Be they dog-lovers, cat-lovers or fans of any other kind of furry creature, all pet owners know that twinge of panic that happens when a pet stretches his back paw up to scratch behind an ear.


Sure, it could just be some fur out of place. Or, it could be fleas. And when dog owners find that Fido’s itch is actually from a parasite, they can take a quick turn to the cupboard or laundry room for some home remedies for fleas to provide a fast fix.


Clean up

The bad news is that adult fleas can lay up to 50 eggs a day, usually on your pet. The somewhat good news is that they typically fall off onto your floors and upholstery. After the eggs hatch, this is also where the larvae hang out and eat flea droppings until they become adults and can suck blood all on their own. This brings us to the actual good news: As unsexy as it is, a vacuum cleaner is your single most important weapon in the war on fleas. In fact, it kills nearly 100 percent of fleas that get sucked into it. Though it’s not clear why, hypotheses include the idea that it dries the exterior coating that keeps fleas hydrated. This means they dry up and die. This is one reason, possibly, that pet owners find that sprinkling boric acid, a desiccant, and fully rubbing it into carpets helps kill the pests. It is, however, dangerous to inhale, so make sure it’s fully rubbed into the carpet and vacuum any visible powder.


If getting rid of eggs and larvae hiding in carpet and upholstery are the first line of defense, it only makes sense that treating a dog’s other area of greatest inhabitance — the yard — is the second. Here, nematodes are one of the most effective treatments around. These microscopic roundworms don’t do anything to humans and are recognized widely for pretty much feasting on yard pests, including flea larvae, as well as spidermites and grubs. Although we don’t expect you to have a canister lying around your house, they’re readily available at many garden centers.


On your pet

Here, the “well, duh” first-stop, fast-fix is soap. That’s right, no flea medicine required. Wives’ tales recommend mixing up home brews of pet shampoo that include some combination of rosemary, eucalyptus, citronella, juniper, cedar, geranium, bergamot and a number of other aromatherapeutic herbal ingredients, but it’s actually the lather that’s doing the heavy lifting. It traps the fleas, which is likely why pet owners find leaving the soap on for a little while makes for a more effective, longer-lasting debugging. Soap itself is an established cell membrane disruptor, and some experts believe it might also work to kill insects by removing their protective waxes. The key is to get a really good layer of soap on rather than first rinsing down your dog. Intuitively this will make fleas jump off before Fido gets lathered up.


If preceding pattern of bathing and vacuuming doesn’t do the trick, head to the vet for some professional recommendations. Yes, most recommend on-skin treatments with chemicals. But the flip side is that fleas are nasty little things that in large quantity can kill small animals all on their own. The most important thing is the keep the canine companion safe and parasite-free.


Have other ideas for home remedies for fleas? Leave us a note in the comments below.