Animals are not ours to eat, wear, experiment on, use for entertainment, or abuse in any other way.

The ABCs of Cruelty-Free Flea Control

PETA’s latest undercover investigation, which took place inside Professional Laboratory and Research Services (PLRS), a North Carolina lab that tests products on dogs, cats, and rabbits, has upset a lot of animal lovers―and not just because of the sadistic behavior of the employees at the facility. Some of the products tested there were topical flea treatments, which are viewed by many as absolutely essential to the well-being of our animal companions. If we want to boycott such products, what are we supposed to do? We can’t let our animals become flea-bitten and miserable. Anyone who has ever had poison ivy or hives or any kind of allergic reaction that causes itching knows how torturous it can be when your whole body is itchy.

Let me just say right up front that unfortunately, in some cases, you might not be able to boycott these products, even though they are animal-tested, without making your own dog or cat miserable, and that is not acceptable. I’m speaking of dogs and cats with flea allergies. A flea allergy changes the whole equation, because animals with flea allergies are so sensitive that they will break out in hotspots if even one flea gets on them. The flea may not even need to bite them to cause an extreme reaction. Holistic measures are unlikely to create an environment that is 100 percent flea-free (although it’s not impossible), so in households with allergic animals, you may need to bite the bullet and stick with the chemical flea treatments, which, sadly, are all animal-tested.

However, for people whose animals are not allergic to fleas, using holistic flea-control measures is a great idea because not only do you avoid supporting animal testing, you also provide your animal companions with a healthier environment by preventing them from absorbing harsh chemicals through their skin. Admittedly, holistic flea control is more time-consuming and labor-intensive than simply applying a topical chemical treatment, but it’s well worth it for the sake of your animal companions’ health and for the sake of the animals suffering inside the laboratories that test the products.

Here is a solid 10-point cruelty-free action plan for ridding your home and animal companions of fleas (you probably won’t need to take all 10 actions, but the more you do, the more successful your flea-elimination program will be―just see what works for you):

1. Purchase a good flea comb and use it every day to remove adult fleas from your animals’ coats. This will provide instant relief as well as helping you keep tabs on the flea population.

2. Bathe your animals with a gentle shampoo containing calendula, oatmeal, or aloe once every week or two. Throw their bedding into the washer while you’re at it.

3. Vacuum your house as frequently as possible, and stow the vacuum bag inside a plastic bag in your freezer to kill any fleas or flea eggs that you happened to vacuum up.

4. Give your animals a B-complex vitamin supplement every day to boost the health of their coat.

5. Make a natural flea repellent by adding six or seven drops of the essential oils of rosemary, peppermint, eucalyptus, tea tree, and citronella to a cup of water and shaking well. Use a spray bottle to apply the solution to your dog’s coat every other day. (Do not use this on cats―they are too sensitive to essential oils.)

6. Black walnut capsules are a good flea repellent for dogs―adjust the dosage by bodyweight and give several times a week.

7. Diatomaceous earth, which consists of fossilized algae, will kill fleas by causing them to dehydrate. It is very important that you buy the natural diatomaceous earth sold in gardening centers rather than the kind that is used in pools. The latter has been treated and contains dangerous chemicals. Spread diatomaceous earth on your carpets and hardwood flooring and leave it down as long as possible, then vacuum it up along with the dead fleas. It’s a very light powder, so be sure not to let your animals (or children) breathe it in while it is being applied.

8. Your yard can also be treated for fleas. Keep your grass cut short, and try dousing it with beneficial nematodes―these are roundworms who are more than happy to dine on flea larvae. You can purchase them online. Fleabusters has them (see below), as do many other companies.

9. Fleabusters/Rx for Fleas is a cruelty-free professional flea-control company that will treat your home for you or sell you the products to do so yourself.

Good luck!

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  • Kelly says:

    Im an animal lover more thanls the next person I love my cats to bits and of course I dont want to cause harm or discomfort to my pets but I also hate flees I attract them so bad and I get covered in bytes I also have a little girl of 5 to think about your solutions are not quick ones they take time which I havent really got so please then lets me know what harm free risk/health free 99% affective flee treatments that kill flees within 24-48 hrs any solutions please reply to collinskelly91@yahoo.co.uk or leave a comment very greatful to all those that reply with a quick response

  • patdupree says:

    i pick fleas off by hand and put hand under running faucet. you get better at being able to pick them off. i am going to try garlic, also vinegar and eucalyptus and a little tea tree oil mixed in water. also brewer’s yeast supplement in food. also lemon juice mixture. will try garlic oil spray for yard , google it . and cedar chips. am relly hoping the cedar chips are going to work. please everyone look for h.r.1417 that will go before the house of representatives : excellence in combat medical training which will end the use of animals for combat med training. yes, our country has been doing that. other countries outlaw it. please look for the oliver stone article on peta website. there is an opp to comment to your congressional members in your area. one day, if we all stand together there will be healthy animals that would otherwise have ended up with …. i can’t say it. just watch the video. it will give you the courage to act . it is all the same : this using and abusing animals who would fight for their life just like we all do. how do these abusers think they will spend their eternity ?

  • pat says:

    am so looking for support with cruelty free flea and mosq prevention and treatment. am soaking up what i read here . thank you all.

  • Flealover says:

    Why is Peta recommending to kill fleas?

    I supposed Peta was against animal cruelty. You are hypocrits!

  • rosette hoda says:

    I don’t entirely agree with this article. You can get rid of fleas. You just have to stay on top of it every day. I use an herbal spray by sentry and natural herbal oil bath every other night. Its a lot of work. What these chemicals do is make it easy for us humans. Just like fast foods makes dinner easy. Do you want a easy lazy life or a healthy one? I do this because my golden was getting seizures from Novartis Interceptor… and ever since I stopped with the chemicals he has not had a seizure! The problem is that, the animals do become immune to the flea treatments and other chemys.. Then this is why these companies have an excuse to conduct more research. Its a vicious cycle. You just have to say no and stop letting your vets pump your pets with new vaccines and sell you the flea chemicals and heart worm pills and their crappy kibble. I have a friend who went to Davis and their education is very limited to drugs and surgery. They come out of vet school with no nutrition education. Only what Hills prescription science diet wants them to leard. I use herbs by natures sunshine as an antiparasitic and heartworm preventative.

  • Jacki says:

    Ya learn something new evreyday. It’s true I guess!

  • Mariko says:

    …eucalyptus oil is toxic to cats also

  • Mariko says:

    Be careful with using garlic as anything other than a small does can cause deadly anaemia in dogs and cats. And tea-tree oil and other essential oils can also be highly poisonous to cats.

  • lu says:

    anyone know where can i get a copy of the front line article…. i would like to be able to disseminate it.

    thanks :)

  • Michael says:

    Good article. However you forgot to mention that to be able to get rid of fleas out of the home, it’s a must to keep your pet confined in one space, preferably outside. . Wash all pet bedding, any other washable furniture such as covers, rugs, pillows and your bedding. Vacuum all carpeting thoroughly and then make sure you throw the vacuum bag away immediately.

  • Joann says:

    Dogs and Cats scratch their body not just because of fleas, they might have food allergies, so before applying any Flea control products, consult with your vet first.

  • alejandra says:

    sin palabras

  • BUD says:

    RETIRED from the Pet Industry, I have horses and dogs, I feed them a brewers yeast supplement (vit B) and garlic, I also spray their coats with
    vinegar and eucalyptus and a little T tree oil and mix with water.
    Keep away from eyes and genitals.
    this works for them and they are comfortable . The flys come near my horse but don’t land.
    the ONLY good place for a flea collar is in the vacuum bag!
    then freeze bag and put collar in new bag.

  • Tara Zuardo says:

    ANOTHER GREAT TIP: Feeding your dog dogfood with garlic powder as one of the ingredients. Nature’s Recipe Vegetarian Dog Food has kept my dog flea-free in most areas we’ve lived.

  • Carole Murphy says:

    In response to “after flea combing, where do I put the fleas”. Get a dish or pan. Mix some ammonia and water. Drop the fleas in that solution. That will kill them. DO NOT put the flea comb in the solution. Then dump the dish/pan solution down the toilet.

  • Helen says:

    Once the fleas are in the comb – pull them off & put them straight into a bucket of water or into the toilet. This probably sounds weird but when I comb my cat I sit on a step-stool in our toilet, comb her & when I get a flea in the comb I put it straight into the toilet – they drown this way. Just make sure they don’t climb up the side of the bowl. Otherwise sit outside with a bucket of water when combing & put the fleas into that then pour the bucket of water down the toilet & flush!

  • indigowynd says:

    @Shymisty : My husband and I use Dawn on our dog too! It works like a charm and the vet that we go to suggests it over anything else on the market. :)

  • Matt Renfrew says:

    I have found over the last 20 years the best way to control fleas and we have had 5 dogs in the last 20 years. Cedar trees, Cedar Hedges, Cedar wood chips in bags for beds. I discovered this in the 80′s when i lived in Seattle the flea capital of North America. We planted some Cedar trees in our dog pen which now are over 50 tall and shade the pen and the dog house. Our dogs roam free when we are home on over 200 acreas but when we are not home they are in the pen. We have had absolute no fleas in 20 years on all of our dogs. Try a simple Bed filled with Cedar wood chips it works, and the fresher the wood chips the better.

  • Jarenice Bravo says:

    Cano, fleas are not animals they are parasites. These are two different things. Yes they are living creatures but animals don’t live off of other species body to survive. Parasites do. That’s why fleas stay in your pets coats. They live there to feed, multiply, and survive. Think of them as tapeworms or even pinworms. They live off of others to live. That’s what fleas do. Just like lice.

  • Rosalind says:

    Neem oil is also good to get rid of fleas. Just massage a little into the fur throughly all over and keep it for at least a week. This should be done once in 2 days. Then give your pet a good bath. This gets rid of the fleas as well as gives your pet a good coat

  • Purr says:

    I heard Cedarcide Non-toxic flea control works really well.

  • dayscatwoman says:

    To candu, when you comb the fleas out you put them in dish soap water. I always have a dishsoap water container handy as flea combing is my sole method of flea control with a dozen cats and one dog. Always does the trick and is cheap.

  • kathleen says:

    I have found a great flea control device. I bought it at Orchard Supply and it is called an electronic flea trap. It uses a small light bulb to generate heat which the fleas are drawn to. Then when they jump on the grate they fall onto some sticky paper. I have literally trapped hundreds of fleas that cam in my house when I was catching the feral cats on my property to get them spayed and neutered. I brought them into my house after I trapped them until the next morning when I took them to get fixed but they left fleas all over the place. After 2 months using these little $12 devices they are all gone. I bought three of them. You can find them by searching google.

  • Christy says:

    The roundworm idea has me worried also. I know dogs get roundworms and wouldn’t spreading roundworms on the yard for fleas lso affect the dogs?

  • Shymisty says:

    I took home 3 baby kittens someone was giving away at a festival (I volunteer at the Humane Society here) I am keeping them till they are old enough to be adopted. They were covered in fleas and I knew I could not use regular flea treatment on them; so I gave them a bath in Dawn dishsoap. The original scent (NO BLEACH) It really did the job on killing the fleas You might want to try that on your pets.

  • Shymisty says:

    I took home 3 baby kittens someone was giving away at a festival (I volunteer at the Humane Society here) I am keeping them till they are old enough to be adopted. They were covered in fleas and I knew I could not use regular flea treatment on them; so I gave them a bath in Dawn dishsoap. The original scent (NO BLEACH) It really did the job on killing the fleas You might want to try that on your pets.

  • Jody B. says:

    I took in a stray dog last summer who had fleas and I’ve been trying to get rid of them ever since. I bought a big bag of diatomaceous earth at a garden center and used it liberally around the house, which did help some. I had been trying to use non-chemical methods (herbal powders and sprays)and flea shampoo (which upsets the cats and gets me pretty scratched up) on my four feline companions, but the fleas got so bad that I had to put the cats outside and flea-bomb the house and then use the flea chemicals that are applied to the back of their necks. I hated doing it but we were all suffering from flea bites. I’m still using diatomaceous earth and also a tablespoon of apple cider vinegar in the cats’ drinking water (two bowls with and one without, so they have a choice) and haven’t seen a flea now for three weeks.

  • Jenniluna says:

    candu: When flea combing my dog or cats, I keep a mug with a mixture of dish soap and water and a spoon in it. When I catch the fleas in the comb, I slide the hair and fleas off the comb and into the water, and then use the spoon to dunk them. The soap clogs their exoskeletons and kills them

  • Cyrus says:

    To Candu, and others using the flea comb method: Fill a peanut butter, (or similar sized) jar with hot, but not scalding, tap water. As you remove the fleas from the cat or dog’s fur, quickly dip them in the hot water. It stuns them, they come off the comb and drown. Then discard down the drain. Combing a cat’s neck and at the base of the tail will get the most fleas. The trouble with fleas is that they carry tapeworm, and when the cat eats the flea, it becomes infected with the tapeworm. And the only way to get rid of that is with pills. I have kept a cat flea free with just the combing, but you have to do it EVERY day…and now I have 7 cats! (plus a feral that won’t let me comb it but tolerates the advantage drops.) So…difficult choices. :(

  • Thanks says:

    I had just read about the horrors of animal testing, and I was thinking, I can’t buy those products now that I know what’s behind them. My cat has fleas, unfortunately, and so, we were in a dilemma. I’m so glad I found this article! Thanks so much.

  • Jennifer says:

    If you use a flea comb, put a little liquid soap on it to trap the fleas so they don’t jump off. You can also dip the comb in a cup with soapy water in it and later flush down the toilet or pour down the sink drain.

    I’ve also used “Bayer Advance” granules, which IS a pesticide. It’s the same chemical as that used in Advantage flea treatment. You sprinkle the granules onto the ground (buy a seed disperser) and then water them so they soak into the dirt. But I only have used this when we were overrun by Super Fleas in the yard. Diatomaceous earth can be used outside also, next to where the house’s foundation is, but it is no good once it’s wet.

    If you have flea infestation in the house, you can use diatomaceous earth but you must put it in every nook and cranny and leave it there! The problem is you don’t want animals or yourself or kids to breathe in the powder. So you can’t really use it on carpets or open areas. Again, use it in cracks where fleas hide and lay eggs.

    I live in N. Central Florida. It’s very hot and humid here and flea treatments can’t even do the trick, and I have 10 indoor/outdoor cats and ferrets. I treat the yard every few weeks in summer, treat the animals also every 2-3 weeks, treat the house as I clean — doing one room every few days. The only carpeting I have are bath mats which I wash as I clean and treat. Along with treating for fleas, I treat for mosquitoes the same way as I described in my last post and give Ivermectin to the animals monthly for heartworms. Finally, I actually have started disinfecting the soil in the yard, too, by using a product called Oxine AH — also safe for animals. It kills bacteria, including e-coli and salmonella, viruses, and molds. I use this because my animals all use the yard as their potty.

    I have one ferret who is not only very allergic to fleas (and possibly mosquitoes) but to fungi. Because of his allergies, he also tends to get upper respiratory infections easily. Since using these methods (Neem oil, Organicide, Diatomaceous earth, Oxine, as well as Advantage), he’s been doing much better. With him, one solution was insufficient and actually I’ve learned a lot by developing the multiple approach.

  • Jennifer says:

    Also try 15 ml of Neem oil (buy at a health food store) mixed with 3-6 ml of dish soap and 3 quarts of water. Neem oil messes with insects hormones so they don’t lay eggs, don’t feed, etc.

    Or try Organicide, which is fish-oil based. Buy a garden sprayer and mix 2 fluid oz. with a gallon of water and spray it on plants, especially the underside where mosquitoes like to hang out.

    Make sure you have no standing water in your yard.

    Both of these are safe for animals. Organicide also gets rid of fungus, which some animals may also be allergic to. (But it smells like fish for a few days and so do you and your animals.) (Neem oil also doesn’t smell great.)

  • Doggy Love says:

    These dang ticks have armor !!! any suggestions

  • Doggy Love says:

    This is wonderful!! My dog is ten years old and I usually buy this blue tick spray from the grocery store..i find it keeps the fleas and ticks at bay quite well. Now i feel so guilty knowing this info. I had no idea. Well anyway i notice that when i use the spray, he seems older that usual, senile even. the look in his eyes changes and breaths fast with his mouth open ..havent used it since but the ticks are invading

  • Jen says:

    we have used Frontline for years and felt that it also kept the animals from having fleas in the environment, because if the fleas were dead, they didnt reproduce. For the past 3 months, we see NO results from using Frontline- I called Frontline and asked if anyone else was experiencing /reporting this and they said no. Possibly fleas in Hawaii, or my area are becoming immune to Frontline- anyone else with this happening?

  • mrshill10 says:

    Heavily concentrated lemon water repels fleas as well. Boil about 2 cups of water with 2 thinly sliced lemons for about 10 minutes. Cover and let sit over night. Strain into a spray bottle. You can add 1 oz of straight vodka to as a preservative. Spray on furniture, carpets, and the pets bedding. I use it without the vodka and spray it on the dog.

  • Julie Wheeler says:

    All of the information about flea control is great, but what about heartworm? That is included in my dogs flea prevention medication and way more important. Is there any natural prevention for that?

  • Lesley J Blissett says:

    I give my dogs garlic which keeps away fleas and ticks. I have two large dogs and they have two cloves of garlic every morning in their food and are free of any unwanted bodies. Normally they get infested with ticks during the summer, even when treated with a commercial product, but I have only found three on each dog this summer and the ones I found were dead.

    The garlic has to be freshly prepared as it loses it’s properties very quickly after it has received even the smallest of cuts.

  • Ruth says:

    What I would do to keep my Dogs clean from Fleas and Ticks is I would bathed them every 5 days and I would keep my yard clean.

  • Maggie says:

    I have worked at a vets for several years. I thought it’s a dream job helping animals. The truth is the exact opposite. Medications, chemicals treatments – all tested on animals. The vets themselves learn surgery techniques on animals, speacially bred therefore. Cats are forcefed these flea repellents to see how much they could lick of their fur before they die….A word on tea tree oil: if my boss is right, it’s poisinous too and causes bad reactions when put on the skin, so be careful using it on your pets, as well as yourself.

  • Miss Turtle says:

    Is Comfortis a bad alternative? We just started on it at the recommendation of our Vet and have had no hotspots and no fleas on dogs or cat. One or two might come in off the lawn, but as soon as they hit the animal they are dead. My cat would have to have steroids by the end of the summer he was so allergic. No problem this year.

  • april says:

    I moved into a house that was infested with fleas. I didn’t know this until my pets and my kids were getting bit all the time and then the neighbors happened to mention that they had stopped allowing their children over when the old tenants lived here, because of the fleas. Well, I tried everything chemical free, including diatomaceous earth and nothing worked. I have had to bite the bullet and I purchased some chemical sprays today. I hate to do it. I am the type of person that cleans with baking soda and vinegar, but the fleas are making us CRAZY! Maybe if the place hadn’t been so infested these other options would have helped.

  • cano says:

    Aren’t fleas animals too?

  • candu says:

    Once you remove the fleas with the flea comb- what should you do with them? They are quick little buggers and leap all over!

  • Calliopia says:

    This is great information to know, I work at a petstore that does not educate us on any alternatives to commercial flea meds unless we get one that is “all natural” in most cases, it is not. I would like to use these tips in my own home as I try to live a healthier life w/o so many chemicals we consider a regular, everyday necessity.

  • KerriDarling says:

    There is some great information in here! If the need arises I’ll be taking the tips from here instead of getting harmful chemicals.

  • Kitty says:

    Thanks for the tips! I’ve used Borax the same way you describe using diatomaceous earth – sprinkle it on carpets and along the edges of floors, leave it for a while (keeping pets out of the room), and then vacuum it up. It dehydrates the fleas.

    This can’t work for everyone, but I live in the country and I keep a small number of chickens (not for food). I let them free-range in the yard all spring, and this summer we have not had ANY flea problems so far. I’m not certain they’re the reason, but it’s likely! They loved to tear up the yard looking for bugs!

  • Johann says:

    NUTS!

  • Laurie FL says:

    Some great suggestions for flea prevention. I have not had to use the other this year on dog or cat. I give heartworm, but reading the side-effects on lab animal tests troubles me alot. I hope the roundworms aren’t the pet infestation kind.

  • Betty says:

    Karen has once again given us a lot to think about and information to act on.

    Thanks so much. I did not know that the lab folks who are supposed to be helping animals are being cruel to them. That should immediately be stopped.

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