Fleas have always been a nuisance to pets and pet owners. Here’s how to get rid of fleas the natural way, using garlic, lemon, and herb remedies.
By The Editors of Yankee Magazine
May 03 2020
Lemon and garlic are two good places to start when wondering how to get rid of fleas on your pets.Photo Credit : Aimee Seavey
Even as a kid, Roger Valentine, D.V.M., now a veterinarian in Santa Monica, California, relied on a fresh clove of garlic a day to make his dog less appetizing to fleas. Now, with his holistic training, Dr. Valentine understands more about the powers of garlic. “Will garlic keep fleas off a dog — or cat? No, but it can make them less appealing,” says Dr. Valentine. For chowhounds that gobble up anything, you can just crush the clove and stick it in the food bowl with their meal. For picky eaters, you may need to opt for sprinkling a teaspoon of garlic powder into the dry food and adding some water for gravy.
Some homemakers in the late 1800s demonstrated the value of lemon in keeping a fresh-smelling house by reaching for a lemon and squeezing the juice for use in cleaning their sinks, according to The Household Guide or Domestic Cyclopedia (1892) by Benjamin Jefferis, M.D., and James Nichols. Turns out that lemons have a repellent effect on fleas and other pests, too. lemon contains d-limonene, a natural flea-killing substance. Holistic-minded animal herbalists have relied on lemon skin tonic to keep fleas from feasting on their Fidos.
To make some, thinly slice a whole lemon, including the peel. Add it to 1 pint of near-boiling water and let it steep overnight. The next day, sponge the cooled liquid onto your dog’s skin and let dry. Use this homemade tonic daily for a few days to combat fleas. Say goodbye to your pooch’s scratching!
Another option for fighting fleas is to wash your dog with a pet shampoo that contains d-limonene, a natural extract from citrus fruits that will kill fleas with minimal side effects on dogs. Just be sure not to use this ingredient on cats, because it can be toxic to them.
“You can make old-fashioned insect-repellent shampoo simply by adding a few drops of essential oil of rosemary, pennyroyal, or eucalyptus to a bottle of natural pet shampoo,” says Richard Pitcairn, D.V.M., Ph.D., a holistic-minded veterinarian in practice for more than 45 years. Dr. Pitcairn cautions pet owners to be careful not to apply these oils directly onto a dog’s skin, because the oils can be too irritating and may cause rashes.
Since Colonial times, people have looked to their herb gardens for all kinds of remedies for common ailments. Picking the right herbs to grow can also keep your pets from scratching up a fuss when summer arrived and the fleas are thriving. Here’s an easy herbal recipe to fight fleas on dogs. In a saucepan, bring 1 pint of water to a boil. Add 1 teaspoon dried rosemary or 1 tablespoon fresh rosemary leaves, cover, and steep for 10 minutes. Strain out the herbs and allow the rosemary “tea” to cool to room temperature. Pour this mixture over your dog after her final bath rinse. Rub in and towel dry without further rinsing. This herbal flea shampoo will work on cat fleas as well as dog fleas.
Even indoor cats are not immune to flea visitors. Pet-friendly herbalists recommend this natural way to discourage fleas from setting up house in your cat’s coat.
Combine one part each of as many of these herbs as you can find: eucalyptus, rosemary, fennel, yellow dock, wormwood, and rue. Put this mixture in a shaker-top jar (like the one you use for parsley flakes). Apply the herbal flea powder sparingly to your cat’s coat by brushing backward with your hand or a comb and sprinkling the herbs into the base of the hairs, especially around the neck, back, and belly. Do this several times a week. Your cat will purr with gratitude. (It won’t harm your cat to ingest the powder, so don’t be concerned if she licks herself after you apply it.)
Do you have a favorite tip for how to get rid of fleas on dogs and cats?
Excerpted from 1,001 Old-Time Household Hints: Timeless Bits of Household Wisdom for Today’s Home and Garden by the Editors of Yankee Magazine (Skyhorse Publishing, 2011).
This post was originally published in 2016 and has been updated.