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!