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How to Kill Fleas and Ticks

There are plenty of natural products that use essential oils and other non-toxic ingredients for natural pest control on our pets indoors and outdoors. Learn How to Kill Fleas and Ticks naturally with essential oils without toxic chemical options but know that in the event of an infestation, there are situations that warrant and require chemicals.

how to kill fleas and ticks

How to Kill Fleas and Ticks

Isn’t it always better to get rid of nasty pests in our homes and on our pets naturally without toxic chemicals? Well, sometimes there are situations that warrant and require chemicals. Read on to find out all the different ways to get rid of and kill fleas and ticks.

What are Fleas and Ticks

Fleas are tiny insects that, as adult fleas, they must suck blood from another creature to sustain their own lives. Fleas are wingless, six-legged parasites, capable of jumping with surprising speed and may infest your pet alone by the thousands. The flea is a dark, reddish-brown color, similar to dried blood and is a common external parasite found in most parts of the United States. 

The tick, a friend in misery to the flea, is generally dark in color, several times larger than the flea, and when on your pet does not move about but rather attaches itself to your pet’s skin and remains at that spot until it has satisfied its hunger for blood. 

The female tick, engorged with blood, may look like a large, grayish-white, puffy pea-sized object which, on closer inspection, is attached by its tiny mouth to the animal’s skin. Often in close proximity to the underbelly of the female lies another smaller tick, a male waiting to complete the breeding cycle. 

Flea Life Stages

  1. After finding an animal or human host and taking a blood meal, adult fleas will mate and lay eggs in the fur and surroundings of the host. Eggs will hatch in one to ten days depending on environmental conditions such as temperature and humidity.
  2. After hatching from an egg, fleas enter their larval stage. Flea larvae are free moving and feed on blood and flea feces (poop; also called “flea dirt”), in order to continue their development.
  3. Within 5-20 days of feeding on flea dirt, the larvae will spin a cocoon, and enter the pupa stage. The cocoon protects pupa from environmental conditions and insecticides/repellents for several days or weeks until adult fleas are ready to emerge.
  4. Adult fleas will not emerge from the cocoon until there is a clear presence of a host, such as movement or body heat, which will signal that there is a blood meal readily available.
  5. Adult female fleas begin to feed from a host within a few hours of emerging from the cocoon and soon after the female flea will mate and begin laying eggs.

Tick Life Cycle

Most dog ticks are categorized as a 3-host tick. What this means is that the larvae, the nymphs, and the adults all feed from the blood of dogs. Once your pet has been bitten by a tick, this single bite is enough to induce irritation around that area on your dog’s skin and enough to introduce lyme disease to your pet.

The tick will begin to pass through several stages during its lifetime. The first stage is where the six legged larvae feeds on the dog for two to three days and then drops off, molting into an eight legged nymph. These nymphs will feed on the dog for seven to ten days until they to too drop off, and molt into adult ticks (male or female). 

Female ticks are then fertilized while on the dog and will feed for up to three more weeks. These females become engorged with an incredible amount of blood before they are ultimately dropped to the ground and lay their eggs soon after. These female ticks are typically what you see when you find one attached to your dog. They are highly noticeable due to their size and because of their growth from eating so much blood, it is easy to note their appearance.

Home Remedies to Repel Fleas and Ticks

When it comes to flea and tick control, many pet owners get uncomfortable with the toxic pesticides that are used in conventional methods and would rather use natural ingredients. They take a bit more “elbow grease,” but they may be just as effective and are generally safer. Here are some natural options for flea and tick control for your pets and home.

Over the years Brewer’s Yeast has been given to dogs to ward off a flea infestation. You can take 1/2 teaspoon and mix it into your dog’s food, then increase that dose over time. Fleas dislike the yeast. Brewer’s yeast is also full of vitamins that are good for your dog.

Garlic is also a good alternative for flea prevention but you have to be creative with it and somehow grind or mix into food or treats for your dog. It should be fresh garlic, not powder or processed.

Try This Chemical-Free Soak

Wash your dog with normal shampoo, something gentle, and then change the water so that his entire body can be soaking for about 15 minutes. 

Beforehand, mix of one teaspoon of rosemary in about one gallon of boiled water. Let it cool, then add to the dog’s water soak. Once the 15 minutes are up, wash the dog once again with a gentle shampoo and use the same rosemary water to rinse. It smells nice and does work. 

Tip: Some people have used pennyroyal with good results in this soak treatment.

-Spot-on or squeeze-on topical treatments for fleas are available in natural forms. Most of these have essential oils that smell strongly, but that repel and even kill fleas and ticks. Oils like pennyroyal, cedar, peppermint, and others are combined to make a potent flea and tick killer and repellent. 

-There are now all-natural flea powders on the market that work mechanically, not chemically to kill fleas and ticks. These powders “dry up” the pests by drawing the moisture out of their bodies. This is important because fleas and ticks can not become immune to mechanical methods. They can sometimes develop resistance to chemical methods. 

-Comb! It’s hard to beat a daily flea comb with a fine-toothed grooming comb. Keep a zip-top baggie and piece of white paper nearby while you groom. When you get a flea or tick in the comb, immediately slip it into the baggie, zip the top, then lay the baggie down on the white paper. Look for the pest, and “pop” (smash) it through the plastic using the handle of the comb. Repeat!

-Bathe your dog often with lather-rich flea shampoo. Leave the lather on for a bit, and try adding some essential oils like cedar, eucalyptus, or citrus to the bath water. This will help repel pests after the bath. 

All-Natural Recipe for Flea and Tick Oil

One alternative to the essential oil based flea spray with apple cider vinegar which your dog may find less offensive is a more potent oil which can be rubbed into the animal’s neck and shoulder area. The repellent oils will absorb into your pet’s skin rather than remaining on the surface of the fur for effective flea control.

Mix a few drops each of the clove oil, lemongrass oil and peppermint oil with a quarter-sized amount of carrier oil such as olive, coconut or jojoba, in the palm of your hand. Using your fingers, gently massage the oil into your dog’s neck area so that it goes beyond the fur and onto the skin. 

Continue massaging the oil down the center of your pet’s back, again making sure to penetrate through the fur and into the skin. The essential oils will be absorbed by your dog’s bloodstream, to repel insects such as fleas and ticks from the inside out!

As with the other natural flea spray for pets, frequent reapplication will be necessary, especially before and after you plan to take your dog outdoors for an extended length of time.

Chemical based flea and tick prevention products

Many people feel that natural methods of repelling fleas just aren’t practical or effective compared to chemical options. While flea sprays and flea collars are still available, you’ve probably heard about the more advanced forms of flea prevention such as IGRs and adulticides. 

Both of these are applied directly to your dog’s neck and shoulder area, and absorb into the animal’s blood stream where they do the work of keeping your pet free and clear of fleas and ticks.

Sentinel® is an IGR (insect growth regulator) that affords both flea repellent and heartworm protection. It requires just one application per month to keep your dog free of fleas, and is available at pet stores and your vet’s office.

Frontline® is a popular flea prevention product that kills fleas on contact. This, too, is applied to the dog’s neck and shoulder area. It is absorbed into the bloodstream and secreted from the dog’s skin. When fleas make contact, they die instantly.

As you can see, a dog with fleas situation can quickly become quite complicated, with the fleas spreading rapidly and causing much discomfort and embarrassment, not to mention the likelihood of spreading disease, to everyone in your household. 

If you don’t want your dog to get fleas, then take the proactive steps to keeping him free of these annoying and disgusting pests.

How to Get Rid of Fleas at Home

-Vacuum daily to remove fleas and flea eggs. Flea eggs can live in hardwood, too, so make sure to vacuum the carpets, cushioned furniture, cracks and crevices on floors, along baseboards and the basement. To make sure the fleas don’t start multiplying within your vacuum bag, suck up a few mothballs or Borax into your vacuum to kill them. 

-Borax powder, sold in the laundry aisle of your favorite store, is said to kill fleas if sprinkled liberally on carpets and furniture, allowed to sit, and then vacuumed up. 

  • Make sure to wash pet bedding in borax and hot water.

How to Get Rid of Fleas in the Yard

  • Minimize wildlife
  • -Diatomaceous earth, or diatom earth, is a great natural insect killer that dries out the pests. Dust it liberally on your lawn and around your home. Wear a dust mask. You can sprinkle it in and around your pet’s bedding, too.

To make your yard less hospitable to fleas and ticks, take the following steps:

  • Mow your lawn and rid your yard of tall grass and leaf litter
  • Prune foliage regularly.
  • Clean up clippings and yard waste.

Fleas thrive in shady areas and humid spots and typically avoid sunny or dry areas. Rid your yard of these potential flea and tick hiding spots:

  • Discard empty bird or rodent nests.
  • Remove stacks of bricks, logs or unused garden pots.
  • Pick up pets’ and children’s toys.

Stray or neighboring wildlife such as squirrels, deer, rabbits, raccoons and mice can easily transport fleas or ticks to your yard. Make your property less desirable to these animals and limit their access by following these tips:

  • Patch up holes in fences.
  • Keep a lid on garbage cans.
  • Clean up birdseed.
  • Remove uneaten pet food.
  • Install deer fencing.
  • Plant deer-resistant plants.