If you’ve ever had to deal with getting rid of a tick (or perhaps more than one) on your dog, you know how disgusting those little creatures are.
For those who may not know, ticks are basically a type of parasitic arachnid (that means they have eight legs) that mainly feed on the blood of mammals and birds, but they’ve been known to attach themselves to reptiles and amphibians as well – greedy little bugs.
If you live anywhere near a wooded area, or a place that has trees with branches that hang overhead, be aware that ticks love to “dive bomb” you when you’re just walking through and brushing against any nearby leaves, branches or grass. Although ticks can’t fly or jump, it sure seems like they can, because they can find their way onto a host in short order, almost like magic.
This definitely holds true in terms of how they can attach themselves to your dog; they love to target our canine friends, because dogs have far more hair than humans (hopefully that’s the case), which makes them a much more comfy habitat in which to set up shop.
The First Step To Getting Rid Of Ticks On Your Dog: “Know Thy Enemy”
If the famous Chinese military strategist Sun Tzu was correct – and I believe that he was – the first step you need to take in order to get rid of ticks is to understand exactly what type of enemy you’re dealing with here. So let’s go over some facts you need to know about these bloodsucking little bugs, so that you can have a good idea of what you’re up against.
- First of all, ticks are classified as “ectoparasites”, which means that they’re parasites that don’t have to enter into the host’s body in order to do their dirty work. Visually, ticks aren’t that impressive; they look like a cross between a beetle and a spider, because they have a flat, hard outer shell but they do have eight legs. Most ticks are brown or reddish brown in appearance, and they actually move kind of slow when they walk. They tend to thrive in warm, humid and highly vegetated areas (e.g., forests, shrubs, tall grass, leaf piles, etc.), where they engage in a practice known as “questing”, which simply means hanging out on a leaf, branch, etc., until the time comes when they can pounce on their unwitting host by doing nothing more than being in the right place at the right time. When your dog spends time out in the yard, or perhaps foraging through tall grass or shrubbery, there’s a high likelihood that a tick can “quest” its way onto your dog with minimal effort.
- Once a tick attaches itself to its host, the feasting begins. The tick has a tiny mouth part known as a hypostome, which looks like a miniature harpoon. With this hypostome, the tick actually cuts a hole into the skin of the host, and then begins sucking out blood to its heart’s content. At the same time, the tick excretes an anticoagulant to keep the blood from clotting, all so it can continue extracting more and more blood from its host. As the tick continues to feast, its body becomes bigger and bigger, and basically becomes engorged with blood. In fact, when a tick has had a really “hearty” meal, it can grow to the size of a marble! When you think about a little bug having that much blood in its tiny system, it’s enough to make you gag.
- The most common type of tick features a dark brown color, and is about the size of a watermelon seed (and about as flat as one as well). Incidentally, smaller ticks that are not fully out of the larva stage yet are called “seed ticks” because of their seed-like appearance. The larger brown ticks that commonly attack dogs are known as “kennel ticks”, which tend to do well indoors long after the dog has brought them in from the outside. Another common type of tick is known as a “deer tick”; these normally live in heavily wooded areas, and are the primary source of Lyme disease. One of the most formidable foes is the American dog tick, which can actually engorge itself to the size of a grape when it’s been feeding for a while. If left unchecked for anywhere past 5 hours, this tick can spread a disease known as Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, which can actually be fatal to dogs.
- Ticks are bad news all the way around. Long-term tick infestations can lead to serious health problems for your dog, including skin infections and irritations, tick paralysis, and anemia. If you think about it, this only makes sense: If just one tick can drink enough blood to swell to the size of a grape, imagine what 5 or even 10 ticks can do to a dog in a matter of only a few hours – as horrible as this sounds, they could basically drain your dog of its blood, which will bring on symptoms of anemia.
So How Do You Get Rid Of Ticks On Dogs?
As you can see, ticks aren’t anything to play with when it comes to keeping your dog healthy. If your dog spends quite a bit of time outdoors, make it a habit to check your pup for ticks on a very regular basis, especially if they’ve been frolicking around in any type of thick brush, leaves or tall grass.
Feel around on their fur for any odd bumps, and if it turns out that one of those bumps happens to be a tick, remove it immediately. When a tick has attached itself to your dog’s skin, the first thing it will do is basically burrow its head under the surface of the skin (gross, I know) so that it can really get a firm grip on its host. If this is the case, you will need to remove the tick using a pair of tweezers. Make sure you have gloved hands when you do this!
When pulling on the tick’s body with the tweezers, use a straight up motion and avoid twisting, so that you can save your dog some pain. If the tick really seems to be in there good, you can spread petroleum jelly on it first, which will suffocate the tick. Once it’s dead (which typically only takes about a minute), just extract it using the tweezers, being mindful not to clip your dog’s skin.
5 Natural Remedies To Get Rid Of Ticks On Dogs
There are quite a few weapons you have at your disposal that will enable you to get rid of or prevent ticks naturally. Here are some of the most popular natural, environmentally-friendly options to help you keep those nasty ticks at bay.
1. Neem Oil Spray
Made from the powerful oil of an evergreen tree found in the Indian subcontinent, neem oil carries antiseptic and antibacterial properties, and is a great choice for staving off those pesky ticks. The strong cleansing properties of this oil will help to sterilize any areas where ticks may have gotten the best of your four-legged friend. Keep in mind that although neem oil is a powerhouse when it comes to getting rid of ticks, it can sometimes be too powerful for certain dogs, and may irritate sensitive skin. If this is the case, you can always dilute the oil with a “carrier” such as olive oil.
To apply, simply pour a few drops of the diluted oil on your hand, and then rub it on the dog’s skin. You can also create a neem oil spray by creating a mixture of 2 tablespoons of neem oil, 2 tablespoons of a mild detergent (such as Palmolive or Dove), and about a cup and a half of water.
Put all three of these ingredients into a spray bottle, and then shake it up well to ensure a thorough mixture. Spray it on your dog’s haircoat on a daily basis, and watch how those ticks will stay away from your beloved pet!
2. Apple Cider Vinegar Drink
Ticks hate apple cider vinegar, which is understandable, as it kills them pretty quickly. This is a plus for you, however, so use this amazing natural substance to your advantage!
You’re basically going to add apple cider vinegar to your dog’s regular water, which makes for a very powerful anti-tick drink. Keep in mind that when your dog eats or drinks anything, that food or drink eventually makes its way into their bloodstream (in a slightly different form, of course), which is the feeding source for ticks.
If the tick tastes apple cider vinegar in your dog’s blood, it’s going to lose interest in your pup in short order. All you have to do is put about a teaspoon of apple cider vinegar (Bragg’s is considered to be one of the best) to roughly one quart of their drinking water, and you’re good to go. Not only will this serve as an effective flea repellent, but it will improve the look of your dog’s coat, and help their skin out as well!
3. Apple Cider Vinegar Spray
This is another great use for apple cider vinegar in terms of its tick-killing capabilities.
In a spray bottle, mix about 1 teaspoon of apple cider vinegar into about 24 ounces of water, and then add 1 teaspoon of salt and a sprinkle of baking soda. Shake it up really well, and then spray it on your dog on a regular basis to keep those ticks from rearing their ugly bloodsucking heads.
4. Two Words: Lemon Juice
If there’s one thing that ticks probably hate worse than apple cider vinegar, it would be lemon juice. This powerful natural cleanser and disinfectant contains highly potent citrus oils that are basically the equivalent of chlorine bleach to a human being – in other words, it’s just too much to handle when you breathe it in. There are quite a few ways in which you can use lemon juice to help kill or repel ticks:
- You can squeeze lemon juice directly on any affected areas of your dog where he/she may have been bitten by a tick. This will deploy important antiseptic agents that can disinfect the area where a tick may have been feasting.
- You can create a homemade tick spray by combining lemon juice with peppermint oil in equal parts (1 teaspoon of each is recommended), diluted in about 24 ounces of water. Spray it on your dog’s haircoat to give the ticks something they wish they would’ve never met.
- Boil lemon peels in water, and then cover the pot, allowing the lemons to steep in the pot overnight. You can then use that lemon water to bathe your dog in a basin or in the tub, and it will help to repel ticks.
5. Natural Tick Collar Using Essential Oils
Essential oils are used for all kinds of medicinal and health-promoting purposes, and this natural tick collar is an excellent way to use essential oils to repel those pesky parasites. Please bear in mind that essential oils are highly concentrated and extremely potent, which means that you will definitely have to dilute them before using them for anything pertaining to your dog.
The reason? Well, keep in mind that dogs have an extraordinarily keen sense of smell – some 10,000 to 100,000 times more powerful than the human nose according to researchers – and if you try to apply an undiluted essential oil anywhere near your dog, it’s going to start World War III in their olfactory center. So be sure to use a very small amount!
This natural tick collar only calls for about 3 to 5 drops of cedar oil, but you can also use lavender oil to achieve the same results. In a shallow bowl, mix the essential oil in 1 to 3 tablespoons of water, and then soak a bandana or woven collar in the mixture overnight.
The next day, allow the collar to thoroughly dry out, and then tie it around your dog’s neck in a snazzy configuration. You now have a highly effective, all-natural tick collar that will protect your dog from those menacing bugs, and your pup will look stylish as well! After about a week, you can re-soak the collar to refresh its effectiveness.
Tick Medicine For Dogs
Thankfully, there are quite a few effective tick medicines for dogs available as well. Some people have issues with using medicine due to its potential side effects, and while I understand that position, I believe that if you carefully follow the directions for the medicine, there is typically a very small likelihood that anything will go awry. That being said, always be sure to carefully monitor your dog after you give it any kind of medicine to ensure that your pup is not experiencing any adverse reactions. Here are some of the most popular tick medicines for dogs in use today:
1. Tick Powder
Many tick powders sold on the market today are combination flea and tick powders, because those two categories of parasites tend to plague dogs the most. Before you purchase a tick powder, be sure to thoroughly read the label and make sure that the powder you have chosen is the correct one for your dog’s particular age and size.
When you’re applying the powder, make sure that you don’t just lightly sprinkle it on the top of your dog’s fur, but rather part the hair and make sure that the powder makes contact with your dog’s skin, as this is how it will yield the most effective results. Most of these powders are very fine, so be sure to keep it away from your dog’s mouth as much as possible, as it can be a lung irritant if inhaled by your pup. In addition, keep the powder away from your dog’s ears, nose and eyes.
2. Tick Shampoos
This is one of the most popular choices for pet owners who are looking for a way to treat or repel ticks. Like the powders, many tick shampoos are also designed to eliminate fleas, so you may see “flea and tick shampoo” on the label. These shampoos contain medicated ingredients that are activated when you use the shampoo to bathe your dog. These ingredients tend to kill the ticks on contact, wiping out the parasites with little fanfare. Even though tick shampoos pack a punch when it comes to getting rid of ticks, they are most effective when used in concert with other tick prevention and elimination techniques.
3. Tick Dips
When you hear the word “dip”, it can call to mind a full immersion of your dog into water or some other type of liquid, but this isn’t always the case. A dip is actually a strong chemical solution that should be diluted with water before using it on your dog, and it can be applied to your dog’s fur, or poured over its back.
The difference between a dip and a shampoo is that when you apply the tick dip solution, you leave it on the dog and don’t rinse it off after application. Bear in mind that because tick dips are typically comprised of strong, highly concentrated chemicals, you want to make sure that you thoroughly read and follow the directions before using it.
4. Tick Sprays
Tick sprays are often used as a type of “supplement” to your dog’s regular bathing and dipping schedule. The average tick spray contains chemicals that not only kill ticks on contact, but also provide important residual protection from those bothersome parasites.
Tick sprays definitely come in handy when you’re planning to spend time with your dog in any kind of area where there’s quite a bit of vegetation, as this is prime tick territory. When using the spray, be sure to avoid getting it anywhere near your dog’s face, and especially nowhere near that amazingly sensitive nose.
5. Tick Collars
Tick collars emit certain chemicals that are designed to prevent and eliminate ticks, and they are mainly used to treat ticks around the head and neck area. When you apply a tick collar, you should make sure that it is coming into some kind of contact with your dog’s skin, as this is where the “magic” happens; otherwise, the chemicals from the collar won’t be transferred to your dog’s fur and skin, and it will be largely ineffective. This was something that I really had to pay close attention to when I was applying a tick collar to my dog Juno; she’s an Alaskan Husky and Collie mix, which means she’s quite a hairy beast! I had to really get the collar in a good position before I could be confident that it was going to be able to do its job.
That being said, don’t “choke” your dog with the collar, either; make sure that you have left at least two finger spaces between the tick collar and your dog’s neck so that it can still be accommodating to your dog’s natural movements. In addition, if there’s any excessive length to the collar, cut it off, or otherwise your dog might start chewing on it, which would be a bad scenario. I know for a fact that my beloved Juno would go to town on a loose collar end like that, so I made sure to cut it off nicely to avoid any unpleasant situations!
6. Oral Tick Medications
As science and technology have progressed, there are more sophisticated methods you can use to eliminate ticks from your dog, and oral tick medications definitely fall into this category. Many oral tick medications come in the form of a chewable or ingestible tablet that is typically taken once a month. These tablets contain chemicals known as insect growth regulators (IGRs), which actually disrupt the life cycle of various parasites such as ticks and fleas, not allowing them to develop beyond their immature stages (e.g., egg, larva and pupa).
These medications carry the advantage of not having to be topically applied, which is a big help, especially if you have small children who might come into contact with your dog while it still has a tick or flea treatment in its fur. Many veterinarians recommend these pills due to their ease of use, as well as their effectiveness.
The Final Word
Okay, you are now sufficiently armed with a bevy of information on how to prevent and eliminate ticks from your dog. As you ponder the ways to best put these ideas into practice, be sure to consider your dog’s needs and current health condition, so that you can come up with a tick-killing plan that will make sense for you and your four-legged friend!