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Natural Flea Control

And why I think it’s bunk.

Topical flea meds are a godsend. As a kid, I remember one of our dogs having a rip roaring flea allergy. This was pre-Frontline. We were pretty much powerless against the blood sucking vermin causing her so much discomfort. It was all baths, dips, and powders. All of them noxious. None of them helping. Nowadays a monthly squirt, and she’d have been fine. Those topicals are a big improvement over the days of yore.

They are also very small amounts of pesticides. Neurotoxins even. I say again, small amounts. But, on my dogs. Somehow that is less appealing.

IMG_7196
Peaceful dogs. Not itchy. Who knows what lurks below the spotted surface.

So every year we have this debate: to flea or not to flea? That is the question.

I’m a proponent of natural solutions. The less chemicals in all our lives, the better. In general. The theory behind natural flea control goes something like this: Like any other parasite, fleas prey on the weak. The immune supressed, the eaters of inferior diets. Healthy dogs may get a bite or two, a temporary passenger, but if they are living in a clean environment and have robust constitutions, no significant flea problem should there be.

I’m going to go out on a limb here and say my dogs fall into this category.

Beyond that, there are natural solutions to surpress the occasional fleas: Diatomaceous Earth, Borax, Brewers yeast, essential oils. This toolbox of goodies will dehydrate them, repel them, and generally make your dog an inhospitable host.

Let me also say, I’ve got all this stuff. All of it. Not only that, I’ve got virtually no carpet for the varmits to take up residence in. Over the years, I’ve made natural flea collars. I’ve spritzed my dogs with essential oil blends. I’ve dumped pounds and pounds of white powder onto floors and furniture. My raw fed, herb eating, holistic vet visiting dogs have no stinking excuse for more than the briefest of encounters with these creepy crawlies.

And yet. And yet, every stinking year. We have to have this long drawn out conversation. How many fleas do they have? Is it that bad? Apply the powders, wait a few days. Did that take care of it? Do we want to just use Frontline? Advantage? What about Revolution? Fleabusters, could that be an option. How much does THAT cost? This goes on and on. I ramp up the natural stuff. I add some extra vitamin B. We go on a cleaning rampage. We wait for the wave to subside.

Then we bust out the neurotoxins. Despite my diligence, my very best intentions, daily effort even, it never works. My dogs end up doing the itchy scratchy dance, I find fleas where I should not find fleas. Much too easily. I let it go on as long as I possibly can, waiting and waiting for it all to kick in. It doesn’t. I relent to the wonders of modern veterinary medicine, and cross my fingers that we will get through another year with no side effects from the convenient elimination of fleas. Side effects you hear tell of, like oh say paralysis. Very rare. Super scary, especially for older dogs, like most of mine. So Far. So Good. Trying not to jinx myself.

You may have gathered, I’m not a religious flea control user. Not in that format at least. We don’t have to deal with them year round, so I don’t treat year round. It’s a fringe benefit of this part of the country. That, and not having ticks. A random flea, doesn’t bother me. It typically ends up once, maybe twice a year, I spend a small fortune on pharmaceuticals I don’t exactly agree with to preserve the comfort of my dogs, and my own sanity.

I don’t like it. I wish their were a functional alternative. If my uber healthy dogs end up with fleas requiring meds, I think most dogs will. We will continue to limit their exposure to both bugs and chemicals, keep the succubus at bay every which way, and cross our fingers.

What do you do for flea control? Do you worry about the chemicals? Have you tried any natural alternatives?

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Comments

Tracy Warren
Reply

Knock on wood we haven’t done flea control for 5 or 6 years now and have had no fleas. I would however use whatever it took to get rid of them. In our younger days we moved into a house with an old flea infested couch in the basement. OMG we had to hire an exterminator – it was that bad.
The ticks are another story this year. We tried to go w/o the treatments but the human baby was suffering. She said if we didn’t get something for the dogs they weren’t sleeping with her anymore. She found two stuck to her and a couple more crawling. We had to do something.

dogsordollars
Reply

Sometimes you gotta do something. I thank my lucky Seattle stars we don’t deal with ticks. Ticks creep me out.

Crystal Wayward
Reply

I was once duped by a greenwashed “natural” flea repellant for felines that nearly killed my cat. Since then, I have stuck with Frontline, even though I hate it and the greasy stain it leaves on the dogs for days afterwards. Back when i just had Scooby and we lived in an apartment, eucalyptus essential oil seemed to work well. But then the fleas started jumping to the cat.

dogsordollars
Reply

Oh now that’s scarey. Cats are even more sensitive to essential oils, particularly their ingestion, so not surprising.

Kaitlin Jenkins
Reply

We’ve recently switched from Frontline to natural methods. A few posts I’ve read on this very blog + vast amounts of research on my own had finally swayed me from the chemically preventatives. That was about 4 months ago (of course I decided to switch in the midst of flea/tick season!) and so far we’re doing great. We’ve only got two dogs which has certainly made it easier to keep tabs on them. I’ve not seen a tick or a flea since we’ve switched, and we found four ticks in a week prior to the switch. We’re using a homemade oral additive (acv, garlic, dandelion) to their food as well as using Eco-Me brand dog kit which has a vinegar and essential oils to repel bugs. Have you ever tried adding anything to their food??
Recipe to the oral additive: http://shespeaksbark.com/bugs-be-gone/

dogsordollars
Reply

Hey Kaitlin, I hate the chemicals! Hence my rant! Having to use them always feels like a fat failure on my part. We definitely done food additions – ACV in the water, brewers yeast/vitamin B in the food, even garlic (in limited amounts). We still end up with fleas, some years more than others. My policy is just I treat when I have to.

Kaitlin Jenkins
Reply

I agree. Using chemicals always feels like a big fat failure to me too. Weather its for the dogs, out in the garden (gosh, only when I HAVE to), house cleaners etc. Always just a disappointment. Vinegar is slowly but surely turning to my go-to product for a ridiculous number of household, garden, and pet related chores.

Charmaine
Reply

Having good luck this year using neem oil added to their shampoo. Bath my two dogs with it about once a month. My one girl is very allergic to fleas, so I know right away when she’s gotten a bite. So far, so good with the neem oil. I really hate using Frontline/Advantage… and what we found at the Vet hosp. where I used to work is that when used repetitively as recommended, fleas seem to develop a tolerance to the chemicals.

dogsordollars
Reply

Fleas are definitely becoming immune to the more common chemicals. I think this will get even worse now that there’s a generic form of frontline. At this point frontline is actually my least favorite. Anecdotally, I hear about the most side effects, and Advantage II has some… advantages in the way it functions. I’ve used Neem in the past, a good reminder thank you. Usually I take a more of eucalyptus, tea tree, rosemary and even cedar kind of approach.

Kaitlin Jenkins
Reply

I’ve noticed the ‘tolerance to chemicals’ thing too, and that’s when it gets really scary!! I use neem oil for various garden related tasks, is it the SAME stuff you use in the dogs shampoo? Since neem is an oil pressed from a plant I’d assume there is sorta only ‘one variety’ but since I’ve never used it on pets I’m a little nervous. Any insight anyone?

Jenny
Reply

So fleas are a topic of great concern in my house, and something I know a lot about given the dog’s flea allergy. We live in NC, where it’s flea season 9 months of the year (or year round if you believe the vet). Frontline is no longer effective at my house, nor are several of the other topical medications. When considering topical preventatives, you have to also consider the other living beings in the house. Doggy flea preventatives can be toxic (and life-threatening) for cats and toddlers. So my vet put Riley on Comfortis, which is an internal medication. Admittedly, I hate, hate, hate feeding my dog pesticides. But I don’t hate it as much as watching my dog chew off all his fur and be miserable when he has even the smallest amount of fleas. I just give it to him when I notice he’s starting to have an issue (about every 5-6 weeks), rather than following the every 4 week dosage.

katherine
Reply

I am one of those who wants to use natural products, but I’m afraid to stray from my current, chemical-filled choice. And like everyone else, I’m sure, completly grossed out by parasites. I should just take a leap of faith and try a natural alternative, but I’m terrified of what the results might be. Although, I definitely need to try something different for my 17 lb cat because I gave him Frontline last month, and it burned his hair and skin. Everytime I see the spot on him, it breaks my heart. My dog, and two other (smaller) cats seem to do okay with the commercial products. We live in a wooded area and have a huge flea/tick population. So- if anyone has any suggestions for cat natural remedies, I’m all ears (or eyes).

Jenny
Reply

Katherine, From what I can tell a lot of the natural products will make cats sick. I have two: neither one have fleas and neither get flea preventatives. I have heard that if one animal, like the dog, is treated with the chemical-filled stuff that kills all stages of fleas, then that should keep the flea population in the whole house under control, and in my experience this is true. However, my cats are indoors. I’m not sure if the same concept applies for outdoor cats. Maybe try to go without for your one sensitive kitty and see if he can stay flea-free by association?

katherine
Reply

Jenny,

Thanks for this. This cat is indoor only so it makes total sense that I shouldn’t have to use anything on him. Two years ago, before we acquired the big cat , we had a major flea infestation and all the animals had problems, so I’ve treated them all ever since. Sometimes common sense falls victim to my paranoia. :-)

Married with Dawgs
Reply

Best rant ever! I too try to stay completely natural with my flea remedies but it’s hard. Fleas are tough buggers to get rid of. I did have to resort to Frontline last Fall to get rid of a particularly bad infestation but since then, have had no issues. I also only used one dose on one of my 3 dogs (the one I was always finding the most fleas on) and it did the trick for all 3.

Since last Fall, I give them ACV (Braggs or a comparable non-filtered variety) with their food. So far so good. We’re just about to enter Portland’s highest flea season so my goal is to stay on top of it, add a natural flea spray for Aug & Sept and not have the flea nightmare we had last Fall.

Cassi
Reply

Hmmm, I don’t think I have ever had a dog with fleas. Seems irritating. I personally lie natural stuff better, so my vote is natural unless chemicals are really needed. Good luck!

Cassadega
Reply

in the nine years of Lucydog, i have administered frontline twice ever. but, alas, montana has those icky ticks of which you speak of, so i might have to break my streak. honestly, i wouldn’t muck around with fleas…once you have them, you have them. just break the bank and buy the damn topical. it isn’t worth the itching, or the nightmares…in my case.

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