There are no safe, natural quick fixes for fleas. It takes diligence and work to eliminate infestations naturally. Prevention measures are your best defense for holistic flea control and natural treatment in cats and dogs.
The best way to avoid flea infestations on your pet is to ensure he is healthy with a fully functional immune system. All parasites are opportunists, they can attack any animal but will only reach infestation levels if the host is weakened or the environment is saturated with them. A few flea bites won’t result in serious reaction for a healthy dog or cat because their body can more effectively control histamine response (unless a severe flea allergy is present). If your pet is infested with fleas, it is crucial that he be checked by a veterinarian before you do anything else.
Nurturing a Healthy Pet Immune System
The overall health and immunity of your pet depends upon actions you’re probably taking everyday anyway:
- Feed a high quality diet
- Maintain a healthy weight
- Daily exercise
Herbal Protection From Fleas
There are herbal dietary supplements that may assist your pet’s body in functioning at optimum efficiency levels, which in turn allows them to more effectively defend themselves. Internal cleansing facilitates the elimination of waste and some herbs also offer antihistamine properties or slowed histamine release. I have successfully used Nettle, Dandelion, and Chrysanthemum leucanthemum (Oxeye Daisy) combined with calcium montmorillonite clay and mixed into food for this purpose.
The trick to effective herbal flea rinses (tea shampoo) is in using fresh ingredients with fully active components. Many herbs can be found growing wild or you can cultivate them yourself. If you can’t find an ingredient in its fresh form you can still use a high quality dry substitution for natural flea remedies, but a higher concentration will be required for a similar effect. We’ve used dry herbs from Starwest Botanicals with excellent results and many of their herbs are available in bulk.
A natural flea rinse or shampoo may include ingredients that soothe itchy, inflamed skin, while also helping to disinfect and heal open flea bites (as with our recipe below).
Herbal Flea Tea Remedy Recipe
© Formulated by AllNaturalPetCare.com
In a large bowl combine:
2 cups Nettles (Urtica dioica)
2 cups Feverfew Flowers (Tanacetum parthenium / Chrysanthemum parthenium)
2 cups Oxeye Daisy Flowers (Chrysanthemum leucanthemum)
2 cups Mullein Flowers (Verbascum thapsus)
1 cup Calendula Flowers (Calendula officinalis) Exclude for pregnant dogs
1 cup Thyme (Thymus vulgaris)
2 cups whole Yarrow (Achillea millefolium)
1 cup Lavender (Lavandula angustifolia)
3/4 cup freshly ground Celery or Dill Seed
1/4 cup Sage
1 cup Aloe juice
Fresh lemon peal of 1 lemon Exclude for seniors & puppies
Pour enough boiling water over mixture to cover all ingredients. Steep until cool. Pour through a fine strainer or cheesecloth. Pour over fur, avoiding the face and eyes. Leave the rinse on your pet until it is almost dry, then (while combing) wash it out far away from your residence. Some of the ingredients only paralyze fleas so it’s important to prevent recovered fleas from re-infesting your pet and home. The tea will lose it’s potency quickly so storing isn’t recommended. You can pour leftover tea around your yard.
You can combine many of these ingredients in their dry form for a natural flea repellant powder for pets or for use around the home. However, the potency is lost quickly and may only have limited repelling abilities. Frequent vacuuming and steam cleaning will help rid your home of fleas. You may safely use food grade Diatomaceous Earth in carpets if you keep your pet in another location until the carpet has been thoroughly vacuumed.
Essential Oil Flea Repellants
Dogs: Very weak blends of high quality essential oils may be used in flea treatments for canines. The oils are intended to repel fleas, not kill them, and must be applied at least weekly. Kristen Leigh Bell, author of Holistic Aromatherapy for Animals, suggests Clary Sage (Salvia sclarea), Lemon (Citrus limon), Citronella (Cymbopogon nardus), Grapefruit Seed Extract, and Peppermint (Mentha piperita).
Cats: Ms. Bell advises us to use hydrosols (which should not be confused with potent essential oils) to repel fleas from felines. Suggested hydrosols include Lavender (Lavandula angustifolia), Lemon Verbena (Lippia citriadora) and Rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis). Cats can be highly sensitive to essential oils so be sure to research. You may also wish to avoid using essential oils on dogs if there is a cat in the home.
You can add these essential oils to your steam cleaning solution for extra effectiveness as well.
Controversial Natural Flea Treatments
Diatomaceous Earth is an alarmingly common recommendation that we don’t endorse for external application. Even food grade Diatomaceous Earth can cause respiratory issues and irritate the eyes and skin. Because of its penetrating nature, it can damage mucus membranes and seriously irritate or permanently damage the eyes. Since it doesn’t kill fleas at all stages, it has to be reapplied for as many as 60 days to eliminate an infestation, which increases the risk due to long-term exposure. Keep in mind that material safety datasheets are written around human use and minimum amounts of Diatomaceous Earth in the environment when it is handled. The safety rating isn’t based on sticking your nose into it and inhaling like a pet will. Food grade Diatomaceous Earth is effective against the more vulnerable internal parasites and as long as it has been dampened to prevent dust, it’s safe for ingestion only.
Borax (borates) may repel or kill fleas, but that’s because it is toxic. It may make your pet sick or even kill him.
Garlic is often recommended to deter fleas or other parasites. The general consensus is a tiny amount of freshly crushed garlic occasionally will not negatively effect most dogs. It doesn’t have to be (and shouldn’t be) used to a point where the dog smells like garlic. Too much garlic over a longer period of time may be toxic or cause Heinz Body Anemia. Opinions of garlic’s effectiveness as a flea treatment are varied. Some say fleas don’t like it in the bloodstream, others say the smell repels fleas, while others say it simply boosts the immune system. There are also professionals who say it has no effect at all on fleas.
Brewer’s Yeast and vitamin B Complex Supplements may be recommended as a nutritional flea deterrent but evidence of its ability to do so is sketchy. Since many dogs are allergic to Brewer’s Yeast, caution is recommended.
“Bath, bath and bath some more” is commonly advised to eliminate fleas on your pet. While bathing with herbal rinses and shampoos can be very effective, it’s counterproductive to overuse them. Bathing too often may cause an imbalance of the skin’s microbial colonies and dry it out.
Toxic Herbs & Essential Oils are sometimes recommended for natural flea control. While often used as an ingredient in natural flea treatments, Pennyroyal is toxic to animals, especially when ingested. Other herbs/essential oils to avoid are Rue, Thuja, cedar, and Wormwood.
With optimum health, effort and diligence, you can naturally protect your pet and home from flea infestations with the advantage of avoiding harsh chemicals. It’s important to remember that a flea control product labelled ‘natural’ isn’t necessarily safer, and what’s safe for a human isn’t necessarily safe for a dog or cat. Thorough research through reputable sources of information is necessary before using any product, including natural flea remedies. Be wary of what you read online and when in doubt, consult a pet health professional (standard, holistic, or naturophathic).
Sudekum et al. Pennyroyal Oil Toxicosis in a Dog. 1992.
Tilford, Gregory. Wulff, Mary. Herbs for Pets: The Natural Way to Enhance Your Pet’s Life. 2009.
Bell, Kristen Leigh. Holistic Aromatherapy for Animals: A Comprehensive Guide to the Use of Essential Oils & Hydrosols with Animals. 2002.
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