Are you considering natural alternatives to traditional dog flea control products?
There are quite a few ways that people attempt to kill, control and prevent fleas. Some have a positive effect, while others don’t work at all. Some can even have a negative effect.
I’ve gone through a whole bunch of different natural based ideas that have been tried and suggested, as I attempt to find scientific evidence that they can indeed help with flea control.
Apple Cider Vinegar
Apple cider vinegar (ACV) is not without controversy in dog circles. Some people stand by it as a natural remedy for all sorts of health issues from digestion, to skin health and anything in between, while others believe it should be completely avoided.
I like to rely on scientific evidence as much as possible, but when it comes to ACV (to be fair, this applies to most types of natural and herbal products), there’s little to none of it, especially when it comes specifically to using it to stop fleas. Most people take a trial and error approach.
Note that Apple Cider Vinegar is not the same as white vinegar.
Regular white vinegar, that can be a good natural cleaner around the house when diluted, is very acidic and is a product made from distilled grains.
ACV on the other hand, as the name suggests, is made from apples and is often used in cooking.
Another classic household item that can seemingly do just about anything – but can baking soda kill fleas?
The beauty of baking soda is in treating the surrounding environment to rid it of the larvae and eggs which are lying in wait as the next generation.
Baking soda is not ideal for using on an animal because it has a drying effect; not healthy for your dog’s skin. If you wouldn’t want to put something on your skin, don’t put it on your pets either.
Remember that the adult fleas you see are only a tiny percentage of what’s actually in your home – most of the population are either pre-adult or eggs on your dog and in the bedding, flooring and everywhere else. Targeting this breaks the flea cycle.
Carpet is heaven for fleas – so if you have carpet flooring you’ll need to work extra hard to completely eliminate all flea stages from your home.
Baking soda is really easy to use on carpet, and it costs almost nothing. Grab a box of baking soda and sprinkle it throughout the carpet surface, then use a broom or brush to spread and scrub the baking soda all over.
Make sure you get the baking soda deep within the carpet, especially if you have the longer strand type.
You want to reach as much of the fibers as possible because fleas and eggs will find the most intricate spots to live. Leave the baking soda sitting for about a day undisturbed, then get the vacuum cleaner out and clear up the baking soda – disposing of the vacuum bag or bagless container by removing it from your house. This process can also be used on couches and other fabric surfaces.
So consider baking soda as a possible natural environmental flea control aid – but not one to use directly on your dog.
Diatomaceous Earth can be used to treat fleas in the environment. This is a completely natural powdered product made from the tiny fossilized remains of tiny organisms called diatoms.
Very important: if you’re going to try using DE for fleas always buy FOOD GRADE Diatomaceous Earth.
This is the only type that is safe for use around the home, people and animals. Other grades of DE are used in industrial and pool cleaning and are not safe for home use. So always make sure to check the label for Food Grade DE only.
Benefits of DE for Fleas:
Safe to use in the home (food grade only)
All natural; no chemicals
Kills fleas through physically drying out their exoskeletons
Can also be used to control ants, bed bugs and other unwanted insects in the home and garden
Can be used on dog bedding, carpets, sofas and other fabric surfaces to target all stages of the flea life cycle
Not ideal for using directly on your dog as it has a drying effect on the skin
Won’t kill off heavy infestations – you’ll still need another flea control product
More effort required if used for ongoing flea prevention compared with regular flea control
DE is a fine powder can spread to other surfaces where it’s not wanted
Not effective when it gets wet
Need to avoid breathing it in as can be irritating to lungs
It helps with warding off insects that eat your tasty plants, like slugs, caterpillars and aphids. It’s believed that the strong odor of garlic turns the insects off, and the goal of garlic when it comes to being used in the garden is not so much to kill insects the way a chemical insecticide does, but to stop them from touching the plants at all.
With that said, a strong dose of garlic can certainly kill an insect.
But does the same principal apply with using garlic to stop dog fleas, how do people use it, and are there any risks to your dog?
Unlike in the garden, people who use garlic for fleas (and other supposed health benefits) don’t use it as a spray (please never do that), but rather feed it to their dog. Now garlic is a very strong tasting food, as we know, and apart from whether or not a dog will want to eat it, it’s debatable amongst people whether garlic should be a no-no food alongside onions, which are in the same plant genus.
In high doses garlic, onions and other plants in that family are very toxic to dogs and cats. For this reason, feeding any amount of garlic to a dog needs to be considered with real caution and care.
The Pet Poison Helpline notes that cats are more sensitive to garlic, onion and related plants than dogs so cats should never be fed garlic. Likewise, they note that some breeds of dog have a heightened risk of garlic toxicity, most notable the Japanese breeds like Akita dogs.
How do people use coconut oil for flea control? Those that are using this natural oil are including it in the diet with the belief that it has a variety of health benefits, including flea control. It needs to be kept in mind however that coconut is quite rich in natural saturated fats and may contribute to weight-related health problems in dogs when given regularly or in large amounts.
Some people use coconut oil as a skin application – applying it directly to the dog’s fur and skin with hope that it will have similar benefits as when used on human skin, such as moisturization and an improvement in the health and appearance of a dog’s coat and reduce skin irritation, dryness and itchiness.
There is no specific evidence or in depth study that has been carried out to determine whether coconut oil can effectively repel or prevent fleas however. You will find flea and regular dog shampoos out there which contain coconut oil – but whether it’s included purely as a moisturizer is something to consider, rather than it being an active flea-control ingredient.
Coconut is unlikely to be an effective flea controller. Until any solid evidence is available, this is not a method I would recommend considering as a standalone solution for fleas.
Not all essential oils are safe for dogs, and care should be taken when using any type of essential oil. If you have other pets like cats and birds, essential oils need to be considered and used with great care. There are differing methods of using these, such as aromatherapy, however that is not the focus here. I don’t recommend burning essential oils of any type around dogs and certainly not any other pets.
Essential oil use in natural flea control and prevention is what I’m looking at here. But in what form are these oils used for fleas on dogs? The most common methods are by creating your own spray (again I repeat this needs to be considered with caution and research), using the oil in a pure form in very small amounts such as drops on the fur, and commercially available flea collars that make use of natural ingredients.
You’ll find that in my guide to flea collars for dogs, some of the natural collars do use some of these oils in their ingredients, which are slowly released over a period of time.
Some of the main plant oils that you might come across when researching natural flea control methods include:
Tea Tree Oil
There’s nothing wrong with taking a DIY approach to controlling dog fleas, however when something doesn’t work to kill off all the fleas as unfortunately will often be the case, you can be left with an even bigger problem to deal with because the fleas are multiplying rapidly with each passing day.
This leads to having to use a conventional flea treatment eventually such as a topical, collar or other form of proven flea control and prevention.
Pet Poison Helpline
Kovalkovicová N, Sutiaková I, Pistl J, Sutiak V. Some food toxic for pets. Interdiscip Toxicol. 2009;2(3):169–176