The Ultimutt Guide to Zero-Waste Flea Treatment

Published: 02/10/2021

Some zero-waste switches are easy to make. But flea treatments aren’t as straightforward. Before we dive in, we need to distinguish natural flea repellents from medicated flea treatments. Although some natural flea repellents will deter fleas from your environment, you must also treat your dog to eradicate the infestation. Once the fleas are gone, you can use natural products to prevent them from returning.

The bottom line is, a vet-prescribed flea treatment is always the best choice for your dog’s health and your comfort. Instead of ordering a flea medication on the internet, we advise purchasing flea treatments directly from your vet. They can provide a safe prescription based on your dog’s age, health status, and size. Additionally, online products may not have the same regulatory safeguards in place. If you’re concerned about plastic waste or residue from topical treatments, ask your vet about oral flea medications.

Zero-waste flea treatment: evaluating the evidence

Few studies have investigated the effects of all-natural flea treatments for dogs. One study found that a plant-based food supplement advertised as a flea control product was 82% effective in reducing flea populations after 5 months of treatment. It’s worth mentioning this study was small, with a sample size of just 22 dogs.

Much of the evidence on the efficacy of zero-waste parasite control products is anecdotal. A quick internet search will return dozens of blogs written and maintained by pet parents who swear by certain home remedies.

When researching zero-waste flea treatments, vet your sources carefully. Opt for scientific studies and peer-reviewed research over blog posts and social media comments.

Remember, what works for someone else’s dog may not work for yours. If you have any concerns about flea control for your dog, consult your vet, or chat with a vet now.
A note on essential oils

Many of the zero-waste flea remedies you’ll find on the internet involve the use of essential oils. While some essential oils are safe for dogs, err on the side of caution and talk to your vet before using any home remedy containing essential oils.

One study found that flea preventatives containing essential oils caused vomiting and lethargy in a significant number of dogs, even when those products were used as directed. Additionally, essential oils are potent and may irritate your dog’s sensitive nose.

Peppermint oil is often recommended online as a natural flea repellent for dogs. However, peppermint oil is toxic to dogs and cats. Avoid using flea sprays or shampoos containing peppermint oil.

Zero-waste flea treatment and prevention options

All that said, there are a few natural, vet-approved remedies that repel fleas and are also safe for your dog and the environment. Combine them with medicated flea treatments and regular grooming sessions to keep your dog happy, healthy, and flea-free.

Treating your dog

A quick note before we jump in: not all animals will tolerate the citrus and apple cider vinegar treatments we’ve covered below. If your pup shows signs of irritation, stop using the sprays immediately.

Flea combs made from sustainable materials

Before you make your first DIY flea spray, invest in a flea comb. A high-quality rotating pin brush will remove eggs and better distribute flea sprays and other topical products throughout the coat. Opt for a durable bamboo or stainless steel comb that will last for years to come.

Steeped lemon spray

When life gives you lemons, make a flea deterrent spray. According to BeyondPesticides.org, a compound in lemons and other citrus fruits called D-limonene kills eggs and larvae and repels adult fleas.

You’ll find commercial flea shampoos containing D-limonene at many big-box pet stores. But as a zero-waster, you’ll probably prefer to make your own lemon spray. Here’s what you’ll need.

Ingredients:

  • 1 to 2 lemons

  • A pint of water

Instructions:

  1. Cut the lemons into thin slices, leaving the peel on.

  2. Add the lemon slices to a pot of water and bring to a boil.

  3. Remove the solution from the heat and steep overnight.

  4. Once the spray is cool, transfer it to a reusable spray bottle.

  5. Lightly spray your dog, avoiding the face, and leave the solution on for a few hours.

  6. Later, give your dog a bath with a medicated flea shampoo. You should notice fleas dropping off into the water before you even apply the shampoo.

  7. After the bath, use a flea comb to remove eggs and fleas.

Apple cider vinegar and water spray

Fleas don’t fancy the taste or smell of apple cider vinegar, which makes it a “grrreat” repellent. Here’s what you’ll need.

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup water

  • 1 cup apple cider vinegar

Instructions:

  1. Combine the water and apple cider vinegar in a reusable spray bottle.

  2. Lightly spray your dog, avoiding the face, and let dry.

  3. Bathe your dog with a flea shampoo and use a flea comb to remove fleas.

Check out our guide on natural flea control remedies for more information.

Treating your environment

To eradicate a flea infestation, you’ll need to treat your home and yard as well as your dog. Here are a few natural flea control methods you’ll want to consider if you’re adopting a zero-waste lifestyle.

Nematodes

If you’re an avid gardener, you probably already know about this zero-waste flea treatment. Nematodes are small worms that feed on fleas and other pests like ants and slugs. This flea control method works best from late spring through early fall, when the soil temperature is above 53 degrees F. 

You can purchase nematodes at most home and garden stores. Follow all package directions exactly for the best results.

Diatomaceous earth

Diatomaceous earth is another natural, eco-friendly flea repellent that works wonders for treating both indoor and outdoor environments. Be sure to purchase food-grade diatomaceous earth and use it with caution. If it gets in your pet’s eyes or your lungs, it can cause some serious irritation.

Lawn care

Grass that’s too long is a breeding ground for fleas, ticks, and other pests. But grass that’s too short also repels ants and spiders, which feed on fleas. The key is finding that Goldilocks zone — not too long, not too short, but just right.

Check out our guide on flea treatments for your yard for more flea control methods.

Frequently asked questions about zero-waste flea treatment

Are the chemicals in commercial flea products harmful for my dog?

Generally speaking, no. The FDA and EPA evaluate flea control products. That said, some dogs may experience allergic or adverse reactions to certain ingredients. If your dog reacts to a flea medication, seek help from your trusted veterinarian.

Didn’t the FDA recall some flea control products recently?

Not quite. In 2019, the FDA issued a warning regarding flea control products in the isoxazoline class. These drugs may cause serious neurological effects, including seizures, loss of muscle coordination, and muscle spasms, in a small number of dogs and cats. The following brands were included in the warning:

  • Nexgard tablets

  • Simparica tablets

  • Credelio tablets

  • Bravecto tablets and topical solution

  • Revolution Plus topical solution for cats

If you’re concerned about the warning, consult your vet or talk to a vet now.

Can I recycle flea treatment tubes and pill packs?

That depends on the policies at your local recycling facility. Most facilities won’t accept any packaging containing medication. TerraCycle may accept empty pill packs, but you’ll need to double-check whether these are accepted in your region.

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