas (e.g., under the furniture and around baseboards), which fleas prefer. A flea's life cycle from egg to adulthood is 2 to 3 weeks, so be sure to repeat the cleaning process once every week to catch any flea that might have escaped your early efforts.
#4: Give Your Dog an Apple Cider Vinegar or Lemon Bath
Once you've combed your dog's fur for fleas, it's time to turn their skin into an inhospitable environment. You could, of course, take the easy way out and use a flea & tick shampoo, but, as we mentioned earlier, you'd only be trading one health issue for multiple health hazards.
Getting rid of fleas on dogs does not call for expensive commercial remedies. In fact, you can create natural flea treatments with a couple of ingredients hidden in your fridge and kitchen cupboards: lemons and apple cider vinegar! These two ingredients alter the pH on the skin's surface in a way that's harmful to parasites; the more they're exposed to the modified pH, the easier it will be to contain the infestation.
Putting together a lemon or apple cider vinegar bath cannot be easier!
- Lemon bath: mix fresh lemon juice with water (1:2 ratio) and a splash of pet shampoo (no flea & tick shampoo!). Use a spray bottle to spread the solution all over the coat and skin.
- Apple cider vinegar bath: mix 6 cups of apple cider vinegar with 4 cups of water and a pinch of salt. Use a spray bottle to spread the solution all over the coat and skin, but avoid spraying it on the eyes and wounds.
When bathing your dog for fleas, be sure to focus on the anus and the area around the neck first. Fleas are masters at evading control methods, with the anus and the neck area being their favorite hideouts. Focusing on these two areas first will prevent fleas from hiding and making an undesired comeback.
#5: Essential Oils Will Repel Fleas
Your dog's coat has received a soothing bath, and the fleas are sounding the retreat. But what's next in your natural flea treatment? Now is the time to solidify the skin and the fur as an inhospitable environment for these parasites. And there's nothing better for the job than essential oils!
Certain essential oils, such as cedar, eucalyptus, peppermint, and lavender oil, work wonders when applied to skin inflammations and rashes. Also, their intense scent is effective at fending off parasites while leaving your dog with a fresh, pleasant fragrance. Some essential oils can be too strong for our canine companions, so we recommend diluting the essential oil of choice in a carrier oil for moderate potency.
You can create your own essential oil mix by diluting 203 drops of essential oil in 1 ounce of carrier oil and 3 tablespoons of water. Once ready, infuse a bandana or a collar in the essential oil mix and tie it to your dog's neck. Because of this natural flea collar, fleas will desert and stay away from your dog!
#6: Another Natural Remedy for Fleas: Fresh Rosemary!
Are you a passionate enthusiast for fresh herbs? Have you wondered what to do with all that rosemary flourishing in your garden? You can turn it into a potent flea remedy for your dog's fleas! Simply take the rosemary needles and steep them in boiling water. Once it's reached lukewarm temperatures, drain the concoction and slather your dog's coat and skin with it. You can also make a fine powder of dried rosemary, fennel, and wormwood and sprinkle it around your home for a fresh, flea-repelling fragrance. Ensure your dog is comfortable with the rosemary smell before spreading it around the house.
#7: Give Brewer's Yeast a Shot!
Another ingredient touted as a flea-control remedy among canine lovers is Brewer's yeast. The anecdotal evidence surrounding its effectiveness revolves around thiamine, a part of the B-vitamin group credited with flea-treatment capabilities. Although the evidence behind Brewer's yeast is still anecdotal, there's no harm in adding this ingredient to your preventative flea treatment arsenal. As a matter of fact, Volhard food already contains Brewer's yeast, so you might already be feeding it to your dog!
The appropriate dosage of Brewer's yeast as a flea treatment for dogs is:
- 1 teaspoon for small dogs;
- 2 teaspoons for medium-sized dogs;
- 1 tablespoon for large dogs.
#8: Flea Home Remedies #1: Diatomaceous Earth
Your dog has been combed for fleas, and their skin and fur are now protected against parasites. Now comes the time to make your home flea-free!
The first step is finding some natural, food-grade diatomaceous earth. These fossilized remains of tiny microscopic diatoms (i.e., unicellular microorganisms with silica-based cell walls) absorb into parasites and other insects with exoskeletons, such as fleas, ticks, ants, and bedbugs. Once absorbed, the silica destroys the flea's exoskeleton, leaving it out to dry and perish. Simply sprinkle the diatomaceous earth around your garden or wherever you think parasites might be hiding. Likewise, the Volhard food already contains food-grade diatomaceous earth to help your dog tackle any intestinal parasites! However, as preventive measures:
- Look only for food-grade diatomaceous earth since its non-food-grade version can be toxic.
- You should wear a mask as you sprinkle it around your garden since it can irritate your eyes and throat.
#9: Flea Home Remedies #2: Nematodes
Diatomaceous earth will destroy a flea's exoskeleton, but other home remedies for fleas will eliminate them altogether, like nematodes.
Nematodes are tiny worms that populate the soil naturally. They are ubiquitous and represent one of the most abundant animals on the planet. Nematodes have a knack for eradicating a wide range of parasites, from ants and termites to grubs and fleas. Moreover, they are quite easy to procure — a simple online search will return dozens of stores that sell these parasite killers!
How to spread nematodes around your yard:
- Add water to the nematode package content. It will help if you turn the concoction into a flea spray.
- Spray the concoction throughout the yard. Most manufacturers recommend spraying the soil once it has reached 45 F for the nematodes to work their magic.
#10: Flea Home Remedies #3: Garlic Water
Garlic is not just the nemesis of vampires — it's also a potent home remedy for fleas on dogs! Fleas have an instinctual hatred toward garlic, which is why it works wonders as an auxiliary natural flea repellent. All you need is to turn it into garlic water and spray it all around your yard. Not only is it quick and easy to prepare, but it's also toxin-free!
- 8 heads of chopped garlic;
- 1 gallon of simmering water.
How to prepare:
- Mix the water and the garlic and let the garlic steep for 12 hours.
- Strain the mix and pour it into a garden sprayer.
- Spray the garlic water all around your yard.
#11: Flea Home Remedies #4: Baking Soda and Salt
Unable to find diatomaceous earth? A simpler, readily available remedy for parasite infestations is already hiding in your kitchen: baking soda and good ol' salt! When mixed together, these two ingredients help eliminate fleas and flea eggs by destroying their exoskeleton, leading to parasite dehydration and death. Scatter the baking soda and salt mixture around your house/yard, especially under furniture and on baseboards. Allow the mixture to take effect for a day or two, then vacuum any indoor surfaces. Be sure to give your vacuum cleaner a good scrub once done since salt may rust its components.
#12: Flea Home Remedies #5: Neem Solution
The last but certainly not least natural remedy for fleas on dogs is the Neem tree, a veritable wooden pharmacy in its native India! With its antibiotic properties, Neem does a tremendous job of eliminating internal and external parasites, such as fleas. You can use both Neem powder and leaves to create your own flea spray and spray it all around your house (especially on your dog's bed) and yard. Or you can buy Neem essential oil and add it to your dog's shampoo to help get rid of fleas! Whichever way you approach it, Neem products will lend a serious helping hand in managing your flea infestation.
This Flea Season, Keep Your Home and Your Yard Flea-Free!
Parasite infestations can occur at any point in time, but we especially see them during the fall season, the peak of the flea and tick season. But as long as you feed your dog a healthy diet rich in flea-preventing nutrients and pay attention to signs of an infestation, you'll keep your home flea-free. For more advice on dog nutrition, health, and training, make sure that you contact us and check out our blog!
Volhard Dog Nutrition and its expert nutritionists are now offering online consultations to help more dog parents discover why, what, and how to feed their dogs the healthiest of foods! Speaking to a Volhard nutritionist will help you understand the inseparable relationship between healthy food, a healthy body, and a healthy mind. If you're interested in contacting one of our Volhard nutritionists, don't hesitate to access our consultation page!