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How to Treat Your Dog's Flea Infestation Naturally

Updated on December 5, 2012
Don't let fleas make your dog miserable! Use natural flea control to keep him flea free and healthy!
Don't let fleas make your dog miserable! Use natural flea control to keep him flea free and healthy! | Source

Safe, Effective Natural Flea Control

If the health and safety of your dog is a high priority, than controlling the most common affliction in dogs—fleas—should be dealt with using the least toxic and most natural choices available. Using stronger, commercial and chemical methods only if all else fails miserably. The best natural defense against any nagging flea problem, is to keep your dog as healthy and fit as possible through great nutrition, exercise, and meaningful companionship. Aside from these, managing a clean and sanitary environment is your very first step in guarding against a full-blown flea infestation.

Life Cycle of a Flea

Why Should I Care About the Flea Life Cycle

Once you understand the life cycle of a flea, you will better understand why cleanliness is such a predominant concern in flea control.

Flea Egg to Flea Larvae: On average, an adult flea will live three to four months. For every one of those 90 to 120 days, every female flea is depositing eggs which resemble tiny specs of white dandruff (or fine salt crystals), which hatch out as hungry larvae in about one to two weeks. These tiny flea larvae reside comfortably in the nooks and crannies of carpets, blankets, rugs, furniture, dirt, and anything else that suits their youthful needs.

Flea Larvae to Flea Pupa: The now hatched larvae are restricted from moving around very much, making the transition of an inch their maximum travel distance. The flea hatchlings consume as much of the tiny black flea dirt (dried blood) as they can find. The flea dirt has been scratched or knocked off of a host, just waiting around to offer the tiny parasites a meal. After 7 to 14 more days, the flea larvae head into the pupa (cocoon) stage of life.

Anatomy of a Flea

An up close look at  Flea Anatomy
An up close look at Flea Anatomy

Flea Pupa to Tiny New Fleas: After the larvae have spent 7 to 14 more days developing inside their individual cocoon, a new baby flea pops out looking to feast on a rich blood meal; better known as you or your pet! This is where the life cycle of a flea starts all over again.

How Long is the Flea Life Cycle

The entire life cycle of a flea takes anywhere from 2 to 20 weeks. This broad range of time is due to temperature changes. During flea season—warm to hot summer months—the entire life cycle can be accomplished in just 2 weeks. This is why you will find most large flea infestations to occur during the summer months. Every flea is in high reproductive gear when the warmth of the sun invigorates reproduction.

The Good and Bad News on Natural Flea Control

The bad thing about flea control is that it is nearly impossible to kill all of them. Because they have deposited so many eggs, the life cycle of larvae, pupa, and new fleas just continues to multiply in rapid form, and all at the same time. Which creates an unmanageable number of fleas to kill.

The good thing about flea control is that these same rapidly progressing eggs, larvae, and pupa must rely on the flea dirt to survive. Because they are quite limited in terms of mobility, a good vacuuming of the infested areas sucks up all of tonight's dinner! The immobility of these stages in the flea's life cycle also allows you to pin-point just where the majority of these parasites live; right where your dog sleeps!

Keeping Things Clean is Important to Natural Flea Control

Keeping your dogs bedding or sleeping area clean is vital to any chance you have of controlling fleas on your pet, or yourself. A consistent cleaning schedule will disrupt the flea life cycle, as well as reduce the number of adult fleas that will reside on your dog (and your family).

Getting things vacuumed, washed, and naturally treated BEFORE FLEA SEASON HITS offers you a huge advantage in your battle against a flea infestation this summer!

Carpet Care Keeps Fleas Minimized!

Carpet care helps keep flea infestations minimal!
Carpet care helps keep flea infestations minimal! | Source

Step by Step Natural Flea Control

I recommend a ten step program for Effectively Treating Fleas Naturally BEFORE AND DURING FLEA SEASON:

Ten Steps to Natural Flea Control

  1. Vacuum Floors and Furniture
  2. Steam Clean Carpets
  3. Launder Dog Bedding
  4. Bathe Dog
  5. Sterilize Ground (dirt) Where Your Dog Sleeps in Yard
  6. Keep Lawns Mowed and Watered
  7. Encourage Ants in Yard
  8. Apply Natural Citrus Skin Tonic to Dog
  9. Use a Flea Comb
  10. Sprinkle Natural unrefined Diatomaceous Earth

1. Vacuum Floors and Furniture at least weekly to suck up fleas, eggs, larvae and pupa. Be sure to vacuum where your dog sleeps, and use attachments to get in the nooks and crannies. Immediately discard the vacuum bag in the outside trash. (Saturating the bag with soapy water helps kill the fleas that are alive in the bag.)

2. Steam Clean Carpets right before flea season begins. Save cost by renting your own machine. Steam cleaning really works well at killing the flea eggs.

Wash you dogs bedding at least once a week to reduce flea reproduction by interrupting the life cycle.
Wash you dogs bedding at least once a week to reduce flea reproduction by interrupting the life cycle. | Source

3. Wash Dog Bedding weekly, using hot water and soap, then dry on high heat (which kills all stages of fleas life). Roll the bedding carefully so the loose eggs don't drop off on the way to the washing machine!

4. Bathe Dog with a natural flea-control shampoo that has a non-toxic guarantee on the label, something with d-limonene (only use on dogs, this stuff makes cats sick).

5. Sterilize Ground (dirt) Where Your Dog Sleeps in the Yard. Should your dog have a favorite sandy or bare-earth area he regularly sleeps upon, every-so-often use a dark tarp or plastic sheet to cover the spot on really hot, sunny days. Make sure to clear away any debris first. The heat that builds up under the tarp will kill fleas and larvae. (This technique will also kill grass and plant life so be careful where you lay the plastic.)

A tailored short lawn lets the rays from the sun heat and kill flea larvae laid in the grass!
A tailored short lawn lets the rays from the sun heat and kill flea larvae laid in the grass! | Source

6. Keep Lawns Mowed and Watered regularly. The shorter the grass is the more sunlight can reach the soil to warm it, which will kill the flea larvae. Watering will drown the fleas in other developing stages.

7. Encourage Ants in Yards where your dog hangs out. Ants are a natural enemy to flea eggs and larvae, eating as many flea treats as they can in any given day. The insect food chain is another really good reason not to use pesticides in your yard!

8. Apply Natural Citrus Skin Tonic to your Dog. Thin slice an entire lemon, peel and all. Place it in an almost-boiling pint of water and let it sit overnight. The next day, using a sponge or washcloth, work the lemon tonic into your dogs skin and allow it to dry. You can use this tonic daily during heavy flea infestations, or every-so-often with minimal infestations. It is good for the skin, kills fleas, and helps to heal other skin issues.

9. Use a Flea Comb to catch and destroy adult fleas on your dog. Get yourself a bowl of hot soapy water. After combing through the dog's hair the fleas will be trapped in the teeth of a special "flea comb". Knock these fleas off into the water. You can submerge the comb first to prevent any fleas from escaping. You may have to push the fleas from between the teeth of the comb with your fingers, as they get tightly trapped sometimes. Flush the flea-infested water after you are done.

10. Sprinkle Natural unrefined Diatomaceous Earth Around the areas not accessible to the vacuum; along walls, under furniture, in nooks and crannies, and anywhere else you think fleas might be breeding. Diatomaceous Earth is the fossilized remains of one-celled algae. Even as direct skin contact is harmless to humans and pets, it kills insects and their larvae, and this includes fleas. These really fine particles in the Diatomaceous Earth attach to the waxy coating on the insect exoskeleton, drying it out so drastically that the insect dies.

A Safety Note About Diatomaceous Earth

Do NOT use the kind of Diatomaceous Earth that is made for swimming pool filters. It is far to fine and can cause inflammation if you breathe it into your lungs.

NOTE: I wouldn't use Diatomaceous Earth too often, and do not put it directly on your dog. This is only because the tiny dust particles can get breathed in by your dog (or you). Always wear a dust mask when spreading this material around. It isn't toxic, but has been known to irritate the nose.

What Ingredients Are in Common Chemical Flea-Control Products

Chlorpyrifos, DDVP, Cythiote, Diazinon, Dichlorvos, Dursban, Endothion, Fenthion, Korlan, Malathion, Naled, Neguvon, Parathion, phosmet, Propetmphos, Ronnel, Trichlorfon, & Vapona.
INITIALLY: salivation, involuntary defecation, urination, vomiting, wide stance. PROGRESSES TO: difficulty standing, weakness, convulsions, tremors, constricted pupils, watery eyes, reduced heartbeat, difficult breathing,. May also cause dermatitis, aggravated heart and respritory disease. Fenthion may cause chronic appetite and weight loss, depression, mild head and neck tremors. Vapona (DDVP, Dichlovos), widely used since 1950s, may pose significant leukemia hazard.
Among the most common pet insecticides, and found in all kinds of products. Kills fleas throughthe pet's blood. Can be extremely toxic.Malithion and Ronnel are considered to be the least toxic in this group. Never use Fenthion or Cythioate on cats.
Aldicarb, Baygon, Bendiocarb, Bufencarb (BUX), Carbaryl, Carbofuran, Ficam, various Methylcarbamate compounds, Moban, Maneb, Propoxur, Sevin, Zectran, Zineb, and Ziram.
INITIALLY: salivation, involuntary defecation, urination, vomiting, wobbliness, wide stance. PROGRESSES TO: difficulty standing, weakness, convulsions, tremors, constricted pupils, watery eyes, reduced heartbeat, difficult breathing. Can cause depression of bone marrow, degeneration of the brain.
Based on carbamic acid, found in all kinds of pet products. Like organophosphates, toxic effect is immediate, bur carbamates are generally less severe. Sevin and Carbaryl do not accumulate in tissues and are said to be much less toxic than Parathion, as an example.
Dichlorophene, DMC, Endosulphan, Endrin, Heptachlor, Isobenzan, Lindane (Gamma BHC), Methoxy-chlor, Paradichlorobenzene, Toxaphene, TDE. Banned or restricted: DDT, DDE, Aldrin, Dieldrin, and Chlordane.
Exaggerated responses to touch, light, and sound. Spasms and tremors appear (usually starting with the face), progressing to epilepsy-like seizures, often followed by death. NO KNOWN antidote. Many members of this group have been shown to cause cancer in experimental animals. Because concern about carcinogenic potential, Lindane was banned as an indoor fumigant in 1986.
Less immediatly toxic than carbamates, which have largely replaced them. But, they accumulate in the tissues and persist for years in the environment. Insects have developed a resistance to many. Cats are particularly vulnerable to this group, especially to Lindane, DDT, and Chlordane. Dogs are susceptable to Toxaphene and DDE.
Spot-on Style Insecticides
Fipronil, Imidacloprid, Permethrin, Pyriproxyfen.
New neurotoxins, the active ingredients of products to be applied to the skin and absorbed into the body. When fleas jump on and bite the poison will kill them.
Many toxic effects. Has caused cancer in animals, altered thyroid hormone levels, caused seizures and severe skin disease in some animals, with parts of the skin coming off, difficult breathing, enlarged livers, miscarriages, and many other effects.
Considered nontoxic, but usually combined with toxic chemicals to kill adult fleas.
A growth regulator used in foggers or commercial sparays to inhibit fleas from hatching fromthe pupal stage. Only effective indoors. Implicated in killing aquatic life streams and creeks as it washes off treated animals.
Rotenone (and other cube resins)
Skin irritation. Overdose can cause death through paralysis of respiration. Chronic exposure may injure liver and kidneys.
Derived from a poisonous tropical legume. Considered fairly toxic to mammals. Loses much potency in presence of light and oxygen; has little residual action. Slower-acting but more potent than Pyrethrin. Found in shampoos, dips, and powders.
TOXIC SIGNS IN CATS: excess salivation, weakness, muscle tremors. NO toxic effects reported in dogs.
Natural citrus extract. Dissolves flea's waxy coating, causes dehydration and death. Kills 99% of fleas if shampoo lather left on for ten minutes.
Natural Pyrethrins and Synthetic Pyrethroids Allethrin, Resmethrin, and Permethrin
Can cause allergic dermatitis and systemic allergic reactions. Large amounts may cause nausea, vomiting, rining in the ears, headaches, and other nervous system disturbances, but rapidly detoxifies in the intestines. Prolonged use may cause slight liver damage. Permethrin may be a slight carcinogen (according to mice studies).
Labeled nontoxic. Considered least toxic to mammals of all insecticides. Derived from chrysanthemums. Mostly in aerosol sprays, sometimes in flea shampoos and sprays. Causes rapid paralysis of insect nervous system (many die, but many recover in a few hours, so repeated applications are necessasry). Synergists may be added to inhibit flea's detoxification process and increase residual effect.
Arecoline Hydrobromide
Vomiting, unconsciousness, diarrhea, and depression. Though natural, it must be considered a potentially toxic substance.
The active ingredient found in areca nut, an Oriental folk remedy for worms, it has long been used in tapeworm control. Considered insafe for cats. Can cause undesirable responses in dogs also.
Benzyl Benzoate
Nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and a slowing of the heartbeat and breathing rate.
Often used for mange control. Can be toxic if applied over too large an area or too often. Cats are susceptible, but dogs occasionally die from excessive use.
Piperonyl Butoxide, N-octylbicycloheptene discarosimide E
Large doses cause vomiting and diarrhea.
Not true insecticides. Added to other ingredients to block flea's detoxification process and increase effectiveness.
Boric acid derivatives (Flea-busters Rx for Fleas)
Ingestion may cause nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, rash, dizziness.
Mineral salts applied to carpets to kill developing fleas. Low toxicity. Reported to be very effective for up to a year.
Micro-encapsulation Process
Reduces toxicity of insecticides to pets and people because the tiny capsules pass through intestines before all their contents are absorbed.
Use of thin nylon or urea shell around minute bits of insecticide, used for sustained release and longer action. Less effective if used with flea repellents.
Information derived from R. H. Pitcairn, DVM,PhD. Natural Health for Dogs & Cats

What You Think Really Does Matter

Do you use chemical flea treatments on your dog?

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Comments for "How to Treat Your Dog's Flea Infestation Naturally"

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  • K9keystrokes profile imageAUTHOR

    India Arnold 

    8 years ago from Northern, California

    stephhicks68~ I only recently learned about the ant-flea connection. I have a renewed appreciation for the ant population to say the least (as long as they stay out of my house)! But as yard guardians against flea infestation, they are tops on my list!

    Thank you for making it by today, honored that you did.


  • K9keystrokes profile imageAUTHOR

    India Arnold 

    8 years ago from Northern, California

    kashmir56~ Thank you for sharing your comments here! I just hate fleas, and my pets hate them even more. It is worth every minute it takes to prevent, maintain, and kill fleas naturally (or otherwise)! I sure appreciate the vote!


  • stephhicks68 profile image

    Stephanie Marshall 

    8 years ago from Bend, Oregon

    Hi K9, this is such a great hub!! I hate using chemicals, especially when it comes to pets (and kids). All of these tips are helpful and do-able! Love what you said about the ants, in particular. My dog will thank you this year when he gets through flea season with less distress. :) Best, Steph

  • kashmir56 profile image

    Thomas Silvia 

    8 years ago from Massachusetts

    All great information and advice within this well written hub so you do not have to use chemicals on your dog to kill and get rid of those nasty fleas .

    Vote up and more !!!

  • K9keystrokes profile imageAUTHOR

    India Arnold 

    8 years ago from Northern, California

    Hi Mary~ I totally understand what you are feeling when it comes to chemical flea control. Your little darling has a similar problem as my Golden; super bad flea allergies. I find that the lemon tonic does soothe him, but in no way is enough to keep him comfortable. So, spot-on meds it is. Keeping the flea prevention plan up to date has been a very helpful way to stave off a bad reaction as well. It is a lot of work, but he is so worth it!

    I am happy for your little one, a good dog mama is a wonderful thing! And you are surely one of those good ones! :)


  • K9keystrokes profile imageAUTHOR

    India Arnold 

    8 years ago from Northern, California

    CC! Thanks for making it by today, nice to see you here. Thank you for sharing your experience with natural Diatomaceous Earth flea control. I love when people share real life experiences like this. I sure appreciate you leaving your comments.


  • K9keystrokes profile imageAUTHOR

    India Arnold 

    8 years ago from Northern, California

    Shesabutterfly~ What a lucky puppy you have! We need more dog lovers like you! My Golden has a really bad allergic reaction to flea bite, bring severe skin issues. SO I have to resort to using the spot-on meds. I know the toxic chemicals are bad, but this outweighs his need for comfort in the present. Even a single flea bite can send him reeling. But, I have been testing many of the natural flea treatments and find that the only way to manage a flea infestation is to adopt a multilayer approach as described in the article. Thank you for being a dog lover and for stopping by!

    I am wishing you and your family (furry or otherwise) a flea-free summer!


  • mary615 profile image

    Mary Hyatt 

    8 years ago from Florida

    I agree with Victoria Lynn. I have to use chemicals on my dog, but I prefer not to. I like the idea of lemon juice; I'll try that. I voted this UP, etc.

  • cclitgirl profile image

    Cynthia Calhoun 

    8 years ago from Western NC

    Beautiful layout and awesome hub! I actually do use DE (food grade) on my dog. My health food store has a section for natural flea remedies and I got a powder canister that also has lavender in it - and it does give warnings about not breathing it, but I usually just apply outside, away from places where I need/want beneficial insects. You sprinkle against the fur - and a little goes a long way. You have to reapply once every three days or so, but I don't mind. My boy had a bad reaction to the vet medicine and I'm deathly afraid of the topical chemical applications. I do use many of the other suggestions you have here, too. Bravo and well done! Votes and more! :)

  • Shesabutterfly profile image

    Cholee Clay 

    8 years ago from Wisconsin

    When I first adopted my puppy it took forever to get the fleas she came with out. But we finally managed and I'm hoping for a flea-free summer. Very informative and well written hub. Going to use these natural treatments to keep the fleas at bay.

    The ants bit is very interesting and I'll be sure to keep the kids from killing them this summer:) I may also need to try the lemon on her skin as well.

  • K9keystrokes profile imageAUTHOR

    India Arnold 

    8 years ago from Northern, California

    Victoria~ Thank you for making it by. I have not had a great deal of luck in the past with natural flea treatments until recently. Putting together a good multilayer approach to these deviant little creatures has proved to be more helpful than just one or two elements. In some cases, the allergic reaction flea bites can bring to a dog's skin makes the toxic-flea products the only right choice. But, for those dogs who can take the bite of a few fleas with little to no harsh reaction, natural flea control should always be utilized, in my opinion of course.

    I wish you and your pets a flea-free summer!


  • Victoria Lynn profile image

    Victoria Lynn 

    8 years ago from Arkansas, USA

    I'm glad I came across this hub. I hate putting chemicals on or in my dog. I love your idea on the lemon on his skin. I must try that! Thanks for such a wonderfully informative hub that will help my best friend! Voted up and everything but funny!


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