5 Ways to Get Rid of Fleas Without Chemicals
Living on the beach and owning a dog, I was reluctant to put chemicals on my dog that might affect her health and damage our environment. According to the distributors, fipronil (Frontline) is not soluble in water and should not wash off. Really? Even with daily swims in the ocean?
I have never been a big proponent of subjecting my dog to fleas, but I'm also reluctant to subject her to the “safe” chemicals—which are often applied much more frequently than the labels recommend. (The ASPCA has even issued a warning about overusing the spot-on treatments.)
I can’t just get rid of the fleas in the environment, because every time she plays with the neighborhood dogs on the beach she gets infested again. Even if I had trusted those chemicals on my dog, the cost was still unreasonable. I wanted, and she needed, something different.
I wanted a non-toxic method of flea control that would provide her with some relief. Here are a few of the best.
Non-Toxic Methods of Flea Control
- Bathing and Vinegar
- Diotemaceous Earth
1. The Flea Comb
This is natural, simple, cheap, and easy to use, but if you do not like dealing with fleas and are upset when you notice even a few, this is not your best choice.
If you do not choose to go the more expensive route of natural control, getting control of fleas is a lot of work. (That is why there are so many flea control chemicals on the market! Dog ownership prior to the spot on-drugs was a major challenge.)
If you choose not to use those chemicals the first step in getting control of the fleas is a good flea comb. You can run the comb through her hair several times a day and remove almost all of the adults. I like to drop them in dishwashing soap as I comb them out so that they cannot jump off and get on to her later. If you can keep the teeth of the comb moist as you run it through the hair you will have a lot better “catch”.
(Some clients hate the sight of fleas, so this method does not work for everyone or all types of dogs.)
2. Bathing and White Vinegar
You can control the flea population (but not totally eliminate it) by bathing your dog. There are several reasons that this only helps.
How Bathing and White Vinegar Help Eliminate Fleas
- Adult fleas only spend part of their lives on the dog, and the majority of fleas out there are still eggs, larva, and pupae. If she has a special place she likes to lie you can try washing it with hot water every week.
- You can also try vacuuming her bedding or wherever she sleeps to pick up eggs and larva.
- Try keeping the grass short and if it is dry and bright fewer fleas will survive.
- You can try to spray her down with vinegar after shampooing to provide a more long-lasting deterrent.
Unfortunately, the adults only spend a small portion of their lives on the dog, jumping on and sucking blood whenever they feel the need. One female lays between 400-500 eggs where your dog likes to sleep. Those larva develop and can pupate and be around for a year so it is really impossible to get rid of this problem with just a comb, bathing, or a natural flea spray like vinegar.
Even Dr. Bruce Fogle, a veterinarian who writes about natural dog care, recommends cleaning with a borate solution to reduce the flea population in the carpets. (Don’t use laundry grade borax though because it can cause poisoning.)
Feeding garlic may also be helpful and, if given with Brewers yeast, works even more effectively.
Unfortunately no one can tell you the exact amount to give, and since no one can patent garlic no big pharmaceutical companies are doing research in this area. A clove of garlic is enough for a 10 to 30 pound dog but larger dogs can eat more safely.
Several web sites out there claim that garlic is toxic. They are not correct. It is helpful, not harmful, but will probably not eliminate your flea problem by itself.
4. Diotemaceous Earth
Another alternative is diatomaceous earth. It is actually made up of tiny skeletons that dry out the outer layer of the fleas so that they will die from dehydration. It is a natural product but can still cause problems if it is inhaled so you have to be careful when applying it.
The product is spread around the yard like a chemical flea powder and here in the tropics, where it rains almost every day, I have not had good results. It is a lot more appropriate for people who live in an arid area or have their pets confined to the house; some owners even put it right on the dogs skin, like a chemical flea powder.
It can irritate the eyes so be careful!
If you have tried several of these procedures and nothing has worked there are also nematodes for sale that will eat the young fleas before they ever develop and jump onto your dog. Nematodes are tiny round worms and, although some types are parasites, there are others that eat fleas and the other bugs in your garden. Nematodes are a great option for an outside dog that spends time in the yard but the nematodes need to be sprayed (reapplied) periodically because they die off.
Are you amazed at all the choices? There are more products available but these are 5 of the best and most effective.
Like most things in life, a lot of things are available when no one thing works well. If you can live with the problem, and want to subject your dog to the itching, a flea comb is the easiest and cheapest method to control these bugs. If you can´t even stand the idea of a flea being on your dog, the chemical flea control products are most effective, but also the most dangerous.
If you want to fight, these are a few of the alternatives. Some dogs are really miserable when they have this problem, so go ahead and get started today.
This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. It is not meant to substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, or formal and individualized advice from a veterinary medical professional. Animals exhibiting signs and symptoms of distress should be seen by a veterinarian immediately.
Questions & Answers
What is the water-vinegar ratio for flea repellent? Will the vinegar mix work for cats too?
I use a 50% solution (half water, half vinegar) because it is mild enough to be used in the ears for cleaning. If the dog has open sores on the skin from scratching it will burn, so be careful.
I do not use it on cats. Cats lick themselves, and the ingestion of too much vinegar will affect the bodies pH.Helpful 9