Holistic Approach To Fleas In Dogs

I don’t know about where you live, but in my area in NJ we are having a very bad year for fleas.  I hear this about NY state and NC as well.

(Please note: any links given below you will most likely have to paste into your browser.  Sorry for the inconvenience).

I have not had fleas in 25 years.  ugggggg……

Dawn dish washing liquid is safe and effective – depending on how bad your dog is infested.

Soak the dog down well with water.  Start bathing with Dawn from the head (avoid eyes) including muzzle and outside of ears and work your way down the body all the way to and around the rectum.  Soap up well and scrub the skin well to lift the flea dirt/feces.

Fleas will run to safe areas during this bath.  Yes, into the rectum, vulva or sheath so it is important to clean well around these areas (if your dog is male pull back the sheath off the penis and clean well – I would not put soap in the rectum or vulva because you will not be able to flush well with water – the sheath can be flushed).  They even run to the ear canals – the reason my groomer told me to start at the head and work back with bathing.  You do not want to have to flush ears with a lot of water and end up causing an ear infection from moisture, if you do not dry out well enough.

Let the Dawn soap sit on the body for 5 min.  Rinse about 80% off and repeat the process, let sit 5 min. again and fully rinse, being sure to get all soap out.

I noticed on the second application of Dawn that the fleas (dead) rose to the top of the coat.

Seeing those dead fleas thrilled me!  I thought, this is great!

However, a few days later I noticed more fleas on my dog. I have always been taught to roll the dog over and inspect the belly to see fleas.  I did that for weeks when scratching started and found none.  Than they suddenly appeared.  I have a better method of checking which you will see below.***

Next I applied Frontline Topspot and 48 hours later (very important to wait that time) I took my girls to my groomer who bathed them with natural flea shampoo and she found no fleas, only flea dirt.  (I did not scrub the skin well enough with the Dawn bath to get rid of flea dirt (feces) so be sure you do)

So I am thinking we are good.  This is the first time I have ever used a topical flea/tick product – because I have not had issues in years and I hate chemicals on my dogs – but I had no choice this time because of what I was dealing with.

It seems our mild winter last year caused this major flea problem this year.  We need a good frost and cold winter to kill off the fleas and ticks.

I vacuumed my home well (including my car), washed all my bedding (dogs sleep with me) and all dogs bedding in their crates, etc.

They still had fleas.  I was at my whits end so I went into the vet to get Capstar (oral) and it was amazing.  Within one hour of the first pill (1/day for six days) my girls were laying on a white sheet and I found 15 dead fleas.

My other issue was my girls were having an allergic reaction to the fleas saliva and their skin was irritated, scabbing, red and itchy.  More info below on soothing oil for this problem###

They were losing sleep from all the scratching so I had to get them both a steroid injection to nip this in the bud.  I try to avoid steroids but had no choice.  I could not watch my babies suffer with constant scratching, which is also stressful for them.

I learned a few things about topical flea/tick prevention.

Frontline Topspot – Kills adult fleas but not the eggs they lay.  The eggs do not stay on the dog but fall off in the yard, in your house……  where they can hatch and grow to adults.

Frontline Plus – kills the eggs too so that will be my choice for next application, if I need it.

There are other topical products available:

Revolution – which is also for heartworm prevention – but it is not safe for a dog with liver issues.  So if you have a senior (age 7 or older) that has not had a full blood panel to check all organ function I would not use this product.

Note:  Steroids can also be detrimental for a dog with liver issues or a history of same.  So consider that before oral or injectable steroids for itching.

My one girl has a liver issue history so I did a full blood panel prior to the steroid injection.

Advantage and Advantix are also topical choices.

The main reason for this blog is the holistic approach, which I believe would have worked well if we did not have a very bad flea issue this year.

Here is a way to check your home for infestation:  I know it sounds like voodoo but it works.

Place a bowl of water in the middle of the room and place a large sturdy candle in the center of the bowl.  Light the candle and leave it burning overnight.  If you have an infestation you will find fleas floating in the water the next morning. The fleas are attracted to the heat of the candle and jump toward it landing in the bowl of water.

The amount you find will help you decide if you need to balm your house.  Something else I hate to do because of the toxins.

I placed bowls all over my house and the only one I found fleas in (only 6) was next to my bed on the side where my girls sleep.    This told me I was not infested but that the method does work.

I then vacuumed my whole house again.  Including my mattress (both sides) and box springs.  I rolled up my area rugs and vacuumed the padding underneath as well.

***Checking your dog for fleas:  As I mentioned above checking the belly was not enough in my case.  Buy a flea comb (I recommend a single line of teeth, not dbl), have a bowl of Dawn soap water and a bowl of fresh water and do this “outside”.

Run the comb thru the coat and look immediately for fleas (flea dirt/feces is black but does not move) and dip the comb in the Dawn water being sure the fleas come off the comb (swish it around a bit and pull hair off comb with your fingers and into the soap water of necessary.  Some fleas will be tiny but you will see them squirm in the soap water as they die).  You must do this quickly so fleas can’t jump off the comb.  Than rinse in fresh water and keep repeating.  I was able to get rid of a good number of fleas this way.  Even after the first day of the oral Capstar.

I also noticed that most of the fleas were on the middle of the back and down to the butt.  However, I found a few on the outside of the ears with the comb so be sure to do the whole body.  You can work in small sections if you want.

### Neem Oil for irritated skin:  Sources:

This product also contains citronella, which stinks but is safe for dogs (not for cats) and a friend who uses it says her dog got used to the smell.  You may find your dog rolling around from the smell but that should stop once they are used to it.  I apply it outside and work into the coat and down to the skin where irritation is.


Another good source:


This is another holistic approach to getting rid of fleas on your dog and in your house.

Diatomaceous earth:  Be sure to buy “food grade”

This is crustastions from the ocean that are ground into powder.  This product cuts the shell of the flea (parasite) dehydrating it and therefore, killing it.

You can put this on your dogs coat and work down to the skin.  You can also sprinkle it in your house, carpets, hardwood floors where there are cracks for fleas to run to, etc.  wait and than vacuum.

Do a search on google to check out different sources. “food grade diatomaceous earth”

This stuff has been around for hundreds of years.  I have an order on the way to use on my girls coats.


Here is another good link about apple cider vinegar for fleas:


I hope this blog helps others.  As always you can always call me thru my website if you need help and prefer that to posting here.



Author: patty

Franklin Lakes, NJ

3 thoughts on “Holistic Approach To Fleas In Dogs”

  1. Thanks for sharing your struggles with these nasty creatures. I live in FL and we have had two mild winters in a row – no freeze at all this year – so as you can imagine, fleas and ticks are running rampant. I had a tick infestation in my home!!! That I never want to go through again. The fleas are now becoming a problem and my dog is allergic to all the chemicals used on fleas and ticks, so I’m forced to battle strictly holistically. Thanks for the great link on the diatomaceous earth – great price! And thanks again for your post.

  2. Michelle,

    want to point out that the product I bought was a “bitch” to spread or spray from the bottle. (this is the diatomaceous earth ) and I contacted the company.

    They put too much in the bottle.

    So…. take some out and store in a cointainer, leaving enough breathing room in the original bottle to spray it on your dogs.

    The first time you try it and than remove some product you will know exactly what I mean.


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