Natural Flea Treatments for dogs and cats

Natural Flea Treatments for Dogs and CatsAhhh the dreaded flea. 

Know your enemy

By the time you can identify fleas on your pet, it is likely that your home is already infested.  While adult fleas reside on your pets, the earlier life stages of the fleas live and grow in your carpets, pets’ bedding, etc.  A single female flea can lay 10 to 50 eggs per day and upwards of 2000 eggs in her lifetime.  Thus one adult flea can literally lead to an infestation of tens of thousands.  Only 1% of the flea population will actually live on your pets which leaves the other 99% lurking in your house and yard in various live stages.  The adult female will lay eggs on your pet, who will then act something like a salt shaker, spreading the eggs in the house.  The larval stage will emerge within 1 to 10 days.  The flea will remain in this stage for 5 to 11 days.  This stage is the period of vulnerability where you can kill the juvenile pest.  Next the flea will spin a cocoon where they will safely rest for one day to six months.  During this stage your only hope is to vacuum or wash bedding where the cocoon lies.  The flea will remain in the protective cocoon until conditions are right and then emerge to begin the life-cycle all over again..

Now you understand why flea bombs or one time sprays and treatments do not work to rid you of your problem.  These products only kill the adult and larval stages of the flea population leaving 8 to 10% of the population to later emerge from their cocoons and then we begin again.

 Treatment options

Treatment options vary widely.  There are a number of effective chemical flea treatments these days and generally they are much less toxic than the older organophosphate type treatments.  Many of these newer treatments work in ways that are specific to fleas and will not affect mammals (dogs,cats,people).  That said, side effects are seen and recognized with all of these treatments and many people continue looking for alternatives. 

Arming Your Pet for Battle

Let me first begin with a note that healthier animals DO repel fleas better and lets further this by recognizing that nutrition is the foundation for health.  Efforts to improve your pet”s nutrition and supplement with a vitamin, preferably a whole food supplement such as Juice Plus can help your pet repel these pests and greatly reduce your chances for re-infestation in the future.  Some supplements of particular value when fighting fleas include Fatty acid supplements to improve your pet’s skin and hair coat, Probiotics and Digestive enzymes to help your pet make the most of his meal, Garlic and Brewers yeast will make your pet “less tasty”. 

Of course this will not fix your immediate problem so let,s continue…

The Battle Begins

There are numerous natural treatments for fleas.  I will try to talk about some of the more reliable options that are out there.  Generally, when treating for fleas, you need to think of both killing the adults that are on your pets and also the younger life stages that live in your house.  As I mentioned earlier, the pupal stage that exists in your home is sheltered in a cocoon and is almost indestructible.  To complete eradication, you need to encourage these pupa to hatch by increasing the temperature in the house and allowing the animals to move around freely.   Both heat and exhaled carbon dioxide will stimulate hatching.  These young adults, ready for their first blood meal, will quickly jump on your pets and can then be killed.

The Battle in the Home

In the home, begin simply by washing all bedding that the pets sleep on and thoroughly vacuuming the house.  You can put moth balls or borax in the vacuum cleaner bag or better yet dispose of the bag outside immediately after vacuuming.  A safe cleaning solution for surfaces in the house can be made with  1 cup rubbing alcohol, 1 cup distilled water, 5 to 10 drops lavender, and 5 to 10 drops peppermint oil.  Finally, at night, set up flea traps in areas needed.  To do this you need a bright night light or a table lamp placed on the floor.  Place shallow bowls of soapy water around the lights.  The fleas will be stimulated to hatch out and come to the heat of the light and will die in the water baths.  This will work most effectively if there is not another heat source in the room- animal or other. 

Boric acid is a very effective way to treat the home.  Boron is generally considered safe with at least limited exposure.  What I consider Flea Busters signature product is a borate powder to spread throughout the home.  They claim it is 33% less toxic than regular boric acid.  This works by drying, or desiccating, the younger life stages of the flea.

The Battle on your Pet

Topically, a simple bath in any soap will kill many of the fleas on your pet.  Follow this up with a good flea combing to brush out the remaining slowed or stunned fleas.  I often recommend Neem shampoos.  The neem seed is generally considered safe although there are reports of neurologic toxicity when infants and young children have ingested neem products.  There are also neem sprays and powders that you can use to kill those fleas who linger or hatch out after the bath.

Dips made with 3 Tablespoons of Apple Cider Vinegar per gallon of water are sometimes helpful.  I have also had clients use a solution of 1% hydrogen peroxide saturated with borate powder.  Other people use Avon Skin So Soft at a concentration of 2 oz per quart of water to use to dip or spray.

Dr. Pitcairin  recommends making a flea powder with one part each eucalyptus, rosemary, fennel, yellow dock, wormwood and rue.  Use as many of these as you can find, put them in a shaker bottle and apply liberally as needed.

Many people like to use essential oils to treat fleas naturally.  PLEASE remember that natural does not automatically translate to safe.  Sassafrass and Pennyroyal oils have both shown efficacy in killing fleas but both can cause skin irritation and pennyroyal oil can cause liver and neurologic damage and can even be deadly when ingested.  What ever you put on your pet topically, you shouldexpect to be consumed as your pet licks and cleans himself.

Orally you can dose garlic safely at 1 clove per 40# per day for most animals.  Do be aware that garlic in excess can be toxic to dogs and cats and please check with your veterinarian to be sure that this dose would be safe for your pet.  1/2 teaspoon of brewers yeast per day can be dosed to cats.  1 teaspoon per day for a small dog up to 2 heaping teaspoons per day for a large dog.

The Battle in the Yard

The yard can be a source of re-infestation, so do not forget to address this as well.  Squirrels and other hosts are constantly spreading flea eggs where ever they roam.  To begin, keeping the yard free of debris will help.  Even a thorough watering can drown the larval stages.  Using a nematode product is another non-toxic method to explore.  Sold commercially as Flea Busters nematodes, Interrupt and Flea Halt, these products are quite effective.  These nematodes have wonderful appetites and love to help you clear your yard of juvenile fleas.  Many people also spread diatomaceous earth on their lawns.  Be careful to limit exposure to the dust when applying.

Chemical Treatments

Sometimes, despite your best efforts, you need some help from science.  One of the breakthroughs of the newer flea control medications is that one product will affect both the adult population on the animal and also the earlier life stages living in the house.  Of these products, I find Advantage to be the safest and most effective option.  I am by no means suggesting that Advantage is a natural product or that it is without side effects.  That said, many of my clients have not been able to win the battle naturally or are looking for an easier way to treat fleas that is not too toxic and Advantage seems to fit the bill.  Given busy schedules and lives, regular pet bathing and more extensive house treatments may not be an option or just may not be working for you.  If this is the case in your situation, do not fret.  Try to minimize applications.  For those living with animals who do not have severe flea allergies, I often recommend waiting until you see the first signs of fleas to treat. Treat with chemicals when things get out of hand and try to use the more natural means to decrease your dependence on chemicals.

31 Responses to “Natural Flea Treatments for dogs and cats”

  1. maria says:

    Dr. Tracy Lord,

    Do you use or have your patients use Juice Plus for dogs and cats?

    Would you recommend it’s use?

    Are you a distrubutor for Juice Plus?

    thanks,

    Maria

    I am a distibutor. If you go to recommended products, you will find a link and a phone number to order. It is a great product that I recommend freely.

    Dr T Lord

  2. JJ Clifton says:

    Hello –

    I have been giving my 4 cats monthly flea treatments for years, truly believing the labels — that those chemical treatments are safe – (I have used Revolution / Advantage / Frontline Plus) –

    Now that I have read about the potential dangers of toxicity / damage to organs / cancer / etc, I have decided to stop using those methods of fighting fleas –

    My cats are all about 4 yrs old – and they have rec’d those treatments almost 3 of the 4 yrs — have I already done irreparable damage to them??! OR will stopping the chemical onslaught allow their bodies to recouperate from the poisons in those treatments?

    Thanks for your time!

  3. maggs470 says:

    Have you tried a treatment of melaleuca and jojoba oils? If you combine one part melaleuca oil to five parts jojoba oil in a bottle and use it to massage into the coat, it does pretty well as a preventative…at least for me it did. It doesn’t kill the fleas, but the fleas can’t stand to be on my dogs long enough to take a bite! Let me know what you think.

  4. I have never tried this combination but it sounds safe, so if it is effective, that is wonderful.

  5. Hi Dr. Lord and maggs470,

    Topically, tea tree oil (melaleuca oil) is usually well tolerated, however, it can cause local irritation and inflammation, allergic contact eczema, and allergic contact dermatitis in some dogs and people. Tea tree oil should *not* be used on puppies, small/toy dogs, cats or birds because it can cause significant systemic toxicity (see PubMed – http://tinyurl.com/2gjcwh).

    Additionally, recent studies in human cell lines indicate that tea tree oil has estrogenic and anti-androgenic activities and may act as an endocrine disruptor (a substance which interferes with natural hormones.)

    Also see:
    Natural Approaches for Flea Control
    By Narda G. Robinson, DO, DVM, MS
    http://tinyurl.com/55j2mf

  6. Heather says:

    Would it be safe to rub garlic salt on my chihuahua and comb it out for fleas? i tried petroleum jelly…that don’t work. The shampoo isn’t working. Her poor skin is so irritated. Do you think that like a baby oil or olive oil or something may smother these freaking pests?

  7. I would not recommend garlic salt or oil as these will likely not be effective and the garlic salt is likely to be very irritating to inflammed skin.
    It sounds like your problem may have spread into the environment and you will need to go beyond just removing the adults from your dog.
    Fleas are horrible.. no question.

  8. Bryan says:

    Great stuff , I have also found in juncuntion with , Brewers yeast and Garlic oral dose. I actually sprinkle the Diatomaceous earth around the base boards , and around the pool patio area (where our Lab likes to nap), letting it set for a few hours then vacuum it out . I also vacuum the dog and our 3 yr old american bobtail cat weekly ( they love now…. LOL ) Great site thanks

    Bryan

  9. Linda says:

    I have been having really bad problems with fleas on my two house cats..they both have severe itching and this has caused hair loss and their skin is very irritated..does anyone know of a natural product or other product I can use to put in their food or water..to help with this skin irritation and fleas..?? Im at my wits end..on this..I thank you for your help in advance people..or maybe you know of a site I can go to..

  10. Sandy says:

    Hi Linda,
    We have a Cocker Spaniel who has just had his first “taste” of fleas, he is a Kiwi (N.Z.) dog and when we lived in Wanaka near Queenstown it was too cold, so no fleas, but since moving back home to Noosa, Sunshine Coast he now has them. We have found “Neem” to be good, you can spray it on their coat and work it in, or even put a few drops in their water, as long as they drink it all. We previously used Brewers Yeast (bought from “Home Brew” shops) and used that on our spaniels, it seemed to work, but I don’t think you can ever really get rid of them!

  11. Marge Cunningham says:

    I have two, 12 wk old female kittens, that have been fed Feline Primal Pet Raw food since they were weaned (7 wks old) also give them Feline Transfer Factor, Bone Meal and Welactin. They arrived with fleas, from their prev. environment, I have shampooed with a very mild shampoo (no chemicals/preservatives) and flea combed, lemon rinse, rosemary rinse and still dealing with the fleas. In the past with my previous mature pets, I sprinkled equal portions of salt & 20 Mule Team Borax on the carpet, furniture etc., and then vacuum in a few days.
    IS this safe for the kittens? Or how should I proceed? Is this the same as Flea Busters? Does Flea Busters have pyrethrins? Does it contain any chemicals unsafe for kittens? Please help.

  12. Flea busters has no pyrethrins and should be safe with 12 week old kittens. I have in fact never seen an age limit on the product but you may want to contact the company to be sure.
    Good luck
    Dr Lord

  13. nicole dunn says:

    Hello everyone..I have 19 cats three large dogs.I have used the brewers yeast,it didnt work..I have used over the counter meds,they seem to be cheaper but also makes my cats sick.I have used advantage and frontline for ticks also,these two products work the best.But if you have alot of animals these products break your wallet.I ve been told Dawn dish washing liquid works the best in washing your cat to kills fleas,im sure it would work for dogs also.Ive never tried it,but im going to soon.We give our cats a bath in the fall and again in the spring,Ive only used flea shampoo’s from walmart.Going to try dawn to see if it is better and safer.Also we live in Pa,and I only treat my animals durring the flea season due to our weather.I vacum alot..Hardwood floors with 3 throw rugs only makes it eaiseir to keep the fleas from infesting in large carpets.And finally alot of praying due to rescuing so many kitties.

  14. [...] and was always told how harmful garlic was to your dogs, but then i just came across this site…. Natural Flea Treatments for dogs and cats- VetLord.org __________________ Mommy to Fiona [...]

  15. Carmel Reynolds says:

    I have a 2 year old chihuahua that never goes outside and also have an inside cat that never goes outside. We have treated outside and inside over and over again. My chihuahua, Lexi, well she gets so many on her, I dont understand or yet to find out where she gets fleas on her. It’s not just a few, she gets covered. Lexi only weighs 2.5 lbs. and I bathe her but during the wintertime she get cold and I am dipping her and using different treatments but, she is allergic to flea collars and her skin is very sensative. Ok, what do you recomend? And if you recommend something like garlic etc., how much would I give her at 2.5 lbs. that won’t make her sick. Thanks

  16. Teri Harold says:

    I have 2 maltese. One weighs 5 lbs. and the other around 13 to 14 lbs. I have been battling this flea problem with all of the natural solutions I have been able to find. I wash them in a solution of Essentential Oils green soap with a few drops of Dawn Dish Washing Soap. This kills the fleas and I search their entire bodies to remove all of the fleas during the rinse process. It lasts for about one day. I believe that I have more of the problem of flea infestation in our home and yard. I bathe them twice a week (at least). My small dog gets very listless when the fleas attack him. They are both on a holistic dog food, and I cook hamburger to add with it so they will eat it. I also put a product that has vitamins, garlic, and brewers yeast powder in their food. With a spray bottle that has rubbing alcohol, cedar essential oil, euchalyptus, lavender and peppermint oil I spray their beds around their beds, and on their body (in between baths). With this whole regime, I am still battling these beasts. Am I missing something. We have even treated our lawn. Oh, and I have also sprinkled salt on the carpet, left it for 3 days, and then vacuumed it, and also sprayed my spray bottle solution on the entire carpet. I just can’t figure out what else I can try. Any suggestions? I am just cringing at the fact that I just may have to put the chemical treatments on them.

  17. Substantially, the article is actually the freshest on that deserving topic. I harmonise with your conclusions and definitely will eagerly look forward to your future updates. Saying thanks definitely will not simply be enough, for the exceptional lucidity in your writing. I can directly grab your rss feed to stay privy of any updates. Gratifying work and much success in your business enterprize!

  18. This is really good and has certainly made me rethink

  19. Nancy says:

    You talk about a boric acid solution for fleas. I have tried to find the boric acid with no luck. The pharmacies have told me that they no longer make it. By chance do you sell it or have access to it?

    Nancy

  20. [...] Tracy. “Natural flea treatments for dogs and cats.” VetLord.org Alternative veterinary medicine. July 1, [...]

  21. Tessa Lacina says:

    This is a good blog. Keep up all the work. I too love to blog.

  22. I really loved this post. You write about this topic very well. I really like your blog and I will definetly bookmark it! Keep up the super posts!

  23. Im not decideded on what to believe since my hair loss just will not stop and seems to get faster, can it stop?

  24. pobierowo says:

    This is really a really great read for me, Have to admit you happen to be first from the best bloggers I ever saw.Thanks for posting this informative article.

  25. Hi there, I am using Fleabusters Rx For Fleas(I do recommend it) it is safe and effective and proven safe and effective by Vetmed.

    I don’t really prefer spray solution for it has a lot of harmful chemicals and one of its content is acid which is way to dangerous for my Dogs, Cat and my Family.

    Read more articles and solutions ( http://www.fleabusters-rxforfleas.com ) See for the treatments that is also dangerous for pregnant women

  26. Kay says:

    My Siamese cat has been aggravated for years with a terrible skin condition. He had bleeding sores, loss of hair and many oozing raw spots. A friend recommened a spray called Calm Coat used on horses. It is amazing. Within two weeks his hair was coming back and the sores were healing. The vet says he is allergic to air, of all things and can’t give him any more shots. The shots only helped for a short time anyway. Calm Coat smells good and is all natural. Our pet is once again beautiful now thanks to this amazing product. I also use it on our dog. Hope this helps someone with a similar problem.

  27. SADIE says:

    i have a 8 yr old lab that has cancer. I dont want to put frontline on her anymore because of the harmful chemicals. What should i use HELP

  28. Whoa. That was a great article. Please keep writing because I love your style.

  29. Through this site I read about the flea stage and also know that how these female fleas spread their eggs to our pets and our houses. And also read about the home made flea killer solutions. These home made solutions are very effective and also be less expansive.

  30. Ely says:

    Has anybody tried Jumpies from naturalpet.co.nz, or any of there other products? It is a homepathic herbal flea control for pets. I may try it.

  31. [...] such as Neem shampoo and borate powder are commonly used in flea baths, and I found a great article here that gives some other options, as well as a thorough set of instructions for combating fleas on [...]

  32. [...] such as Neem shampoo and borate powder are commonly used in flea baths, and I found a great article here that gives some other options, as well as a thorough set of instructions for combating fleas on [...]

  33. Robin says:

    can you use a cat flea treatment on a dog

  34. Lana says:

    This is the only article that I’ve come across that incorporates all the natural options that I was looking for and does not offer any false or dangerous advice. I’m so geared up for my war against the fleas now. Thanks!!!

Leave a Reply