It’s pest season again and you’ve noticed fleas and other insects around your home causing some discomfort. If you’re sensitive about using commercial pesticides to get rid of the problem, there are plenty of safe and natural pest management options you can try out. Unless you’re dealing with a full-blown infestation, home remedies can be just as effective in eradicating fleas and ticks as pesticides bought over the counter. Fleas and ticks are not only irritating and embarrassing, but they’re equally capable of spreading dangerous diseases like plague and tick paralysis respectively. The natural way to control them is through proper grooming of your dog and good housekeeping to deny them a habitat where they can thrive.
Keeping your pet clean
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This may sound like a no-brainer, but a flea comb (one that has narrow teeth) is the easiest and most effective way of ridding your dog of fleas. Combing your dog should be done after his regular bath, once he’s dried off; any fleas, eggs or larvae removed should be bagged
Use your pet’s collar, neckerchief or a bandana for this treatment. Add drops of rose geranium oil, lavender, eucalyptus or tea tree oil once a week to keep fleas and ticks off. Take note that this is only a preventive measure, but cannot be used as a treatment for an existing infestation.
Ticks are naturally repelled by aromatherapy oils like lemon, basil, cinnamon, lavender, cedar, and pennyroyal. To remove ticks, select any 3 oils and use them to prepare your home remedy mixture. Use one drop from each of the 3 chosen oils and mix with pure almond oil; stir well and dip a cloth in it. Wrap the cloth around your pet.
An apple cider vinegar (ACV) solution can be applied to the skin or given orally to your dog to repel fleas and ticks. ACV is preferred to using vinegar alone because it’s less irritating to your dog’s skin. ACV is also nontoxic to dogs and cats.
Application: saturate your dog completely with the ACV mixture and massage with your fingers to work the solution into the fur. Take care not to get the solution into his eyes
Measure two cups of fresh rosemary leaves and add them to two pints of water. Boil the mixture for half an hour and strain the liquid. Discard the leaves and mix the rosemary solution with half a gallon of warm water. Pour the liquid over your pup until he’s saturated. Allow him to air dry, rather than rinsing off the chemical. The best time to do this on a warm day.
Tip: if your dog doesn’t like baths, you can desensitize him by giving him a treat to distract him. Peanut butter on the side of your bathtub can do wonders
Rather than go for expensive flea-specific shampoos in the market, you can convert regular dog shampoo into a flea shampoo at home. Simply add half a cup of dog shampoo to an equal proportion of freshly squeezed lemon juice and dilute with 2 cups of water. Pour the mixture into a bottle and shake well.
Cut a thin slice of lemon and add it to a pint of water. Heat it to boiling point before letting it sit overnight. The next day rub it over your dog’s coat to make it damp rather than completely wet. Repeat this every month.
Salt is a relatively easy and cheap way of getting rid of fleas. It works by drying up their eggs which eventually kills them. Identify the affected areas on your dog and apply a pinch of salt to each part. Wet your fingertips with a drop of water and rub the salt in gently. Repeat application daily until you’ve cleared the infestation. Be careful not to over-apply, as this may cause irritation on your dog’s skin.
Neem oil has anti-bacterial and antiseptic characteristics that help fight off harmful ticks. You can choose between rubbing a few drops of pure neem oil on the affected part of your dog or first diluting it with a light carrier oil like almond or jojoba before applying it. The latter method is recommended for dogs with sensitive skin. Alternatively, you can use a spray prepared with organic neem oil. Mix 1/2 ounce of neem oil with 1/4 or 1/2 ounce of soap or mild detergent, stir and mix with 2 cups of water and pour into a spray bottle. The spray should be used immediately as it is effective for only a short period of time.
Vegetable oils contain sulfur – a natural repellent against ticks. Mix two teaspoons of vegetable oil, 10 drops of peppermint essential oil, plus one teaspoon of dishwashing liquid and stir well before applying onto your dog’s coat. This should be done once a week. Remember to stay away from the eyes, ears, and mouth of your dog during application.
Eucalyptus oil is one of the most effective remedies to use against ticks. To prepare a spray, simply boil 15 to 20 eucalyptus leaves in 1 liter of water. Boiling should be done for 10 minutes followed by cooling the solution to room temperature. Sieve the solution into a spray bottle. Alternatively, you can make a spray out of eucalyptus oil. Mix 4 ounces of distilled water with 10 drops of eucalyptus oil and shake well before use.
Witch hazel naturally repels ticks and is a good alternative to using alcohol on your pet. It works best when mixed with lemon eucalyptus oil in a 10:1 ratio to make a spray solution that you can apply to your pet. You can also make a spray solution comprising half a teaspoon of vegetable glycerin, 30 to 40 drops of essential oil and 8 ounces of distilled water mixed with witch hazel in a spray bottle. Shake well and use to spray against fleas, ticks, and bugs.
Garlic acts as a strong repellent against ticks. Since your dog can’t ingest raw garlic (it can cause anemia) the best thing to do is serve him with food and soup containing garlic. Garlic powder is another alternative you can use that is just as effective. Just add 1/8 of a teaspoon of the substance for every pound of dog food you serve.
Baking soda is a great natural remedy to use against ticks on your dog. All you need to do is mix half a teaspoon of baking soda with an equal amount of salt and add the mixture to 4 ounces of ACV. Pour the solution into a spray bottle and fill with 4 ounces of warm water. Shake well and spray on your pet. You can also make a paste comprising 2 tablespoons of baking soda and a little water and then apply directly to the affected part.
Tea tree oil has medicinal properties that help in killing ticks. It can be used to enhance your dog’s shampoo, or as a spray. Just add a few drops of the substance into the shampoo, or in a spray bottle filled with water and apply it directly to your pet’s body. You may also put a few drops directly on the affected spot using a dropper, then remove the dead ticks using a pair of tweezers.
Liquid dish detergent is a simple but effective way to kill ticks. Simply pour some liquid dish detergent into a bowl and, using a cotton ball, apply the mixture on the infected body part. However, if your dog is allergic to soap, this is not an ideal treatment.
Although it may sound odd, mouthwash is a good home remedy for removing ticks and fleas. Simply pour some mouthwash onto a cotton ball or tissue paper and dab it on the infected part of your dog’s body.
Gasoline and turpentine are very effective for killing ticks; the two work by suffocating the pests. Pour two tablespoons of gasoline into a container and dip a cotton ball before placing it on the tick. Let it stay there for 3 minutes and remove the ticks using tweezers.
All pet beddings should be cleaned in the washing machine, including anything that your dog gets into regular contact with such as blankets and cushion covers. Using the hot dryer for 15 to 20 minutes kills fleas and ticks, as well as their larvae and eggs.
Ensure you vacuum regularly as a matter of habit. Target areas that don’t get enough exposure to sunlight, as fleas thrive in cool and humid environments. Sprinkling salt or baking soda on the carpet and working it into the base with a broom helps kill the flea eggs that may be hidden inside. Carry out this routine before vacuuming. Remember fleas can develop resistance to insecticides; vacuuming is a safe and natural way to keep them under control.
If your dog is in the habit of running around grassy trails or lawns where fleas reside, you should trim the lawn and get rid of weeds to reduce the risk of infestation. Keep your dog away from dense thickets where he is like to get flea bites and ticks.
Soapy water makes a good insect trap when dealing with fleas concentrated in one area of your home. Just fill an aluminum pan with soapy water and position it in the affected area. Soap helps to trap the fleas thanks to its high surface tension. Change the water each day until you’ve gotten rid of all the fleas.
Pennyroyal oil discourages fleas, so using the plant (e.g. a potted plant) is a great way to keep fleas away from your home. However, if your dog has a tendency to nibble at plants then this method is not for you.
The home remedies mentioned here aren’t by any means exhaustive, but they provide a good place to start if you’re keen on keeping your pup bug-free using safe and sustainable methods. Just remember, the key to successfully keeping nasty critters at bay is to target areas where they hide, use natural chemicals mixed in the right proportions, and monitor the results, taking further action if necessary. Follow these principles and you and your pooch should be well protected come summer time when pests seem to rule the roost.
When not writing about himself in the third person, Andy spends many an hour walking his dog Mr Wox, aka Soxy Woxy, a mischievous, mixed breed rescue. A leading authority on dog-related topics, Andy is highly respected, deeply appreciated and widely admired.