Natural, safe remedies for flea prevention and control

Fleas. Just the word alone induces a skin-crawling shiver. And turning the calendar page this past weekend to April reinforced the seasonal dread: with the onset of warmer temperatures and the accompanying outdoor pleasures, also comes the aggravation of flea and tick season. Battling these pests can be one of the most irritating (ahem) aspects of being a pet owner. Fleas are easily transmissible from other animals that your dog or cat may come into contact with, and then easily jump between the pets and even the humans in your household. Fleas will bite people as well as dogs and cats, and a flea manifestation can be difficult to completely eradicate. These pests are so hardy that they can go months without eating, and can lay hundreds of eggs a day, which can then lay dormant, surviving the frigid winter months.

Because of the increase in adverse effects reported by pet owners following administration of conventional flea spot-treatments, the EPA is taking a series of actions to increase restrictions on flea and tick control treatments.  However, the news  that many pets became quite ill after receiving conventional flea control treatments has many people seeking alternative natural flea control methods.

We recently asked our fans to share their favorite natural flea remedies with us on our Facebook page and as a result, we received so many great home remedies that we thought “let’s research them a bit more and share them in a blog post!” It’s great to know that there are many safe and effective natural options that will help prevent a flea infestation as well as rid your home of the unwelcome pests if they have already made themselves at home.

  • Essential Oils:
  1. Eucalyptus essential oil is a wonderful natural antibacterial and disinfecting agent. By adding eucalyptus essential oil to the final rinse cycle (of your bedding as well as your pet’s), as well as adding it to your natural cleaning solutions, you will create an inhospitable environment for fleas to live in, as well as 99% of the house dust mites which are responsible for causing or adding to most seasonal allergies!
  2. Peppermint essential oil is another well-recognized weapon in the natural oils arsenal against pests, warding off fleas and even ants. Daubing the essential oil on cotton balls and placing them around entry points of the house as well as behind the couch and in corners sends critters scurrying away. Fans of natural pest control suggest placing peppermint and bay leaves in couches, furniture, and pet bedding where fleas may gather.
  3. Citrus oils: From StopTheFleas.Com, this recipe was suggested by one of our fans:  Cut 6 lemons in half, soak in a quart of water for a few hours (or boil the lemons before steeping overnight for an intense lemon infusion) put in a spray bottle and spritz on your pet, especially behind the ears and generally around the head, and also at the base of the tail and the ‘armpits’ (avoiding the eyes, of course!). There are also Citronella sprays which contain essential oils of Citronella, Pennyroyal (a natural flea-repellant herb, which you can also plant in your garden!), Pine and Eucalyptus, and Cedarwood, all great flea-repellants (plus, these natural oils have the added bonus of making your pet smell great – to humans – if not to fleas!).
  4. Aromatherapy”  oils (lavender and cedarwood): This delicious-smelling repellent can be made by adding cedarwood and lavender essential oils to pure almond oil as the base (or carrier oil). Shake it up, and give your dog an aromatherapy massage – and enjoy the scented results!
  • Natural flea collars: One of our earthbath fans suggested this ingenious and crafty solution: Make your own flea collar by placing various leaves known to ward off fleas (the pennyroyal herb, rosemary, peppermint leaves, bay leaf, and lavender) inside a bandanna, add velcro, and voila!: An easy-to-wear, deliciously-scented, flea-repelling, natural flea collar! The velcro makes the interior contents easy to replace: when the scents wear off, just remove the old leaves and refresh with the essential oils mentioned above as well as fresh leaves. If you’re not the DIY type, just rub essential oils of eucalyptus, tea tree , citronella or lavender on your dog’s collar or bandanna.
  • “Internal” flea repellants: Consult a veterinarian before changing or adding to your pet’s diet, but some people have obtained great results with a very small amount of fresh garlic, garlic powder or brewers’ yeast powder added to your pet’s food. Nutritional brewer’s yeast provides B complex vitamins to help keep your dog healthy and inhospitable to fleas (fleas often gravitate to unhealthy animals). Also, a tablespoon of organic apple cider vinegar added to the dog’s water bowl in addition to the garlic and brewers yeast mentioned above, makes the animal smell and taste unpleasant to fleas. However, be aware that garlic (like onions) can be toxic to dogs, causing lethargy and even dangerous conditions such as anemia. Therefore, proceed with caution, and above all, make sure you talk to your vet before adding any supplements to your pet’s diet.
  • “External” flea repellants: Cedar chips around your yard, notably around all plantings, under fences and near entry points of your house and garage is a natural repellant to fleas and other insects. Some people use dessicants like diatomaceous earth, which is basically just crushed up seashells. Diatomaceous earth works to kill fleas by its microscopic, jagged edges that will create tiny cuts on the outside of insects that crawl over it. Though it’s largely safe for you and your pets, the fleas (and other insects) will be affected as the cuts to their exoskeleton will cause them to leak water, and they will gradually dehydrate and die. However, though this is considered a safe, environmentally friendly method to kill the fleas and other pests that are living in your backyard, note that there are different kinds of diatomaceous earth, and the pool-grade variety can be EXTREMELY dangerous to both pets and humans, which when inhaled, can cause internal bleeding. As a result, it’s VITAL to use only the “food grade” kind of diatomaceous earth, found at garden supply stores and some natural pet catalogs, and once again, consult your veterinarian before using any of these remedies.
  • Your veterinarian will be able to guide you to the best remedies for your pet, based on its size, your geographical location, risk (and level) of infestation, and other lifestyle considerations.
  • Grooming: Keeping your pets clean and healthy is the best way to prevent many problems, including flea and tick infestations. Use a fine-toothed comb (also called, helpfully enough, a flea comb) and use it to comb through your pet’s hair. If your pet has mats, you will need to make sure all the mats are trimmed or brushed out first.  If you put a bit of petroleum jelly on the comb, the fleas will stick to the comb (rather than jumping off, back onto your pet, into your furniture, or onto you!), and then you can easily wash them down the drain. Bathing your dog and cat regularly with a good, natural shampoo is also a first line of defense against fleas and ticks. earthbath’s Orange Peel Oil Shampoo is great for flea prevention due to its concentrated citrus oil. Orange Peel Oil is the natural oil rendered from oranges, and is also called d-Limonene. d-Limonene is registered with the Federal Environmental Protection Agency as an insecticide and is very effective at killing fleas. The earthbath shampoos and spritzes that contain eucalyptus and peppermint oils also naturally repel fleas without harsh chemicals or pesticides.

Do you have other tried and tested natural flea remedies? We’d love to hear about them – please comment below, or join us on Facebook!

Note: This article has not been written by a veterinarian or accredited animal authority and is meant for informational purposes only. Always consult a veterinarian prior to administering any flea control or prevention methods and certainly if you have any questions or concerns about the health of your pet.