Anyone who loves dogs puts a great deal of effort into keeping them happy and healthy. Despite all our best efforts, pests and diseases have a way of getting to them, especially fleas. It breaks your heart to see them scratching away in irritation, but you may be wary of using commercial flea repellants because of the health ramifications.
Fleas are a perennial problem, especially in warm and humid climates. Even when you’re fastidious about keeping your house and surroundings clean, an outing with your dog or your friendly neighborhood feline’s casual visit can bring in these creatures. They proliferate at a fast rate, every female adult flea laying as many as 50 eggs at a time, continuing for 3 months or more. It doesn’t take very long for a few fleas to contaminate a dog’s bedding, sofas, and beds along with almost every inch of your home and the surroundings with eggs and larvae at different stages of development.
There’s no dearth of flea collars, flea combs, and flea powders promising to make short work of these persistent pests, but they are full of harmful chemicals that can hurt your dog. Imagine what effect wearing a pesticide-impregnated belt round the neck 24 hours a day can have on the poor animal. If you have young children freely interacting with the dog, that’s an additional worry. Fortunately, there are some natural flea remedies that can help keep flea populations under control, if not completely eliminate them.
1. Dust with diatomaceous earth ( DE)
This natural substance is made up of the exoskeletons of microscopic diatoms that lived in lakes and oceans thousands of years ago. Mined from large deposits found in the lake beds and ocean floors of yore, this relatively inert material has tiny, razor sharp particles that can abrade the tough exoskeletons of fleas, causing them to get dehydrated and eventually die. However, it does not harm the dog or people in any way. In fact, many people take DE as a food supplement.
Apply food grade DE (such as this one – get a big bag since there are so many other uses) liberally on the dog, his bedding, the carpet, and any place frequented by him. You may not see any instant action, but the effectiveness of DE lasts as long as the powder remains on the dogs and other surfaces. You need to repeat the application routinely even if you don’t see any adult fleas. The eggs and the pupae can stay dormant for quite some time, so you want to be ready when they hatch. One risk of DE is that inhaling the dust can cause respiratory tract irritation, so care should be taken during its application.
2. Give the dog a dry shampoo treatment
Dry shampooing does not need to be restricted to cats. Give your dog an all-natural dry shampoo treatment with common kitchen staples to get rid of fleas. You can give it a nice bath afterwards. A dry shampoo will relieve itching due to other skin problems too.
Mix a cup of plain, unflavored oatmeal with half a cup of baking soda. Run it through the blender to break up the larger pieces of oatmeal. Work the mixture into the dog’s coat with your hands. Try to get it into every part of the body by brushing the coat. Shampoo in an outdoor setting so that you can allow it to remain on the dog until the dehydrating effect has a chance to destroy the fleas and their larvae.
3. Essential oil flea collar
Similar to the commercially available flea collars, you can impregnate a scarf or bandana with a flea repellant, but you’d be using safer alternatives like essential oils of lavender or cedar.
Mix 5-10 drops of the essential oil with 3-tablespoon of olive oil and store in a glass bottle. Use an eyedropper to add just a few drops of the diluted oil to the bandana and tie it around your dog’s neck. Make sure the smell is not overpowering. When it wears off, repeat the application.
4. Drive them out from the inside
When you’re sticking with a natural methods of flea control, a multi-pronged strategy works best. Giving dogs a drink of diluted vinegar has been found to be effective in keeping the bugs off their coat. It has some skincare benefits as well, so there’s an additional incentive to use this remedy.
Use vinegar at the rate of one teaspoon per one quart of water per 40 pounds of the body weight of the dog. Mix it into drinking water. Apple cider vinegar is the best, but white vinegar works just as well.
5. Use a flea repellent spray
Combine the effect of vinegar and essential oils to make this potent repellent. Mix 1 cup vinegar in a quart of water and add 3-5 drops of citronella oil or geranium oil. Fill it in spray bottles. Use the spray on the dog and in the areas frequented by him.
6. Comb them out
You can make a repellant solution with lemon peels and the juice of a lemon and use it to comb your dog’s fur. After extracting the juice of 6 lemons, keep the peels in a bowl and pour 2 cups of boiling water over them. Let it steep for 6 hours or overnight. Strain the liquid and mix in the lemon juice. Dip the comb in the solution and groom the dog with it.
7. Use a flea trap
Adult fleas are attracted to light and warmth, making it easier for us to set a trap for them at night. Mix dish soap in warm water and place it in shallow containers in such a way that a night lamp is reflected in the water. Fleas jumping towards the light will land in the soapy water and drown.
8. Vacuum them off
This simple method may not completely wipe out the fleas but can help keep the population down on its own, and works well with other remedies too. Vacuum your dog’s bed, upholstered surfaces, carpet and all places the dog has access to. The larvae have a tendency to crawl to dark areas, so give special attention to the space under the furniture, behind doors, between floorboards and all nooks and crannies. If the dog is not troubled by the sound of the vacuum cleaner, you can give him a run over too.
9. Use neem oil
Neem oil (available to buy here) obtained from the leaves and fruits of the Azadirachta indica tree, has insecticidal properties that work in an interesting way. It disrupts the hormones that control the feeding and metamorphic changes of insects. In other words, it kills them by making them starve to death or trapping them within their own exoskeletons. Neem oil has been used for thousands of years to treat skin infections in cattle and other domesticated animals as well as in people, including children, so it is considered safe to use.
Neem oil is not a contact poison, so don’t expect to see immediate results. But a routine application will give you excellent results. Apply it once every two or three weeks because fleas can complete their lifecycle in 12-22 days when conditions are favorable.
Be consistent with your natural flea control methods to keep your dog happy and safe.