The Natural Way of Getting Rid of Fleas on Your Dog and in Your Home

Looking for a Natural Way of Getting Rid of Fleas?

We took a family vacation through Oklahoma a few years back and returned home to find our dogs had picked up fleas somewhere during the trip! We’ve really been trying to find less chemical-based solutions for our home and pets, so we knew that we needed to find a natural way of getting rid of fleas as soon as we got home.

Not only were our dogs miserable from all of the flea bites, but we were afraid of a full-blown infestation in our car and potentially spreading into our house. The problem is that we knew virtually nothing about fleas and even less about how to get rid of them! 

What Are Fleas, Anyway?

Basically, fleas are very tiny (⅛ of an inch long) wingless parasites that can carry and spread disease. They tend to live on mammals and birds as hosts and are excellent jumpers, which means they (and the diseases they carry) can spread very quickly. There are 2,500 species of fleas and some have preferred hosts (like bats, elephants, armadillos, rats, etc.), but others are less picky about what they live on. 

They must keep biting and jumping from host to host to stay alive. Fleas are the second longest jumpers in the entire animal kingdom relative to their body size, only to be outdone by one type of insect called the froghopper. 

Adult fleas only feed on fresh blood, so that’s why they’re biting your dogs (and you)! Flea larvae feed on organic material, such as dried blood and what the adults leave behind… literally. More about that and why you might care is noted below, so keep reading…

There are four stages of development of fleas: egg, larva, pupa, and adult. This is important because the various stages prefer a variety of environments to thrive, and therefore eliminate.

Are Fleas Dangerous?

Certain species of fleas have been dangerous and even deadly in our history. For example, the oriental rat flae carried a bacteria which caused the bubonic plague, which then infected rates, which then infected and filled millions of people world-wide. 

Fleas were also used in World War II as a bioterrorism agent because of their ability to spread deadly bacteria. 

That sounds pretty dangerous to me. 

Mostly, they’re an itchy nuisance in the United States similar to a mosquito bite. Just ask any dog that has been bitten by one (or a family of them)!

But, there are flea situations that might require professional medical attention, such as cases when flea bites cause anemia or cause other bacterial infections. And, in other places around the world, fleas are still a big problem for spreading diseases which can be brought back home with you from vacation or unsuspecting visitors.

What Kind of Fleas Are on my Dog?

Most likely, the variety is a cat flea (scientific name Ctenocephalides felis). 

Isn’t that funny? 

A dog flea (scientific name Ctenocephalides canis) variety also exists, but there are arguments within scientific communities where they don’t think the dog flea variety even exists in the United States. And as you may have suspected cats usually have the cat flea variety.

You read that right, most dogs have cat fleas, not dog fleas.

Can My Dog be Allergic to Flea Bites?

It’s possible that your dog develops an allergic reaction to an adult flea bite, called Flea Allergy Dermatitis (FAD). An allergic reaction can occur if your dog’s immune system overreacts to the protein or antigens in the saliva of a flea bite. A single flea bite can cause itching to last for days, so just imagine what an infestation could cause.

As you might imagine, your dog’s reaction to FAD is to scratch themselves in an attempt to relieve the itching sensation.

If your dog is sensitive to other environmental allergens, like dust mites or mold, they have a higher chance of FAD sensitivity. Your veterinarian can confirm if your dog has a flea allergy by performing basic blood tests and the good news is that in most cases treatment is typically very quick to work.

Your veterinarian will likely discuss the importance of not only removing fleas from any environment your dog is in, but also preventative treatment options.

Detecting Fleas and Their Bites

Humans and pets can detect fleas visually since they have to jump to get from host to host. But they’re tiny and fast, so it’s hard to see them! It might seem like your dog is biting the air when in reality, they could be trying to catch a leaping flea.

Usually though, on dogs you’ll notice they might be biting, licking or trying to scratch themselves aggressively. When looking at the skin, you might see a slightly raised red bump with a single puncture in the center. Each bump can cause severe itching for weeks, making your dog a very unhappy pup. This constant biting, scratching and licking can cause hair loss, making the bump appear to be more prominent.

These bites can happen to both you and your furry friends.

You can use a flea comb to detect very tiny organisms that might be using your furry pal as a host. It may help you see little specks of material that looks like dirt on your dog’s skin and when introduced to water, can turn a reddish-brown color. This is called flea dirt, which is basically flea feces and it feeds the non-adult phases of the flea life cycle. This means you need to wash it off frequently and thoroughly! 

If you’re having trouble seeing fleas or flea dirt, have your dog sit on a white towel while using the flea comb. The white towel will more easily show any fleas and flea dirt that fall off of your dog.

I’ll skip the really scientific stuff, but flea eggs tend to love living in the host’s bedding. Larvae avoid the sunlight, despite being blind, and prefer humid places such as sand, cracks, carpet and bedding. The pupa stage is encouraged by vibration, heat, and carbon dioxide. 

Basically, your dog and their bedding is the perfect breeding ground for flea infestations.

Also, if you see anything on your dog’s skin, fur, or bedding that looks like small grains of rice, it could be flea larvae or another type of insect larvae. In any case, you’ve got to get rid of it immediately because reproduction in the insect world occurs quickly.

Flea Remedy Options for Your Dog

You can quickly remove the fleas you can visibly see with dog wash wipes. If you need some suggestions, check out our article The Top Dog Wash Wipes for Removing Allergens (or fleas!).

Contact your veterinarian if you suspect your pet has fleas. Don’t be surprised if your vet asks you to not come to the office, to do a telemedicine visit, or send photographs via email or portal prior to your visit. Since fleas can spread easily, the last thing your vet wants in their office is your dog bringing their flea infestation there.

Your veterinarian may suggest a prescription medication to rid your dog of adult fleas. For example, this product will rid your dog of a flea infestation supposedly in as little as 6 hours.

Additionally, there are a variety of flea-repelling shampoos and conditioners that aim to kill adult fleas and the three other stages of the flea life cycle. 

Spot-treatments like this one are also available, which soaks into the skin and repels fleas — they want to move out — fast! You want to avoid bathing your dog for 5-6 days before and after any spot-treatments to ensure the medication has time to work.

Flea collars are another way to make your dog less appealing to be a flea host. Your vet may suggest that your dog only wear a flea collar outside only, so discuss this if you think there may be a need inside too. This is a sign you need to treat your home as well.

There are also some really good natural options to try, since we’re trying to avoid chemically-based products, which I’ve collected and listed below.

Flea Remedy Options for Your Home

Unfortunately, if your dog has fleas, they’re likely in your house too (or in your car, like was the case for us coming back from vacation). 

You’ll need to treat your entire house (and possibly, car) to get rid of the fleas in all life cycles. 

Clean all of your floors thoroughly, including couches, curtains and carpets. As noted above, larvae love dark, humid places, such as fabric and carpet (especially if you live in a humid climate).

Consider using a carpet powder, which is toxic to fleas and their earlier stages.

Additionally, you’ll want to clean all bedding for both you and your pet thoroughly. Perhaps multiple times, in very hot water and a very hot dryer. Consider tossing out the bedding altogether and purchasing a new one. This may be the best option for large beds or those made with materials that should not be washed in high temperatures.

There are flea fogs and sprays for general house use and for outside yard areas available on the market too. Be especially careful with these as they can be toxic; humans and pets may need to be removed from the home for a period of time before and after using them.

Once you find fleas and think you have them under control, it’s an excellent idea to keep treating your pet and home regularly, year-round, to prevent future outbreaks. I read in an online article that flea eggs can stay dormant for a year, which freaked me out, but luckily that is untrue as they die when they are not in favorable conditions. However, it is true that adult fleas in a cocoon CAN go dormant until a host is detected nearby. We were excited there for a second…

You can also call an exterminator, an actual flea-elimination professional, to perform an inspection and provide some solutions for home flea treatments.

Once again, a lot of these solutions involve using chemically-based products which we’re trying to avoid if possible.

Natural Flea Remedy Options

We’ve read a lot of suggestions on the internet, from a variety of sources, to find out what others did to naturally get rid of fleas on their dogs and in their homes. Of course, what we found was that what worked well for one person, may not have worked for another. 

Certainly a number of factors come into play as well, such as the size of an infestation or the climate (humid or dry location) of an infestation, which would impact how effective the solutions were. We don’t know all of the various factors that influenced outcomes, but perhaps this list will provide you with some ideas if you’re trying to find natural flea remedies that work for your pet and home.

Neem Oil for Home and Topical Treatment

Neem Oil is a very popular product originating from India.

It can be used to add to dog shampoo or diluted with water to mist in your home or on your dog using a spray bottle (just make enough for one application as it will lose its potency; one part Neem Oil to ten parts Water).

Pros

  • Accessible and easy to purchase
  • Tastes bitter to dogs so they are less likely to lick it off
  • Can be mixed into shampoo or mixed in a spray bottle to mist 
  • Repels and kills fleas
  • Supposedly can clear up a variety of dog skin concerns in a week
  • Naturally antibacterial, antiseptic, antifungal, anti inflammatory and antiviral

Cons

  • Smells bad to humans and pets
  • Isn’t well known, so people may be skeptical of using it
  • Water and oil may damage fabric and wood, and does not smell good
  • Will not eradicate a whole home and pet infestation of all flea life cycle stages all by itself

Here’s a quick video about the product.

Other Essential Oils for Home, Ingestion, and Topical Treatment

We found a lot of suggestions surrounding the use of some very specific essential oils to get rid of fleas both in homes and on (or in) your pet. However, after reading various veterinarian websites it appears to be generally unsafe to use them around pets or for pets to ingest. 

They can be toxic in the environment (like using air diffusers) for cats specifically, as they do not have a necessary liver enzyme to handle the toxins. 

We have both dogs and cats at our house, so this is an important detail.

For dogs, there are a lot of flea medications on the market that include essential oils, which are already known to be toxic to animals, such as peppermint, tea tree oil, and eucalyptus. These kinds of products can still be marketed despite the known toxicity. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) review flea and tick medications in the United States for general safety and efficacy.

Pros

  • Accessible and easy to purchase
  • Smells good to humans
  • Some essential oils may be okay for dogs in small amounts, ONLY IF DILUTED with a carrier oil, such as Almond Oil. Examples might be Rose Geranium, Cedarwood, or Rosemary Oil mixed into a pet shampoo, for example. This book details homeopathic options including essential oils, for pets.

Cons

  • Essential oils can be toxic to dogs and cats through environmental and direct contact on their skin or through food or supplements
  • Most veterinarians suggest staying clear of using essential oils in your home, on your dog, or in anything your dog eats – ask your vet before using!
  • They are very toxic to cats, so if you have a home with both dogs and cats, avoid essential oil products
  • Even as known toxins, some essential oils are in FDA or EPA-approved pet products, which can be confusing to consumers
  • More complicated and risky to determine any essential oils that might be safe for your dog – ask your vet before using!
  • Will not eradicate a whole home and pet infestation of all flea life cycle stages all by itself

Brewer’s Yeast and Garlic for Ingestion

There are a lot of supplements on the market for your dog that include brewer’s yeast and garlic as a way to repel fleas. Supposedly, when your dog ingests this, it makes their blood less tasty for fleas so they jump away to look for another host.

Pros

  • Available in supplement form so it may be easier to administer orally
  • Humans can’t smell the brewer’s yeast or garlic on their dog
  • Brewer’s yeast can be sprinkled on your dog’s kibble or moist food directly
  • Dogs tend to tolerate the taste

Cons

  • Supplements may only help up to 25% of the animals treated
  • Your dog might be allergic to brewer’s yeast or garlic
  • Garlic can be toxic to dogs in high doses, but the amounts found in commercial supplements are approved by the FDA (never give cats garlic as it is toxic)
  • Will not eradicate a whole home and pet infestation of all flea life cycle stages all by itself 

Rosemary Plants for Home, Ingestion, and Topical Treatment

Have you ever thought about growing your own flea-repelling plants? There are several plants that can be grown both indoors and outdoors to help with repelling fleas. Some of the essential oils noted above, can be grown in plant form at home for a variety of uses.

For example, rosemary plants, from which rosemary essential oil is derived, can be grown at home both inside and outside in pots or planters. Leave outside to repel fleas from the general area. Or, boil some of the branches with needles in a pot on your stove to make some rosemary oil water which you can add to a spray bottle and mist your dog, carpets, couch, and curtains.

Pros

  • Accessible and easy to purchase
  • Smells good to humans
  • Easy to prepare rosemary oil water and spray it
  • Simple solution

Cons

  • Dogs may be sensitive to rosemary plants and oils, or allergic
  • The mist cannot be used on cats and should not be used where cats live, as it is toxic
  • Water and oil may damage fabric and wood
  • Will not eradicate a whole home and pet infestation of all flea life cycle stages all by itself 

Overnight Bowl with Water and Dish Soap for Home

A very simple solution to attract fleas while you’re asleep, is to set out a bowl of water mixed with some dish soap. The trick here is to ensure it’s a dark room (reduce multiple light sources) and put the bowl under one light source, such as a night light or a lamp. The single light source will draw the fleas toward the light. When they jump toward the light, they will land in the water. The water and soap will weigh them down and prevent them from escaping. 

Pros

  • Accessible and easy to purchase
  • Easy to prepare
  • Simple solution
  • Inexpensive

Cons

  • Pets will floor access may be tempted to drink the water in the bowl, so keep them away when using this method
  • Might take a long time for all adult fleas to be trapped
  • Will not eradicate a whole home and pet infestation of all flea life cycle stages all by itself 

Sprinkling Your Carpet and Vacuum Your Home

Clean all of your floors thoroughly, including tiles and hardwoods, couches, curtains and carpets. Vacuum multiple times per day to get those pesky fleas sucked out of every crevice in your house. Remember, they jump to get around so keep cleaning the same areas over and over. 

Some people suggest adding some products to the carpet or rugs to help kill fleas in all life cycles by dehydrating them, which includes:

  • Sprinkling Finely Ground Salt. It is suggested that you sprinkle on your carpet and massage to get into the fibers, and leave on overnight as this takes up to 12 hours. Then vacuum over and over and over. This requires you also keep your pets out of that area until it’s been vacuumed.
  • Sprinkling Food-Grade Diatomaceous Earth. This method can be used directly on carpets and directly on dogs and cats. It is suggested that you leave on carpets or rub into a pet’s fur and leave it for 4-6 hours while it does it’s magic. It’s apparently okay if your pets groom themselves and ingest the product. After 4-6 hours, vacuum over and over and over PLUS bathe your pets to remove the excess product.
  • Sprinkling Borax. It is suggested that you sprinkle on your carpet and massage to get into the fibers, and leave for 1-2 days. After 1-2 days, vacuum over and over and over to remove the excess product. This requires you also keep your pets out of that area until it’s been vacuumed.
  • Sprinkling Active Baking Soda (a new box). It is suggested that you sprinkle on your carpet and massage to get into the fibers, and leave overnight. Then vacuum over and over and over. This requires you also keep your pets out of that area until it’s been vacuumed.

Pros

  • All solutions are fairly easy to do
  • Simple solutions

Cons

  • May not want fleas (dead or alive) in your vacuum
  • These are all powders and may irritate your breath ways (and those of your pets); wear a face mask and remove pets from the treated areas
  • Takes a lot of energy to get the products to the base of your carpet
  • Must keep pets away from the area until cleaned up
  • Pets lick their feet; residue may be toxic, particularly for Borax – check with your vet before use!
  • Takes a lot of energy and time to vacuum repeatedly
  • May be messy
  • Requires a lot of clean-up work, including bathing your pets
  • Depending on your climate these solutions may encourage corrosion of metal (such as nails in the floor or metal legs of chairs on carpet)
  • Will not eradicate a whole home and pet infestation of all flea life cycle stages all by itself

Vinegar and Water Solution for Home and Topical Treatment

Mix half water and half apple cider vinegar or white vinegar together in a spray bottle and mist your dog, carpets, couch, and curtains. 

You can also use vinegar to add to your dog’s shampoo as a repellent (keep away from their eyes).  

You can also add vinegar to your washing machine when you clean your bedding. Be sure to use a higher heat and a higher dryer setting to kill fleas. When you clean the lint tray, take a detailed look at what you’re tossing in the trash to look for evidence of dead fleas.

Pros

  • Accessible and easy to purchase
  • Easy to prepare
  • Simple solution

Cons

  • Only repels adult fleas; does not kill them in any life cycle (high heat from washer/dryer will kill them)
  • Stinky to humans
  • Water and vinegar may damage fabric and wood
  • Will not eradicate a whole home and pet infestation of all flea life cycle stages all by itself

Rose Geranium Plants for Home and Topical Treatment

Another flea-repelling plant you can grow is rose geraniums. They can be grown both indoors and outdoors to help with repelling fleas. If you grow them outside, they can be invasive so be sure you’re okay with them taking over a particular area in your yard.

Rose Geranium plants, from which rose geranium essential oil is derived, can be grown at home both inside and outside in pots or planters. Leave outside to repel fleas from the general area. Or, boil some of the branches with flowers in a pot on your stove to make some geranium oil water which you can add to a spray bottle and mist your dog, carpets, couch, and curtains.

Pros

  • Accessible and easy to purchase
  • Smells good to humans
  • Easy to prepare geranium oil water and spray it
  • Simple solution

Cons

  • Dogs may be sensitive to geranium plants and oils, or allergic
  • Ask your vet before using this solution on cats as they are very sensitive to essential oils
  • Water and oil may damage fabric and wood
  • Geranium plants may take over anywhere they are planted
  • Will not eradicate a whole home and pet infestation of all flea life cycle stages all by itself

Cautions

As with any solution for getting rid of fleas on your dog, be sure to always check with your veterinarian to verify that fleas are indeed the problem you’ve identified and to get the green light for any solutions you try. 

Your dogs may have special considerations that your vet will need to evaluate. It’s important for your vet to know about other pets in your home as well to ensure that using one solution for your dog doesn’t negatively impact your cat, for example.

Always keep the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center (APCC) phone number nearby in the event you’re concerned about any toxin your dog may have been exposed to.

Also, any home remedies have the potential to ruin home decor, flooring, furniture, curtains, and the like. So be sure you test products in an inconspicuous area prior to use.

Summary

These tips for learning how to get rid of fleas on your dog and in your home should allow you to get started dealing with a flea problem quickly.

Our number one priority is keeping our pets safe and healthy and delivering information to you that we’ve used to make informed decisions about our own.

Have you used one of these solutions or another that worked well to rid your dog and home of fleas? 

If so, we’d love to hear it! Please post it below in the comments.

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