Natural Flea Control

Don't spend the summer singing "My dog has fleas." Use the following tactics for natural flea control to change that tune.

| May/June 1985

natural flea control - cartoon

You should only try shooting them as a last resort. Hopefully, natural flea control methods can save you the trouble.



At times they seem to be taking over the world. These bloodsucking pests not only are irritating to man and beast alike, but can also cause severe skin problems in both dogs and cats. Worse yet, as fleas become increasingly resistant to the synthetic chemicals science has produced for their control, pesticide manufacturers are making their products increasingly stronger — and more dangerous — in an attempt to keep pace with the parasites.

As a result of this unhealthy race, household pets are suffering twice: They're chewed on by fleas, and they're used as a battleground for the chemical warfare being waged by their well-meaning owners. In fact, I've often encountered cases of severe poisoning in dogs and cats due to the overzealous application of synthetic-chemical flea treatments. And many of those poisoned animals still have fleas!

Fortunately, there are effective, nontoxic ways to achieve natural flea control that won’t harm our pets. But before we can attempt them, we must understand the tiny monsters' life cycle and purpose in nature’s scheme.

The Enemy: A Biographical Sketch

The adult dog flea (either Ctenocephalides felis or C. canis) is a wingless insect equipped with a set of powerful hind legs that enable it to jump nine inches straight up or five feet sideways. Like vampires, adult fleas feed only on blood.

But the most important thing to know and remember about the flea is that the majority of its life is spent away from the host animal. Fleas invade our pets only when they need a transfusion.

8/10/2016 6:33:51 PM


6/17/2016 3:26:23 PM

Pine Tar Soap will KILL fleas immediately and try out any eggs left on pet after shampooing. I've also used a cup of Pine o Pine in a tub of water to sit my dog in when she really gets bad infestation on her back by her tail. She is a 9 year old German Shepherd. Before her I had a 12 year old Sheltie. I've even mixed it up to spray the hocks of my horses to keep barn flies from pestering them.

6/24/2015 9:36:22 PM

Garlic can be a toxin to both cats and dogs. It damages their red blood cells, so you may not see an interaction for a time. I ask that you please revise the article to include proper dosages per critter for their weight. I'd hate to think that someone might give too much to their animal and accidentally cause them harm or even death. I appreciate the rest of the article, though!

2/4/2015 1:18:56 PM

I used flea fighter. My dog was a greasy mess for weeks! Awful!!

7/24/2014 10:16:58 AM

I have heard that garlic is not good for cats.

6/6/2014 11:37:27 AM

Have any of you ever tried Flea Fighter? I used it when my Yorkie had fleas, it is an all natural product, that killed off all of fleas! I bought it on Amazon.

6/3/2014 6:38:03 PM

Great article! Innovet pet products has everything you mention about controlling fleas the natural route( They have a 4 step "natural" approach and have everything, except the soap Only way I found to control flea and insects is to manage it. 1.) wash your pet every few weeks 2.) supplement and improve your pets immunity. They have a supplement with yeast and aged garlic called BioPel plus that I just add to his food daily and he loves it! 3.) clean and protect the pets environment with a natural lemongrass and cinnamon oil spray to kill insects instantly. BioPel spray 4.) protect your pet with a natural leave in lotion every few days. It has diatomaceous earth/ neem oil and lemongrass in it

1/10/2014 7:33:55 PM

I love this article. Since my well water was contaminated by my neighbor and his dumping gas into the dirt. I won't bore you with the details but natural is the way to go as often as you can. I've recently been changing over my home to chemical as quickly as possible. I've found a company named Melaleuca, tea tree oil products...that don't cost you your weekly salary. It has products for the household, medicine cabinets, vitamins..etc...oh, and even dogs. So this newsletter fits right into my plans. Thanks mother earth news!!! If anyone is interested in Melaleuca products, you can find me on facebook as, Bre Branco (in Epping, N.H.). I'm more than happy to share information i have, as I suspect all of us here, are interested in the most natural ways of caring for ourselves, both medicinally and shampoo's and other similar products. So drop a line....if you do want questions answered, friend me with a note interested in learning about melaleuca. Thanks to all!

11/7/2013 2:41:36 PM

If you want an amazing all natural way to treat many different ailments for you pets I would recommend Noni. It's all natural and safe and most important effective. You can check out their pet products, research and information on their sight at

11/7/2013 10:48:06 AM

Another suggestion I have found, (heard from 2 veterinarians): when vacuuming, place about a one to two inch piece of flea collar (I buy for small dog, cut a piece to size - activate of course- then keep the rest packaged)in the vacuum (make sure your vacuum can take it - do not place the metal part in). I have an upright and a shopvac and use in both. when you vacuum up fleas, the collar will kill what is sucked in otherwise can have them crawling right back out unless immediatelly empty bag and burn. I have not found that it releases anything into air but sure works on killing them in the vacuum. and can continue to use the same piece or throw it out each time empty vacuum. Hope this helps

11/3/2013 11:58:19 AM

I like the "natural" approach this article is taking to fight fleas. Like other parasites, fleas target less healthy hosts, as well as puppies with undeveloped immune systems. Therefore, the first defense for our pets is to optimize their health and immunity. And since, diet is the foundation of health, it all starts there..However, today, there's also EasyDefense Flea & Tick Tags: A safe, chemical-free way to keep harmful pests off of your pet. It utilizes your pet's own energy to create a natural barrier to pests. There are no chemicals or pesticides involved. It is completely safe for pets and humans in the household. Jonni

10/13/2013 1:46:24 AM

I'm not convinced about garlic for dogs & cats. Please read the article about dangers of garlic to your pet at the link below....

9/29/2013 11:56:22 AM

I had a Toy Yorkie and he was in perfect health then I gave him the pill the vet gave me for flea's and tick's and he got sick and I spent over $1,000.00 to try and save him but to no avail.Then I looked on internet and found the site called Trifexis Kills Dogs and the video's of some of the animals on youtube.God I wish I had seen them before giving my poor little dog Trifexis.Please if any of you think of using it look on those sites before you do it.thank you

9/21/2013 2:09:56 AM

This article is over 28 years old. Several things stated here are very outdated.

9/20/2013 11:42:20 PM

Oh and I know the vinegar in their water works .. very well .. I have 2 dogs,1 small & 1 medium size and 3 cats. They all drink from the same water dishes and I never have had fleas!

9/20/2013 11:37:21 PM

I have a much easier way.. to avoid the fleas in the first place. Just place a teaspoon of apple cider vinegar to each quart of your animals drinking water... !! Cats, dogs, rabbits, whatever. It takes a few weeks for it to get into their system, but the vinegar not only will make the fleas stay away but it causes the coats of your animals to just shine! Its good for people to if you hate mosquitoes ..!! A few weeks before the mosquitoes season.. start drinking a teaspoon of vinegar in a 16oz glass of water 4 times a day and you will find the mosquitoes will hate you plus it also will make your hair glossy!

9/20/2013 8:28:51 AM

All you have to do is vacuum more frequently during flea season to keep the fleas out of your carpet. It gets all three stages of flea development.

9/11/2013 7:30:57 PM

Diatemeceous earth, cheapest , safest all natural! Non toxic to pets and humans!

9/4/2013 1:41:52 AM

pyrethroids are not safe and in fact have been shown to be even more harmful than the other synthetics like carbamates. check out this article on alternet: although certified by the epa and widely available at stores these pesticides are responsible for more deaths and illnesses than the other major pesticides; they can cause brain damage.

8/16/2013 9:02:36 AM

I have had success using beneficial nematodes in the yard. I have used chemicals out of desperation that did not work.

7/30/2013 1:29:17 AM

Anything incorrectly used can be harmful, even water. 

7/29/2013 12:46:33 PM

"The debate about whether garlic is good or bad seems to have arisen from confusion with its close cousin, the onion. Both garlic and onion contain thiosulphate, the substance responsible for causing ‘Heinx Factor’ anemia in dogs. However the amount of thiosulphate found in garlic is much lower than in onions, in fact the amount in garlic is barely traceable! "

Just watch your dosage and your dog will be healthier for the use of garlic.

7/15/2013 12:56:16 PM

Someone needs to edit this article! This is some very bad advice here! DO NOT under any circumstances feed your dog garlic. Garlic and onions can cause hemorrhaging in which case your animal will bleed to death internally! By all means, use an all natural repellant, but for goodness sake, make sure that it is also safe for the animal.

7/22/2011 8:15:58 PM

I am about to try Wondercide on my cat. I ordered it and will report back. is the website to research it. If it works, no more pesticides! I'm hopeful here. They also have a video on how to apply it on a cat-- a good-natured cat.

7/7/2011 10:24:26 PM

I have washed baby kittens in dawn liquid and it killed every flea on them (they were way too young for anything else) Palmolive also works only 2 that I know that work and safe to use. Unless you know what you are doing and have talked to experts do NOT give your dog or cat anything that can harm them.

2/19/2011 8:29:25 AM

I found the solution to flea infestations when I discovered that my fleas had become resistant to commercial poisons. I cought several fleas and placed them into a container and then proceeded to find a household chemical that would kill them. This is what works best for me. Mix four teaspoons of dish washing detergent and four shotglass full of rubbing alcohol with one gallon of water. Spray this mixture over your entire floor. Be careful with wood floors and test before using on valuable flooring. Your goal is to dampen all the rugs and flooring in the house at the same time, the flooring should be wet to the touch. I usually spray before bed or when I'm going away for a few hours to allow it to dry undisturbed. The spray drowns the fleas in about 30 seconds. You have to repeat the spray for a week to ten days to kill all the hatching eggs. This really works and is non toxic.

margery welker
12/1/2010 11:45:41 AM

I was always told as a kid that cedar chips in the animals' beds would deter fleas. Does anyone know if that is true?

4/14/2010 7:50:04 PM

Garlic is toxic for cats and dogs.

9/28/2009 1:24:49 AM

Do not feed your dog Garlic. Garlic and onions, onions being worse, contain thiosulfate and is toxic to dogs and can cause hemolytic anemia. I just recently lost a very loved chihuahua to that very problem after she ingested some wild onions that were growing along the fence in my back yard. After spending over $400 for testing and a diagnosis, my wife and I were in tears after being told that she would need hospitalization, transfusions, and more blood work to find the best course of treatment, all of which would be very expensive and much more than we could afford. We couldn't even afford to have her put down. My baby died a slow, agonizing death a week later. Don't feed your loved one garlic or onions. Also, diets with high levels of zinc can be toxic as well. Don't bomb the house or spray pesticides around either. The best thing I have found to rid the home, yard, and pets of fleas quickly without the hassles of deep cleaning is to use flea meds from the vet such as Advantage or Revolution. They work great and the fleas are gone in no time flat. I have never had to use more than a one month application on all eight of our dogs.

christina ward_2
8/26/2009 11:19:51 AM

I have three puppies ranging in size & age. The biggest may weigh 25 lbs - 2nd one maybe 15 lbs , & the littlest maybe 7 lbs. I like the idea of using the brewer's yeast, but wouldn't know where to find it. Do they sell it in the grocery stores? OR Wally World? I think I read somewhere that the brewer's yeast help to rid your dogs of worms, also . I there any truth to that? Inquiring minds want to know... Christi - Denison,TX

suzanne horvath
8/17/2009 6:23:10 PM

I have been using, sparingly, a product called Cedarcide. It is made from a specific type of cedar oil and it is touted as being completely harmless to humans and pets. I only put a little bit on the back of the neck on each of my cats. I do occasionally spray a little on the back of my couch because that is where the cats sit most of the time when they come in the house. I have not seen a tick or flea since using it for several months. I previously used Advantage, but became concerned when I found out how it works, and the fact that it supposedly shortens a pet's life by 25%, which the industry considers a trade-off for getting rid of fleas and ticks. Also, we used to get what I called prehistoric-looking bugs in the bathroom. They looked like a cross between a grasshopper, a cricket and a spider. UGH! Well, I sprayed in the corner where I found one and have not seen evidence of another since. They used to be really bad in the humid summers here. So, if anyone has used this also, please comment on your experience. If no one has heard of this, please check it out ( and comment. So far, it is working great, but I am concerned since a few previous comments were about essential oils. Don't know if this falls in the same category. ????

7/27/2009 4:58:27 PM

For the love of crap, don't flea bomb your house! This article says it may be necessary: it NEVER is. I work in an animal hospital in the deep south, and during the summer, when the fleas are at their worst, there are many animals brought in going into convulsions and dying due to the toxic effect of these poisons. That stuff sits under beds and couches and doesn't dissipate, and then your animals breathe it in and die. Right after we moved into our house, we had a colossal flea infestation from the previous owners. We used borax and diatomaceous earth to get rid of the fleas. There have been other comments about DE being "dangerous," but like any substance, don't be careless about it's application. Keep it out of eyes and mouth, don't let children or animals near it until it has been worked in to where you can't see it anymore. The most important thing to do is clean clean clean. We went extreme in our house (bc it's LA and fleas are bad here) and have hard floors and I keep the clutter down. Being as clean as possible is the best way to get rid of fleas and keep them gone for good. Also, NEVER apply any essential oils to cats especially. If you're going to take responsibility for a living creature, do your homework and find out how to best care for them. Remember they didn't force themselves on you, you picked them, so take care of them well.

6/25/2009 9:36:37 PM

Similar to Charles' comment, this worked VERY well for me. Place a lamp in the corner of an infested room. In front of the lamp, place a container with a large surface area (baking pan, plate, etc.). Cover the bottom of the container with syrup (or anything with the consistency of syrup should work) and leave the lamp on overnight. The fleas will hop right into the syrup and die. Don't believe me? Try it for just one night and see how MANY fleas you've caught the next morning!

2/18/2009 5:42:09 PM

I have tried this several times and it WORKS: Sprinkle regular salt on the carpets after vacuuming (also to couches, cracks in floors, whereever, I even sprinkled salt on hardwood floors after bleachmopping them). The fleas mostly live off the host, and the salt dehydrates the air around the fleas and they can't breath so they die. I also picked the fleas off my cat and drowned them in soapy water. Continue to pick fleas, vacuum/mopp, wash linens, and spread salt for about a week and the fleas are gone. This happened several times to me in the past and each time the fleas were eradicated. I also heard borax works the same as the salt, but never tried that.

11/6/2008 7:07:17 AM

I've read all comments but still have a problem... WHAT ABOUT MY HOUSE!!!??? My daughter and I are getting eaten alive. The others aren't bothered so much, but the two of use seem to have "flea buffet" written on our ankles. I've been vacuuming repeatedly, spread DE around and vacummed, leaving it under furniture and around edges for a week now. Last night I left out a "flea trap" (soapy water under a light) and there were 16 fleas in it this morning... just when I hoped maybe I was getting under control. I have 3 children and do NOT want to use harmful pesticides. Does anybody have any ideas for me that truely work?

10/2/2008 10:38:05 AM

Several years ago, (1992), I read the lemon peel recipe in an article called "Ten Ways to Flea-Free Your Pet" written in Organic Gardening Magazine by the then VP of The Humane Society. My dog was very allergic to flea bites and had four inch long hair. I made the "dip" and applied it with great success! So enthusiastic was I, that I doubled the strength and even blended the peels as to extract even more of the ingredient so affective in ridding my dog of fleas. My dog quickly started to show symptoms of internal pain and bleeding and suffered a slow, agonizing and irreversible death from having ingested the lemon oil I so cleverly put on his hair and skin. The emergency room vets wouldn't believe my suspicions that it was the dip and mis-diagnosed him until he died of shock, alone and uncomforted by me or any pain killers. I asked the last vet on call who finally agreed with me, who tried to help him with charcoal and Milanta, to perform an autopsy for cause of death. She reported "ulceration of stomach, small and large intestinal lining to near perforation". I contacted the Center for Poison Control for Animals and spoke with a vet there. He told me the VP of the Humane Society knew the dangers of this recipe because they did studies. Eight out of ten cats died after being dipped and though dogs were less, it was a well known fact that they too could die. I don't know what else to say other than be very careful of homemade recipes and any substance applied to your pets. I sparingly (two to three times a year, max.) used Frontline on my next two dogs and my cat and they all three died of cancer! What to do?

9/23/2008 9:05:19 PM

Diatomaceous Earth is great; I use it on all my animals. Just make sure you get FOOD-GRADE DE. The stuff for your garden or pool is impure and TOXIC and will have warnings on the label. NEVER use those on animals. Food grade DE is white, any other color of DE is toxic.

charles respess
9/16/2008 3:04:39 PM

mix some dawn dish detergent in about a cup of water and pour about 1/4 inch in a cookie sheet. put a desk lamp about a foot above water, it really kills fleas in carpet.

9/1/2008 5:34:41 PM

I have fed small quantities of garlic to my dogs, cats and horses for years, with no ill effects -- and no fleas OR ticks. I buy garlic from Springtime in 55lb pails. The cats (all about 12 pounds) get a 1/16th tsp on their food morning and evening, the dogs (both 40 lbs) get 1/4 tsp twice a day, and the horses get a scoop twice a day (which is 1 ounce.) Horses and dogs take to the garlic with no lead up, and one cat seems to really like it. With the other two, I start with just a small sprinkle for a couple of days, and move up to the full amount. I do stop once there's been a hard freeze, and start feeding again in the spring. You can find Springtime online (, and they also sell a relatively new product called Longevity, which contains biotin, spirulina, MSM, chondroitin, glucosamine, bee pollen and some other things. It turns the cat and dog food green, but they don't seem to mind it at all, and they all got a noticeable energy burst when I first started using it. All have soft coats, bright eyes, and a good level of energy. This includes a 16-year old beagle that I've had since a puppy, because he broke his elbow and was going to be put down. He has arthritis (I also give him Springtime's Fresh Factors), but still gets around and seems to enjoy life.

ronnie maiden
8/28/2008 4:23:23 PM

Alliums (garlic, onions, etc) and pennyroyal are toxic to cats; the first is toxic to dogs. Macadamia nuts are toxic to both, as well. While diatomacious earth will penetrate the shell of insects (not to mention soft bodies), it will also penetrate the soft mucous membranes of mammals (such as cats, dogs, children and other people). I use the latter, carefully, in my garden--I make sure I either use gloves or wash my hands immediately, and I don't touch my eyes. My cats and dog don't dig where I use it, and my grandchild does not go in this area. Someone suggested using salt on carpets (very fine salt) as it dries up the fleas, their larvae, and their eggs. I've noticed that salt (either sodium chloride or another sodium compound) is usully the main ingredient in 'natural' flea'carpet powders, so this would seem to make sense.

8/16/2008 9:36:48 AM

This article was written in 1985 and was probably the best at that time. Since then, the Insect Growth Regulators have totally revolutionized the natural flea control. They stop the eggs and larvae from developing into biting adults, thus breaking the cycle. With no new fleas developing, when the current generation is gone, there are no new ones to take their place. The best article on it is at FleaSmart. As I said, there is some good advice here, but the final answer is using an IGR to keep them from ever coming back. We have used it for many years and will continue to. Peacock

michelle o'howell
8/8/2008 11:01:05 AM

i read a few years ago, of a recipe to combat fleas naturally, consisting of pennyroyal,citronella, and another ingredient i cannot remember, which was mixed with water in a spay bottle and administered to pets, bedding, carpets etc. I cannot remember the third ingredient, and how much of each to mix with how much water. Does anyone have this information?

7/16/2008 1:50:27 PM

Often I see information about FLEAS, are TICKS approached in the same manner as the FLEAS? I need help with the erradication of the TICKS. Thanks you

7/9/2008 3:41:15 PM

Yes, as others have said garlic can be toxic to animals. It contains the same toxin as onions, but in a smaller quantity. "Garlic - along with other alliums such as onions - contains the chemical thiosulphate. This can be extremely dangerous to pets (onions being more of a danger than garlic). The blood-cleansing properties that make garlic sulphides beneficial to humans can damage the blood cells of animals. This can result in anything from mild anemia to major bursting of the blood cells leading to death." I would definitely speak with your vet before feeding your animal garlic.

7/8/2008 10:59:19 AM

DO NOT USE DIAOTOMACEUS EARTH!!!!!!!!! It is a carcinogen!!! I believe it would have been real easy to find out that it can cause major lung disease!

6/23/2008 12:41:10 AM

Just a note about pyrethrins as mentioned as a natural ingredient used in flea bombs. I found out I was highly allergic to these the hard way. My tongue swelled up, my throat started closing up and I was rushed to the hospital by ambulance. You essentially have 20 minutes to get the hospital or you're dead when you have a highly allergic reaction of this nature. Chances are this won't happen to you but be aware that someone in your family could have a reaction.It is life-threatening and requires IMMEDIATE medial attention. 100% natural doesn't mean 100% safe for every single person. Has anyone had any experience with resmethrin in a fogger?

6/22/2008 5:33:41 PM

WARNING ! ! ! Diatomaceous Earth can be VERY HARMFUL to you and your pet! ! ! ESPECIALLY THE EYES! ! ! The powder is made of extremely fine particles of fossilized material that is EXTREMELY SHARP, and it will scratch your EYEBALLS! ! ! and your pet's eyeballs! Please Please Please pass the word on this. If you don't believe me, ask your vet. The particles will quickly be embedded into the sclera of the eye, and like microscopic pieces of glass, they will go deeper into the eye with every blinking motion. Water can NOT wash it out! It is EXTREMELY PAINFUL! ! ! I do not like this article for other reasons. Pennyroyal, Wormwood and Citronella oils can be toxic. These also burn the eyes. This article has some good information, but it really needs to be CHANGED regarding bad advice.

12/27/2007 11:42:39 PM, talks about poisonous foods for dogs, it seems garlic is but only in large quantities..??

12/19/2007 8:38:21 PM

I am highly against using the Frontline or any other products. My girlfriend insists on using the front line but I with anything that has that many dangers on the label or something I wouldn't use on my self I don't want them to have it as well. So I'm really having trouble finding something great or some sound healthy options. I would shave them but it's a little cold here in NorCal at night time and that would be just as mean.

12/3/2007 2:51:34 PM

Question to Pati, if the flea treat works, you shouldn't have the need to flea comb your cat daily, isn't it???

11/13/2007 5:13:54 PM

I have been using flea treats on my cat. I noticed how well it worked when I ran out and didn't buy them for over a month. Also, I use a flea comb on him almost daily to get the stragglers. My kitty now knows what it is and sits still while I comb him over...

11/5/2007 8:58:51 AM

You can buy garlic treats from Drs. Foster and Smith. They are safe for dogs and cats. I have some, but I can never get my cats to eat them. They are so big and I don't think they like the smell. These would be great for a dog though.

8/12/2007 11:33:41 AM

The light source flea traps can be obtained through Administering garlic can be controled using minced garlic or easier yet powdered garlic. Always mix small amounts at a time into yor dogs food. I would not advise using it on cats. Another herb that is very good is Pennyroyal. Check it out it works great againt fleas.

8/9/2007 10:23:00 PM

For Jose:

8/7/2007 12:05:09 PM

It is true that garlic is very bad for pets... it can cause death in cats. Also cats can not process essential oils such as tea tree, the article didnt mention these oils, but many people use them on themselves and that is great... just not on pets!

8/1/2007 9:40:06 PM

What ever happened to those flea light sets with sticky boards??

6/13/2007 11:57:18 AM

i agree with what you say about the garlic what are other alternatives? SoM

5/29/2007 3:08:00 PM

Unfortunately, the advice above could also endanger a favorite pet... garlic (in relatively large amounts) can be quite dangerous to both dogs and cats. Other such foods of the lily family of foods include onions and leeks, which are even more dangerous to our precious pets. Please do not feed your dog or cat garlic, just to be on the safe side!

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