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Small dog with a flea problem sitting with its owner.

The essentials

  • Fleas are small but powerful — Fleas are less than half the size of a grain of rice, but they can jump up to a foot. They lay at least 27 eggs daily. These eggs easily fall into pet beds, couches, carpets, and cracks in hardwood floors.
  • There are different species of fleas — The CDC has identified 2,500 flea species . The most common one in the U.S. is the cat flea.
  • Natural flea repellents for dogs are widely available — We’ll show you how to get rid of fleas on dogs naturally with items you can find at most home improvement stores or online.

How to identify fleas on your dog

Flea bites often appear as red, raised dots on your pet that disappear after a few minutes. In homes with serious infestations, fleas may bite people, particularly around the ankles and exposed skin. For pets, these spots can get lost in your dog’s fur unless their skin is inflamed from itching. Luckily, there are easier ways to inspect your dog for an infestation.

Check them for flea dirt — This looks like black pepper on your dog’s scalp and coat. Often, flea dirt is concentrated around joints, the neck, ears, tail base, or lower back.

Watch for movement — When grooming your dog, you may see fleas moving when disturbed by a comb. You may see them as you look for flea dirt. A flea comb works great for finding both fleas and dirt.

Look out for symptoms — There are some telltale signs of fleas based on symptoms alone, like itching and scratching, hair loss, scabs, and with more severe infestations, pale gums.

How to get rid of fleas naturally

Before you treat your dog to natural flea remedies, you must also treat your home. Plan on washing and vacuuming everything — including washing your dog.

1. Coconut oil

Coconut oil is a safe and simple solution to treat your dog. Its fatty lauric acid covers the flea’s exoskeleton in an oil coating, immobilizing and suffocating it.

How to treat: Work a light consistency through your dog’s coat, down to the skin, in an outdoor setting. Lauric acid is a natural flea repellent that may cause bugs to leave the fur.

2. Lavender essential oil

Lavender contains linalool, which is effective at treating fleas at every life stage. Because the science isn’t clear on how safe undiluted lavender oil is for pets, use it in your home rather than on pets directly.

How to treat: Mix up to 10 drops of food-grade lavender essential oil in an 8-ounce spray bottle and spray walls, floors, and places your pet doesn’t frequent. Some pets are sensitive to it, while others aren’t. To be safe, avoid spraying it where your pets spend time.

3. Apple cider vinegar

Even fleas are picky eaters. Apple cider vinegar is a flea treatment for dogs that makes fleas stay away. When your dog drinks some of the treatment, it’ll take them off a flea’s menu — their skin will taste icky to these tiny pests.

How to treat: If your vet gives the all-clear, add a tablespoon of vinegar to your dog’s drinking water to repel fleas.

4. Flea spray

Nothing beats a natural flea spray. The solution is chemical-free and is perfect for treating adult fleas. Remember that this is only a temporary solution, so you’ll still have to treat the larger infestation, and fleas can easily jump back on your pet after some time. The spray will safely kill the fleas on your dog and can be sprayed around the home to address the infestation.

How to treat: You’ll need a natural flea spray designated safe for dogs and your pet’s age and gloves to keep your hands clean. Our top pick for an all-natural flea spray is Vet’s Best Flea and Tick Spray. Dampen your pet’s coat with the spray, then massage it into the skin.

5. Brewer’s yeast

Repel fleas away with this natural pest control method. Brewer’s yeast is non-toxic and easy to add to your dog’s diet, with your vet’s approval. It makes your dog taste yucky to fleas and repels them.

How to treat: Available as a tablet or powder, add brewer’s yeast to your dog’s food. Before administering to your pet, consult with your vet for proper dosage information.

👉 Always consult your vet for the correct dosage before incorporating a new supplement into your dog’s diet.

6. Diatomaceous earth

Diatomaceous earth is a non-toxic treatment best used to control adult fleas at home. Made of silica, diatoms, and natural minerals, it resembles a powder-like substance. Diatomaceous earth kills fleas by damaging their exoskeletons and infiltrating their bodies to draw moisture out.

How to use: Sprinkle food-grade diatomaceous earth in your home on bedding, furniture upholstery, baseboards, and carpets. Wait overnight to let it work its magic, then vacuum the diatomaceous earth with the dead fleas.

Even though both diatomaceous earth and boric acid can kill fleas, mixing them together does not do much to increase efficacy. Boric acid often needs to be ingested by the flea to be effective, while diatomaceous earth just requires contact with the flea to be effective.

Dwight Alleyne, DVM

7. Citrus

Citrus extracts, including linalool and D-limonene, are excellent natural flea repellents targeting adult fleas and eggs alike. Like diatomaceous earth, citrus products like lemon juice have drying-out effects on fleas. Upon contact, citrus dissolves the flea’s protective coating, making it impossible for fleas to retain moisture.

How to use: When buying a citrus flea spray, read the label carefully to ensure it’s safe for pets. Add up to 10 drops of any citrus, food-grade essential oil to an 8-ounce spray bottle to make your own. Use the product or blend in areas of your house as needed.

8. Light trap

A light trap uses light and heat to draw out fleas. The flea trap has a yellow-green bulb dangling above a sticky mat to trap them until they die or get disposed of. Light traps follow an on-and-off lighting pattern, which tricks fleas into believing the light is a host source to jump onto.

How to use: Set up the light trap in your home to fool fleas into the trap.

9. Sulfur

Treat your backyard with sulfur to get rid of fleas. Upon contact or ingestion, sulfur interferes with the fleas’ energy production to end their infestation.

How to use: Sulfur is for outdoor flea treatment only. Use the powder form on your lawn, shrubs, and other outdoor spots. A good rule of thumb is to use the powder with a sifter, and ensure you can see your plants’ color through the powder to prevent killing them.

 ⚠️ If you suspect your dog ingested a toxic amount of sulfur, contact Animal Poison Control immediately: (888) 426-4435. 

When to go to the vet

If you notice your dog is scratching or chewing to the point that they are bloody, creating extreme hair loss, or are severely inflamed, then take your dog to the vet. These behaviors could be a sign of a flea bite allergy, which could last up to three weeks, or a more severe condition.

👉 Always check with your vet and discuss treatment options before applying natural flea remedies to your dog.

Dangers posed by fleas

It may begin as your dog scratching, but it’s much more than that. Not recognizing the signs that your dog has fleas poses serious problems for your pet. Fleas are parasites that carry all sorts of diseases that can endanger your pup.

Here’s what you’re preventing when you catch fleas early:

  • Tapeworms. If your pet ingests an infected flea with tapeworm larvae, it can transmit the parasite to your pet.
  • Anemia. An abundance of fleas on puppies can create extreme blood loss with serious consequences, including tissue damage and even death.
  • Flea allergic dermatitis (FAD). Some dogs are allergic to flea saliva. This can create extreme immune reactions in your pet.
  • Hemobartonellosis. This is an extremely rare disease, so most dog owners shouldn’t worry. But if your dog has had their spleen removed, this flea-transmitted disease could be life-threatening.

👉 Read our guide on flea treatments for dogs

How to prevent a flea infestation with flea control

The key is preventing a flea problem before it happens. Prevention methods will save you time and trouble in the long run. Plus, your dog will thank you for keeping the fleas away. Here are some things to try:

  • Spot treatments and flea collars. Ask your vet before applying flea prevention treatments to find out the best products for your dog.
  • A bath routine. Regular flea checks with a flea comb and bathing will keep your dog clean and keep you in the know if an infestation is beginning.
  • Yard maintenance. Pet owners, keep a well-manicured yard. Mow the lawn and trim back shrubs. This gives fleas fewer spots to hide in the backyard.
  • Routine house cleaning. Vacuum rugs and carpets weekly to rid your home of fleas that may get inside. Consider adding diatomaceous earth to your vacuum bag or bin to help kill fleas that get sucked into the vacuum.

Frequently asked questions

What naturally kills fleas instantly?

Before trying any flea treatment, consult with your vet. Assuming your pet is healthy and your vet gives it the green light, apple cider vinegar is a great, effective way to eliminate fleas. Treating your home with certain food-grade essential oil blends can also help kill and repel fleas.

What is the best homemade flea killer?

Lavender, rosemary, and other citrus oils high in linalool can be blended with water and sprayed around the home where fleas tend to dwell, like along baseboards, pet bedding, couches, etc.

How to get rid of fleas in an apartment with carpeted floors?

Before anything else, treat your pet with topical flea medications or an all-natural blend that will repel fleas Next, treat the carpet and any couches or bedding with diatomaceous earth. Let the powder sit overnight before vacuuming. Then, regularly repeat the process until all signs of fleas are gone.