Okay, let’s get one thing out of the way right off the bat: Fleas are a downright nuisance!
If you’ve ever had to deal with trying to get rid of fleas on your dog, you know what I’m talking about. Those little six-legged bloodsuckers are like a small army when they get into your dog’s fur! It can make life very uncomfortable for your four-legged friend as well, since they constantly have to scratch themselves to try and fight off those bloodthirsty insects.
I have a dog named Juno (Alaskan Husky and Collie mix), and when she was “raided” by a flea infestation, it caused all kinds of problems, including my poor girl scratching herself raw more than one time to try and get rid of those stubbornly persistent pests. Also, if you got anywhere near her, the fleas would jump on you too, which was never a fun thing!
I remember having to keep my socks pulled up when I would walk around the house, because I knew that when Juno would brush against my lower leg, she would almost always leave a few of her unwanted guests on my calves or shins. Not only that, but not all of the fleas would stay on Juno’s fur, which means there were quite a few “stray” fleas jumping around the house, looking for a host.
I learned quickly that putting Juno outside really didn’t help much – in fact, I found out later that putting your dog outside will simply cause the fleas to start looking for a human host instead. The problem eventually became so bad that it felt like the fleas had successfully pulled off a hostile takeover of my whole house!
The Search For A Cure
With what seemed like a “flea epidemic” staring me in the face, I started looking around for ways to get rid of fleas from my dog, and I stumbled upon some great information regarding both natural home remedies and popular flea medicines. After hours and hours of poking around on the Web – plus tons of trial and error – I narrowed down some of the best and most effective flea treatments that seemed to work well for Juno.
My biggest concern was her safety, and thankfully the methods I researched were able to treat the flea issue without any adverse side effects on my “furry child”. So, without further ado, I want to share some of my discoveries in hopes that it will help everyone out there at least begin to narrow down some of their options for treating fleas on their dog, so that they won’t have to go through the same protracted process I did in order to find something that works.
Home Remedies For Fleas On Dogs
1. The Flea Bath
Your doggie can take a dip in this flea-deterring bath consisting of all-natural ingredients that have a penchant for repelling those pesky parasites. Here’s what you’re going to need to get the job done.
- 1 1/2 to 2 cups of water (preferably distilled or spring water)
- 1/4 to 1/2 cup of a mild pet shampoo or soap
- 1/2 cup of freshly squeezed lemon juice (try using 2 parts water for every half-cup of lemon juice and soap)
- Simply stir all of the above ingredients together into a customized flea shampoo for your pup, and bathe him/her with it on a weekly basis to keep the fleas away.
Fleas do not like the scent of lemon (I guess it’s too “clean” for their tastes), so if you regularly bathe your furry friend in this homemade concoction, it will provide a solid line of defense against any flea onslaughts.
2. The Flea Spray
Zap the fleas away using this natural spray that will not only keep the fleas at bay, but will also provide a nice shine for your dog’s coat.
It should be noted that this spray includes essential oils (sweet orange, lavender, geranium, citronella, cedarwood), so please be careful in how much you use! Essential oils are very potent and highly concentrated, and should always be diluted whenever you use them. Even on humans, undiluted essential oils applied directly to the skin can cause burns, so please remember that this is some serious stuff!
At the risk of sounding a little strange, you might want to offer a very diluted “sample” of each oil to your dog (for smelling only, not to eat) to see which one he/she might like the most. You have to remember that dogs have an extremely powerful sense of smell, some 10,000 to 100,000 times more powerful than that of humans. The last thing you would want is for your dog to be stuck with some smell that he/she doesn’t like, when their olfactory capability is literally millions of times greater than ours!
- 12 tbsp Apple Cider Vinegar (ACV)
- 4 tbsp Sweet Almond Oil (or olive oil)
- 6 drops sweet orange essential oil
- 6 drops lavender essential oil
- 8 drops geranium essential oil
- 20 drops citronella essential oil
- 20 drops cedarwood essential oil
- Water to fill (preferably distilled water)
- 16 oz. spray bottle
- Combine all ingredients in the spray bottle and spray thoroughly on your pup’s coat. You may also wish to brush through. Repeat up to three times a week as necessary.
Since the above flea spray contains essential oils, it is advisable not to use on dogs younger than 3 months and it is best to store in a cool dark place. Also, shake well before each use and do not spray on the face.
The bottom line: Pay close attention to the amount of essential oil you’re using, and err on the side of not using enough instead of going overboard when it comes to using these powerful oils with your superior-sniffing pal.
3. The Flea Collar
Flea collars are an excellent choice for addressing the flea issue, because it’s not like a medicine or spray that you have to reapply topically once you’ve put it on. With a flea collar, you have a steady, stable way to keep fleas under control, because this handy little device is working 24/7 to keep those stubborn parasites at bay.
Here’s what you need to make your DIY flea collar.
- 3 to 5 drops of cedarwood or lavender essential oil (remember what I mentioned earlier about essential oils!)
- 1 to 3 tablespoons of water
- A cool bandana, whatever color or design you prefer
- An eyedropper
- Okay, the first thing you will need to do is dilute about 2 or 3 drops of the essential oil of your choice in about 1 to 3 tablespoons of water.
- Fill the eyedropper with this mixture, and then apply 5 to 10 drops directly onto the bandana, making sure to rub it in well enough to cover a significant area of the fabric.
- Tie the bandana around your dog’s neck in whatever cool configuration your heart desires – the more creative you get with this, the better. Make a fashion statement for your dog!
- You should reapply the mixture to your DIY collar once a week, and if you want to double down on your flea-fighting artillery, put a couple of drops of essential oil (diluted in 1 tbsp of olive oil!) at the base of your dog’s tail for extra fortification. Fleas hate this homemade concoction, and your dog will look cool to boot.
4. The Anti-Flea Drink
You’ll basically be “spiking” your dog’s water with an uber-healthy home remedy that’s good for addressing all kinds of health conditions – Apple Cider Vinegar (ACV)!
In my humble opinion, the best vinegar to use for this purpose is Bragg’s Apple Cider Vinegar; this stuff is almost like a miracle elixir. Not only has it been used for ages as an all-purpose folk remedy, but it is also an effective bactericide and disinfectant.
Point blank, fleas hate this stuff, so even if your dog only has trace amounts of it in his/her system, fleas can pick up on it, and they don’t like it at all. You have to remember that whatever a dog (or human) eats or drinks will eventually find its way into their bloodstream, and since fleas feed on blood, they’re not going to be too happy if the blood has a funky taste due to the presence of the vinegar.
You do have to be careful as far as how much apple cider vinegar you put into your dog’s water; remember that a little bit goes a long way. For a 40-pound dog, it is recommended that you add one teaspoon of Bragg’s Apple Cider Vinegar to one quart of their drinking water. That is a very generous dilution level, which means that the flavor of the water won’t be altered too much to where your dog won’t drink it, but the vinegar content in the water will be enough to make a difference in terms of being an effective flea repellent.
Not only will this homemade concoction keep the fleas at bay, but it will also improve your dog’s skin and haircoat through good nutrition. Remember, your dog’s health starts from the inside out!
5. The Flea Comb
There’s absolutely nothing wrong with store-bought flea combs, but this particular project is going to require a different type of comb. It’s actually better if you use a sponge that has those pointed teeth (they’re not sharp, of course, but they’re shaped like pointed teeth on one side), but you can use a regular comb or brush if you choose.
All you need for this flea comb excursion is a pot of fresh water (preferably distilled) and one sliced lemon, and you’ll be good to go.
- Simply boil the water and then add the slices of lemon to it, making sure to turn the heat off once you’ve added in the lemons.
- Cover it up and let it steep all night long.
- The next day, you will use this lemon water as your “dipping solution” for the comb.
- Dip the comb in the water periodically, and comb through your dog’s hair as you do it.
Keep in mind that lemon contains a natural substance known as limonene, which can kill fleas while doing no harm at all to humans or dogs. What a great natural remedy for those pesky parasites!
6. The Homemade Flea Bath
Some dogs love getting a bath, while others would rather do pretty much anything else than that. This simple homemade flea bath is an excellent way for your dog to splash it up while also getting a nice anti-flea treatment that is mild and very dog-friendly. Here’s what you’ll need.
- Two cups of Apple Cider Vinegar or simply Vinegar
- One half cup of fresh water
- Two cups of a mild dog-friendly shampoo or soap
- All you need to do is stir up the above ingredients.
- Bottle them up for a natural bath solution that you can use on a weekly basis to stave off the fleas.
- Massage into your dog’s fur and let it soak in for at least three minutes before rinsing. Brush your dog during that time to remove dead fleas.
The apple cider vinegar smell is quite refreshing, and as mentioned earlier, it has important chemical properties that make it a mortal enemy to fleas.
Flea Medicine For Dogs
Alright, we’ve covered several different home remedies that are highly effective, but if you would prefer to use traditional flea medicine for your dog, there’s nothing wrong with that, either. I have put together a little list of some of the most common flea medicines just to expand your flea-fighting repertoire.
1. IGR Tablets
You may have heard of Insect Growth Regulators (IGRs) before, but for the uninitiated, IGRs are basically a type of chemical substance that actually disrupts the life cycle of a flea, so that eggs and larvae cannot develop into adults. They do this by mimicking the hormones of young fleas, so that their entire method of growing and reproducing is inhibited.
IGRs are often sold in a chewable tablet form, and they’re frequently used as “heavy artillery” to help dog owners combat more severe flea infestations. The typical IGR tablet is taken orally once per month, and while they have been shown to be safer than pesticides, you still need to make sure that you closely monitor how your dog reacts to these tablets. If you detect any adverse reactions or unusual behavior, consult with your veterinarian to determine whether the treatment should continue, or whether it should be modified or stopped.
2. Flea Powder
There are several pet shops and online retailers that sell flea powder, which is basically an insecticide in powder form. You can sprinkle the powder directly onto your dog’s fur, and then work it into their haircoat using a comb or brush. You can also sprinkle the powder around the house in places where your dog tends to hang out, such as the furniture, in certain corners, or maybe his/her favorite spot on the rug.
One of Juno’s favorite spots in our home is the small area rug in our foyer; most of the time, when she’s just chilling out, you’ll find her resting on that rug. As soon as we started working on eliminating fleas from the home, I thought of that rug, and after I vacuumed the heck out of it, I made sure to sprinkle the powder on it to add an extra layer of flea-fighting power.
It’s also a good idea to sprinkle the powder in your dog’s bedding area, and you should even consider applying it out in the yard if the instructions on the label permit. When you’re spreading it around the house, don’t forget to apply some in the various cracks and crevices of your home, as these often-overlooked spots can be favorite spots for fleas to set up shop.
3. Injectable Flea Treatments
If you’re ready to break out the heavy artillery, you cannot overlook the option of an injectable flea treatment for your dog. One of the most popular treatments on the market today is Lufenuron (Program), which basically inhibits the development of fleas, so that they never make it beyond their immature stages (e.g., eggs, larva, etc.).
Keep in mind that the point of Lufenuron is to eliminate future fleas from developing, so it doesn’t actually kill the adult flea outright, as this would be somewhat of a temporary fix. Instead, Lufenuron is ingested by the adult female flea through your dog’s bloodstream, and once this happens, 99% of the flea’s egg development is completely stopped. This treatment basically prevents recurring issues with fleas, but bear in mind that it will not stop the adult fleas from biting or causing flea allergy dermatitis.
An important thing to remember is that even though this treatment is awesome, you will still need to apply other flea prevention measures, such as vacuuming, spraying, and just generally ensuring that your environment stays as flea-free as possible.
4. Flea Drops
Flea drops are a popular topical medicine to help repel and kill fleas, as they contain IGRs that prevent flea eggs and immature forms (e.g., pupa and larva) from developing into adults. Most flea drops are applied once per month, and they are packaged based on the overall length of the treatment period (e.g., 4 months, 6 months or 12 months).
The easiest way to apply these drops is to have your dog standing up. Simply part the hair between your dog’s shoulder blades to expose the skin, and apply anywhere between 2 to 6 drops along its back. As your dog goes about its normal daily activities, its natural movements will spread the solution all over the skin.
Flea Collars For Dogs
Flea collars are a common choice for dog owners looking to rid their dog of pesky fleas. Most flea collars are not designed to treat an existing infestation, which means that they’re more of a preventative measure than anything else. Flea collars typically provide one of two functions:
- They can repel fleas by omitting a gas that fleas naturally hate.
- They feature a medication that seeps into your dog’s skin, providing a powerful counteractive agent to flea infestations.
Some collars are only repellents (the first type), while others provide robust treatment for fleas (the second type). There are also some flea collars that provide both repellent and treatment action.
Naturally, if your dog is dealing with a more serious case of the fleas, you’ll want to go for the double-duty style flea collar, which can often be identified by what type of wording is used on the packaging. If the package states that the collar “kills” fleas, then you’re probably dealing with a double-duty collar; on the other hand, if the packaging only states that the collar “repels” or “wards off” fleas, you’re probably dealing with a repellent collar, which mainly provides preventative protection.
Common ingredients used in various flea collars include Deltamethrin (a safe insecticide), Amitraz (an anti-parasitic drug), Pyriproxifen (a chemical that sterilizes pests, making them unable to reproduce), and Propoxur (a chemical that breaks down the nervous systems of fleas).
Flea Dips For Dogs
Another common flea-fighting weapon is the infamous flea dip. This is basically a bath that’s been treated with a mild chemical solution that is designed to eliminate fleas. An important thing to remember – and one that I didn’t know about for a long time – is that when you dip your dog, make sure to give him/her a regular bath first before you do the actual dip.
The reason for this is because when you first put water on a dog’s fur, it’s just going to roll right off. You need the fur to be nice and wet so that when it’s time to do the actual dip bath, the solution will really be able to penetrate your dog’s naturally water-resistant haircoat. This will ensure a better assimilation of the flea dip solution, which means a higher rate of effectiveness.
Also, before you give your dog the dip bath, be sure to protect its eyes and ears from splashes or splatters by using an eye ointment to cover its eyes, and putting cotton balls in its ears for protection. Throughout the entire flea dip process, it is vitally important to pay attention to the instructions in terms of what type of proportions and dilution levels to use. These solutions are highly concentrated, so you want to make sure that you’re using the right amount of water (according to the package instructions) to avoid doing any harm to your pup.
In addition, after the dip bath is over, allow your dog to drip-dry instead of trying to towel them off, or worse, using a blow dryer. We want the solution to stay on the hair shafts and skin of your dog, so the less we do to hinder that process, the better. Just be ready, because you might get a brief shower if your dog decides to shake itself out a little!
The Bottom Line
Okay, I have shared plenty of methods and techniques for getting rid of fleas on your dogs. I hope that you’ve enjoyed it! When I was dealing with Juno’s flea problem, I had to work through a lot of trial and error situations just to arrive at a solution that would work for her.
It’s vitally important that as your dog’s owner and caretaker, you should consider their safety and well-being first, even if it means incurring a little bit of extra expense to do so. Just be sure to choose the method that will be most appropriate for your dog’s needs and your particular situation, and get those aggravating pests out of your dog’s life!