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Flea Prevention 101

Posted by Joe Morton on

In front of a black background, there's a cream colored cat scratching their ear with a hind foot.

Fleas are the bane of a pet owner’s existence. They can occur during any season, last forever, and cause your fur babies severe discomfort, dermatitis, tapeworms, and even anemia if they react poorly. So, what can we do to prevent fleas naturally in dogs and cats? And if you do end up with an infestation, how do you get rid of fleas on your dog? We’ve got several options.

The Best Natural Flea Prevention

A light-colored dog having some topical treatment applied to the back of their neck.

The best way to prevent flea infestations is to treat your dog or cat with a preventative year round. Although pharmaceutical products like Petlock, Frontline or Advantage may come to mind, there are natural options which can serve the same function without the risk of adverse effects. For example, Tropiclean is a whole set of natural remedies that rely on essential oils that can kill fleas on contact. Bonus: Tropiclean products are perfectly safe to use on your puppy, dog, and even your furniture. Mad About Organics is a similar solution that you can use on both dogs and cats. Using natural flea prevention solutions like these and others helps you avoid the harsh chemicals you’ll need if an actual infestation occurs.

The final step to prevention is monitoring. Buy a flea comb if you don’t already have one, and just run it through your pet’s fur every once in a while. The thin rakes of the comb can pick up fleas easily and you’ll know immediately if they’ve slipped past your defenses.

Getting Rid Of Fleas In Your House

An illustration of the flea life cycle: A dog & cat at the top, going clockwise is flea eggs, flea larva, flea pupa and finally adult flea.

You’ve noticed your dogs and cats scratching more than usual. A red spot or two -- you think nothing of it. Then, you see a little black speck jump off of your cat and onto your arm. You can’t deny it anymore: you’ve got fleas.

The tricky thing about fleas is that they don’t always live exclusively on your pets. When you’ve got enough fleas, they live any place that they can hide -- your carpet, your bed, your couch. When an infestation gets that far, it’s time to bring out the big guns. First, make sure to wash all pet bedding, vacuum your carpets, and clean anywhere else that the fleas might be hiding.

For dealing with a flea infestation naturally, you can try diatomaceous earth. Diatomaceous earth kills fleas by absorbing fats and oils from their exoskeleton.  After this coating is removed, the fleas can't retain water and die due to dehydration. You sprinkle the powder anywhere that fleas might be hiding -- carpets, dog beds, and other furniture -- and wait for it to do its magic. You can also apply diatomaceous earth to your pets, but you must be careful: it has a strong drying effect, so keep it away from your pet’s mouth, nose, eyes, and ears.

In conjunction with any powders or sprays you use in your home, be sure to continue your pet’s preventative measures with topical solutions, baths, or sprays for your dog or cat.

We’ve Got Fleas, But Not On Dogs Or Cats

A golden retriever with a sheet in its mouth. To the right is a washer and dryer.

If you’ve got fleas on your other small critters, never fear. You can wash bedding, vacuum carpets, and keep your house clean to prevent further infestations. For just a few fleas, you can use a flea comb on your rabbit, ferret, or other fur baby. If you need a chemical treatment, check with your vet for a safe topical solution and dosage.

Never use a chemical solution on an animal if it’s not made for that species. This also applies between dogs and cats -- never use “dog” Frontline on a cat, and vice versa. You could harm or even kill your pet.

What About Ticks?

A woman checking her dog for ticks in the woods.

Many natural and chemical flea prevention remedies also apply to ticks. Ticks are not generally a problem for your animals unless you live in a heavily wooded or tall-grass area, or your dogs and cats frequent those areas (e.g., long hikes, indoor/outdoor pets).

If your pets are at risk for ticks, make sure to apply a topical preventative, tick collar, or other measure. Unlike fleas, ticks carry many more diseases that will easily transfer to humans. If you’re adventuring with your pet, make sure that you also use tick prevention -- long socks, chemical sprays, and a tick check when you return home.

Stay safe out there, pet lovers!