Natural Flea Repellents for Your Pets and Home
An increasing number of people are interested in cleaning products deemed “non-toxic” or “natural,” so it’s no surprise that pet parents might look for chemical-free or non-pharmaceutical options when it comes to fleas and their pets. After all, some cleaning products are dangerous for our pets.
A quick internet search will reveal a plethora of websites with information about “natural” ways to rid your home and pets of fleas, but we always need to proceed with caution whenever choosing anything to use on or around our pets.
Note: The best way to stop fleas is with prevention. It’s much easier to stop these pests from entering your home than it is to get rid of them once they’ve arrived. Speaking with your veterinarian about the best flea and tick product for your pet and creating an individualized prevention plan is our number one recommendation.
Natural Flea Killers for the Home
While prevention is best, it’s crucial to treat any flea infestations you encounter. If allowed to remain, fleas can create a life-threatening issue for your dog or cat. Fleas carry a multitude of diseases and can also cause smaller pets to quickly become anemic.
If you have a flea infestation, the two areas you need to focus treatment on are the environment and your pets.
Before diving into what you can use to control fleas in your home, remember that this should not be done without first speaking to your veterinarian. Even chemical-free products can be harmful to you and your pet if not used correctly.
The first step in ridding your home of fleas is frequently cleaning your entire house.
Vacuum at least once each day, including furniture and hard-to-reach areas. After each vacuuming session, the vacuum bag should be thrown away or the canister emptied. These will contain live fleas and eggs, so don’t throw them in the household trash! Instead, take them to your outside garbage can or dumpster. You should also regularly change and dispose of any filters on the vacuum.
Frequent washing of fabrics, bedding, and pet beds in a hot wash cycle with your favorite natural detergent is also recommended.
The life cycle of fleas can last for months depending on environmental conditions, so these steps might need to be repeated for a while.
2. Steam Cleaning Carpets
Carpets (especially those with a higher pile) can be a perfect hiding spot for fleas. Although steam cleaning won’t cure your infestation, it can help loosen and remove fleas your vacuum didn’t catch. This is another easy option for helping to remove fleas from your pet’s environment.
3. Yard Maintenance
Outside is where fleas typically decide to catch a ride on our pets, bringing them into the home. Keeping your lawn cut short will help reduce hiding places for fleas.
Fleas prefer shaded, damp and/or humid areas outside the home. So turn over and rake garden beds and any damp areas of the yard where your pets spend a lot of time. Exposing these areas to sunlight and drying them out can help to disrupt the fleas’ outdoor environment.
4. Diatomaceous Earth
Diatomaceous earth is a substance often recommended on the internet for natural flea control outside of your house. This silica substance works by drying out the flea’s eggs, but it’s important to remember that it does not fully stop the life cycle.
But while it can be useful in killing flea eggs, it can also be very irritating to people (and pets!) and should be used with caution and guidance. Inhaling or ingesting diatomaceous earth can cause adverse effects and is not recommended for use around pets or children.
If you are using this in or around your home, utilizing “food grade” diatomaceous earth is important. But while “food grade” doesn’t have a lot of the harmful chemicals that “garden grade” and “pool grade” products have, it can still cause adverse reactions.
If inhaled, diatomaceous earth—even “food grade”—can be irritating to the nasal passages and lungs, causing coughing and shortness of breath. It can also cause eye and skin irritation if not used properly. It is very important to follow all label instructions on any diatomaceous earth products.
Nematodes are small, worm-like organisms that are often used for killing common garden pests while being harmless to plants, people, and pets. They are effective on many types of insects, including fleas.
The nematodes work by entering the flea’s body and injecting bacteria that will eventually kill the host (the flea). They can be ordered online and immediately prepared and spread outdoors wherever your pets spend their time. Nematodes are generally considered to be safe in your environment.
The following natural products or recommendations are considered repellents and will not kill fleas or remove all fleas from in or around a house. These are to be part of a comprehensive flea management program and should be used under the direction of your veterinarian and pest management company:
NemAttack SC by Arbico Organics: NemAttack SC contains beneficial nematodes effective against fleas. Arbico Organics lists this product as safe for use in and around your home gardens as an outdoor method for repelling fleas.
animalEO: This is a resource for essential oil use in pets. The company was founded by a veterinarian who is well-versed in the safe use of essential oils with pets. There are several recommendations for flea repellents and information regarding appropriate use of their products.
Natural Flea Repellents To Keep Fleas off Pets
Along with ridding your home of fleas, it’s important to get them off your pets, too.
1. Bathing Your Pet
Regularly bathing your pet while they have fleas is an important, safe, and effective step in their treatment. While baths alone will not stop the infestation, the combination of soap, water, and scrubbing will work to remove and kill the fleas on your pet.
Use Dawn soap or a mild shampoo formulated for use on cats or dogs. There are a lot of recommendations online to use harsh shampoos or vinegar, but this can dry out and damage your pet’s skin. Speak with your veterinarian about recommended shampoos, but in general, baths should be a safe step for most pets and pet parents.
2. Brushing With a Flea Comb
In between baths, use a flea comb to brush your pets daily. The comb works similarly to a bath because it removes adult fleas from the coat.
After you’ve combed through your pet’s fur, dip the flea comb into soapy water to dislodge and kill any fleas that are on the comb. Flea combs are safe to use on most pets, but it’s not recommended to use them on any sensitive or damaged areas of skin.
There are not many natural remedies that keep fleas off pets. Keeping the environment free of fleas is the primary way to reduce your pet’s exposure. But if your pet travels anywhere outside your home, there’s a chance they will be exposed to fleas.
Remember: Prevention is the best treatment. There are many flea preventatives for dogs and cats. Always talk with your veterinarian before giving your pet any medication, including ones for fleas.
Natural Ingredients That Aren’t Safe for Pets
When looking for natural treatment of fleas, it’s equally important to know what is not safe to use on pets. Below are products that are often touted for use with fleas, but they should be avoided unless recommended by your veterinarian.
Garlic often makes its way into discussions about natural flea treatment, but garlic is toxic to cats and dogs. It should not be fed to dogs or cats or put anywhere where it could be licked by them.
2. Apple Cider Vinegar
Apple cider vinegar is another product to avoid with pets. Though recommended by some for use when bathing our animals, it has the potential to significantly dry out and damage our pet’s skin.
3. Flea Diffusers
There are many flea diffusers on the market used to treat homes. If you’re planning to use one of these products, read the instructions carefully. It is often recommended that people, pets, and even fish are removed from the room before use.
4. Essential Oils
Essential oils are another hot topic with pet parents, and there can be a place for essential oils when it comes to a more natural option for our pets. However, many oils can be toxic to pets, so it’s imperative that both the products and the guidance for administering them come from a reliable source. Even oils that aren’t considered toxic can cause adverse reactions. Talk to your vet before using any essential oil around your pet.
At best, fleas are a nuisance. At worst, they can be life-threatening to your pets. While there are some natural options we can use to help repel fleas from our homes, the most reliable way to be free of fleas is to stop an infestation before it starts with a preventative protocol under the direction of your family veterinarian.
Featured Image: Adobe/LIGHTFIELD STUDIOS
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