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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 too! Fleas are a common issue with cats and dogs but conventional flea products are chemical-heavy. I wanted to find a safer option for keeping fleas away and dealing with infestations when they occur. So I did some research and found these natural flea remedies for pets.
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 get around by jumping — making it easy for fleas to pass from pet to pet in your house or neighborhood.
Fleas are most problematic in the spring and summer when the weather is warmer. They need a host (your pet) to live their full life cycle but can live for a few days in your home, yard, or local park as well. It’s very easy for pets who go outside to get fleas!
Does My Pet Have Fleas?
If your pet is scratching more than usual and seems uncomfortable, they may have fleas. The easiest way to tell if your pet has fleas is to lay him on a white towel and brush him. If there is a lot of dirt that falls off, you likely have a flea problem. This dirt is called flea dirt and is a mixture of flea poop and blood. To be sure you’re looking at flea dirt, moisten the dirt 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 tough to get rid of. They can even infest your home! Here are my favorite natural flea control remedies I use when my pets start itching from fleas:
The best way to keep your pets from getting fleas is to optimize their health so flea infestations are less likely to occur. A healthy body is more able to fend off fleas.
Feeding your pets a whole foods diet is a great way to optimize their health. I make homemade dog food for our dogs since it’s the most cost-effective way to feed them. But I’ve also purchased this high-quality (raw and grain-free) dog food and am very happy with it. They also sell quality cat food if you have cats in your home.
You can give your pet probiotics and other supplements that can help as well. I discuss this with Veterinarian Dr. Rob Franklin in a podcast episode where he gives some strategies for optimizing our pet’s health (including emotional health too!). One of my favorite additions 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 teeth that are closely spaced so it can remove fleas from your pet. This is helpful to begin the process of getting rid of fleas but can also be helpful in identifying how infested your pet really is. Do this outside if possible 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 and drown fleas. Use a natural flea shampoo or citrus-scented castile soap (use unscented for cats).
Apple Cider Vinegar
Apple cider vinegar (ACV) is a go-to in my home for everything from food poisoning to dandruff. But ACV is also helpful in pets. ACV is thought to help balance the pH in your pet’s body, which helps repel fleas. While there aren’t any studies on this action, many pet owners find that it works to keep fleas away as well as deal with an infestation.
Add ACV to your pets’ food (not water) to help get rid of fleas. Use ½-1 teaspoon of ACV per 25 lb of body weight for dogs. For cats, use just 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 their eyes!) to keep fleas from hitching a ride. This may not be as helpful when your pet already has an infestation but it does help keep fleas away.
There are a number of essential oils that help deter bugs including ticks and fleas. Some of my favorite natural flea remedies include:
Essential oils always need to be used carefully as they are highly concentrated oils. But we need to be even more careful using essential oils with cats. According to Pet Poison Helpline, cats do not have an essential enzyme to process and remove essential oils from the body.
This means essential oils may build up in their body causing toxicity. For this reason, many vets recommend not using essential oils with cats. However, cedarwood essential oil is likely safe for cats when used safely and will help with fleas.
Always dilute essential oils in a carrier oil before applying. You can also add them to the apple cider vinegar spray mentioned above.
Diatomaceous earth (DE) is a finely powdered natural fossilized form of diatoms (a type of algae). Because of its microscopic rough edges, it can cut through the exoskeleton of the flea, killing it. To use DE, sprinkle on your pet’s dry coat.
DE can also be used in your house to get rid of fleas that have jumped off your pets. Fill an old stocking with DE and shake it out around 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. Just be sure to use food-grade DE.
How to Get Rid of Fleas in Your House
If you don’t get rid of the fleas and flea eggs in your home, your pets are likely to get reinfested. Here’s what you need to do:
- Vacuum everything – Vacuuming will help get fleas and eggs that are on carpets, wood floors, curtains, and other places where you can most easily clean with a vacuum.
- Wash all bedding – Especially places where your pets hang out. Use hot water if possible.
- Use DE – As mentioned earlier, sprinkling DE around your home can kill fleas easily. Leave the DE in your home for a few days. Then sweep and vacuum it up (try to sweep up as much as you can since DE can be tough on vacuum filters). If you can’t get DE, salt or baking soda may work too.
- Create a flea trap – Place a bowl or shallow dish of soapy water (dish soap works well) in your home near infested areas. Fleas will jump in and drown because of the high viscosity of the soapy water.
House cleaning should be done as soon as you have used your chosen natural remedy for your pet. You want to try and minimize the possibility of fleas reinfesting your pet from the house or fleas from your pet reinfesting 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 remedies are simple to use at home with ingredients you may already have on hand.
This article was medically reviewed by Dr. Rob Franklin, a veterinarian with Full Bucket Health. As always, this is not personal medical advice and we recommend that you talk with your family vet.
What is your favorite way to get rid of fleas?
- Benson, Kia. (2020, March 6). Essential Oils and Cats.