Every year, pet owners struggle to keep the fleas away from their four-legged friends. If you prefer all-natural solutions to store-bought chemicals, then flea season can be even more challenging. With so many treatments that aren’t pet-safe, it’s hard to find a pet-friendly solution that actually works. If you want to beat the fleas this summer, we’ll show you some natural flea remedies along with a few ways to avoid an infestation!
Natural Flea Remedies
Fleas are wingless parasites that have great jumping ability, enabling them to easily locate and ambush your pets. They feed on blood, and female fleas consume roughly 15 times their body weight each day. They excrete the blood, which dries to form what is commonly referred to as “flea dirt.” This serves as food for flea larvae. Because they are so small, they are difficult to detect, therefore, treat. You might feel outnumbered and fear it’s a losing battle, but there are effective ways to combat them.
Unfun Fact: One adult female flea will lay a total of 2,000 eggs over her lifetime!
Preventing Fleas In The First Place
The best flea prevention targets places where fleas live. As long as fleas are living in your yard, your pets will constantly be plagued by them. While your pet may pick up a few stray fleas out in the dry, sunny areas of your lawn, their breeding grounds are in damp, shady spots like flower beds or underneath your porch or the doghouse.
Combatting Fleas Outdoors
- Keep your lawn well mowed so that there are fewer places for fleas to hide.
- Weed often. The same goes for flower beds and shaded areas – fewer weeds means fewer fleas.
- If you’ve had flea infestations before, the best solution may be to apply food-grade diatomaceous earth to the fleas’ favorite haunts. Diatomaceous earth is a natural powder made up of finely crushed diatoms (a shell-like matter), which works by dehydrating the fleas. Sprinkle in sandy patches and shaded areas. Caution: the fine powder can be bothersome to some with respiratory sensitivities—you have to be careful not to breathe it in.
- Try pyrethrin dust. Pyrethrin is a natural insecticide that comes from flowers. Scatter it in flea-prone spots to kill existing fleas and prevent future infestations. You can also grow your own pyrethrum. Plant these flowers around your home to repel fleas or harvest the flowers, dry them and crush them to make your own pyrethrin dust. You can find pyrethrum at your garden center under the name “painted daises” or Chrysanthemum cinerariaefolium.
IMPORTANT NOTE: Pyrethrin is toxic to cats, so whether you buy it or make your own, never apply it to your cat or his bedding. If you have an indoor-outdoor cat that frequents your garden beds or other flea hotspots, you may want to keep the cat indoors for a few days after treatment or avoid using pyrethrin altogether. Read more here.
Combatting Fleas Indoors
- The best defense is cleanliness. Wash your pet’s bedding and vacuum your home each week to pick up eggs and larvae that have found their way indoors. If possible, scatter a handful of fresh cedar chips in your pet’s bedding to help repel fleas.
- You can also make your pet a DIY flea collar with essential oils. However, you should always do your homework before choosing an oil for your pet. Cedar oil and lavender oil are two pet-friendly options. To use them, add 5 drops of oil to a tablespoon of water, and then dab the solution on a collar or bandana that your pet can wear. ONLY for external use.
What If You Have A Flea Infestation?
If you have a flea infestation, the key to success is persistence. Fleas lay eggs at an amazing rate – one adult female will lay 20 to 50 eggs each day for a total of 2,000 eggs over her lifetime. To keep up with the flea eggs, vacuum your home thoroughly every day and dispose of the vacuum bag after each session.
Here are more flea-busting tips:
- In hard-to-clean spots, like carpets or area rugs, scatter salt. Salt dries out fleas just like diatomaceous earth, but it’s less messy, and unlike diatomaceous earth, it doesn’t pose a respiratory threat when used indoors.
- Borax powder is also effective against fleas and their larvae. Sprinkle borax powder (not to be confused with boric acid!), such as 20 Mule Team, onto carpets and heavily trafficked areas, work it in with a stiff-bristled broom and close off the area for the night so pets and children cannot access. Then vacuum it up in the morning and dispose of the vacuum bag in a dumpster or away from your home.
- On your pets, a simple soap-and-water bath is the best way to get rid of fleas fast. The fleas will rush towards your pet’s face to keep from drowning, so use a flea comb to remove the fleas. Dunk the comb in soapy water to trap the fleas so that you can dispose of them. Add cedar or lavender oil to your pet’s bathwater to help prevent a new infestation.
- Outdoors, continue using diatomaceous earth or pyrethrin dust to kill fleas. You can also use neem seed extract to make a mist that you can use indoors, outdoors or on your pet. This natural compound contains azadirachtin, which can kill fleas for up to two weeks. Neem seed isn’t good for children under three, however, so if you have young kids, avoid using it on your pets or spraying it where your children play. You can find it on Amazon or other sites where natural remedies are sold.
Try some of these remedies and enjoy a summer without all the scratching!
Amber Kanuckel is a freelance writer from rural Ohio who loves all things outdoors. She specializes in home, garden, environmental, and green living topics.