How to get rid of fleas Naturally

The information contained in this article is informative in nature and is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease, illness, or health condition.

By Kathleen Borys November  © 2008


We should begin with providing our pet with the best species appropriate diet possible, clean fresh non tap water, an environment free of toxic household chemicals; discontinued use of yard and lawn chemicals, pesticides and any other toxic agents.  A pet with a healthy immune system is our best defense against fleas, ticks and other pesky critters. Now, that is not to say that your pet will never get fleas, this is all part of owning an animal. But a healthy pet will have fewer and less frequent issues with these pests.

What do we do if we find fleas on our pet? Having a few fleas is not too bad. Get a bowl and fill it with liquid dish detergent like Lemon Fresh Joy and water. Get your flea comb and begin combing your pet. As you catch fleas in the comb, dip the comb into the bowl of dish soap and water, dumping the flea into the bowl. The dish soap will kill the flea. Do this daily until you no longer see any fleas.

The next thing to do is vacuum your home daily, paying particular attention to areas where the pet frequents. Vacuuming is perhaps the most important part of any nonchemical flea control program. A laboratory study done at the University of California showed that vacuuming catches about 96 percent of adult fleas.  In addition to capturing the adult fleas, vacuuming may help to dislodge eggs and larvae from the carpeting and bedding. It also stimulates emerging adults to leave their cocoons, so they can be vacuumed up next time you vacuum. Remember vacuum often.

When the vacuuming is complete either throw out the vacuum cleaner bag or vacuum up about ¼ cup of DE (diatomaceous earth ) (https://www.earthworkshealth.com/) into the vacuum, this will kill any fleas and destroy eggs which may be in the bag.  Important: Do not use the type of diatomaceous earth that is sold for swimming pool filters. Purchase food grade diatomaceous earth only.  When vacuuming, do not shake out rugs, dog beds or anything the dog sleeps on as this will just spread fleas and flea eggs everywhere. Carefully pick up dog beds etc and get them to the clothes washer. Wash them as you usually would and dry them in the hottest safe setting on the dryer possible. The higher heat will kill the fleas and eggs which may not have been destroyed in the washer.

If you find that the flea problem can not be resolved by daily vacuuming and flea combing then we will have to escalate our battle of the flea.

Escalating the Flea Battle to the next level.

Frequent bathing of your dog will be necessary.  If you have found fleas on your dog it is more than likely those fleas have deposited flea eggs on the animal. Flea eggs are an off white color, are tiny and are shaped like a chicken egg. Bathe your dog in an all natural shampoo, preferably one made with herbs and some citrus. If you truly want an ALL NATURAL shampoo, read labels carefully. Some shampoo products claim to be all natural but are not. One favorite shampoo I use is Orange Peel Oil Shampoo by Earthbath, their web link is (http://www.earthbath.com/orangepeeloil_pint.html). Keep in mind some dogs could have an allergic reaction to many things even totally natural products. Do not use on Cats. So, if using a shampoo on a dog for the first time, you may want to try just a small area on the dog first and wait 24 hours. Another shampoo is Cloud Stars, Lavender and Mint herbal shampoo. Their web link is (http://www.cloudstar.com/) NOTE: Do not use these shampoos on cats.

About shampooing your dog to rid him/her of fleas.

Fill a tub/sink with several inches of water, and add several tablespoons or so of a citrus shampoo to the water.  Wait; do not put her/him in the tub yet. Get a large bowl, mix in water and some of the shampoo, put a washcloth in the bowl and soak it thoroughly. Now, you are going to have to work quickly, put the dog in the tub, take the washcloth and quickly soak down the dogs, anus and genital area, then quickly go to the  dogs neck soaking thoroughly all the way around the neck as if you are creating a collar of soap. Next soak the head area, soaking the ears and up and under the muzzle and mouth, taking care not to get soap in the eyes. Why are we doing this you wonder? Because those nasty fleas know that they are being attacked and are heading for any and I do mean ANY orifice to retreat to. I once had a rescue that had fleas so bad that when we began to bathe him you could see the fleas going into the eye socket. His head was just loaded with fleas. Once we have cut off the fleas escape routes they will head down the legs and now we have the suckers! Finish lathering up the dog remembering those important armpits, legs, feet focusing between the toes and pads. Let the dog soak for at least 5 minutes before rinsing.

If shampooing your dog is not practical at the time, then try what
Juliette de Bairacli-Levy recommends.  It is a lemon skin tonic, which works as a general skin toner, parasite repellent and treatment for mange. Follow the same procedure as if shampooing, remember to cut off the fleas escape routes first. You may want to put the dog into a tub while doing this to catch the run off.

Thinly slice a whole lemon, including the peel. Add it to 1 pint of near-boiling water and let it steep overnight. The next day, sponge the solution onto the animal’s skin and let it dry. You can use this daily for severe skin problems involving fleas. It is a source of natural flea-killing substances like d-limonene and other healing ingredients found in the whole lemon. (Once again, citrus should not be used around cats)


Riding your Home of Fleas

Well, you have vacuumed every day, used the flea comb and bathed your dog several times and you are still finding fleas, what next? The fleas are probably in your yard and most definitely in your house. We will begin with de-flea’ing your home. As mentioned earlier the most important aspect of riding your home of fleas is to thoroughly vacuum daily and either dispose of the vacuum cleaner bag outside or vacuum up about ¼ cup of DE. Next you will want to spray baseboards and other hard to reach areas with an all natural spray. Many folks have found Murphy’s Oil Soap works very well to rid the home of fleas. Citrus peel extract is an excellent choice against fleas for dogs, because its components, limonene and linalool, kill all stages of the flea’s life cycle. Still, you must use caution: While it is a natural material, and much safer for health and the environment than toxic synthetic pesticides, it is not without problems, especially for asthmatics. Citrus shouldn’t be used around cats.
Assuming you don’t own a cat, and you keep your windows open when using citrus peel extract products, get rid of fleas in your house by washing floors twice a week with a solution of 1/4 cup citrus peel extract (available in health food stores; (Citra Solve is one brand) or if you have purchased the Earthbath Shampoo use it by mixing a couple of tablespoons into 1 to gallon of water. Spray bedding with a mixture of 2 teaspoons citrus peel extract and 2 cups of water in a spray bottle.


Fleas in my carpet, oh my! 

This is really, really tough but not impossible. In my previous home, which was a 3500 square foot carpeted monster (except the kitchen and baths) we wound up with an infestation. I strongly urge anyone with carpeting to invest in a carpet extractor, this is what saved us.  I have one, Hoover Spin Scrub, one of the best investments I ever made. If you have an infestation here is what you may need to do. Purchase some DE (diatomaceous earth) carefully spread this on your carpet, trying not to create much dust or breathe in the dust as it can be an irritant.  Leave it on the carpet for 24 hours and then vacuum thoroughly. Within a week use a carpet extractor to clean all your carpets. You will have to move furniture especially around areas where the dog/dogs spend much time. It will be necessary to clean upholstered furniture as well. Spray baseboards and other areas with a citrus spray. With an infestation of fleas in a home one can not over clean. After a thorough cleaning you can begin the usual daily vacuuming and then we will need to move on to the yard.

Flea infestation in my yard, now what?

Fleas are tough little suckers but we have learned how to conquer them naturally. To rid your yard/lawn of flea’s two important weapons will be needed. The first one is good ole DE and the second is beneficial nematodes of the genus Steinernema. You are probably wondering what the heck are beneficial nematodes? Briefly they are microscopic, non-segmented worms that occur naturally in soil throughout the world. Once released, the nematodes seek out their host, enter through body openings, emit a toxin and death occurs within 48 hours.

As mentioned earlier in this article DE can be purchased from (https://www.earthworkshealth.com) or from many garden supply centers. Be sure to purchase food grade DE only. The nematodes can be purchased from
(http://www.gardensalive.com/product.asp?pn=2779&ss=fleas) or from many garden supply centers also. To learn more about which genus of nematode to purchase for your area here is a link
http://www.arbico-organics.com/beneficial-nematodes.html

Now that we have our weapons, we need an attack plan. I would start with the DE. You can purchase a dust sprayer for the DE and apply it to your yard, using it sparingly. Do this on a calm day and put the dogs in the house. The areas where you want the most focus on are where the dogs run and spend most of their time and in shady damp areas where the fleas hang out. I use an old large spice bottle as a shaker. A light coating will do, does not have to be heavy but I would cover the whole yard. DE can be used any time of year but the best time is early spring and in the fall.  Some folks put several cups of DE in a regular garden sprayer and mix with water to apply. They have found this works equally well as dry spreading.

I would wait about a month before using the beneficial nematodes as the DE would probably kill them. The nematodes are mixed with water in a garden sprayer and applied according to the directions the company sends. The nematodes are only viable during the warm months of the year but are very effective at getting rid of fleas and flea larvae.


Natural Flea Preventatives

A natural preventative is to add about a capful of All Natural Apple Cider Vinegar to the pet’s water. Be sure the pet continues to drink the water after adding the Cider. Some pets may not want to drink it so start out with a smaller amount increasing gradually.

Plant pennyroyal around your yard. Just here and there where the dogs might lie in it.

Cedar Oil is a good repellant however some animals may be allergic. So do your homework. (http://www.cedaroil.com/CEDAR_L_Cedar_Oil_Shampoo_s/21.htm)

Rose Geranium essential oil works well to repel fleas and ticks too. Just a couple of drops on a collar will do.

A link to info on plants which will repel fleas and other pest.
(http://www.borghesegardens.com/pest.htm)



Fleas can be a real headache but with good management and learning how to care for your dog holistically we can win the flea battle and the best reward is, our dogs are not subjected to harmful toxic chemicals. This brings me to a few points about toxic chemicals and our dogs and families.  Toxic chemicals have been in our environment all too long and with them come allergies, skin problems, severe reactions and the worst, Cancer. Many chemical flea treatments have warning statements such as;

"Avoid contact with skin."
"Harmful or fatal if swallowed."
"This product is toxic to fish, birds and other wildlife."
"Harmful if absorbed through skin."
"Harmful if inhaled."
"Avoid contact with eyes, skin or clothing."
"Keep out of reach from children."
"Dust released by collar is a cholinesterase inhibitor." [Cholinesterase inhibitors lead to an accumulation of the neurotransmitter acetylcholine. This produces paralysis and then death in insects.]

Those are common precautionary statements on many readily available flea treatments. If it is so bad for a person, then what is it doing to your pet? There are countless stories of pets, and even people, who have suffered the ill effects of flea treatments.

I bring your attention to two links of valuable information regarding the use of toxic pesticides to control insects. Please take the time to read the information provided. Remember an informed decision is the best and only way to make decisions and knowledge is power, become a powerhouse.

The link below is an article by Whole Dog Journal on the hazards of using topical flea treatments on our dogs.
(http://www.apnm.org/publications/resources/fleachemfin.pdf)

The article Managing Fleas without Poisons, was written by Northwest Coalition For Alternatives To Pesticides/NCAP
PO Box 1393, Eugene Oregon 97440/541-344-5044
(http://www.mindfully.org/Pesticide/Fleas-Without-Poisons.htm)