My dog has fleas! Safe products to kill, repel and control fleas

Fleas have not been a problem around here for several years. But recently my dog started scratching like a maniac, and that could only mean one thing. My dog has fleas!

The ugly truth was confirmed when I ran my fingers through his fur and felt gritty flea dirt. Also known as flea poop. Also known as my dog’s digested blood. Nasty! Those fleas gotta go!

In the past I’ve used poisonous flea medications, flea bombs and noxious yard sprays. They became ineffective as the fleas became resistant. I stopped using those nasty chemicals and found safe flea treatments that really work.

The war against fleas requires a comprehensive plan to get rid of them and prevent new infestations in the house, yard and on the dog. I put together a new system that knocked out those fleas fast. Here’s a breakdown of what’s working for us.

Safe and effective flea control

Indoor treatments: flooring and furniture

Fleabusters orthoboric acid powder for flooring of all types. I had used this a few years ago on my old carpet. It worked so well I only had to apply it once.

Fleabusters keeps fleas away for years

Fleabusters keeps fleas away for years

It works by lacerating their nasty little bodies to make them die from dehydration. It kills fleas at every stage, from eggs to adult. Also works on other bugs like ticks, mites, ants and roaches.

To apply, you sprinkle it on the carpet (or hardwood, tile, etc.), work it in with a broom then vacuum the excess after 24 to 48 hours. Make sure it gets into all the baseboards, cracks and crevices where flea eggs end up.

I spread this on my carpet then applied it to my mattress and couch, two areas where my dog loves to sleep.

Fleabusters will keep working for at least a year or until you clean your carpet. Then you have to reapply after the carpet dries.

Check out this video showing Fleabusters powder being applied to hardwood floors, carpet and furniture.

Indoor treatments: flooring, furniture, bedding, pets

Vet’s Best flea and tick home spray. This natural nontoxic spray, made from peppermint oil and clove extract, kills fleas on contact. In two seconds or less they’re dead!

Doesn’t leave sticky residue anywhere. It’s only active when it’s wet. After it dries there’s no residual killing effect. Leaves a fresh clove scent for a while.

I sprayed this on areas of the carpet where my dog likes to lay to instantly kill fleas until the Fleabusters worked its magic. I sprayed it every day for about four days, vacuuming in between.

And I sprayed it on the bedspread.

Vet's Best flea and tick home spray

Vet’s Best flea and tick home spray

I also use this on my dog if I find a flea on him because it’s easier than trying to catch them. I go through his fur with my hands and if I see a flea, I hold it down with my fingers while I grab the spray. Then just one little squirt and BAM, it’s dead.

Outdoor treatment: all surfaces

From the same people who make the incredible flea and tick home spray, Vet’s Best has a flea and tick yard and kennel spray. Also nontoxic and made with peppermint oil, clove extract and sodium lauryl sulfate.

You simply attach your hose to the bottle, spray then let dry. The 32 oz size covers approximately 4500 sq ft. It’s also supposed to be safe for plants.

As an added benefit, it kills and repels mosquitos.

Flea control for the dog

Garlic tablets

The goal is to keep fleas from jumping on your dog by making him less tasty to them. The best way to do that is to give the dog brewers yeast and garlic tablets.

I had been using this one brand that worked extremely well for a few years until they changed their formula. The new formula was responsible for this latest outbreak of fleas. So I found Nutri Vet brewers yeast tablets that were well reviewed on Amazon. They have to be taken for a while before they’re fully effective.

Nutri Vet brewers yeast and garlic

Nutri Vet brewers yeast and garlic

After a couple of weeks using the pills I saw improvement but there were still too many fleas so I switched to raw garlic.

This worked great and the only downside is the slight inconvenience of preparing raw garlic every night. I have to chop it up, let it sit for 10 to 15 minutes and give it to him right away. The amount for his size is ⅔ teaspoon.

Now, he doesn’t like to eat the pills or fresh garlic so I put it in some peanut butter and down the hatch it goes!

After a couple of weeks the fleas were gone so I started to alternate raw garlic with the tablets. He gets the pills three or four days a week and that’s working well.

Flea comb

I had never used one of these before but I got one to use while waiting for the garlic to kick in. Not only is it much faster than manually picking off fleas, it’s also easier to remove flea dirt.

The key to using a flea comb is to have a dish of water handy that has a splash of soap in it. The soap allows the fleas to sink to the bottom and drown, otherwise they can float around and sometimes crawl out.

Flea comb

Flea comb

I prefer using the flea comb dry because I don’t want flea dirt to dissolve on my dog. When I pull the comb through his hair and find a flea, I put my thumb on top of it before it can jump off. Then I hold it above the dish and flick the flea into the water. I also pull out the hair and flea dirt and put that into the water as well.

When I’m finished, I just take the dish and flush the contents down the toilet. Easy peasy.

Safe flea control is possible and highly effective without harmful chemicals

Well there you have it—a detailed plan to eliminate fleas safely and effectively in the house, in the yard and on the dog. We went from this…

To this…

dog happy no fleas

Finally things are back to normal!

Ahhh, now that’s a happy dog. Peace once again reigns supreme in the Makara kingdom!

I hope you find this information helpful. Please comment below if you have any tips to share about safe flea control treatments that worked for you.

More info

Garlic for dogs: poison or medicine?

Doggie door training

My little furry friend just got his own private entrance, a doggie door installed in my bedroom wall. It leads to a ramp I had built for him.

This type of doggie door has two magnetized flaps which I think makes it a little more challenging for a dog to learn to use. I was able to train him in one week. I think it would have been faster working with two people but I figured out how to do it on my own.

There were two parts to the training: Teaching him HOW to use the doggie door and teaching him WHY he needs to use it.

Here’s the wall entry pet door that I bought.

PetSafe wall entry pet door

PetSafe wall entry pet door

And here’s what it looks like installed with a ramp.

PetSafe wall entry pet door and custom made ramp

PetSafe wall entry pet door and custom made ramp

Training the dog how to use the doggie door and ramp

It’s tempting to want to push the dog through the pet door, but he needs to want to go through it on his own.

Koda didn’t want to have anything to do with either the pet door or the ramp so I had to make him associate it with something he loves dearly—cheese!

I put him inside his crate positioned in front of the dog door with both of the flaps taped open. Then I went outside and put a piece of cheese inside the opening. He was very hesitant to stick his head in there but the cheese was irresistible. We did this a few times to let him get used to putting his head in there.

Then I held some cheese in my hand and tried to coax him to come out by putting it just out of reach. He had to take a step to reach it.

dog putting his head through pet door to eat a treat

Koda finds a piece of cheese on the other side of the doggie door

After that I brought him outside and made a little trail of cheese on the ramp. He practiced going up and down the ramp a few times.

A trail of cheese on the ramp for pet door training

A trail of cheese on the ramp for pet door training

I limited training to five or ten minutes and we did it when he was a little hungry, a couple hours before dinner.

We did that routine for the first two days.

By the third day when he saw me take the cheese outside, he ran over to the ramp. I put the flaps down but pushed them open with my hand. When he went through them, I allowed the flaps to gently fall on his head and body so he would get used to the feeling and the sounds it made.

Each time I would open the flaps a little less so that he could still see me and the cheese but was encouraged to push through with his head.

Eventually I put both the flaps down and called to him while holding the cheese up to the flaps. He tried pushing them open with his paw, still reluctant to use his head. I had to help him a little but he was doing more of the work on his own.

Training the dog why he needs to use the doggie door

By the fourth day when he would signal that he wanted to go outside, I would say the phrase I always use for that, “Let’s go outside” and led him to the doggie door instead of the back door. When we got there I pushed the flaps open and he went outside.

That evening when I was getting ready for bed he actually walked over to the doggie door. I pushed the flaps open and he went right outside. That’s when I knew he understood what it was for.

Putting all the training together

By the seventh day, he would go out through the doggie door, with some assistance from me, but he wouldn’t come back in that way.

It just so happened that day a guest came over when he was outside and he wanted to come in and see her. He was crying at the back door for five to ten minutes when all of a sudden he came bursting through the doggie door all on his own! He had figured it out. I was so proud and praised him!

And from that moment on he’s been going in and out of the door without any help from me.

dog using wall entry pet door

You can see by his curly tail that Koda is happy with his new doggie door

Happiness is…

a new chew stick!

koda chews a stick

More happy moments with Koda and his rawhide chew


Tip to keep cats from spraying your door

A few months ago I noticed with some indignation that cats had been spraying my front door! Well, I’d clean it up only to find a new spot appear a few days later.

Going in search of an easy solution I learned there are a few things cats don’t like such as aluminum foil, citrus scents and spiky surfaces.

I went for the aluminum foil method first since it was already on hand, wrapping it around my welcome mat. That method worked very well, so well in fact that nobody wanted to step on it, not even people. But it was very unsightly and had to be redone periodically.

aluminum foil anti cat mat

Aluminum foil wrapped around the welcome mat

After a while it was time to step up my game. Orange oil or some other citrus spray might work, but it would have to be reapplied frequently. And how would you know when to do it other than finding more cat pee on your door?


So I decided to hit the hardware store and get a piece of clear plastic carpet runner. The key to making this work is to put it upside down so the grippers are sticking up. It won’t hurt them, but any cat who puts his feet on that will get a nasty surprise.

So far it’s worked perfectly.

This is the one I got from Home Depot. It comes 2′ wide and you get it by the foot. I got 4′ at $1.28 per foot. Then I cut it half so I would have two pieces 1′ wide by 4′ long. I put one at the front door and one at the back door because the little buggers started spraying that one too.

And this is what it looks like up close.

Upside down carpet runner

Upside down carpet runner keeps cats away

You can barely see it. And it’s going to last forever.

I put it about eight inches away from the door so people can step over it and onto the mat.

Now my front door is a no-pee zone. Victory is sweet!

anti cat mat

The anti cat mat installed at front door

Dog stairs for small dogs

My little pomeranian loves to cuddle up next to me at night, but at seven pounds he’s just too small to get on and off the bed by himself. So I decided to get him some dog stairs for small dogs.

After doing a bit of research, I found these Solvit PupSteps Plus Pet Stairs. I really like that they don’t take up a lot of space and can be folded for storage. An added bonus is they’re made in the USA.

Getting my dog Koda to use the steps was easier than I thought. I’ll share how I did it later on in this article.

Here’s what it looks like straight out of the box

No assembly required

unpacking dog stairs

When folded up, these steps can easily fit under a bed or in a closet.

All the contents of the Solvit Pet Stairs

contents of dog stairs

This shows the stairs in the open position, along with the remaining contents of the box: an instruction sheet, four stair treads and four nonslip feet.

The stairs only weigh five pounds and measure 23.5″ long, 19.5″ high and 15″ wide. Each step measures 15″ wide x 5.5″ deep.

Peel off the backing from stair treads and apply to steps

dog stairs treads

Nonskid feet applied to the bottom keeps steps from sliding around on slippery floors

nonskid feet on dog stairs

Stairs can be closed by pressing the small buttons at the top of the back leg

button on back of dog stairs

Properly positioned against the bed, the pet steps are quite stable

dog stairs next to bed

Training my dog to use his new stairs

scared dog on dog steps

Although Koda goes up and down the porch steps with ease, when faced with his new doggy steps he wasn’t too sure about them. I placed him on there and he just looked at me like “oh, HELL no,” then he scurried down. More persuasive tactics were in order.

Training with treats

using treats to train dog to use dog stairs

I got out the chicken jerky and placed little pieces on each step. He hesitated at first, trying to figure out how to get the treats without going up the stairs. But he got the idea and carefully made his way over the steps.

I did this a couple of times, putting jerky on each step. Then I did it with a treat on every other step. Finally I just put one treat on the bed and nothing on the stairs. When he was on the bed, I put a single treat at the foot of the stairs.

By this time he was practically running up and down the steps, all his misgivings forgotten in the quest for goodies. It was fun for both of us! And it took ten minutes tops.

Dogs losing fur

Why is my dog losing fur?

There are many reasons why a dog might be losing its fur. In general, a healthy dog is a hairy dog. So if your dog’s hair starts looking thinner, that’s a sign something’s wrong.

Learn six common reasons for dogs losing their fur, the symptoms for each and what you can do about them. Also included are links where you can find more detailed information.

This article is the result of research I did when my own dog was losing his hair. So I thought I would summarize what I learned and also share my experiences.

Common reasons for dogs losing fur

Is your dog losing hair? Find out why.

My samoyed Shanook

My samoyed Shanook

It’s normal for dogs to shed and some breeds shed all their hair seasonally. Dogs like malamutes, huskies and samoyeds have a thick undercoat that comes off about twice a year. It just requires a lot of brushing.

But if your dog has flaky skin, dull dry hair, thinning hair, bald patches or sores, these are problems that may be caused by:

  • Flea allergy
  • Hypothyroidism
  • Mange
  • Severe Hair Loss Syndrome
  • Food allergy
  • Vitamin deficiency

Flea allergy

Itching, biting and scratching can lead to bald spots

When a flea bites a dog, its saliva goes under the dog’s skin. A dog that is hypersensitive to the flea’s saliva will experience extreme itching. That of course causes the dog to scratch and bite. The scratching and biting leads to hair loss, usually around the rear end and back legs. Sometimes sores or hot spots will develop.

You must treat the dog, the house and the yard to kill the fleas. The conventional treatment is to bathe your dog once a month and apply a topical flea treatment. Alternatively, you can explore natural ways to prevent fleas.

Vacuum the house, especially where the dog sleeps, and dispose of the vacuum bag. After vacuuming, use a flea spray or dry product like Fleabusters.

For the outside, spray the yard every two months.

Fleas seem to be more attracted to dogs that are already having issues with their skin. A nutritious diet and vitamins could eliminate this problem.

My experience with flea treatments

Years ago I gave my dog monthly Frontline flea treatments. They worked pretty well but, as time went on, they became less and less effective. My vet informed me the reason for this was that fleas had built up a tolerance, and prescription medicine was becoming the preferred treatment.

Fleas inside the house were an issue until I discovered Fleabusters. Just one treatment pretty much eliminated the problem.

With that problem solved, I turned my attention to the fleas on my dog. I was unwilling to give him drugs to control fleas so I decided to try a brewer’s yeast and garlic tablet. I was very happy with how well it worked. Now I very rarely see a flea on him and there are no more fleas in the house.


A sluggish thyroid can cause a dog to lose its hair

Photo credit: morgueFile

Photo credit: morgueFile

Hypothyroidism is caused by a sluggish thyroid gland. Also known as Cushing’s Disease. Some symptoms of hypothyroidism are:

  • Hair loss on the trunk and tail
  • Flaky skin, bumps or sores
  • Increased appetite
  • Weight gain
  • Muscle weakness
  • Joint pain
  • Hyperpigmentation (excessive dark spots on the skin)
  • Decline in mental alertness
  • Constipation
  • Slow heart rate

Your vet can do a blood test for hypothyroidism and will most likely prescribe thyroid medicine for your dog.


A serious condition resulting in sores and hair loss

Mange, also known as Canine Scabies, is caused by mites. They burrow into the skin and lay eggs which develop into larvae. Mites reproduce very quickly.

Mites are always present on dogs, but if the dog has a healthy immune system its antibodies will attack the mites. Bathing your dog regularly and giving him a proper diet will minimize the risk of mites becoming a problem.

Some symptoms of mange are:

  • Itchiness
  • Bald spots
  • Blisters and sores
  • Dry, crusty skin
  • Bad odor similar to strong cheese

If you suspect mange, take your dog to the vet immediately. He will probably prescribe antibiotics. Waiting too long for treatment will make it much harder or impossible to cure.

Photo credit: YearOfTheDog by zdian, on Flickr

Photo credit: YearOfTheDog by zdian, on Flickr

Severe Hair Loss Syndrome

A mysterious cause of hair loss in dogs

Not much is known about Severe Hair Loss Syndrome (SHLS) except that it’s thought to be genetic, affecting more males than females. Certain breeds are more prone to developing SHLS such as airedales, boxers, chow chows, keeshonds, pomeranians and miniature poodles.

Severe Hair Loss Syndrome is also known as Black Skin Disease and Alopecia X. Symptoms include hyperpigmentation (black skin) and symmetrical hair loss on both sides of the body.

Since very little is known about SHLS, treatment options are limited. Sometimes it can be attributed to a hormone imbalance and may be successfully treated. The good news is that SHLS is more a cosmetic issue than anything else.

Food allergy

The body’s reaction to poor digestion

Photo credit: Einstein eats a carrot by 4johnny5, on Flickr

Photo credit: Einstein eats a carrot by 4johnny5, on Flickr

Food allergies are thought to be less common than flea allergies, but a food allergy can cause hair loss as well as itching, rashes and pustules.

Allergies develop when dogs eat grains and other foods that aren’t part of their ancestral diet, which causes intestinal irritation known as leaky gut. The intestines develop tiny holes that allow undigested food particles to enter into the blood stream. So any food the dog normally eats, even appropriate foods, will pass into the blood stream. These particles are then attacked by the body’s white blood cells.

After a while, the body develops an immediate response to these “foreign invaders,” which is then seen as an allergy.

Conventional wisdom says to discontinue the old diet and introduce new foods one at a time to see if there’s a reaction.

I believe dogs are more likely to develop food allergies and other health problems if they’re fed commercial dog food, including the food sold by vets. Commercial dog food is highly processed and contains lots of cheap fillers. The first ingredient is usually corn meal. The meat they use is slaughterhouse waste, stuff that can’t be sold to humans.

The ideal diet for a dog’s coat and overall health is an ancestral diet of bones and raw food. The next best thing is to cook for your dog with the primary ingredient being high quality meat.

Following that, and only as a matter of last resort, is to feed your dog a premium grain-free, high protein product with real human-grade meat as the first ingredient. (See this dog food comparison chart for options.) But remember, even though a commercial dog food may not contain fillers, it’s still highly processed.

I now cook for my dog (meat, eggs and fish) and supplement with vitamins. I do also have a good grain-free dog food on hand as a backup.

Vitamin deficiency

Vitamin supplementation can restore a dog’s hair

grizzly salmon oil

Our bottle of Grizzly salmon oil

Vitamin A and D deficiencies can result in dogs losing their hair, and make them more attractive to pests like fleas and mites. Even with a quality diet, certain dogs like pomeranians may need more of these vitamins. Fish oil is the best source for vitamins A and D, along with Omega-3 and Omega-6 fatty acids.

When choosing a fish oil supplement, look for one that’s free of mercury. The best source of high-quality fish oil is from wild Alaskan salmon. Wild salmon eat krill, an algae that gives salmon its pink color. Krill is also virtually free of toxins.

Farmed salmon are given chemicals to make them look pink. They’re fed a high level of antibiotics and pellets made from corn meal, soy, fish containing mercury, chicken droppings and GMO canola oil.

I buy Grizzly Salmon Oil for my pomeranian and he loves it! I keep it in the refrigerator so it stays fresh.

My experience with Grizzly Wild Alaskan Salmon Oil

Years ago my dog’s skin was flaking and his fur was thinning. I couldn’t understand why because I was feeding him premium grain-free dog food. My holistic vet said my dog needed more micronutrients and recommended Grizzly Salmon Oil. Within two weeks my dog’s flaky skin was gone and his coat was shinier. A couple of months later he was back to being the little fluff ball he’d been before.

Grizzly Salmon Oil is made in the USA from wild Alaskan salmon. It’s also tested to ensure their product does not contain significant amounts of mercury.

My pomeranian’s hair grew back

fluffy dog

My dog Choo Choo at 11 years old, September 2012

Here’s my dog, still fluffy and gorgeous at the age of 11.

Some useful links about dog health and nutrition