Home Remedies for Fleas
If you have pets (pets with fur, anyway) you're likely to be needing home remedies for fleas at some point.
There are, of course, a gazillion chemical ways to deal with them, but that's not what we're here for, is it? Because those chemicals are pesticides: bad for us, bad for our pets and bad for the world.
And because - here's the kicker - they're starting to not work. The fleas (just like bacteria and half the rest of the world) are building up a resistance to what we're trying to kill them with.
You can read more about the dangers of chemical pesticides here.
Thankfully, there are plenty of natural home remedies for fleas. And if they're done right, they're safe and effective...and some of them even smell pretty good.
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Herbal Remedies for Fleas
If you're here on this site there's a pretty good chance you're already using herbs for something, so expanding their use to include home remedies for fleas is a natural and easy way to handle fleas.
You have a lot of options for herbal remedies for fleas, too: Fleabane, rosemary, lavender, anything in the mint family (including, yes, catnip), eucalyptus, citronella, chamomile, tansy or cedar.
There are a bunch of ways to use these herbal remedies for fleas:
- Pick a bunch of fleabane, dry it, and stuff your pet's bed with it.
- Make rosemary lavender tea, spray your pet with it, and gently rub it into their fur (you can also apply the tea to their bedding).
- Scatter chamomile flowers or powder around the house -- along the walls, wherever your pet sleeps, wherever the little bastards might be hiding (the fleas, not your pets).
- If your pets spend a lot of time in your yard, growing these flea-repelling herbs there will help, as well.
Looking for a good source of herbs for your home remedies for fleas? Check out our favorite spot:
Essential Oils for Fleas
IMPORTANT: You might be looking at creating a herbal spray (above) and think, "Hey, I can just do that with essential oils, too! Dilute them in water or a carrier oil, and I'm good to go."
This is perfectly safe for dogs, and for them, yes, it's a convenient shortcut. But DO NOT EVER use essential oils with cats.
Your cat's liver isn't equipped to process the potency essential oils, and whether the oils are ingested, applied to the skin, or even inhaled, they're likely to build up in your cat's system and eventually (or quickly!) build up to toxic levels.
So with your cats, take your time making the tea. I won't say your cats will thank you for it (they're cats, after all) but it really is the best way to do it. (For more information about essential oil toxicity in cats, please see this article on essential oils and cats.
The following essential oils are safe and effective for dogs and work as insect repellants:
- Arborvitae - SO effective!
- Melaleuca/tea tree
Be sure these essential oils are high quality and pure to avoid making your dog sick!
These essential oils can be added to shampoo, used to wash bedding, sprayed onto bedding, used to make a homemade flea collar or used to make a spray. You may also add a drop or two to cotton balls and place inside things like bedding BUT ONLY if your dog can't get to it and eat that cotton ball.
One of our home remedies for fleas is a homemade shampoo for our dog with the following:
- 1 tsp. of Dr. Bronner's castille soap
- Up to 10 drops total of our favorite essential oils
- 12 ounces of water
We mix this in a squirt bottle (like a ketchup bottle, but clear to make it easy to see), shake it up and lather it on really thick starting at the muzzle, avoiding the eyes, and moving back. Leave the lather on and the fleas will start climbing up for air, slowly down, and dying, and then can be picked or rinsed off.
To make a homemade dog flea collar you can either drop the essential oils directly on the collar or a bandana, or you can mix the essential oils in 12 ounces of water, soak the collar for several hours, and allow to dry before putting it on the dog (remember, not cats). It will usually last about a week and helps to repel the fleas. Although we haven't tried it, it's worth looking into these natural flea collars for cats and dogs as well.
Protecting Against Fleas with Diet and Supplements
Fleas, like other parasites, prefer to prey on weakened victims - so the healthier your pets are, the less the fleas will bother them. Feed them good, healthy, natural food free of grains and consider a raw food diet for them as well. Keep them properly cleaned and groomed - whatever's appropriate for their breed.
Some pet owners have had good luck deterring fleas with supplements of brewer's yeast and garlic, such as this one from Four Paws. These generally have to be started well in advance of a flea infestation, so starting them over the winter may prevent fleas in the spring.
Before starting supplementation or changing their diet, it's a good idea to talk to your vet since they know your pet's medical history and any possible concerns.
And be sure to give your pets plenty of time with you, and plenty of love.
Treating Your Pet and Their Environment
Along with these herbal home remedies for fleas, keeping a clean house is important. Yeah, I know you're busy. You should see my place. But flea larvae feed on debris and organic matter -- say, the stuff caught in your carpet (and mine) -- so the cleaner you keep your house, the less they'll have to eat, and the fewer will survive to the adult stage - that's what bites your pets. Plus, the cleaner your house is, the fewer places the fleas will have to hide.
Wash your pet's bedding (and yours, if they sleep on the bed with you) often. Vacuum often, and thoroughly. Use that little attachment-thingy to get into the corners of the room, the bed, and the couch, too. Even though the little buggers prefer to live on your pets, they'll totally hide, too, and you need to get the eggs as well as the live ones.
One of the most important steps in any home remedies for fleas: Bathe your pets regularly. Yes, even your cats.
Plain old soap-and-water will do a lot to deal with fleas (be sure you're using natural soap though!) or follow the shampoo recipe above for dogs. Leaving the suds in your pet's fur for 3-5 minutes will also help eliminate any fleas in their fur.
A good flea comb - available at any good pet store, or at your veterinarian's office - is another invaluable tool in home remedies for fleas. Comb your pet's fur thoroughly to remove fleas, larvae, and flea eggs. Again, use that soapy, hot water to your advantage - dip the comb into it often to clean off (and kill) the fleas.
Borax, Diatomaceous Earth and Fleas
I've heard a lot of people talking about borax as a natural and effective way to get rid of fleas, and adding borax to your laundry will help kill any fleas or eggs that survive all the washing.
But in general I prefer food-grade diatomaceous earth for my home remedies for fleas.
If you plan to use diatomaceous earth in your home remedies for fleas, BE SURE to purchase the food-grade stuff. Don't buy the variety that they sell at pool supply stores; it's not safe for you or your pets.
Diatomaceous earth (DE) is neat stuff - it's made from finely-ground fossils of ancient, tiny sea creatures. It's entirely harmless to mammals, although it can cause irritation if too much is inhaled, but for insects, it's like walking on broken glass, and it'll kill them quickly and effectively.
Sprinkle a light layer of DE around wherever fleas are a problem. Keep your pets out of the room while you're spreading it, and just to be safe, wear a dust mask or bandana over your mouth and nose. Use a broom to work it into the carpet, down where the fleas and larvae and eggs hide, and use your hand or a small, stiff brush to work it into upholstery and bedding. Once it's worked in, you can take off the mask and let your pets back into the room; it's now totally safe. Vacuum as you normally do; you'll need to re-treat the room after vacuuming, though.
You can even put it right on your pets - sprinkle it carefully into their fur (keep it away from their head and mouth, so they don't breathe it) and gently rub it in. It will kill any fleas that try to walk through it. Yes, they'll lick it off, and yes, this is fine - in fact, you can even mix a little diatomaceous earth into their food to kill intestinal parasites!
I can't speak highly enough of diatomaceous earth used in natural remedies for fleas - it's cheap, safe, and effective.
When To Throw in the Towel
It's important to try everything possible before resorting to medication. But after 2-4 weeks of no improvement, it's more important to talk to your vet.
Fleas can cause illness and pain in your pets, resorting in even more medications, side effects, vet bills, and discomfort. If home remedies for fleas don't seem to be working after several weeks, use them as preventative medicine for the future, and seek conventional solutions for immediate help for your pet.
Kate Jones is an herbalist, a wicked girl, and a wannabe nomad, and she makes her living (and her soap) with Om Shanti Naturals. In her copious spare time, she embroiders loopy-swoopy patterns onto perfectly good bluejeans, takes the cat for walks, and reads truly ridiculous amounts of cheesy fantasy novels.