I’ll never forget the dog with the most fleas I’ve ever seen on a living creature. She lived outside on a chain in the yard and literally every square inch of her body was covered with fleas. I’ve seen kittens and puppies nearly drained of blood from ticks and fleas. These parasites are deadly if left unchecked. You could use chemical warfare to beat them, but I’m going to show you how to get rid of fleas and ticks naturally.

The basic tools I recommend for getting rid of fleas and ticks naturally are topical sprays like Wondercide and home/yard treatments like Flea Busters powder, beneficial nematodes and diatomaceous earth. Beating these parasites naturally requires the right tools, diligence and patience.

You need to kill the bugs on all of your dogs and cats plus the bugs in your home and yard. Then, you must prevent newly hatched bugs from becoming adults and make the environment inhospitable for them in the future. Read on to learn how to get rid of fleas and ticks naturally and finally!

What Are Those Little Bugs On Your Dog and Cat?

Merriam-Webster defines a parasite as: “an organism living in, with, or on another organism in parasitism.” An ectoparasite is one that lives on the exterior of its host. Fleas and ticks are the most common ectoparasites of dogs and cats.

Some parasites are visible to the naked eye while others can only be seen with a microscope. If your pet is showing any symptoms of ectoparasites, have your veterinarian take a look. Most ectoparasites are not too difficult for a vet to diagnose.

Common Pet Ectoparasites

  • Cat/dog flea, Ctenocephalides felis/canis
  • American Dog tick, Dermacentor variabilis
  • Lone Star tick, Ambylomma americanum
  • Rocky Mountain Wood tick, Dermacentor andersoni
  • Western Blacklegged tick, Ixodes pacificus
  • Scabies mite, Sarcoptes scabei
  • Demodex mite, Demodex canis
  • Ear mite, Otodectes cynotis

Effects of Fleas and Ticks on Pets

If you’ve had dogs and/or cats for any length of time, you probably know that fleas make them scratch a lot. But there are other symptoms caused by fleas and ticks you might never have heard of. Here’s a list of some of the changes you could see:

  • Itchy skin
  • Hair loss
  • Skin rash, bumps, sores
  • Increased dander
  • Red or dark skin
  • Bad odor to the skin
  • Scabs and sores
  • Discolored fur
  • Black “sand” in the fur (flea poop)
  • Shaking head/rubbing ears (ear mites)
  • Chewing/licking the skin
  • Low energy, weakness, pale gums (from severe flea/tick infestation and anemia)
  • Tapeworms in the stool (from ingesting fleas)

What Do Fleas Look Like?

Fleas are about 1/16 of an inch long, dark brown and kind of elongated. They jump and crawl. “Flea dirt,” (a.k.a. flea poop) is evidence of flea infestation. Flea dirt looks like black sand in your pet’s coat. Here’s a great video on YouTube showing how to spot fleas and flea dirt:

Fleas Can Kill Pets

Besides being creepy, fleas can suck so much of your pet’s blood that they develop low red blood cell levels. Dogs and cats with massive infestations can even die from fleas sucking too much of their blood. Small and young animals are especially vulnerable to dying from flea bite anemia.

Other Diseases Caused by Fleas

Flea bites can lead to dermatitis that can be uncomfortable and unhealthy for your dog or cat. Some animals develop flea allergies and have severe skin reactions to even a single flea bite.

Fleas also carry tapeworm eggs. If your pet ingests a flea while grooming herself, she can develop a tapeworm infection. If that happens, you could see 2–5 mm long whitish worms on feces she passes. Tapeworms from fleas don’t cause major health problems, but who wants a tapeworm even if it’s not causing major problems?

How to Get Rid of Fleas Naturally

Fleas jump off your pets and infest your carpet, bedding, and furniture. You may see them crawling on your ankles or jumping up from the carpet when you look closely (ack!). They can also survive in outdoor areas. Shady, grassy areas where your pet spends a lot of time are prime flea breeding grounds.

Fleas are relatively easy to kill but their prolific breeding makes it tough to get rid of all of them. Removing a flea infestation takes time and patience, even with “chemical warfare.” If you prefer to use only natural flea control measures, it will require even more time and patience. Here’s a quick rundown of how to fight a flea infestation with minimal toxin exposure to you and your pets.

Time needed: 1 day.

How to Get Rid of Fleas Naturally in Your Home (and on Your Dogs and Cats)

  1. Wash All of Your Pet’s Bedding

    This includes pet bedding and people bedding. If your pets lie on the furniture, vacuum and steam clean every surface including under cushions.

  2. Vacuum EVERYTHING in Your House

    Vacuum sweep all carpet, furniture and even under the furniture. When you’re finished, remove the vacuum cleaner bags and either burn it or seal it in a garbage bag and place it outside. The bag will contain adult and larval fleas plus flea eggs. You don’t want them to escape and re-infest your house.

  3. Dust House for Fleas

    Use Fleabusters powder (orthoboric acid) or diatomaceous earth product inside your house as directed on the label.

  4. Wash All Pets

    Wash your pets with a non-toxic shampoo. Natural flea control shampoo may be used, but even plain shampoo and water will help remove fleas.

  5. Apply Topical to All Pets

    Apply a natural flea control product such as Wondercide spray to your pets. Use caution with cats as some might be sensitive to cedar oil.

  6. Treat Outdoors Areas

    Treat outdoors areas where pets spend a lot of time. Trim vegetation, mow grass and use diatomaceous earth or a cedar oil-based product. Beneficial nematodes are small worms that kill the fleas. If you’re using nematodes, don’t use diatomaceous earth or other insecticides as it could harm the worms.

  7. Daily Pet Inspection

    Use a flea comb to find new fleas on your pet daily. Put captured fleas into a jar of soapy water to kill them.

  8. Daily to Bi-Weekly Maintenance for Pets

    Apply a natural flea control product such as Wondercide spray to your pets. Use caution with cats as some might be sensitive to cedar oil.

  9. Maintenance for Home and Yard

    Repeat the entire process every three weeks for a few months. The life cycle of the flea means that any eggs in your home can hatch and grow into adults after 3–8 weeks. You need to keep at it until you’re not seeing any new fleas for at least a couple of months.

  10. Feed Pets Garlic and/or Brewer’s Yeast?

    Feeding your dog garlic (not for cats) or brewer’s yeast (OK for dogs and cats) may help some, but should not be relied upon as a sole means of parasite control.

What Do Ticks Look Like?

Big trouble starts when one or two ticks ignite a population explosion. In the right conditions, a few ticks can reproduce into hundreds or thousands of ticks indoors or outdoors.

Ticks are parasitic creatures related to spiders. In general, ticks are brownish with a tear-drop shaped flattened body, a small head, and eight legs. Measuring 3–5 mm in length, they hang out on plants, waving their creepy little arms and waiting for an oxygen-breathing animal to walk by.

Ticks Can Spread Diseases to Pets and People

Tick bites can cause minor local inflammation. Severe tick infestation can result in blood loss severe enough to cause anemia in dogs and cats. Worse yet are the diseases they pass to people and pets.

Bacteria-like organisms inside the tick are transmitted to your pet during the tick’s feeding period. Ticks can cause serious diseases including Ehrlichiosis, Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, and Lyme disease.

Get Rid of Ticks Naturally

Instructions for how to get rid of ticks naturally are similar to the steps for flea control outlined above. If you have a severe tick infestation inside your house, you can try Wondercide spray. You might need to call a professional exterminator or resort to strong anti-tick chemicals from your local home improvement store in the short term.

Make sure you trim as much vegetation in your yard as possible so ticks have fewer places to hang out and multiply. Check pets (and yourself) daily for ticks and remove any ticks you find immediately. The longer a tick stays attached, the more likely it is that they can pass on a disease.

How to Remove a Tick from a Dog or Cat

Remove any ticks you find right away with tweezers, hemostats or a tick-removal tool. The method shown in this video will allow you to safely remove the entire tick.

Essential Oils to Repel Ticks

Many natural health enthusiasts report that they have good luck using Rose Geranium essential oil to repel ticks from their dogs.

Concentrated essential oils should always be diluted in a neutral carrier oil. Use essential oils sparingly and with caution on cats. If you’d like to try essential oils for your cat, please read up on the subject over at AnimalEO.com which is run by a veterinarian who specializes in the use of essential oils.

How to Get Rid of Fleas and Ticks Ultra Fast (Chemicals)

This article wouldn’t be complete without mentioning the vast array of anti-ectoparasite products available for pets. These chemicals are extremely effective, having years of research by people with big brains and lots of money behind them.

No matter what their manufacturers say, all these synthetic chemicals and have the potential to cause harm to people and pets. Major adverse reactions may not happen frequently, but they do happen. Plus, there could be long-term effects that we won’t even identify until years from now.

It’s true that natural flea and tick control products can also cause adverse reactions. Bottom line: anything that kills bugs should be considered potentially harmful to humans and animals, whether it’s synthetic or natural.

Prescription Treatments for Extreme Flea/Tick Problems

  • Advantage II/Advantix II//Advantage Multi (Imidocarb +/- moxidectin)- a spot-on product that controls fleas and some mites.
  • Bravecto (fluralaner)- an oral chewable that kills fleas.
  • Capstar (nitenpyram)- an oral tablet that kills fleas (short term).
  • Comfortis (spinosad)- an oral tablet that kills fleas.
  • Frontline Plus (fipronil/S-methoprene)- a spot-on product that controls fleas, ticks, and lice.
  • Nexgard (afoxolaner)- an oral chewable that kills fleas and ticks.
  • Revolution (selamectin)- a spot-on product that controls fleas, some ticks, and some mites (and heartworms plus some internal parasites).
  • Sentinel/Sentinel Spectrum (milbemycin oxime, lufenuron, +/– praziquantel)- an oral tablet that controls flea reproduction (and kills internal parasites including heartworms).
  • Trifexis (spinosad/milbemycin oxime)- an oral tablet that kills fleas (and heartworms plus some internal parasites).
how to get rid of fleas and ticks naturally

Holy cow! That’s not even ALL the products available. Ectoparasite control is a big business. My advice is to save the strong chemicals for extreme infestations and use them only until things are under control.

Switch to natural flea and tick control measures once the crisis has passed. Killing fleas and ticks is OK, but it’s much better to prevent infestations and avoid chemical warfare! That brings us to the final and most important aspect of ectoparasite control…

The Best Natural Flea and Tick Control: A Strong, Healthy Pet

Why is it that two dogs or cats can live in the same environment and only one is severely plagued by fleas? Healthy animals have a natural resistance to fleas and ticks. Some of this resistance may be inherited, some is just luck, but some of it has to do with an overall state of good health.

High Quality Food

Feed the best food your budget will allow. Dogs and cats are built to consume mostly meat, plus a little bit of plant material. Yes, they can survive on cornstarch and soy, but it’s not going to help them be super strong and healthy.

Avoid Toxins

Avoid harmful substances in and on your pets. Toxins in toys, bedding, cleaning products, and parasite control products have long-term effects on animals and humans. Drugs and medications like antibiotics and steroids can also weaken natural defenses. Think hard before treating your pet’s minor illness with antibiotics “just in case.”

Minimize Stress

We all have some bad stress in our lives and our pets are no different. We can’t avoid all of it, but there are a few chronic pet stressors you can easily minimize:

  • Boredom– sleeping 23.5 hours a day may seem funny or luxurious to you, but it is not natural for cats and dogs. They need social interaction and mental stimulation.
  • Lack of exercise– dogs and cats need exposure to sunshine and fresh air. They need to move their bodies a lot on a daily basis.
  • Lack of quiet and darkness– playing a TV or stereo at all times is a bad idea. Unnatural noise is a constant stimulant for our pets. Artificial light from lamps, TVs, and other electronics is another stimulant that adversely affects our pet’s circadian rhythms.

Whether you have a big flea and tick infestation to combat, or you just want to avoid one, these steps will help your pet resist parasites and be happier at the same time. You now know how to get rid of fleas and ticks naturally.

Try to avoid chemical warfare! Be patient. You will win the war against fleas and ticks.

photos cc BY 2.0: RayaahKat MasbackJohn Tann

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Last update on 2020-11-27 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API