Fleas aren't choosy parasites. They're equally happy irritating your dog or your cat. Brewer's yeast and garlic are often touted as reliable flea repellants, but are they really effective in keeping fleas away from your dog and cat?
Effectiveness of Brewer's Yeast and Garlic
Most dogs and cats like the taste of brewer's yeast as well as garlic, so it's fairly easy to add them both to your pets' meals. They're supposed to make your dog or cat taste unpleasant to fleas when they bite. In his book on homeopathic treatment for dogs and cats, D.V.M. Don Hamilton lists brewer's yeast and garlic as treatment options in the section on fleas, but he points out that these supplements help only 20 to 25 percent of animals. Also, since some animals have an allergy to yeast, it can cause reactions like skin problems and diarrhea.
Helpful Herbal Remedies
It's worth a shot to try brewer's yeast and garlic if your dog and cat are fighting fleas, but there are other herbal alternatives you can use if these supplements aren't working very well or if your pets are allergic to them. "The Doctor's Book of Home Remedies for Dogs and Cats" recommends mixing a few drops of pennyroyal or eucalyptus oil into your pet's shampoo before a bath. Always be sure to dilute pennyroyal, as it can be toxic when used at full strength. In his homeopathic book, Dr. Hamilton also suggests rose geranium essential oil as an herbal alternative. Diluted in almond oil and applied sparingly to your dog or cat, rose geranium is an effective flea repellant.
You've probably seen chinchilla dust on the shelf at the pet supply store. It's made up of microscopic algae called diatomaceous earth. It isn't a treatment to be applied directly to your pet, but when you sprinkle the dust on carpeting and upholstered furniture, it kills fleas by causing them to dry up. Keep your pets out of the room or the house entirely while you're working with diatomaceous earth, as you don't want them to breathe it or get it into their eyes. This is also why you should wear a mask and goggles.
There are many easy fixes available that require just dabbing a drop of something on your pet or placing a collar around his neck. In "Homeopathic Care for Cats and Dogs," Dr. Hamilton lists a few of these products as ones he would recommend steering clear of. Ultrasonic collars don't work to repel fleas, but they are audible to dogs and cats and can cause hearing and behavioral problems. Oral and topical medications can work well, but can cause possible side effects such as liver and kidney disease, stomach ailments and other illnesses. Flea collars are another convenience treatment that don't work very well and can be toxic to pets as well as the rest of the family.
Always check with your veterinarian before changing your pet’s diet, medication, or physical activity routines. This information is not a substitute for a vet’s opinion.
- The Doctor's Book of Home Remedies for Dogs and Cats; Editors of Prevention Magazine Health Books
- Homeopathic Care for Cats and Dogs; Don Hamilton, DVM
- Vetinfo: Natural Tick Prevention
Elle Di Jensen has been a writer and editor since 1990. She began working in the fitness industry in 1987, and her experience includes editing and publishing a workout manual. She has an extended family of pets, including special needs animals. Jensen attended Idaho and Boise State Universities. Her work has appeared in various print and online publications.