This article is the ultimate guide for anyone looking for natural dog flea treatments.
If your dog has fleas, there isn’t just one solution. We need to take a multi-pronged attack. But don’t panic; there is no need for harsh, expensive chemical flea control in dogs. If you discover a little problem, many good natural preventatives, and cures are far cheaper and won’t harm your dog, as we will explain in this article.
Best homemade flea medicine for dogs
There isn’t a one size fits all for flea treatment and prevention in dogs.
The steps you will need to take depend on many factors like where you live, how many other pets you have, where your dog spends time, how easy your home and garden are to keep flea-free, and ultimately, how healthy your dog is.
We truly believe that a healthy dog is the best protection against fleas. To this end, we aim to optimise their health through diet, physical activity, low toxin burden and emotional resilience.
But we can use some pretty useful ideas in addition to this approach.
Bath your dog
If there is an active flea attack, your dog needs a bath. Use a natural shampoo like those from Dermadog and rinse with apple cider vinegar. For apple cider vinegar, use 1 part vinegar to 10 parts water.
How to give a dog a flea bath
In reality, fleas aren’t great swimmers, so when submerged in water, they drown. This is why regular baths can be one of your best flea treatment and prevention weapons.
Whilst you can buy shampoos specifically designed for flea eradication, natural dog shampoos with essential oils do the trick just as well.
So, get your shampoo, a few towels, and your dog.
Disclaimer: This rarely ends up being just a dog bath; it’s usually a semi-owner bath too.
Steps to give your dog a flea bath:
- Encourage your dog into the bath or shower and soak their coat thoroughly with lukewarm water.
- Apply the recommended amount of shampoo or enough to get a good lather going.
- Massage the shampoo into your dog’s coat for a few minutes, then rinse thoroughly.
- Rinse from the back of the neck down the spine and underneath. Rinse the legs and tail last. Think about how you’d wash your car – start with the roof and go down.
- Use a jug of water to rinse your dog’s face, and hold the ears closed to prevent any water from getting into the ear canal. Remember, it’s water in the ears that makes your dog shake!
- Protect your dog’s eyes when rinsing their face, too – always use a clean microfibre cloth doused in water to rinse around those sensitive areas.
- If you’re trying to limit flooding in the bathroom, place a towel over your dog and allow them to shake inside the towel – otherwise, towel dry them as quickly as possible.
- Place plenty of towels on the floor to prevent slipping as your dog gets out of the bath or shower – for both dog and owner’s benefit.
Use a flea comb regularly
Flea-comb your dog’s coat between baths to get rid of any fleas.
Start from the top, working underneath and down the tail. Don’t forget to pay special attention around the neck, underbelly and base of the tail.
Wash your dog’s bedding in hot water and your usual laundry product weekly. The same goes for your bedding – and any blankets you have protecting your sofas!
We love the Ingenious Probiotics Laundry Detergent.
At least weekly, vacuum your carpets. Also, vacuum and mop any hard flooring around your home. We recommend using Ingenious Probiotics Floor Cleaner. Get into those little nooks and crannies – especially where your dog spends most of their time.
A flea’s life cycle can be many months, so these steps must be repeated for as long as you have an active infestation.
We would also recommend having carpets steamed/cleaned at least once or twice a year if you have pets – this is a good way to keep on top of potential flea issues!
Does garlic work on dog fleas?
A group of researchers in India placed crushed garlic around dog enclosures, and what they found was pretty interesting. There was a clear reduction in the number of fleas found on the dogs between week 1 and week 6 of this study. Based on this study, the researchers concluded that garlic could be an effective repellent for fleas.
Learn more about the benefits of garlic for dogs in our other blog.
Does a lemon spritz work?
Fleas don’t like lemon or citrus notes, so citrus-based repellent sprays seem to work a treat.
You can make your own lemon spritz with a few added ingredients.
- 1 lemon
- 2 sprigs of fresh rosemary
- 1 sprig of garden sage (Salvia officinalis)
- 1 quart of filtered water
How to make lemon spritz:
- Slice the lemon,
- Add the lemon, rosemary, and sage to a large glass bowl,
- Add a quarter of almost boiling water,
- Cover and steep overnight
- Strain the liquid into a spray bottle and refrigerate.
You can spray on your dog whenever they go outside. Be mindful the first time you apply it and monitor for any changes in behaviour. Cease using it if you are concerned.
Diatomaceous earth for fleas on dogs
Diatomaceous earth (DE) is a powder made from fossilised organisms called diatoms. It seems to break apart flea eggs and dry them out before they can grow into adult fleas.
How to use it
- Dust the powder all over your pet. Pay particular attention to the base of their tail, back, armpits and behind their ears.
- Sprinkle on their bedding, the floor underneath, your carpet, along floorboards, low-lying cupboards, everywhere.
- Leave for 2-3 days and vacuum.
- Please go easy with the amount you use in your house. It does kill baddies but can also kill your vacuum if you use too much.
- You may need to apply several times a month for severe infestations, as these little baddies could be anywhere. Moreover, their eggs hatch 7 – 21 days later, so a month will cover any adults you miss.
Pros and cons
DE is entirely natural and, therefore, safer than all chemical flea treatments.
It can irritate those with lung issues, so please wear a mask if you intend to use it.
For some dog owners, DE works a treat, but some can still fight the good fight. This is why we always say having a few weapons in your arsenal is better.
Best flea spray for dog fleas (natural)
Several essential oils are flea-repellent. To this end, we would suggest looking for flea sprays that contain one or some of the following:
- Clary sage
You would usually spray your dog whenever they go outside or head out for walks; the scent would repel any fleas from landing on your dog.
By repelling the fleas, they cannot latch on to feed, preventing flea-borne disease and reducing the available hosts to continue to their lifecycle.
If you’re not a whizz in the pantry, there are a few pre-made sprays that seem to do the trick:
- Dermadog – Insect Defence
Best flea powder for fleas on dogs (natural)
You can also purchase powders/blends that you add to your dog’s daily meal to help repel fleas.
- Dermadog Herbal Pinch Pot – Sprinkle and mix directly into food during spring and summer, or moisten herbs first with water, olive oil, or kefir. It can also be made into tea by steeping for ten minutes in hot water.
- Billy No Mates! CSJ’s Billy No Mates! is a natural mix of flea-repelling herbs and leaves. Simply sprinkle the herbs over your dog’s food.
- Proflax – Keep Off Me – Mix with dog’s regular food once daily or split into 2 meals per day for puppies over 6 months old only. For puppies, 6 – 12 months old, feed 50% of the recommended daily amount.
The best natural flea shampoo/soap
There are several products on the market. These are some favourites:
- Herbal Dog Co Flea Shampoo
- Dermadog Itchy Shampoo
- Little Beast Dog Shampoo Bar
- Aromacare Citrus Flea Defence: This is particularly useful for heavy infestations. While it contains several essential oils, it also contains sodium lauryl sulfate. We can’t say the ingredients list is completely natural, but it could get you out of a pickle.
Nematodes are tiny, naturally-occurring predators that live under the soil’s surface. Seen under a microscope, they look like short, non-segmented worms. Unlike chemical pesticides, nematodes do not harm animals, people, birds, plants, other beneficial insects or the environment. Still, they can be used in large numbers to destroy fleas over a wide area. Nematodes start destroying flea larvae within a day of being introduced to the environment, but it takes a couple of weeks for them to take full effect.
According to the Journal of Nematology, Entomopathogenic nematodes or beneficial nematodes are up to 90% effective in killing common pests, like fleas.
Best flea medicine for dogs without a vet prescription
Here at Dogs First, we do not advocate the typical chemical spot-on treatments.
However, there is a spot-on treatment that we do recommend.
Rhodeo from GreenVet in France – This product is made from geranium and provides strong repellent against fleas, mites, ticks, mosquitoes and flies.
What is the safest conventional flea treatment from the vet?
Well, it depends on what your definition of safe is.
The definition of safe is “to be protected from or not exposed to danger or risk.” With identified risk even by the manufacturers, we can’t state that there is a perfectly safe conventional flea treatment.
Data sheets for both spot-on and oral medications have stated the following side effects:
- Skin reactions such as hair loss, redness, itching and skin lesions may occur.
- Agitation and disorientation have also been reported.
- Excessive salivation and nervous signs such as incoordination, tremors and depression have been reported in dogs.
- Oral ingestion of spot-ons may result in gastrointestinal signs (vomiting and diarrhoea).
Oral medications have reported the following side effects:
- Gastrointestinal effects such as diarrhoea, vomiting, inappetence, and drooling were commonly observed in clinical trials.
- Lethargy, muscle tremor, ataxia and convulsions have been reported.
In addition, datasheets for conventional flea products state that “transmission of pathogens by these arthropods cannot be completely excluded.” This means these products can’t always protect dogs from flea-borne diseases.
Answers to Some Common Questions
1. Can I overdose my dog on chemical flea treatment?
Data sheets for chemical flea treatments indicate that nervous system disorders (such as twitching, tremors, ataxia, mydriasis, miosis, and lethargy) can occur in cases of overdose or licking of treated fur.
In addition, manufacturers state there is no known specific antidote for overdose, but administration of activated charcoal may be beneficial. Thanks for that guys; it’s super helpful.
2. Can a dog get fleas while on flea medication?
Conventional chemical flea treatments require a flea to bite the treated dog.
“To be exposed to the active substance, parasites must attach to the skin and commence feeding on the dog or cat.”
So, in the case of these treatments, your dog must “get” fleas for the product to work.
In addition, some veterinary guidelines suggest that imidacloprid containing spot-on treatments may be used to treat an active flea infestation; however, they should not be used as flea prevention.
So to confirm – these products aren’t advised if the dog hasn’t actually got fleas, and they don’t appear to be much use in preventing them either!
This is likely because these products do little to repel fleas, and we know the best form of protection against fleas is to repel them!
3. Do dogs need flea and tick medicine year round?
If you plan on using flea powder to protect against fleas, you would be looking to start this product a few weeks before flea season is in full swing.
For the most part, you would be looking at using your natural flea treatment protocol more commonly between spring and autumn and keeping a watchful eye during winter.
4. Can a dog die of fleas?
Very poorly, very young, or very old dogs can suffer complications from a flea infestation, which could be fatal. We always say a healthy dog is the best protection against fleas. Severe flea infestations just aren’t that common in healthy dogs.
Many of us are told that our dogs need regular chemical flea treatments, but the reality is vets don’t advise them unless dogs have an active infestation, and they do little to prevent an infestation in the first place. For the product to work, a dog must “get” fleas. These products also come with a shopping list of unwanted side effects, from tremors to vomiting and skin lesions to death.
In order to avoid flea-borne disease, we want to repel fleas, which can be achieved through much safer means.
A healthy dog is still the best protection against any parasite. Still, we hope our natural approaches to flea treatment and prevention offer a safer solution to one of the most common concerns a dog owner has.