Fleas aren’t just gross. They’re a nuisance for dogs that can cause itching, injuries, and secondary skin conditions. If left untreated, dogs can hurt themselves with all the scratching, which leaves them open to infections and other issues.
Of course, the best way to treat a flea infestation is to prevent it from happening at all.
There are plenty of ways to stop fleas from attacking your dog, and you can use medicinal means or rely on homemade solutions. Sometimes the best approach is to use a combination of different preventative measures.
Whatever you choose, just know that there are plenty of options out there, and you should discuss these with your veterinarian before you decide on what to do. Here are ten tips to help prevent fleas from biting your dog.
1. Flea And Tick Medications
There are several medications and medicated products that prevent flea infestations on your dog.
You’re probably familiar with the spot-on topical treatments that you get from the vet and apply to your dog’s back for monthly relief. These are usually effective, though some dog owners are concerned about potential side effects.
There are also medicated powders that provide weekly protection and shampoos that are only effective for about a day. Certain medications are also available in pill form and can provide monthly protection.
You should research all of these options and discuss with your vet before giving them to your dog. While they may be effective at treating fleas, they may also result in side effects in your dog that you’re not comfortable with.
Consider all options before making a decision.
2. Apple Cider Vinegar
Apple cider vinegar can be used as a preventative flea treatment in several ways. While it doesn’t actually kill fleas, it can repel them and make them jump off your dog.
One way to use apple cider vinegar as a preventative treatment is by adding it to your dog’s drinking water. Only do this after you’ve discussed with your vet.
You should add it in the amount of one teaspoon per quart of water, though some dogs may dislike the taste. If that’s the case, you may want to start with a lower amount and introduce more gradually to allow your dog to acclimate to it.
You can also make apple cider vinegar into a spray as a mixture of two parts apple cider vinegar, one part water. You can use this spray on your dog’s coat and allow it to sink in, or you can dip a comb into the mixture and run it through your dog’s fur.
Again, this will not kill fleas, but it should repel them. Avoid contact with your dog’s eyes.
Wait! Isn’t garlic toxic to dogs?
This is a topic of controversy. In most cases, the amount of garlic it would take to make your dog sick is an amount you would never feed your dog.
Some experts claim that there is no evidence that garlic repels fleas, and they say you should never feed your dog garlic.
The American Kennel Club, for example, says garlic is a no-no, but even they admit that it “takes approximately 15 to 30 grams of garlic per kilograms [sic] of body weight” to cause your dog harm, and “the average clove of supermarket garlic weighs between three and seven grams, so your dog would have to eat a lot of garlic to get really sick.”
Some dogs, however, have higher sensitivity to garlic than others, and dogs with certain medical conditions, such as diabetes, should avoid it.
Other sources and dog owners say that garlic is an effective flea preventative.
Whatever the case, approach with caution and discuss it with your vet. If you decide to give your dog garlic, you should boil it and give it in small amounts. No more than a quarter clove with a meal.
Some recommend dusting your dog’s coat with it, as well, though dogs may try to lick it off if they enjoy the taste. It will take a while to build up in your dog’s system, so you may need to start giving it to your dog before flea season.
Again, please do not give your dog garlic before consulting your vet. There are several other treatment options that can help you prevent fleas and avoid potential risks of garlic, so keep that in mind.
4. Neem Oil
Neem oil is extracted from the seeds and bark of the neem tree, which is native to India. It has several uses and medicinal properties, so it can provide plenty of health benefits beyond flea prevention.
You can dilute neem oil with olive or grape seed oil and dab it on your dog’s fur–one part neem oil to ten parts other oil–in places where fleas are likely to infest, including the head, ears, tail, shoulders, and flanks.
You can add it to shampoo with one teaspoon neem oil per two tablespoons of shampoo, or you can make it into a spray with one part neem oil and ten parts water.
The main problem is that neem oil has a distinct smell that you may find unpleasant. Also, it does not prevent against all types of ticks or tapeworms, so it can’t replace all of your dog’s preventative medication or other treatments.
Don’t let your dog eat it and avoid contact with their eyes and nose.
5. Store-Bought Flea Collars
Flea collars can either prevent fleas, treat an existing infestation, or do both. They can be medicated or emit a gas to ward off fleas.
These can be effective for up to eight months and are generally a cheaper option than topical medications, but there are some drawbacks.
One is that they are worn on the neck, which means they are more effective in that area. The head, ears, and neck tend to be where fleas appear most often, but it can leave other parts of the body more exposed.
Another disadvantage is that, like topical medications, the chemicals in flea collars can be toxic.
You should discuss this option with your vet and do your research before relying on store-bought flea collars.
6. Homemade Flea Collars
For those who want to avoid the chemicals and potential side effects of store-bought collars, you can make homemade flea collars that use more natural ingredients to prevent fleas.
These are usually made with essential oils and a bandanna. The bandanna is soaked in a mixture and placed around the dog’s neck.
Some recommended oils to use are lavender, rosemary, thyme, and cedarwood. Garlic oil may also be effective. Always discuss with your vet before using oils to treat your dog.
The disadvantages of these collars are that they don’t last nearly as long as store-bought collars, and they’re also more effective around the head and neck area while leaving the rest of the body more open to infestation, but they don’t contain the potentially harmful chemicals.
CAUTION! Eucalyptus is dangerous if consumed by dogs or cats. If you want to use eucalyptus as a flea repellent, make sure you keep it out of reach of all of your pets.
That said, eucalyptus oil can be mixed with water and used as a spray that you can put on carpets and furniture. Just make sure to let it dry, and make sure your dog doesn’t lick any surfaces that you coat.
You can also spread some eucalyptus leaves and stems in open jars around the home, but again, be sure to place them out of reach of any pets.
Fleas hate the scent of eucalyptus and are generally repelled by it. This is a treatment you should use with extreme care. Ask your vet for some advice.
8. Diatomaceous Earth
Diatomaceous earth is a natural powder derived from rock formed by fossilized algae. It’s very fine and abrasive to flea exoskeletons.
One of the advantages of this is that fleas do not develop immunity to it. It kills them quite effectively.
You can spread diatomaceous earth on carpet and other surfaces, then vacuum it up after two to three days. Do not put it on your dog’s skin, as it will dry out.
9. Cedar Chips
Fleas hate the smell of cedar, and you can spread cedar chips around your yard or outdoor area to prevent them from entering your dog’s environment.
The advantage of cedar chips is that they can provide outdoor protection from fleas while you take steps to make your indoor environment safe.
Cedarwood oil can also be effective, and it can be mixed with water and used as a spray.
10. Keep Everything Clean
One of the simplest ways to ward off fleas is to keep your indoor environment clean, especially with regards to the places your dog likes to go and the items they frequently interact with.
Their bedding, for example, should be thoroughly washed often, as should any furniture or pillows that they like to sleep on, any rugs or carpet that they like to lie on, or any toys and stuffed animals they play with.
Vacuuming and washing fabrics regularly will help prevent fleas from taking up residence in your home.
What other ways do you prevent flea bites on your dog? Let us know in the comments below!