F is for Fighting Fleas by Feeding Raw

I’m embarrassed to admit that during Isis’s first flea outbreak, I actually blogged the words Frontline is way cool. Ugh. I’m ashamed of nearly everything I thought or did during those early years, and am tempted to delete all my blog posts from that era.

It was cool, in a setting-fire-to-ants kind of way, to watch fleas literally drop dead and fall off Isis’s body. But I never liked the idea of exposing her to pesticide. Since we don’t have to use flea preventatives year-round in these parts, the following spring, I felt the same hesitation. Then I saw fleas crawling all over the creature who slept with us in our bed, and was disgusted enough to turn again to the quick fix of Frontline.

My rationale, it horrifies me to remember, was, Maybe she’ll live longer if I don’t pour poison down her back, but what kind of quality of life will she have if she’s crawling with fleas?

Then… we started feeding Isis a prey-model raw meat diet, and she never had another flea. Veterinary types and Hill’s “Science Diet” advocates may dispute it, and I can’t prove the cause and effect, but my experience backs this claim:

Fleas are very attracted to pets that eat a high amount of grains since it makes them quite “yeasty.” They also like pets with lower immune systems and who are not as healthy. Having your pet on a raw diet or at least a diet that is grain-free will make them less attractive to fleas and other parasites.  

Leo had a flea outbreak during his first spring with us, and our holistic vet approved the use of Advantage. Leo was (and still is) eating a combination diet of raw meat and a grain-free kibble. I wondered, Did this slight deviation from a prey-model diet make him susceptible to fleas?


I had heard that apple cider vinegar was a flea repellent, so I started adding a few drops to the dogs’ water bowls in the springtime. We haven’t seen a flea since.

jolly leo
Leo, raw fed and flea free.

Our traditional vet recently asked us if we had any trouble with fleas, reporting that he’d just had some dogs come in with horrible infestations … and it was February! I’m proud to report that we have not had any fleas since Leo had them in 2011.

Here it is, spring again, and time to start adding apple cider vinegar to the water bowls. Probably now that I’ve bragged about my all-natural secret to flea control, we’ll have an outbreak. Apple cider vinegar is also supposed to get rid of fleas if you spray it on them directly, so I’ll try that first if I see any. But probably I’ll get so grossed out by the idea of flea eggs in my bed and on my couches that I’ll be the hypocrite who reaches for the chemical pesticide. So let’s hope the ACV and the raw diet keeps the fleas away in the first place.

F is for Fighting Fleas by Feeding Raw


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Published by Kari Neumeyer

Writer, editor, dog mom, ovarian cancer survivor

15 thoughts on “F is for Fighting Fleas by Feeding Raw

  1. Luckily, we don’t have problems with fleas here in Alaska. But when I lived back in Michigan (years and years ago), the sand fleas were horrid. I’m allergic to flea bites and was a bloody mess from scratching. The poor dog was equally miserable. I don’t remember what we used but I’m sure it was some form of toxic chemicals. You get desperate, you don’t think–you just want relief. P.S. I love the idea of your raw meat, no grain-diet. I shudder to think what’s in commercial dog food. Cheers and hugs to the pooches.

    1. Thanks for visiting! Most of the posts I find online talk about spraying ACV on the dog after they already have fleas. I needed to back up my claim that it works as a preventative if you put it in their food or water!

  2. Great post. We don’t have too much of a problem here, or at least my dogs don’t get them often and I have resorted to using Frontline as a quick fix. I think I’ll try the apple cider vinegar first. While I don’t feed raw, they are on grain free, so maybe that will do the trick.

  3. The thought of sleeping with fleas is freaky and reminds me of when we had scorpion infestations in Italy and had to check the bed each night, always finding at least 20 waiting to nail us. Good luck! (And well-written piece of writing, by the way. I can see one of your characters getting fleas, like an older sister perhaps, and not responding to anything but a very strange, gypsy-esque sort of treatment.) 🙂

  4. You know, I sometimes wonder if that’s why we haven’t seen fleas either. We’ve been using shoo tags, but that was around when I switched from a home-cooked diet to prey model raw. Could have definitely been that instead. Will incorporate some apple cider vinegar into the water too now (it is good for so many things!). Brewers yeast is also supposed to be good – we used to have supplements from our vet that contained that and garlic for repelling fleas.

  5. We have used Frontline in the past, mostly for ticks because we’d never had an issue with fleas. I hated putting those pesticides on the dogs so we stopped using it, and guess what? We had a flea infestation. I used apple cider vinegar topically, and it helped, but the problem didn’t completely go away until winter finally came. I’m trying to plan out what we’re going to do this year, without giving in to the pesticides. We are going to try garlic/brewer’s yeast tabs for one thing. Maybe we’ll try the ACV in their water also. That is very interesting to know about the raw/grain free diet. We do feed a higher quality regular kibble but apparently that is not good enough!

  6. I’ve read somewhere that salt can also get rid of fleas and now it’s vinegar, It seems like our weapon against fleas can be found in the kitchen.

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