Disclaimer: this post has nothing to do with food, but is about living a healthier lifestyle, in a way, which you know I’m all about.
Somehow, our dogs got fleas. From where? I don’t know. We clean (vacuum & dust) our house at least twice each week, and our dogs are completely indoor animals, except for the few times each day that we take them outside to do their “business”.
Like I said, I can’t figure out how the pups got them, but such is life. I needed to fix it quick though – cause who can resist a face like this when she wants to snuggle?
I grew up in the Midwest, and I never, ever gave my dogs heartworm, flea or tick medicines, and never had any problems with these critters in the past. I guess since we live in the South now, and it’s generally warm and humid year-round, these species can grow and thrive, and animals need to be better protected. Also, living in a swampy area or near stagnant water makes for a great breeding ground for all sorts of nasty stuff. Joy!
Anyway – I hate the idea of putting all sorts of chemicals on my dogs, or into my carpet (which I would rip up if I could… such is the life of a renter). So, even though we did buy the Frontline Plus spot treatment (and will use the entire 3-month supply because it was so darn expensive), I refuse to buy or use anything else laced with hazardous chemicals, and hope that I don’t have to buy or use any of it again after this.
So, I started googling other options for killing fleas. I found a few products that claimed to be all-natural and had decent reviews, and realized that a lot of them used things like lemongrass and peppermint – which are easy to find in their essential oil form at the local co-op or health store. Apparently, there are several scents that fleas and ticks don’t like – but why would I spend $25 bucks on an “all natural” pet flea spray when I could probably just make it myself?
I did some more googling and decided that it would be cheaper, easier and healthier (for everyone) for me to buy about $65 worth of essential oils, spray and pump bottles, new collars, and salt than for me to spend hundreds of dollars on flea medications, carpet treatments and medicated collars (all of which easily surpass the $65 mark).
*Side Note: The following essential oil mixtures/sprays should be used on DOGS ONLY. Many essential oils can be toxic to cats, so do some serious research and talk to your vet before you decide to do anything with essential oils on your kitty. Also, if you are unsure about using essential oils on your dog – I encourage you to do your own research and talk to your vet, or at least someone who knows about essential oils.
Here are a few things you may need:
1. Salt (only if you have carpet). Lots of it, and a good vacuum cleaner. The regular old Kosher Salt that you can buy for .50 cents per container should do just fine – no need for anything fancy. You should buy enough for you to spread a light layer over all of your carpets and near your baseboards three times.
2. A Flea Comb
3. Original Dawn Dish Soap
4. Unscented Castile Soap (I bought Dr. Bronners from Target)
5. Unscented base oil (I have Grapeseed and Almond)
6. Large Spray Bottle
7. Large Pump Bottle
8. Small Dropper Bottle
9. New (fabric) dog collar, or bandana
Pine and/or Cedarwood
Before I get started with my homemade hippie concoctions – there is something you need to know. Never, ever, EVER put essential oils directly onto any skin. Most essential oils should always be diluted with either water, soap, a base oil, or a mixture of these things before being applied to skin. Essential oils are extremely concentrated, potent solutions, and while they can be amazing and soothing when used properly – they can also be extremely irritating to human and animal skin if they are not diluted. Nobody wants that!
Doggy Flea Shampoo
Here, you have two options. The first is just to use the original Dawn soap and wash your dog really well. It does a decent job of killing the fleas, and was what we used in a pinch the night I found fleas on our little girl, Maddie. Make sure you use a decent amount of soap, and let it lather up and sit on your dog for just a minute or two before rinsing. We did this twice on each dog. I think this does a decent job of killing the fleas, but it doesn’t do much to prevent them.
Your other option is to make a shampoo with essential oils. The soap will kill the fleas, and the essential oils will help repel them in the future.
You will need:
8-10 oz Water
1 Tb Castile Soap
2-3 drops Peppermint Oil
2-3 drops Eucalyptus Oil
2-3 drops Lavender Oil
2-3 drops Lemongrass Oil
2-3 drops Pine or Cedar Oil
Shake well and use it to wash your dog on a regular basis to kill and prevent fleas.
Helpful Hint: before you get your dog wet to wash them, put some shampoo around their nose, ears and privates so that when the fleas start to migrate to those areas (they hate water), they can’t get in.
Dog Flea Repellant Spray
You will need:
8 oz Water
1 Tb Castile Soap
5 drops Lemongrass Oil
5 drops Cedar or Pine Oil
5 drops Lavender Oil
5 drops Tea Tree Oil
2 drops Peppermint Oil
Mix everything well, and give it a good mix before each use to prevent settling.
No lie, we’ve used this every day since I made it two weeks ago. We spray our dogs once every day all over (including their ears and feet), making sure to massage the mixture into their fur. Just be sure not to spray their eyes.
You can also spray some of the mixture onto your hands and massage it into the underside edges of their ears where the fur grows to keep fleas away from their ears.
Helpful Hint: Fleas will often move towards open spaces (i.e., ears, privates, nose) when they come in contact with water or substances they don’t like. So, don’t forget to spray your doggy’s bum, and you can massage a little of the spray around their nose, too – just don’t actually get it IN their nose.
Really, just use your best judgment, and don’t spray directly into areas that might get sensitive. This is supposed to be good for them – not irritating!
Homemade Flea Collar
This might be my favorite thing. It’s so quick and easy, and is a much safer, healthier alternative to the chemical-filled flea collars you buy at the pet store.
You will need:
Fabric Dog Collar (no chains or plastic – basically, it needs to be made of something that the oil can soak into) or a Bandana
4-5 pumps (or 2-3 Tb) Unscented Base Oil
10 drops Lemongrass Oil
5 drops Lavender Oil
2 drops Pine Oil
2 drops Cedar Oil
1-2 drops Peppermint Oil
Mix all of these up in your dropper bottle. Lay your bandana or dog collar flat, and drop the mixture evenly on both sides of the collar, until it is just saturated. Simply place it around your dog’s neck (you should always be able to fit two fingers under the collar comfortably, to ensure that it isn’t too tight), and reapply the oil mixture when you can no longer smell it on the collar. Awesome.
Skin Soothing Spray
Sometimes, medications, soap and brushing can be drying or irritating on your puppy’s skin. If you’re washing and brushing them a lot to get rid of their fleas, they might start to get dry skin or doggy dandruff (or, they might just get it for no reason!).
Mix up about 1 Tb of your unscented base oil with 10-12 drops of lavender oil and dilute with warm water in a spray bottle. Spray onto your pup (just like the flea spray) and massage into their skin to help soothe and hydrate.
Salt your Carpets
If you’ve got carpet and/or fabric , you’ve probably got flea eggs. Salt your carpets and let sit for three days, then vacuum well, particularly around your baseboards. Do this three times over nine days, and then as needed. The salt desiccates fleas and their eggs, killing them without the use of chemicals. Doing it over a period of time helps ensure that you’ve gotten everything.
Apparently, Diatomaceous Earth works well on carpets too. It’s a little more expensive than salt, though, and I don’t even really know what it is – so I’m not going there unless I have to.
Once every few days, mix up about a teaspoon of dawn soap with a quarter cup of warm water, and take your pet into a bathroom (or somewhere with tile or hard floors). Remove their collar, and brush their entire body with the grain of the fur (i.e., in the direction that their fur grows). If they have anything in their fur, the flea comb will catch it and remove it (including dead hair and flea dirt). Make sure that if you catch a flea in the comb, rinse it immediately in your soapy water mixture. The flea will die within seconds.
Cleaning the rest of your Home
Dust and vacuum regularly. Mop all floors regularly. Wash any dog toys in hot, soapy water, and do so regularly until the flea problem is resolved. Wash any dog bedding in hot water (we started doing it every day, and have now moved to every 3 or 4 days). Wash anything that your pets may have come into contact with (including your own sheets and pillow cases). Wipe all of your furniture down with soapy water or cleaning wipes. Try to keep the dogs as quarantined as possible until the issue has resolved – i.e., have them sleep in a crate or separate room, and keep them out of the kitchen and bedrooms. Spray their feet and underbellies well with the flea repellant spray (above) before they go outside to prevent fleas from jumping onto them.
Phew. I know it’s a lot, and takes a bit more work than using chemicals – but it’s so much better for your pet, and really, I think it works better. Read on for why.
I think we found the fleas three weeks ago (I noticed flea dirt on Maddie – it looks like regular dirt, but if you get it wet – it turns red. It’s the blood that the fleas suck out of your dog and poop back out onto their fur. Disgusting). We immediately washed them with Dawn, and then took them for a medicated flea bath and shave down with the groomer. We also bought Frontline Plus (for $120, ughhhhh) and applied that right away to both of them. I also salted the carpets a few times.
I was still noticing fleas on Maddie after about a week, so that’s when I decided to go with the essential oil mixtures. I’ve been spraying them daily for almost two weeks, flea combing every few days, and made them each an essential oil flea collar. After a week, I only found one flea on Maddie’s inner ear. For the past week – we haven’t found any. Also, no sign of flea dirt (if you find flea dirt – your dog has fleas. It doesn’t matter if you find actual fleas on your dog or not. The fleas had to be there to make the flea dirt. Get on that, QUICK).
It Seems like the essential oils are working better than the Frontline Plus (the Frontline package claims to kill fleas, ticks and all eggs/larvae within 24 hours, which it clearly didn’t).
While I understand that fleas can take awhile to completely kill (up to a few months, because of the life cycles) – it’s been less than a month since the problem was found, and only two weeks since I’ve started using the oil mixtures – and it is well on it’s way to being completely under control. Based on this experience – I would highly recommend using more holistic, less dangerous ways to treat your pet and home for fleas.
Now, for a little bit more on essential oils. While they may seem expensive – making all of the above mixtures didn’t even use a quarter of my essential oil bottles, so I have a TON left that I can keep to use again for my pups – or for myself (I have my own little dropper bottle with an essential oil mixture of almond oil, lavender and cedar that I put on my wrists and neck after yoga). You can create any mixture you’d like that smells and helps you feel good – just always make sure it’s diluted with another base oil. If you’re interested in learning more about essential oils – this is a great website.
Another thing I read somewhere (probably Pinterest) – you can super easily create a home pest spray with some peppermint oil, castile soap and water in a large spray bottle. Apparently, spiders and some other bugs hate peppermint, so if you spray around your doors and outside your home, this is supposed to prevent those nasty pests from getting in. Awesome, right? I haven’t tried it, but when we have a house, I definitely will.