I've been an online writer for over nine years. My articles often focus on classical music, pet care, and classic books.
Dr. Mark, U of Missouri Veterinary Medicine grad with 40+ years of experience with dogs, exotics and livestock
Natural and Vegan-Friendly Flea Control for Dogs
We all love our pets and want to see them thrive, and we hate to see them itching. Not only that, but pet fleas will bite humans, too! However, if you read the instructions on flea control products for pets carefully, you will see warning signs.
Warning Signs on Flea Products
- "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.]
Can You Control for Fleas When You're Vegan?
If the products used in flea control aren't safe for you or your children to handle, what are those same products doing to your pets? Fleas are an age-old problem, and our ancestors dealt with them in vastly different ways than we do today. If you're ready to try some of these natural, effective ways to control fleas, then here's how!
Of all the ways to control fleas, two may be unacceptable to vegans. The first involves the introduction of nematodes to your garden. Nematodes are tiny, microscopic worms that feed on fleas. The second is the use of diatomaceous earth. Diatomaceous earth will kill snails, slugs, and garden worms. Everything else suggested in this article is completely vegan.
Pet Nutrition Is Vital to Flea Control
- Have your pet evaluated by a veterinarian who is sympathetic to natural remedies. Fleas will attack a pet whose health is not optimal before they will attack one in perfect health. Discuss your pet's nutrition and the use of nutritional supplements with your veterinarian.
- If all is well with your pet's health, consider adding brewers' yeast to your pet's diet, a little at a time, and watch carefully for skin allergies. While there is no hard scientific evidence for the effectiveness of brewers' yeast as a flea repellant, the substance's high nutritional value might be valuable as part of a multi-pronged approach to getting rid of fleas. If your pet's skin condition remains good, use the following dosage instructions: add 1 teaspoon per 30lbs of body weight. Decrease or increase accordingly based on your pet’s weight. Some pets love the taste of yeast; others will take it after a little coaxing.
- Some people believe that garlic is an effective natural flea treatment for dogs and cats, but the truth is that there is no conclusive evidence for its effectiveness. In fact, it can actually be toxic at certain dosages. A better alternative for a healthy dog diet is fruits and vegetables such as apples, blueberries, carrots, and cucumbers.
Cleanliness Is Next to Flealessness
- Steam clean or vacuum your carpet regularly. If your vacuum has bags, throw away the bag immediately after you finish vacuuming and take it outside immediately or burn it at once. Otherwise, dispose of the trash immediately.
- Wash your pet's bedding in hot water once a week, followed by a session in the dryer on high.
- Groom your pet daily with a flea comb.
- Bathing your pet more frequently than you regularly do can help with fleas, but it is not an instant remedy.
Control the Environment to Control Fleas
- Invest in a dehumidifier. Fleas need 70% humidity, and anything less will interrupt their life cycle. In arid areas, fewer than 5% of fleas live to adulthood. However, don't let the humidity get below 45% for too long—you need humidity in your environment to be healthy!
- Keep your indoor temperature below 70F. Hatched fleas cannot survive in cold conditions.
Healthy for You; Unhealthy for Fleas
Try some of these natural insect repellents to deter these parasites from finding your pet a tasty snack:
- Introduce nematodes into your garden. These microscopic worms are available at most garden shops, or you can buy them online. You need only a few, put into the shade. They multiply rapidly and will soon eat all the fleas!
- Plant Mentha Pulegium (also called Pennyroyal) in your yard if your pet goes outside. Once it's established, you need only pluck a few leaves and rub them in your hands, then stroke your pet. Like all species of the mint family, pennyroyal can be quite invasive, so it's best to plant it in a bed. You can also keep a leaf or two where your pet sleeps.
- Plant lavender around your garden. This is non-toxic and does not spread rapidly. You can use the flowers and leaves in your pet's bedding; also, you can put the leaves and flowers into the water and spray your pet and pet's bedding with it.
- Plant rosemary in your garden. Rosemary will grow with very little attention, and it's great to use in cooking, too!
- You can try sprinkling a small amount of diatomaceous earth on your pet's bedding and on the carpets. This is fossilized plant matter that is harmless to anything except insects. It resembles chalk dust and will also kill slugs and snails.
Things to Remember
- Nematodes have many benefits, so don't hesitate to try these highly useful worms. (Don't worry, you'll never see them!)
- Diatomaceous earth kills many insect pests but will also kill garden worms.
- Don't forget—garlic can be toxic to both dogs and cats at certain dosages!
- Cats do not metabolize essential oils properly, so never give a cat essential oils. Although there will be no symptoms in the short term, in the long term, toxicity will build up, and your beloved pet might die of a cause no one can identify.
- Don't drink tea made from pennyroyal. Don't use the dried herb because it can be poisonous to mammals. Only use fresh leaves and externally.
- Use caution when handling diatomaceous earth. Wear a mask and gloves to keep from inhaling it!
- Although many people suggest using dishwashing detergent to bathe your pets, it is not necessary to kill fleas (the water kills them), and the artificial fragrances and chemicals may cause your pet's skin to dry out. Repetition may lead to cracks or even bleeding in your pet's skin, which, of course, will attract more of these pesky parasites. Use a safe, non-toxic, mild soap instead.
- Can Garlic Help Keep My Dog's Fleas Away? | Vet Street
Although a lot of people believe it works, there is no evidence that garlic controls fleas. Dr. Marty Becker explains what will work — including natural options.
- People Foods to Avoid Feeding Your Pets | ASPCA
View the list of poisonous foods to avoid, including: chocolate, xylitol, alcohol, avocado, coffee, caffeine, citrus, coconut, coconut oil, grapes, raisin, macadamia nuts, milk and dairy.
- Adverse Reactions From Essential Oil-containing Natural Flea Products | J Vet Emerg Crit Care
Dogs and cats can experience significant adverse effects when exposed to plant-derived flea preventatives even when used according to label directions.
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
Question: How often should nematodes be used in the yard?
Answer: Depending on the severity of your flea infestation, it may be necessary to apply them every week to ten days until the problem is resolved. For a mild flea infestation, 1-2 treatments should suffice. For a heavy flea infestation, you may want to apply them every week until you have not seen any evidence of fleas for one month.
Question: Will diatomaceous earth also kill the nematodes?
Answer: The nematodes live in the soil, whereas the diatomaceous earth is applied on top of the soil. As long as you apply the nematodes after a rain, the diatomaceous earth should not affect them.
What Hints Do You Have for Controlling Fleas Naturally?
Susan Zutautas from Ontario, Canada on August 08, 2011:
I have been using brewers yeast added to my dogs (2 Newfoundland dogs) daily breakfast for 4 years now and they have never had fleas. I use brewers yeast powder that I purchase from my local health food store.