Fleas are the bane of every dog owner’s existence. First, they irritate your pet with feverishly itchy bites. The scratching begins. Next, the fleas invade your home.
If your dog has fleas, your veterinarian will probably recommend something like Frontline or Advantage. If your home is infested, you might even be thinking about a professional exterminator. But what if you want to avoid cancer-linked chemicals like permethrin? How can you get rid of fleas naturally?
Before you resort to medications or an exterminator, here are six all-natural flea remedies that actually work:
- Traps (soapy water, electric, or glue) – kills adult fleas
- Diatomaceous earth – kills adult fleas
- Cedarwood and Neem oils – kills eggs, larvae, and adult fleas
- A Dawn Dishsoap bath – kills adult fleas and larvae
- Rosemary essential oil – repels adult fleas
- Apple cider vinegar – repels adult fleas
Before you get started, you should know that using just one or two of these tactics will not solve your flea problem. It takes the right combination of these remedies to eradicate a flea population effectively.
The fleas living on your dog are incredibly annoying, but the trick to fighting fleas naturally is to focus on the fleas living in your home first. Why? Because pretty much all home remedies you can use on your dog are only strong enough to repel fleas, not kill them. It’s impossible to win your fight against fleas without killing flea eggs, crippling the reproductive cycle.
Fortunately, there’s a way to cover all the bases: eggs, larvae, and adults. Follow our three-step strategy to attack every life stage and conquer your pup’s fleas the natural way.
Is your dog scratching flea bites raw? Read our bug bites guide to learn how to soothe itchy flea bites and jumpstart the healing process.
Step one: Reduce adult fleas with traps and diatomaceous earth
Set flea traps
Trapping only works for adult fleas, but it’s one of the best ways to put a dent in the population without chemicals. It’s simple: place dishes of soapy water underneath nightlights around your home (especially where around where your pet sleeps). The water doesn’t need to be sudsy — a simple drop of anything from Dawn to baby shampoo will cause the fleas to drown immediately. You’ll be surprised to see how many fleas you’ll catch overnight.
Electric and sticky-pad based flea traps are also available if you’re worried about spilling water. You’ll find a lot of mixed reviews online, but members of our team found both types effective in their own homes.
Spread diatomaceous earth around your house
Diatomaceous earth looks like talcum powder, but it’s actually an adult flea’s worst nightmare. Diatomaceous earth is filled with diatoms, which are the fossilized skeletal remains of unicellular plants. As it happens, those diatoms have razor-sharp edges that slice flea and tick exoskeletons, eventually causing death.
You can sprinkle diatomaceous earth inside, outside, on furniture, and even onto your dog’s fur — any area that fleas can hide. Continue reapplying dust until you’ve eradicated all the fleas, then simply vacuum it up.
Note: Don’t confuse diatomaceous earth with “Pool Grade” diatomaceous earth. The latter is not effective killing fleas.
Step two: Cripple the reproductive cycle with cedarwood and neem oils
Both cedarwood and neem oil are incredibly powerful against fleas. In fact, some pet owners claim they’ve seen cedarwood oil kill fleas on contact. The oils are both strong enough to dissolve the exoskeletons of eggs, larvae, and pupae.
You can either buy ready-made sprays or dilute essential oils in your own spray bottle. To use it effectively, regularly mist your carpet, furniture, and other places that fleas could be hiding. Some solutions are diluted enough to use directly on your dog — just make sure you check the label to be sure it’s safe.
Step three: Keep the fleas off your dog
Bathe your dog with a Dawn flea shampoo
It’s not as simple as popping a pill, but giving your dog a daily soapy bath is one of the best ways to kill fleas that are on your dog. Pro tip: Make sure that you fill up your bath enough to cover as much of your dog’s legs and underbelly as possible. This way, the fleas in key areas are completely submerged in soapy water. After about 10 minutes of soaking, use a flea comb to remove the dead carcasses that haven’t already dropped to the bottom of the tub.
Apple Cider Vinegar
Despite popular belief, apple cider vinegar isn’t strong enough to kill fleas in any stage of life. At best, it’s a repellent. Fleas (and other pests) hate the smell of vinegar, but don’t expect them to leave your pup in droves.
There are a few different ways to use apple cider vinegar against fleas. One is to mix a solution of one part unfiltered apple cider and one part water and spritz your dog’s coat. The other is to repeatedly dip your flea comb in pure vinegar as you groom. Just know that your dog probably hates the smell of vinegar as much as the fleas.
When to Use Professional Flea Control
Fleas reproduce like mad. They only live about 90 days, but a single flea can lay up to 60 eggs per day. Here’s the real kicker: The hibernating cocoon can survive an entire without feeding.
Depending on the time and effort you can dedicate to natural extermination methods, you might not be able to control flea reproduction. A good rule of thumb is that if you don’t see a drastic drop in fleas within a couple of weeks, it’s time to call the exterminator.
According to Home Advisor, an exterminator could charge anywhere from $75 to $400 for the inspection and first-round treatment. If required, a second treatment could cost an additional $200.
Flea Remedy FAQs
Does Dawn kill fleas?
Dawn itself doesn’t kill fleas, but a Dawn flea dip will drown them. Dawn, or any dish soap, kills fleas by reducing the surface tension of the water. It also prevents insects’ cuticles from repelling water, which causes them to breathe the water and suffocate.
Does coconut oil kill fleas on dogs?
Coconut oil contains a saturated fatty acid called lauric acid. While lauric acid is known to repel fleas, it will not kill them. Dousing your dog’s fur in coconut oil might work wonders for his or her coat, but it’s not an effective flea remedy.
How long does Salt take to kill fleas?
Like diatomaceous earth, salt can kill adult fleas by damaging their exoskeleton. Finely ground salt can work its magic within 12-48 hours, but it’s important to remember that salt can also irritate your pet. Make sure to keep your dog away from the area while it’s being treated.