Fleas can be a serious threat to the health of your pet and yours as well. That’s why active flea management should be implemented to completely kill them. Today, we’re going to discuss about 7 natural ways on how to get rid of fleas fast and naturally.
Fleas love to suck the blood of warm-blooded animals (wild or domesticated). The most common type is the cat flea, which is found on dogs, cats, and even humans. You could also find fleas on household items (e.g. blankets and carpets), clothes, and shoes.
Good news: They usually live only for 3 to 4 months.
Bad news: During their lifetime, female fleas can produce up to 500 baby fleas.
It’s not just the itching you should worry about but the flea bites as well. If your pet happens to be allergic to the flea saliva, an allergic reaction may happen. Weak or young pets are also susceptible to parasite infestation, which may cause anemia, or worse, death due to severe blood loss.
Don’t even think humans are safe from these parasites. Millions of people died in the Middle Ages because of the dreaded bubonic plague or The Black Death, which was transmitted by rodent fleas to humans or other mammals. Symptoms of this dreaded disease were headaches, weakness, swollen lymph nodes (buboes), and sudden fever.
Use Conventional Flea Medications with Caution
Flea infestation is one of the most common reasons why many cat and dog owners consult a veterinarian. Sadly, many of the flea medicines prescribed by them have a variety of potentially poisonous ingredients.
Some of the potential side effects of these conventional flea medications are:
- Hair loss
- Skin irritation
- Or even death
Back in 2010, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency released a warning to cat and dog owners regarding the potential health risks of different spot-on insecticide products for fleas and ticks. The report said that these products cause minor side effects, but there were also incidents of pet death.
Pets who are most susceptible to the side effects of these spot-on insecticide flea products are:
- Small breeds of dogs
- Aged or weak pets
- Pregnant or lactating pets
- Pets with previous history of hypersensitivity to pesticide products
Be careful when you’re touching your pet, though. You could be exposed to these toxic substances from the flea control products every time you do that. Permethrin, carbamtes, pyrethroid, and organophosphate insecticides are just some of the carcinogenic ingredients these products contain.
You should always consult your vet before using any of these products. If you prefer natural flea killer solutions, here are some of my suggestions.
Natural home remedies to kill fleas
1. Citrus Fruits Peel
Take your pick: grapefruit, lemon, orange, and lime. All of them are citrus fruits that are used by pet owners to get rid of fleas (Ctenocephalides felis).
What makes them effective?
The major active ingredient in most citrus fruits, particularly their peel, is d-limonene. This compound is responsible for the familiar aroma of citrus fruits. That’s why it’s widely used in many household cleaning products and perfumes due to its scent.
That’s not all it can do. D-limonene is classified as an organic insecticide (for animals) that’s used to control parasites (e.g. mites, microorganisms, and insects) that attach themselves to the outer skin of their hosts.
In one particular study, a lot of fleas died when they were exposed to this compound. Plus, they ate less, produced fewer feces, and didn’t produce any eggs.
How to use citrus fruit peel as an anti-flea agent:
- Chop the skin of an orange fruit into small pieces.
- Next, put everything in a small saucepan with enough water, and then allow it to boil for 10-15 minutes.
- After it has cooled down, use this to thoroughly wash your dog’s entire body, especially the affected areas.
This concoction is not just going to kill fleas, but it will also help soothe your pet’s irritated skin due to flea bites.
Lemon Essential Oil Spray
- Add 2-3 drops of lemon essential oil in 1 cup of warm water.
- Pour the mixture into a dark-colored spray bottle, and it’s ready to go.
Well, the safeness of citrus fruits on cats is still under debate. Many say it’s toxic to your feline friend, but others beg to disagree. They say the most serious effect these fruits have on your cat is diarrhea, IF it’s eaten. Just to be sure, ask your vet about it.
2. Neem Leaves and Oil
Neem is known to be a pesticide for a very long time already. The exact mechanism of its components is not really known. It’s said that neem oil kills pests through suffocation and exposure to its pest-killing properties.
The main insecticidal component of neem is azadirachtin, which is found in its seeds and leaves. Azadirachtin and other components of neem work to kill fleas by preventing them from depositing or laying their eggs, changing their eating patterns, and affecting other behaviors that could lead to their eventual death.
Is this safe for cats as well? Well… they say neem isn’t safe for cats. Some side effects reported were twitching, lethargy, too much salivation, shaking, and seizures. But it’s good to know most were able to fully recover within 24 hours or less than a week.
Based on an animal study, the combination of azadirachtin (extracted from need seed), citronella, and DEET (diethyltoluamide), an insect repellent, was able to completely eradicate fleas and their eggs within 24 hours of exposure. This effect lasted for six days. What’s more, azadirachtin was able to reduced fleas on dogs for nineteen days.
Researchers suggested that the role of citronella and DEET was to increase the potency of azadirachtin from neem seed extract against Ctenocephalides felis or cat fleas.
For this instance, I would like to discourage you from buying any commercially prepared neem shampoos. It’s because the product you buy may possibly contain ingredients, like a tea tree oil, that could be harmful to your cat. If possible, make your own anti-flea shampoo or use any gentle pet shampoos.
How to get rid of fleas on dogs with neem oil:
Neem Oil Shampoo:
- Add at least 5 ml of neem oil per 3 oz of your pet’s mild shampoo. This formulation is ideal to follow when your pet is currently suffering from a flea infestation. If there’s none, you could use 1 ml of neem oil/3 oz mild shampoo as a maintenance.
Neem Oil Anti-Flea Spray:
- Mix 20 oz of white vinegar with 1 oz of neem oil and 5 oz of clean water.
- Pour and gently shake the spray bottle.
- Use this once a week on your pet.
3. Boric Acid as a Flea Control Agent for Your Home
Boric acid, also called as ororthoboric acid and boracic acid, is a great natural flea killer. It closely resembles to a fine table salt. It’s colored white, bland (almost), and unscented. It has been used in ancient times for cleaning and preserving food. In the early 20’s, P.F. Harris created the “Harris roach tablet,” which used boric acid as a main component.
How does it exactly work? Since it’s a mild form of acid, it’s able to stop the growth of certain microorganisms by attacking their nervous system (when ingested) and drying out their outer supportive covering.
Not all types of borate products have the same efficacy rate against larval cat fleas (young, worm-like fleas), though. A study showed that Polybor (disodium octaborate tetrahydrate), granular boric acid, and powdered boric acid are able to kill more than 90% of fleas that were exposed to this chemical for around 4 days.
Fleas love to hangout in your clothes, bed linens, carpets, and other fabrics. You could use a boric acid to disinfect these things. However, you need to be extra careful when using a boric acid powder on colored fabrics to avoid discoloration.
Based on a clinical “carpet” test, the dried blood treated with boric acid proved to be lethal to fleas. Its lethal concentration was 2 percent plus after 24 hours, but it was quickly reduced to 0.21 percent after a week.
Researchers concluded that a boric acid and other boron compounds are effective against fleas in carpet only during their larval stage.
How to get rid of fleas in the house fast with boric acid:
- Before anything else, it’s important to remove all unnecessary objects and vacuum the target area first. Don’t forget to throw the vacuum bag after its use.
- Then pour a very thin layer of boric acid on the area to be treated. When I say a “very thin layer,” it means the eyes can barely see it. It’s important to use only a thin layer because the fleas may start avoiding the area, which defeats the purpose.
- Use a hand brush or soft-bristled brush to allow the boric acid to really go down to where these fleas live.
- Vacuum this treated area again after 4 days.
Although it’s a weak form of acid, poisoning is still a possibility. Therefore, place it somewhere that can’t be reached by your kids and pets.
Avoid breathing in boric acid when using it.
Do not apply it on surfaces used for food preparation.
4. Virgin Coconut Oil (VCO) Shampoo
There are so many things to like about virgin coconut oil. It’s so safe that even babies (and pets) could consume it. It also contains medicinal properties that are able to fight off bacteria, virus, and fungi.
About fifty percent of coconut oil is comprised of lauric acid. This gets converted in the body into monolaurin, which is responsible for its disease-destroying activities.
If you want an inexpensive anti-flea solution, virgin coconut oil is a safe alternative to commercial dog shampoo and medications. It’s very unlikely to cause any health issues in your cat or dog. And there are studies to prove it.
Researchers from a 2013 clinical study focused on the efficacy and lethal concentration of VCO shampoo against certain parasites, like ticks, fleas, lice, and mites. 60 dogs were used as test subjects. They were distributed into five types of treatments: commercial dog shampoo, plain shampoo, 60% VCO shampoo, 70% VCO shampoo, and 80% VCO shampoo.
What did the results revealed?
It showed that VCO shampoo was the most potent treatment for parasite infestations in dogs. But it was the 80% of VCO shampoo that was the most highly effective compared to the other two concentrations.
How to get rid of fleas on cats and dogs with virgin coconut oil:
- Pour at least one teaspoon of VCO at a time. Remember, a little already goes a long way.
- If it’s still in a semi solid state, rub your hands together to melt it and to allow a more greasy consistency.
- Next, you can apply it into your dog or cat’s fur and skin, and then comb its fur for even distribution.
- Wipe off the excess oil on the fur.
- Leave it for 30 minutes to an hour. If possible, you can let it stay the entire night. Make sure to cover your pet with some kind of clothing, like a sweater, to prevent your pet from licking the virgin coconut oil (which is safe to ingest).
- You can repeat this process every day or at least twice a week, until positive results are observable.
5. Cinnamon (Cinnamomum osmophloeum)
Cinnamon doesn’t only make your dog smell like a Christmas, but it’s also a possible flea repellent to prevent extremely itchy flea bites. If you put this on your pet, fleas will have second thoughts jumping into your pet or staying in the places they usually hang out.
There are really not a lot of clinical studies to prove cinnamon’s effectiveness against fleas. Based on one study I stumbled upon, the flea repellent activity of the essential oil from Cinnamon leaf seems to be dose dependent. The main active ingredient identified was cinnamaldehyde (2%), which has an effect that can persist up to 4 hours.
How to use cinnamon as a natural flea killer:
- You need cinnamon powder or oil. (If you’re using cinnamon oil, please follow the recommended dilution ratio.)
- Sprinkle and rub a little of it on your pet’s back, from its neck and down to its spine. It’s good to put more on the neck part because fleas tend to flock there.
- Aside from cinnamon powder, there are also other organic flea shampoos, powders, and sprays that use this spice as a main ingredient.
Cinnamon leaf oil can be irritating to the skin if the right dilution ratio is not followed. Please use water or carrier oil, like pure coconut oil. For every 1 oz of water or carrier oil, add 6 drops of cinnamon leaf oil. For every 24 oz of water or carrier oil, add 141 drops of cinnamon leaf oil.
After spraying or adding to your regular wash load, let it air dry. But avoid exposing your treated bed linens, stuffed toys, blankets, clothes, and other stuff under the sun to avoid immediate evaporation of the essential oil.
Using more than 1% cinnamon could possibly cause some skin irritations.
It’s widely believed that cinnamon is not safe to use on cats.
6. Temperature and Humidity Influence Survival of Fleas
It seems that humidity and temperature play crucial roles in the survival and growth of fleas in all stages of their development. What is the best temperature and environment for preventing fleas from infesting your pets?
A study revealed that the cat fleas (Ctenocephalides felis) are unable to live in locations that have 89.6 F and 55.4 F temperatures, at least for adult fleas and their eggs. Immature fleas were able to produce bigger adults at 92% humidity.
Other sources say that adult fleas are able to survive in temperatures ranging from 28.4 F to 89.6 F. But the best temperatures for the entire life cycle of a flea are between 70 F and 86 F with an optimum humidity percentage of 70. Remember, fleas in the larval or cocoon stage are able to stay alive during winter.
What does this mean? You can’t exactly make the place where your pet goes to eat, play, and sleep extremely cold all year, right?
Suggestion: Use an air conditioning appliance to control the humidity level and to set the precise temperature. Controlling the humidity and temperature could drastically lessen or eradicate parasite infestation on your pet.
7. Vacuuming Can Annihilate Fleas
If you haven’t done this yet, you should start doing it immediately. A team of researchers from Ohio State University found out that this is the most natural and effective way to solve your cat flea problem.
Vacuuming had a 96% success rate in adult fleas and a 100% success rate in younger fleas. These researchers were so amazed by the results that they had to repeat their experiments a few times just to make sure they were not making any mistakes.
Why is vacuuming highly effective against adult or younger fleas?
The researchers aren’t really sure. All they have are theories because they weren’t able to do a post-mortem examination. They believe that the vacuum’s strong air flow and inner parts, like the fans and brushes, are able to destroy the fleas’ waxy outer layer, which is responsible for their hydration. Without this, they get dehydrated and eventually die.
The good thing is the design of the vacuum doesn’t seem to affect the results. However, the researchers were quick to remind that the vacuum bag should be disposed right away after the use.
Remember, temperature and humidity control plus vacuuming can be a lethal combination for fleas.
I must admit it’s really tough to pick the right anti-flea products for pets. Mainstream treatments may be the popular choices, but they often cause undesirable effects. That’s why many pet owners seek natural alternatives to take care of the problem. But natural doesn’t always mean it doesn’t have any side effects. Thus, carry on with caution.
The following home remedies for fleas have been studied and tested by many people. Some work for dogs, but they may not always be the best choices for cats, well, perhaps with the exemption of virgin coconut oil.
Remember, what works for dogs will not always mean it works for cats. In fact, dog products may cause more harm than good on cats.
As you might know, it’s a little tricky to find a chemical-free flea solution for cats. Here’s my final tip: simply bathe your cat.
Fill your tub or basin with enough plain water. Make sure the water level will only be up to your cat’s neck. As for the temperature, room temperature or a little warmer would be fine.
When you give your cat a bath, fleas would migrate to other parts of its body that are dry (which are the head and face in this instance). This is where you’ll get them by combing your cat’s fur with a fine-toothed flea comb. Make sure to flush the fleas down the toilet.
I hope you found this article informative and fun to read. If you have any other tips and tricks on how to kill fleas. Be sure to leave your comments below.