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2017 Flea & Tick Survival Guide

Natural Home Remedies for Flea and Tick Control

While we may not be able to roll back the global warming trend that is making pest season longer in some parts of the country, there are easier, softer ways to treat parasites, and ways in which we can avoid some of the worst pests.


A lot of people are reluctant to use chemical flea treatments because of the possibility of a toxic reaction with the skin. "If it isn't safe for my children, how can it be safe for my pet?" they ask. Unless it is a full blown flea infestation, you may have good results by using gentler and safer methods for flea eradication and control.



1. Juice 'em Away

Fleas are known to be repelled by citrus. The juice from a freshly squeezed orange or lemon can be lightly rubbed onto your pet's fur to ward off the buggers. 


Take note that oil extracts from lemons and oranges (and any citrus) are not safe for cats and dogs at all. The oil that is extracted from the rind of the citrus fruit contains limonene, an effective insect repellent as well as an all purpose household cleaner. Limonene is also irritating to the skin, and when ingested, can cause liver damage in cats and dogs. Limonene is found in household cleaning products and insect sprays, in home fragrance products, and may be found in some topical products (i.e., for use on skin). Take great care in using citrus oil products only in areas of the home your pets cannot reach, and do not use it on yourself if your pets will be licking you, or on your pets' hair or skin in any form. The oil is specific to the cells within the rind of the fruit and can only be extracted using specialty equipment, and so is not found in the fresh-squeezed juice of the fruit. If your pet licks a little of the juice off of his fur, there is very little risk of harm — always keeping in mind that allergies can happen to anyone. If your pet behaves oddly after using or eating anything different, discontinue its use immediately. 


2. Rub-a-Dub Tub

Remember the old cartoons where dogs would jump into water to relieve themselves of fleas? Water really does work. Since fleas do not grasp and hold onto the hair shafts, they fall off in the water and drown. A good dip in a tub of water will wash away most, if not all, of the fleas on your pet. Using a gentle pet shampoo or a little bit of regular dish liquid, along with a thorough brushing (an outdoor brushing is best), will go a long way toward ridding your pet's body of fleas.


3. A Clean Home is a Happy Home

Around the house, laundering pet beds and furniture covers, and vacuuming and disinfecting the floors — not just around your pet's living spaces but all over — will help to control the population of fleas (just make sure you do not use products with volatile organic compounds). Always dump the bag or cannister of the vacuum, since fleas can continue to live inside the container.


4. Flea vs. Predator

In the yard, you might consider adding a natural predator of fleas. Nematodes are small worms that feed off of flea larva, and are easy to find at garden stores or pet shops. They are highly effective, with a noticable improvement in flea popualation within two days. Keep in mind that the type of nematode that is being recommended here is termed a "beneficial" nematode. It is not the type that is known for infecting animals, such as the heartworm.


Lady bugs can also be found at your local gardening shop, and are also very effective. Lady bugs feast on soft bodied bugs like fleas, and a mature lady bug can eat an average of 50 insects a day. Finally, fire ants are known to eat flea larvae, so if you have them in your yard, you may want to practice some controlled fire ant management that limits them to some areas of the yard rather than complete eradification of them.


5. Blades of Fury

Ticks hang out in tall grass and use the opportunity to grab on to passersby when they feel body warmth — which they are very good at doing. If you are going to be spending time in wooded or grassy areas with your dog, you might want to fashion some cover-up clothing for your dog in order to avoid ticks. An old t-shirt can be altered to fit your dog's body, and old socks can be cut to make "leg warmers." This may not entirely prevent ticks from making their way onto your dog, but it may work to keep most of them off since they have nothing to latch onto, and will slow the rest down so they do not spend as much time on your dog's skin (the longer ticks stay on the skin, the more likely they are to transmit disease).


6. Essential Oils

Because ticks carry dangerous bacteria, repelling them is a priority. One of the natural repellents that a lot of people have success with is rose geranium oil, which can be applied to your dog's collar. Do NOT use rose geranium oil on your cat, though. Cats can have a bad reaction to essential oils, primarily because they spend a lot of time grooming, which means that anything on their skin goes into their mouth. With ticks, the best thing you might do is to check your pet a few times a day when you are in an area that has ticks, and remove them promptly. Proper technique is important for removing ticks, so make sure that you consult a veterinarian before doing it yourself if you are not completely sure of how to do it.


Now that you have a few alternate means of combating fleas and ticks, you can feel confident that your pets will remain bug-free throughout the year — especially in the summertime, when there are so many nasty critters to worry about.


*This article has been revised and updated, June 10, 2015



Image: Melody.loves.you / via Flickr


Comments  22

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  • Diatomaceous earth
    05/17/2012 03:30pm

    Here is another non-toxic way to combat fleas that I am surprised to see omitted from this article since it is so effective:

    "Diatomite is used as an insecticide, due to its physico-sorptive properties.[8] The fine powder absorbs lipids from the waxy outer layer of insects' exoskeletons, causing them to dehydrate.[9] Arthropods die as a result of the water pressure deficiency, based on Fick's law of diffusion."

    I use it around the outside of my house, and on my lawn and garden.

  • 08/14/2012 03:01am

    I use DE also put it on your Dogs coat and rub it in lightly put in on their dry food depending on the size a table spoon for large dogs and I use it for myself once a week I drink a Tablespoon in 4 Oz's of water then another glass of water to get rid of the chalky taste

  • 03/13/2013 04:01am

    I'm in vet school so I asked my professor about using DE. They weren't too enthusiastic because there has been some link to DE use and mesothelioma-like symptoms. I wish I had more details to share. There might not be the same ill effects when ingested, but they were concerned that that the DE would irritate the GI tract as it was killing the parasites. I've used DE around the house when I lived in Houston and fleas seemed to be coming up through the floor boards (feral cats lived under the house). I think it helps to have it dusted in the cracks of thresh holds as well to keep ants out and rubbed into carpet to kill the flea larva that live there. If you go to the Comfortis website, there is a video that explains the flea cycle. It was made by my professor, Dr. Dryden who is a flea expert. It's pretty useful in understanding their lifecycle as a way of helping to reduce the parasite load.

  • 03/24/2014 07:08pm

    Thanks so much for sharing. I've used DE some, but not often. I was first told that DE was inhaled by the fleas and it's coarse texture would damage the lungs. I did try it a couple of times but I did think that if it harmed fleas lungs, would it do the same to my babies? I've since research and found out that it causes dehydration in the flea...but still......not comfortable with it's use

  • 05/18/2016 12:41am

    Boric acid may work, or Borax laundy powder, for around the house (not on the pet). Here are some more natural ways to check out... http://www.vet-organics.com/natural-flea-control-for-your-dog-or-cat/

    (I've also heard feeding raw garlic to your dog can make their blood less attractive to pests.)

  • 05/18/2016 12:45am

    scratch my comment about garlic... I read @bjw414 's comment and now know it's bad for dogs, just like onions, grapes and a slew of other things....that important advice checks out here: http://www.petpoisonhelpline.com/poison/garlic/ Do double check any advice you read with several sources before trying on your furbabes.

  • 05/29/2013 02:12am

    Just remember when using this to sprinkle it on the lawn and garden and water it in first to kill off the pests.

  • 05/20/2015 09:50pm

    How do you apply the diatomaceous earth around your yard?

  • fleas
    08/02/2012 10:01pm

    A friend of mine puts garlic in her pet's food and says she never has had any trouble with fleas...don't know about ticks, we don't really have a big problem here with them.

  • 04/11/2016 02:48pm




  • 05/18/2016 12:42am

    thanks for sharing this. I knew onions were bad for dogs, but I thought garlic was good for detering pests. Now I know better!

  • 10/09/2012 04:08pm

    Why would you ingest the DE?

  • 03/13/2013 04:06am

    Some people find that by ingesting DE, the internal parasites are abraded and thereby killed. There are conflicting thoughts on this because the safety hasn't been tested sufficiently. I did read one research paper that said that DE that was used in poultry operations led to increased weight gain and better egg production. Presumably this is because the animal could use more of their energy for themselves instead of sharing it with the intestinal worms. However, if the DE is strong enough to scratch up the worms (which are much tougher than the GI tract lining), then they are possibly irritating the lining of the dogs intestines. I wouldn't recommend doing it every day, and would still take the dog to the vet for yearly fecal exams. However, this is all probably not necessary for intestinal parasite though since the monthly heart worm preventative also kills most intestinal parasites.

  • Parasites - external
    04/15/2013 05:11pm

    Animals are caught between a rock and a hard place. Unprotected they get
    serious parasitic diseases, tapeworm, Lyme disease & anemia from fleas
    ticks, other parasites; whereas, if they use parasite medications, they can
    get horrendous side effects like seizures, violent vomiting and death.
    I'd like you to take look at an innovative technology that could replace
    dangerous flea medications and protect our precious pets from the ravages
    of fleas, ticks & other external parasites. This technology has swept Europe.
    The company has sold 20 million discs in 10 years, with not a single solitary
    return! And there is no ongoing expense as with Frontline, Hartz etc. that
    cost a few hundred dollars a year.
    This product has just been introduced to America and Canada & is
    spreading like wildfire to replace dangerous medications. You can not only
    protect your own pets, but choose to help others prevent the heartbreak of
    losing their pets by spreading the word.


    Jo Roark
    Senior Representative
    [email protected]
    Skype: jo.roark2

  • 03/03/2016 01:33am

    I know this is a really old article and comment thread but I couldn't resist responding to this comment.

    If you are interested in using the Pet Protector product please do your research. The product claims to use scalar waves. What are scalar waves? Look it up. How are scalar waves generated in general? How does this device produce scalar waves?

    Here are a couple of red flags that I noticed when I read the companies information and visited the website. First, all of the descriptions of the product starts with why all of the other products are terrible instead of talking about how well this product works. Second, there is a very standard style of study that is done when working with pest repellents. You have a box full of whatever pest you are trying to affect, then you add the repelling device or chemical and show, visually, that the bugs are repelled by the product. It is a very easy and relatively cheap study that can be recorded and placed in their ads or their website. That video does not exist. If it does exist, please provide a link to it.

    The official product testing report on their website is a very poorly designed study. Actually, it is a very well-designed study if the goal is to trick people into buying your product. The study is basically a field trial where a number of animals are fitted with the device and monitored for tick and parasitic infections. Seems reasonable, right? And the vast majority of the animals did not have any ticks or parasitic infections. But, they did not have a control group. A control group would have been a group of animals of similar composition (animal type, breeds, age, location) that did not have any flea or tick protection. That would answer the question as to whether the device was more effective than having nothing at all. I have three dogs and we have gone 10 years with no protection and no fleas or ticks.

    Also, why does it expire in 2 or 4 years (I've seen both claims)? I guess that gets back to how it works. What's funny is that in the study report, they mentioned that the animals were quarantined for 15 days after the installation of the Pet Protector disc because, "This would give the Scalar and magnetic waves generated by the disc the time they need to build up a protective, impenetrable shield around the animals' bodies; fully protecting it from external parasites." What? It takes fifteen days for scalar waves to cover the animal? And the waves are impenetrable? Some basic understanding of high school level science would have prevented that sentence from being written.

    Anyway, buyer beware.

  • Garlic and Onions
    06/23/2013 02:52pm

    Here the pet section of webmd say garlic and onions are toxic to dogs - so why would I feed them that for fleas? Probably shouldn't be telling people to do this.


    09/18/2013 12:41am

    For centuries several natural remedies such and citrus, D.E., garlic, and Neem oil have been used for a variety of ailments for both humans and our pets. Any of these things CAN be used responsibly with taking into account the size and weight of your animal. You can't give a doberman the same dose as a small maltese and you certainly need to be more aware of cats as they're very different from dogs and much smaller. By taking these things into account and doing research ie; not only quoting things from web md you can find several articles related to the uses of these natural products on animals and in your household. For instance essential oils must be diluted when using them on our animals, there are some that are safer than others but if your not sure then dilute them with good oils such as olive oil (evoo) especially for cats this will keep the hair balls down too, or making them into a spray using the essential oil and water. Annicillin that is the naturally occuring volitile oil in garlic has antiviral, antiseptic, and antibiotic properties AND shouldn't be overlooked. It can be highly beneficial for both animals and humans and has been used for hundreds of years. It is only safe to use on your pet in SMALL QUANTITIES with care again to the size and weight of your pet. I cannot give my cat the same dose as myself or my dogs and the fresher the garlic the better but in small doses otherwise it can upset the stomach just like adults take pills with meals NOT without.
    I have found food grade D.E. to be a useful product it is safe to use in small doses and responsibly. If your going to use it on your floors and in your pets bed let it sit there for hours or overnight if possible while you and your pet are somewhere else then come back and vacum it up. It CAN be irritating to the airways if your not careful, remember our animals are not 5ft tall so there air is usually our foot traffic area and we need to keep that clean. There are several places to find researched articles on the subject but this is one link that has references to a couple others if you want more information. http://www.cherylsherbs.com/many_uses_of_diatomaceous_earth.htm
    Neem oil can be used for household insect control but NOT USED FOR DIRECT APPLICATION TO PET. A household insect spray with a high quality therapeutic grade neem essential oil and water (approximetly 12 drops to a 1oz spray bottle of water)can be used but keep in mind essential oils and water do not stay mixed so frequently shaking it during and before use is the only way to re-mix the ingredients. It can be used on bedding, floors and even the essential oils can be ADDED (DILUTED) to natural shampoos to deter further insect growth keeping in mind that less is more and smaller dilutions are safer. Diluting the essential oils is and knowing the properties and health warnings of any herbal product is always recomennded before use because after all, its your pet.

  • Wondercide
    01/30/2014 03:41am

    I have found great success when using the all-natural "Wondercide" product on my golden, Bosco. No harmful toxins, and it has a nice scent, too.

  • 07/19/2016 05:01pm

    We have tried the Wondercide too, but unfortunately the smell is so strong, our dog just rolled and rolled to get it off and came home with 14 ticks!
    Same with essential oils. Dogs don't like to smell like perfume.
    Will there ever be an answer to how to protect our pets, what to feed them that doesn't give them cancer, and their vaccines which also give them cancer?
    Very frustrating!

  • Diatomaceous earth works!
    12/06/2015 05:16pm

    I'd like to offer another vote for Diatomaceous Earth. We tried various natural treatments for several years, nothing was effective. We live in an area with a major tick problem, and we found that applying food grade diatomaceous earth to our dog's coat to be completely effective. It's been 2-3 weeks since application and we have found no ticks attached and only one unattached.

  • what about misquito
    04/19/2016 01:26pm

    What is the natural repellent for misquitos so we do not have to do heart worm poisons?

  • Flea and Tick Prevention
    09/09/2016 06:20am

    Your dog needs to be protected from fleas and ticks year round. I think a little prevention now can save you lots of time and money. There are various things which you should do to protect your home and dog from flea infestation. Firstly, natural grooming is important. Second, bathing - use lukewarm to warm water, and use a shampoo with herbs instead of harsh chemicals. Third, you should vacuum your home at least three times a week and last but not the least a thorough cleaning and washing of your dog's bedding can aid in the fight against fleas. If you get in the habit of doing these four things, you could see a decrease in fleas and ticks on your dogs within weeks. There are alternatives to the harsh flea treatments you can get from http://www.yalepest.com assistance, which is better for both yourself and your dog.

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