No Thanks
Keep In Touch With

Sign up and we'll send inspiration straight to you.

Martha Stewart takes your privacy seriously. To learn more, please read our Privacy Policy.

Fight Fleas Naturally

When it comes to protecting your pet and home against fleas, prevention is the best medicine.
Healthy Home 2008, Spring 2008

Most pets need only minimal beauty maintenance. In fact, a good brushing a few times a week is usually all it takes to keep a dog or cat's coat clean and free of excess hair. Flea season, however, brings its own challenges. Some flea-fighting products contain organophosphates (OPs) and carbamate, insecticides linked with nervous system disorders and other health problems in humans. Exposure to even small amounts of these chemicals, over long periods of time, can be particularly damaging to young pets and children.

Washing Your Pet
Never use products designed for dogs on cats, or vice versa, and don't apply them on young, elderly, pregnant, or nursing animals.

  • Wash your dog whenever he is dirty, using a hypoallergenic shampoo designed specifically for pooches (ask your vet for a recommendation).

  • Don't use human products. They aren't formulated properly for animals' skin, and may cause dryness and irritation. Don't use a medicated shampoo unless the vet says it's necessary.

  • In the rare instance that you'd need to wash a cat, use a feline-specific shampoo.

Toxic Chemicals
If your pet gets into an area where chemicals are stored and there's any chance he got something on his fur, wash him immediately. Otherwise, he may start grooming himself and could ingest poisonous substances.

Fleas and Insects
Wash pet beds and vacuum regularly. Restrict your pet's access to parts of the house that would be harder to disinfest, such as bedrooms. Before using any flea treatment -- even collars sold at pet stores -- talk to your vet so that you know what chemicals are used and understand possible side effects.

If you already have a flea infestation, or your pet is allergic to fleabites, consider safer insecticides like fipronil or imidacloprid. These chemicals are less toxic than OPs and carbamate. Fipronil also deters ticks, and imidacloprid can be used on puppies and kittens as young as six weeks.

Insect Growth Regulators
IGRs such as lufenuron can be administered preventively: They stop the flea's exoskeleton from forming, but don't kill adult fleas. IGRs are available as sprays, collars, pills, or liquids that are injected or applied directly to the skin (in a place your pet can't reach, such as between the shoulder blades). IGRs are considered safer for humans and pets, but they're so new that long-term effects aren't known.

If you have an annual flea problem, talk to your vet about starting your pet on an IGR before the fleas arrive, as the medication can take as long as 70 days to work. Fleas also tend to gather in moist, shady spots outdoors, where cats and dogs like to rest. Mow these areas frequently, and keep shrubbery clipped to let in more sunlight.

Nontoxic Flea Control
For a nontoxic approach to fighting fleas, wash your pet and his bedding weekly, and use the flea comb daily. Kill the fleas that come off your animal's coat by dipping them into soapy water. Vacuuming daily can be a big help, but you must discard the vacuum bag to keep the fleas from escaping. Most experts recommend sealing it with tape and wrapping in a plastic bag, or burning it.

If you have wall-to-wall carpeting or your upholstery is infested, consider having your home professionally steam cleaned, and get carpets treated with antiflea mineral salt. For outdoor areas, you can purchase microscopic worms called nematodes, which eat flea larvae. Both the mineral salt and worms can be purchased at Place the worms in the soil in areas where your pet spends the most time.

Comments (3)

  • jentilpet 25 Sep, 2010

    She{CAT} hasn't cried after putting her out again..she's eating since after the 3 days I found her{Sept 17th-to present Aept 23rd..Pocono's}pa does nothing for cats, dogs{only} "FERREL CAT" issues are the subject re:"Irrsponsible so called owners who allow their pet[likened to "Tethtering"-dogs for hours[still Congress{Obama} hasn't enacted."REGISTRY Abusers"Registry" is up for Senate offenders/muderers/ abused,animals/young age! Governmt "should"have done long ago,not COWARD-offenders!

  • jentilpet 25 Sep, 2010

    PART 2.."CAT"..I let her in as my mom will not allow her to come in,,BUT I snuck her in on my bed she sat for an hour then when I put her out again she didn't cry? could "It Be Now She's really happier "outside??" Is she really an "OURDOOR" CAT.who thought she wanted to come in..then changed her mind..please help I cannot keep her,but anxiety[ies],her cries,I cannot withstand!HELP,shelters are filled,cannot keep her here indefinitly,meanwhile she'll get fleas..what can I do?

  • jentilpet 25 Sep, 2010

    Each {few yrs{approx.3-years} a Cat,comes here to our house! It is "emotionally draining",as my innate,need to nurture cannot be ignored..I cannot go against my grain-so-to-speak!]
    This black,1/1/2 yrs]approx.] hes been "homesick" but the owners aren't feeling the same!{"oh,she's gone,oh well"