this post does contain affiliate links but as always all thoughts & suggestions are from my experience
Once I started seeing the effects of feeding a raw diet to my dogs I got all jazzed up to go full holistic. The next stop for me was ridding and preventing fleas without harsh chemicals. It has been 4 years since then, which means four flea seasons. Here are the remedies I have tried along the way. The victories and epic fails. Also a few I just learned about.
Natural Flea Repellent & Control
My first attempt at going natural was not ALL natural. I was still tiptoeing into the holistic waters and wasn’t comfortable not using a flea treatment that I wasn’t familiar with. So, I went with a more conventional method. A spot-on formula that was supposed to be natural. It was full of chemicals still but had clove oil as a main ingredient. That made me feel like I was being natural and that was enough for me. The result was that our house smelled overwhelmingly like cloves. To the point that my eyes were watering and my poor lab moped around hunched over and couldn’t stop sneezing. He also got fleas after one swim in the river. Epic fail.
After my doggo and house got infested I turned to find a chemically safe flea spray. I looked into essential oils and they seemed great. My only problem is you must know what you are doing or you will hurt your dog. Also, all the remedies are super time consuming and require a lot of follow through. Two things I don’t have. I’m lazy, remember. (If you are interested in using essential oils check out my friend Tonya at Raising Your Pets Naturally. She is a great resource for this.) Luckily, I got a recommendation from a work-mate for a natural flea spray that I could buy on Amazon. It smelled great, could be sprayed on all surfaces including myself and dogs, and caused flea-ageddon. Victory was mine, in my home. I did have to feed my dog a chemical packed, three-month flea pill.
Diatomaceous Earth, Salt, & Borax vs. The Fleas
The next year I was a little further down my natural dog lifestyle path and had found that one of my favorite holistic vets has a natural spot-on flea treatment. So, I was all in. I felt I was making progress towards my holistic dog goals without having to quit my job to maintain it. This time it took two swims in the river and one visit to a friend’s house before my dogs got fleas. ( I adopted another dog since last year.) This year I was ready to put out an unusual amount of effort and decided to find some more options for my house and dogs. I was determined to find a non-toxic home remedy.
Non-toxic Flea Powders
I considered Borax, the green household cleaner. I had become familiar with it years before after I moved to a house that I am sure is built on Seattle’s largest ant colony. It seemed alright as far as chemical free goes, but never made a dent in my ant problem so, I was not confident about it helping my flea problem. Then I heard salt would kill the fleas and their eggs. Regular, natural, organic salt! I was ecstatic. Then I read up on the process to make it effective. I would have to apply salt to all furniture and carpets then let it sit for three days. Three days?! Once again that is way to labor intensive and time consuming for my house. Lastly, I found diatomaceous earth powder. I just buy the human-grade stuff and sprinkle it around like Carpet Fresh and vacuum away. I could also make a flea-powder out of it for my dogs. Coolio. Unfortunately, the same material that scratches the flea eggs so they die also scratches my throat and lungs. Everyone kept telling me if I just applied carefully and then let it settle I would be fine. I am not that careful I guess, and my house is never settled. N-E-V-E-R. So, even though it is a great solution for some it isn’t for this gal. I ended up using the more natural flea spray from the year before along with another toxic three-month flea pill for my dogs. Fail.
Foods for Flea Prevention & Baths
Okay, it is year three of my natural flea killing attempts. This year I decided that a prevention method that can’t wash off in the river would be most effective. I do add apple cider vinegar to their meals for flea deterrent, but it is not strong enough to fight the tall grass, swims, and dog parks we enjoy, so I need something more seeping out their pores to keep the bugs away. Luck have it my friend Kimberly Gauthier posted in her raw feeder’s Facebook group about adding garlic to her dog’s food to prevent fleas. Until a few years ago garlic has always been a no-no for dogs. Now, holistic vets and experts say garlic is good for dogs if they are fed the right amount. So, when I found out that are garlic pills, pre-made, measured, and ready to serve that I can add to their dinner I had to try them. (link to my favorite brand) It is more than halfway through flea season and my dogs and house is flea free. Victory is mine! (so far)
Homemade Flea Baths
As I researched chemical-free flea baths for my dogs and came across a suggestion of using DAWN dishwashing detergent. Although I am sure it is less toxic than traditional fleas dips, I am skeptical that anything blue is natural. So, I passed on that option. Next, I found vinegar. The idea of using it to bathe my dog was new to me. I looked into my options to find the most effective with the least possible effort required. Here is what I found:
- Vinegar does not kill fleas but does repel them
- Both white vinegar and apple cider vinegar work
- Vinegar can be added to the bathwater
- You can also do a vinegar rinse in place of conditioner (not like I use conditioner but, it explains that you rinse out the shampoo first then rinse with vinegar)
I opted for the apple cider vinegar rinse so I could keep their baths as natural as possible – due to them having sensitive skin. Results? Their coats got a beautiful shine, the smell was not that bad, but I can’t tell one way or the other if it worked for repelling fleas due to using it along with garlic pills. I will say though that when flea season hits I will be using this flea rinse method every year.
Nematodes: Organic Yard Flea Prevention
My usual yard care to prevent fleas without harming mother nature is just simple mowing and general pruning. Recently I have been introduced to some new ideas that I figured I would share with you. Using garlic or vinegar diluted with water as a yard spray. Sounds easy and natural. Unfortunately, these sprays might also kill all my flowers and plants, so that is out.
There are nematodes though. These are bugs that eat fleas and other harmful garden bugs. You want to get the steinerma carpocapsae kind of nematodes and can buy them at your local garden center and they come with directions for dilution and application. I picked some up at my local McLendon’s but they are available through Amazon. There are a few different ways to apply them but all require a lot of water, for many days. Early spring when the rain is still present is most convenient. I, unfortunately, did not know this and waited a bit too long and ended up having to water my whole yard, morning and night, well, for 4 days in a row. A little much for my laziness.
Since I live in the city and don’t have that much grass I really didn’t notice a difference. To be honest with you I don’t suggest adding this to your routine unless you live on the property, a quarter acre of land or more, or have high grass. Then a treatment once every spring with an automated watering system, like drip hoses, sprinklers, or human child looking for a new chore.
Overall the garlic pills from year 3 are still working like charm. I made it over a year now with fleas and the cost is only about $50 a year for my large dog and half that for my Puggle. It is cheaper than toxic flea treatments, does the trick, and the dog’s think they’re treats. I’m all in!
Well, I hope this was helpful and please let me know if you have any other chemical-free flea killin’ remedies. I would love to hear them!
I’m glad you found a safe solution for eliminating fleas! Does this also work on ticks? Right now, we have more ticks in our area than fleas.
Most flea deterrents are tick repellents as well, but I have never had trouble with them so I can’t say for sure.
Right now we are in the middle of winter and aiming to try a flea free summer. We have been recommended to try Dirty Flea Soap. 100% natural and with no dangerous elements for cats. I wonder if you could try it for the dogs?
I hope so. I love finding new products.
What a journey!! I’m excited to see how your new remedies continue to work throughout the season. Would love to find some less chemically options. Right now we use Seresto collars, which I prefer to topicals, but still chemically…
I am really hoping these garlic pills hold for the entire season. I can get them on Amazon and the dogs think they are treats.
Loving the holistic flea prevention. I have only used my own products on my dogs the last year and am very happy (I use essential oils and vinegar). You definitely have to make it a priority to reapply though. We use chemical-free pesticides in our yard as well because of our dogs and children.
Awesome! What kid/pet friendly pesticides do you use?
My cats are indoor only, but years ago I had a flea treatment. I like reading about natural remedies.
Are you able to go year round without a flea treatment? If so I am so jealous.
By chance was the spray you bought from Amazon called Wondercide? If so, that’s what I have & it works wonders. I even use it on myself for mosquito repellent. It works on pretty much every creepy crawly pest out there. The product was introduced on the tv show Sharktank & Lori loved it & bought stock. Check out the YouTube video if you haven’t already seen it n
I was using Vets Best, but I keep hearing about Wondercide and am totally going to research it. Thanks for mentioning it.
Thanks for sharing your “journey” in eradicating fleas. I fortunately have not had to deal with fleas with my cats, but if I ever had to, I would prefer a more natural way to do it.
You are so lucky. Maybe I should convert to being a cat person? LOL
Yes yes yes, Garlic is a HUGE on! 🙂 Love your tips, thanks for helping promote natural pet products.
And thank you for doing the same!
Natural-born flea killer 😉 Fighting these things naturally is pretty hard, I think. Lots of options and not all of them all that effective. We don’t have fleas but going through the same journey with ticks.
We are so fortunate that we don’t really have a home/pet flea problem here in Colorado. I’m not sure if it’s the dry climate but we are really lucky. I too am always on the lookout for all-natural products. We’ve been using some topical all-natural tick and pest repellents that seem to be working really well. I’m happy to learn that garlic is now off the “no” list when given in correct amounts.
Fabulous post, thanks for the info, I use apple cider vinegar to keep the house bug free and thank goodness it is also helping Layla, no fleas till now this year phew plus she is still wearing her flea preventer which is awesome – I do not give her any flea meds either
Flea preventer? Do tell.
Enjoyed reading about your flea prevention sagas…including your epic fails. Love that you included them. That’s real life! Happy that we got to meet at the BlogPaws conference, too. Hope to see you in KC in 2018.
I am so going to KC next yeat. BlogPaws is amazing!
Both of my girls are indoor only cats, but that doesn’t mean fleas can’t get inside. We live in the South and because of the major flood two years ago and two hurricanes last year, we have all types of bug problems this year. I’m happy to hear you are finding an all natural prevention that is working for you.
I love your cats. They are beautiful. I could only imagine the bugs in the south. Are you able to use natural remedies with all of them?
Love your stories of trial and error. I am looking at essential oils and natural- ish sprays.We have ticks, mosquitoes and fleas around here so trying different options for Kilo the Pug. Garlic still makes me nervous but Kimberly does such good research I’ll have to check it out.
Yes, Kimberly is why I call myself a lazy raw feeder. 🙂
This is so great, love the attempts and fails, and how honest you are about all of it! Such a cute page! We don’t really get fleas here, but occasionally someone can bring them in from out of state. I’m so glad we have been lucky so far!
What is this wonderful flea free state? I might need to move. 😄
Lol, just Utah 😊
Finding all-natural solutions for fleas can be such a headache! I had a similar experience a few years ago. All of my cats got a bad case of fleas, and I tried SO many natural solutions. Baths with Dawn soap, diatomaceous earth spread around the house and on the cats, vacuuming constantly, a homemade flea spray… I finally kicked them to the curb, but it took a lot of effort! Glad you found something that works for your gang!
Thanks, it’s great to hear I’m not the only one stumbling down a natural path.
Great article! I, too, have been trying to find the right mix of natural flea treatments with varying degrees of success. I’ll add the garlic pills. And nematodes work great! 🙂 Cheers!🐶
Great to hear it about the nematodes! Let me know how the garlic pills work out. 😊