Natural Flea and Tick Remedies for Pets | Seventh Generation
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Natural Flea and Tick Remedies for Pets

Author: the Inkslinger

When I was a kid, my dogs had flea collars. They smelled a little funny, but they made your parasitic problems vanish when you slipped them on. Flash-forward 40 years and I've found out something I always suspected: many of the chemicals these collars contain may not be safe for animals or for anyone petting them. In fact, according to research conducted by the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), chemicals in flea collars can be easily transferred to anyone or anything nearby. "High levels of pesticide residue can remain on a dog's or cat's fur for weeks after a flea collar is put on an animal," the research says.

Beware of dog, indeed. Yet a house full of fleas or ticks isn't a picnic either. So what can we do to protect our families and our pets without turning our four-legged friends into walking Superfund sites? Here's what the experts suggest:

  • Comb your pet frequently using a fine-toothed flea comb. It makes their fur shine and ferrets out the fleas and ticks, which you can drown in soapy water.
  • Speaking of soapy water, a bath does wonders because fleas can't survive it. You don't need nor want a flea shampoo -- that's just more of the same toxins you're trying to avoid in the first place. Fleas give up the ghost in any soapy water, so make yours as safe as possible.
  • Wash pet bedding in hot water to get rid of eggs and larvae. Thoroughly vacuum any areas your cat or dog frequent, and trash your vacuum bag when you're done so fleas don't escape back into your home.
  • Ticks and flea larvae hate hot, dry, exposed areas so keep the vegetation down outside and get rid of any debris in which they could live. If you have an outdoor infestation, get some organic nematodes at a garden supply center and apply them to problem areas.

Even after all this, you may still need some chemical warfare. Natural products made from cedarwood, lemongrass, peppermint, rosemary, and thyme are generally seen as safe for pets though you should always watch for allergic reactions. The NRDC has two useful resources you can use to identify acceptable offensive strategies: this handy pocket guide (pdf) will steer you to safer flea and tick ingredients while this product-by-product guide offers the lowdown on virtually every solution on the market. Use them to bite back at whatever's biting your pet and make everyone's summer a healthier one.


Photo: Stuart Richardson


Mabel2 picture
Thanks for sharing this great information. Last year I was also using some natural remedies for controlling my pets flea problem. but it takes more time to control than Fiprofort Plus. Fiprofort Plus for Dog and Cat is very effective product
Gail  picture
I came upon this recipe for natural flea repellent for my dog, not wanting to use anything toxic on him. The recipe consists of water, apple cider vinegar and salt. The vinegar is really distasteful to insects of all kinds...both scent and taste, the water makes gives volume to the mixture...I use this as a natural bath, his fur glistens and fluffs, and it deodorizes and sanitizes, the salt dehydrates any fleas, eggs or larvae which may be on the pet. I bath my dog and leave it on, no rinse. You need to make sure you cover the whole body, including between the toes and foot pads, and the ears. Had NO fleas at all last summer using this was my first yr...summer is coming again!
vanvolken picture
Weatherlight, So you are saying.these natural solutions are dangerous, but Advantage is safe? Are you kidding me? Please research Advantage chemicals. There are so many warnings on package because it contains dangerous chemicals. And fleas are becoming more immune. And yes, everything does go through the skin, that is how pain and nicotine patches work. So. for the animals that are young or have Co promized health, results can be deadly. And Cedar oil from Best Yet is carefully made to not hurt animals. Also diatamatious earth is NOT dangerous. Please don't tell people that. Don't inhale it, because it is like inhaling flour - anything powdery inhaled is bad for your lungs, but this natural flea killer is in our foods even. You are making a chemical appear safe, and that is not correct. These oils should be researched before using, I agree only w/ that statement. For instance. teal tree oil should never be put directly on an animal. I know cats are really sensitive. But a little research and commen sense, is a lot safer, than scaring people to run out and buy Advantage!
hughjackman picture
Many times, while bidding someone good night for the day, we conclude our message with a funny anecdote which goes like -"Good Night, Sleep tight. Don't Let the Bed Bugs Bite!" Bed bugs have been around before even man set foot on this earth. view more
jgwarren picture
When our house got fleas I came across an idea that worked. Take a night light and plug it into the wall of a room. Underneath the light, place a bowl or loaf pan with soapy water. You can use Seventh Generation dish soap for this! I prefer a glass loaf pan as it is rectangular and fits snugly against the wall. Replace the soapy, dead-flea-filled water every few days. The fleas are attracted to the warmth of the night light and fall into the water, drowning. I put at least one in every room and so far it has worked well for me. No toxins and the dogs don't try to drink it.
Ehilden picture
I too have a flea problem. I've never had one before but we have had 3 very dry summers and now I do. Since I have gone cruelty free I want natural remedies for my cats. I use apple cider vinegar 50%vinegar and 50% water in a spray bottle on floors and furniture. I sprinkle salt on carpets, floors and rugs then vacuum it up, the salt gets on the fleas legs and dries them out. I also give them Dr. Goodpet Flea Relief Homeopathic for cats. and flea comb them. I'm getting great results.
hongrebson picture
In reply to Weatherlight's Aug 16 comment:
amandel2000 picture
I use Naturally Green Products' No More Bugs! to get rid of all kinds of insects (including bed bugs) and it doesn't bother my cat at all. It is safe to use around pets, children and adults. The active ingredient is cedar oil.
Weatherlight picture
"Natural" products made with cedar are toxic to rabbits, cats, and at least several species of rodents. Just bedding them on cedar shavings can cause fatal respiratory illness, liver disease, etc. Want to risk it on the dogs and kids around your home? CEDAR IS NATURALLY TOXIC FOR A REASON! The oils are there to NATURALLY kill and deter the animals that might otherwise want to feed on the plant. The plants make it because it is a useful poison, plain and simple. When it comes to "toxic," there's no difference between "natural" and "synthetic." Concentrated essences and extracts of other "natural" products, like rosemary, can make mammals ill, too. Someone mentioned pennyroyal, which in itself seems usually well tolerated by healthy adult humans as a weak tea, but a concentrated essential oil can kill in small amounts; I don't know at what levels it is safe for kittens. I agree that garlic, as well as other alliums, should be used with a competent vet's guidance, unless you want to lose thousands of dollars in vet bills, your cat/dog's health, and possibly your cat/dog. As rubberdollz pointed out, some substances that most dogs tolerate, like pyrethrin and tea tree oil, can kill a cat, so if you decide to use these on a dog, make sure the dog is never in the same house as a cat and never goes near one. These "natural" CHEMICALS are guaranteed to be as safe as smallpox, cyanide (made from all-"natural" apricot pits), tapeworms, etc. No thanks, I'll take Advantage over any of those "natural" things. (I'd also take Advantage over Frontline, K9 Advantix, etc unless the benefits of other products outweighed the extra health risks. I would never use the OTC crap that's way too likely to cause illness and death. Get the good poisons from your vet, people.) Do your own research. Saying "I'll just pick whichever product SEEMS 'natural' and that will be fine" is the lazy, stupid, irrational, irresponsible, and harmful way out. I preferred the whole "keep the skin and body healthy so it's unattractive to fleas" route for years, until a few fleas got on a cat with allergies. While I might otherwise have tolerated them and turned to non-lethal repellents to be a bit more fair to the fleas, she was ripping herself up due to the allergies. And I am only human; just as I'd sacrifice innocent cats or dogs that are strangers if they harassed my family members, I'd rather kill innocent fleas too. Domestication in itself is a sad and highly unnatural business. How many resources do your dependents use up, how much pollution do they cause? How much money, food (especially if they aren't vegan), plastic, drugs, etc do they consume? How much (usually very "natural") wildlife (squirrels, insects, birds, etc) do they threaten or kill? How much extra habitat is cleared for suburban real estate, because people want a "bigger backyard for the dog"? As if the whole "humans vs 'nature'" thing wasn't enough, now it's "humans and domestic animals vs 'nature'" and all because humans selfishly want soft-furred animals around to grope and play with. BTW, I'm referring to capture and breeding here, not the homeless refugees that good-hearted people adopt and try to balance priorities for. Tip for mechanical airborne irritants like DE, silica dust, perlite/vermiculite, etc: Use respirators. I personally have disposable N95s around for dry dusty materials ("N" masks shouldn't be used against oils). Obviously, until you're done with DE and it's vacuumed up (HEPA vacuum please), don't let any animal close enough to inhale it unless they (if human) have a proper respirator on, too. Honestly, if you're going to go around killing tiny animals indiscriminately, ask your vet about Advantage. It kills so fast, the fleas never get a chance to lay eggs. You don't need to treat the premises, so no risk of inhaling DE that cuts up your lungs, no sprays, no daily laundering, etc. It has a very good safety profile for mammals (obviously a terrible one for insects). Sure, it has risks, but they're low. Since when has theoretical/potential risks stopped you from having anything to do with cars, streets, bikes, ASA (aspirin), white willow bark, APAP (Tylenol), doorknobs, slippers, sexual contact, cats, dogs, food (you might choke to death), other humans, plastic bags, coffee/tea, aromatic oils, or anything else with comparable or worse risk?
hongrebson picture
CedarCide Industries (Spring, TX) is seriously focused on helping the consumer reduce the ongoing poisoning of our air, soils and waters as a result of continued use of toxic pesticides. They manufacture 100% organic, chemical- and neurotoxin-free, biological, cedar oil solutions as green alternatives to popular toxic pesticides used against the majority of non-beneficial insects. The product BEST YET is comprised of only two ingredients: 10% fractionated cedar oil (a GRAS list active ingredient) and 80% hydrated silica (melted quartz rock) a 4A inert ingredient carrier. Best Yet is the neurotoxin-free alternative to the ‘spot on’ flea and tick preventatives (ex. Frontline, Advantage, etc.) that works as both a contact killer and as an effective repellent to fleas, ticks, mites, mosquitoes, flies, gnats, etc. yet safe for human infants, animal babies, birds, bees, butterflies, amphibians. Best Yet is EPA exempt under FIFRA (25)b and made of FDA approved Human Food Grade Ingredients certified Organic by USDA NOP. Earlier this year the USDA awarded Best Yet the Bio-Preferred label and is regarded at the same level of certification by dozens of other agencies. It doesn't get any better than that! I’ve chosen to help promote CedarCide’s cedar oil solutions without compensation because I, too, believe in limiting the cumulative affects of toxins in our air, soils and waters when alternatives are available. These cedar oil solutions are a definite win for consumers, retailers, local manufacturer, and most importantly, Mother Earth.
Karen F Williams picture
Karen F Williams
We gave our cat brewer's yeast to control fleas. We didn't have a flea problem in Colorado (Denver) - I believe it was cold enough in the winter to kill flea eggs. However, living in Portland, Oregon, is a different story. It rarely gets below freezing for longer than a day or two. We put brewer's yeast in a small dish next to the cat's food and water. She loved it, and that cured her fleas and the accompanying tape worms that came with the fleas.
gigous picture
I use white vinegar mixed with water spray to keep fleas, ticks off my dogs It works. It also works to keep ants our of our house. Lemongrass is toxic to dogs.
hedgewitch3 picture
Years ago I had taken in a stray kitten - filthy, malnurished and literally packed with fleas! I didn't want this to spread to my older cat so quarantine and bathing were at the top of the "to do" list when the little one entered my home. Knowing some essential oils are considered "hot" and give the equivalent of a chemical burn, I was very cautious during the bathing procedure. I used a very dilute bit of Dr. Brommer's Peppermint Soap liquid (my own bathing choice) on the kitten. Rubbed him down, rinsed thoroughly, then repeated the procedure with a second and third final rinse. I wrapped the little waif in a towel and combed through his fur to pick out any remaining fleas and deposited them in a custard cup half full of rubbing alcohol. It took time! But I got him cleaned up. Usually indoor cats, I had no further problems for months. Unfortunately, fleas found there way inside (I suspect a box of papers from my work place.) Now I had to address the whole house...not just one kitten. I learned pennyroyal is a natural flea deterent. So to my natural/herbal store I went, purchased several ounces of the herb, came home to brew! Bring water to near boiling and steep the herb for several minutes. (You can actually leave a tea ball sit until the pot has cooled to room temperature since you're not ingesting this infusion.) Once cooled, you can use some in a dilute of warm water to make a pet dip (although I learned it will temporarily give a yellow tint to an otherwise all snow white cat, lol). You can use it in a spray bottle to mist furniture and carpets too (again, be aware of the yellow tinting if you have light colored stuff in your home). Like I said, it's a deterent, not a killer, so you'll have to be vigilant about follow-up sprays and vaccuming to force the pesky visitors to find more welcoming accommodations. A benefit - pennyroyal is a member of the plant family so the rooms will have a fresh scent!
lexan picture
my little weasel got fleas from a roommate's cats. treating him was not easy, as their nervous systems are very sensitive. you can't treat them the same as kittens, no matter what the vet says. so we ended up using a neem shampoo, leaving the suds on about five minutes. cage got cleaned every other day while he was being bathed, bedding was changed from fluffy stuff to ripped up towels (which were washed every other day - much cheaper), and the environment was sprayed with tea tree oil and lemongrass boiled in water. took a month, and a move, but he's back to normal. his hair was falling out and he lost so much weight, plus the stress made him a very depressed little guy. i'm glad i've got my baby back to normal!
eeriksen picture
I agree that Brewer's yeast is amazing as a flea remedy. Plus, my cats love it. I just sprinkle some over their food with each serving. That, plus regular vacuuming, seems to do the trick. By the way, I tried nutritional yeast once when my store was out of the Brewer's yeast, and it didn't keep the fleas away! So, Brewer's only, for me (and the cats). Fyi, I've read a lot of information online about the dangers of garlic (and onion) in dogs and cats' diets. Apparently, way too much can cause a "Heinz Body" anemia, but even a little can produce lesions in the mouth and along the gastrointestinal tract. Cats are more sensitive than dogs. For that reason, I eschewed using the garlic/brewer's yeast tabs created for pets. However, the Brewer's yeast I get at my local Whole Foods store (comes in a can, in the supplement section), which is for human-grade consumption, is cheaper than buying the tabs and has no garlic! (And keeps those fleas at bay, most importantly!)
HyperFred picture
Just to elaborate more on the diatomaceous earth thing, the type you're looking for is amorphous as opposed to crystalline. Crystalline silica (diatoms' frustules are made of this) is very hazardous to breathe in; amorphous is about as effective for a bug infestation, and usually safer. The risk of silicosis is always there, though, so use with caution. Had to pass it on to my boss who unfortunately came down with a bedbug problem quite recently.
oldblinddog picture
susanguare picture
I solved a real flea infestation in my house in Florida by sprinkling borax on the carpeting every night, after my kids were in bed, and vacuuming it in the morning. I did this for two weeks (I made a sprinkling can from a coffee can with holes in the lid) and we had no more problems.
cowfish7 picture
I have not researched this yet, but my vet prefers Sodium-PolyBorate to D.E. for safety. In addition to a simple combing and THOROUGH soapy bath - leave the soap on for several minutes.
ebiczko picture
I personally treat my pets with a garlic supplement as well as a shampoo I have added a few drops of tea tree oil to. I usually use suave rosemary and mint for myself and I add a few drops of tea tree into it. It has worked great for us. I haven't seen a flea on our dog or cats in years. The added benefits of tea tree is that it is also antibacterial, antifungal, antiviral, and is great for dandruff. The fact that I think it smells great too is just an added bonus. (Oh! and it works great for lice too)
dnoyes picture
i give my corgi 3 "brewer's yeast with garlic tabs" in her food each morning. she has no fleas or ticks. when i started her on the tabs, i had to start slowly so she wouldn't upchuck the tabs. first week 1 tab, next week 2 tabs, third week 3 tabs. i purchase them from an agway store. not expensive and i have piece of mind.
LILIANA picture
A post I found useful:
back2nature picture
I have done alot of research on this alternative flea treatment from other websites. From what I have read there are pros and cons but the pros way out weigh the cons...So using it is so much safer than the chemicals...
rubberdollz picture
Be careful if you decide to use essential oils when dealing with animals, essential oils can pose major health problems in cats so you need to be extra careful if you have both cats and dogs!! Dr. Harvey sells a shampoo that uses essential oils to help combat fleas and it's all natural but when I bathe the dog I have to keep him away from the kitties for about 1/2 hour so they don't breathe it in. Also... I have used DE, it can be a slight irritant but I think if you are diligent about using it the benefits are far greater than the irritant it can be. Be sure that you are flea combing on top of using the DE and also make sure you get the right kind of DE. There is a grade that is used in pools I think and then there is the food grade so be sure to check your packaging!!!
pigoff1234 picture
My girlfriend gave her dog a garlic pill daily and it was an outside dog only (slept on the porch) and it never had any fleas. She didn't treat the yard either and since she lived in the country it was not a fenced in yard so the dog traveled everywhere.
jennydare picture
For those using or considering DE, please do some research to make sure that this is a safe choice for you and especially your pets. I personally am in a terrible situation with bugs and have been SO tempted to try DE... but every time I start researching this substance, I stop short of acutually using it. Understand that Diatomaceous Earth is basically tiny razor sharp particles that cut up the bugs as well as dehydrate them--great right? Well sure if only the bugs are going to be exposed. If your animals are also exposed, and you are exposed, it's a fine dust that will be inhaled and it's a dreadful lung irritant. Personally, I haven't yet decided if the chemicals are going to be a better alternative as we've suffered side effects from them as well. But since I can't keep my pet's paws off the floor, and then out of their mouths, ears, potentially eyes, etc... I have stopped just short of the DE alternative. Please do some web searches on its safety and be sure to wear the proper respitory equipment if you choose to go this route.
Betsy picture
Now that I have read two comments about diatomaceous earth, I am definitely going to give it a try. I had heard about it, but was hesitant to give it a try not knowing if it would work... I have had a flea infestation in my basement every spring for quite a few years now that is just impossible to control. I don't know where they are coming from because it's an unfinished basement and no animals go down there except me when I do my laundry. I'll let everyone know how it works out using DE.
rjmart01 picture
top-dressing pet food with a little brewer's yeast apparently makes their skin smell bad to fleas and ticks. it also makes their coats shine. (works for people too, although I don't know about the shiny coat part.)
Leanna picture
DE works well for us as a premise treatment- it is so fine it is difficult to get on the dog without it flying everywhere! A 50 # bag of foodgrade DE runs us a little over $30....a lot of vets aren't real familiar with or supportive of more natural methods....
Maureen picture
08/05/11 vet just told me diatomaceous earth does not work...that that is just a myth! I want to try it in our yard or nematodes. I'm guessing DE is probably cheaper (I have a BIG yard!).
brenda picture
2 words- Diatomaceous earth. They are diatoms from the ocean floor. This is all you need. It works wonders. I tried every treatment possible, including chemicals (yuk), then a Vet recommended this. We were infested!! Sprinkle it on the pets, focusing on the back near the tail where the fleas breed. Rub it in and repeat daily for a few weeks. We also treated our house. It is completely natural and safe. Have not seen a flea since and this was 8 years ago. I do it in the spring once or twice every year and am very thankful that there has never been another occurrence.