Forgive me for saying this, but I think the only good tick is a dead one. If you own a dog, you probably wouldn’t disagree with that statement.
All big-picture food chain contributions aside, ticks are without a doubt one of the most loathsome creatures on the planet in my book. They can be a scourge to your dog (or cat), and they’re no friend of humans, either. All they do is leach off of other organisms, making their living by sucking blood from their hosts like some kind of low-life freeloader. For those who may not know what ticks are all about – as well as why I have so much animosity towards these little critters – let me enlighten you a little bit.
Ticks Are Dangerous Parasites
Ticks are parasitic bugs, actually arachnids (i.e., they have eight legs), that feed on the blood of birds, mammals, reptiles, amphibians, and practically anything that might find itself within their immediate proximity. They are not only disgusting in terms of their gag-worthy feeding habits, but they can also be carriers of various harmful and even fatal diseases, such as Rocky Mountain spotted fever, Lyme disease, babesiosis, and canine anaplasmosis (i.e., dog tick fever).
They’re very subtle in how they attack, and I begrudgingly admit that they can find their way onto a host with remarkable facility. This is all the more apparent since ticks can’t fly or jump, and truth be told, they’re not really all that fast, either.
To be so slow and darn-near lackadaisical, ticks have a knack for properly positioning themselves in the right place at the right time in order to gain access to a host. They do this by hanging out in low-hanging tree branches, blades of grass, piles of leaves, or practically anywhere where there’s significant vegetation. They also have what can probably best be described as a “Spidey-sense” type of sensory capability (Spider-Man fans will know what I’m talking about), which gives them the ability to detect subtle environmental factors in order to give them clues about an approaching host.
Through a complex and little-understood set of organs in their front two legs (called “Haller’s organs”), ticks can sense changes in temperature, humidity, wind speeds, CO2 levels, light, and several other environmental cues that let them know when a potential host is drawing near. Then, at the opportune time, the tick will subtly maneuver its way onto a dog (or another animal or person), latch onto the skin with its hideous mouth parts, and then start feeding on the blood of its host to its heart’s content. These evasive attack techniques, along with the ability to transmit all kinds of foul diseases, make ticks a formidable foe for your dog, and one that must be dealt with immediately upon detection.
Tick Prevention For Dogs: The First Step
Before I can get into any hardcore tick prevention techniques, the first thing I need to cover is how to properly detect ticks on your dog. If you don’t perform a thorough inspection, you might miss these little critters, which means that they can keep leaching off your dog for life support, and could potentially inject your dog with some kind of horrific bacteria or other pathogen that could very well send your pup to the vet.
If you’re like me and you have a long-haired dog, it’s going to be even tougher for you to check your dog for ticks, since these little bugs can easily hide out in the jungle of your dog’s fur. My dog is an Alaskan Husky and Collie mix, which means that she has long and sometimes tangled or clumpy hair that can be difficult to straighten out and sort through, especially when you’re searching for tiny bugs on her rather sizable (80-pound) body.
You have to adopt a meticulous mindset and really take the time to pay close attention to detail when examining your four-legged friend. If you’re simply not a detail-oriented person, you might be better off leaving the task to someone who is, or if necessary, take your pup to the vet for a thorough examination.
How To Examine Your Dog For Ticks
Anyway, if you’re doing the inspection yourself, make sure that you part your dog’s hair down to the skin, examining small segments at a time from head to tail. Feel around for any unusual bumps or lumps that just don’t seem quite natural. Make sure that you examine your dog’s belly, behind its ears, on the underside of its neck, and in any other small crevice or cranny that might be a comfortable place for a tick to set up shop. Some ticks can be really small, so be sure to perform a thorough visual inspection to go along with your tactile efforts.
If you see a reddish-brown or dark brown bug attached anywhere on your dog’s body, you’ve probably discovered a tick. The longer they’ve been feeding on your dog, the easier they are to detect, because their nasty little bodies literally expand as they continue to feast on their “blood meal”. As gross as this sounds, some ticks can swell to the size of a grape!
Whatever you do, don’t delay in removing a tick if you find one. Get you some tweezers and some hydrogen peroxide, and gently but firmly extract that tick out of your dog’s skin (head included, hopefully), making sure not to crush the little critter until it is completely out of your pup. Be sure to wear gloves while extracting and disposing of the tick. After you’ve pulled the tick out, clean the bite area with hydrogen peroxide, and wash your own hands too!
6 Common Tick Prevention Methods
As the old saying goes, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure”, and this definitely holds true when it comes to preventing ticks on your dog. Once you’re certain that your dog is tick-free, you need to do everything in your power to keep those pesky little parasites from finding their way onto your pooch. There are quite a few simple ways to do this, so make sure to keep the following tick prevention methods on hand for future reference.
1. Clean Your Home!
Ticks are most commonly found in wooded areas, but sometimes they can make their way into the most uncanny of places, and that includes your home. Thoroughly vacuum all of your carpets, and make sure to hit the spots that your dog tends to hang out around the house. For my dog Juno, that’s the small area rug in our foyer, and on one of our couches. Not only should you thoroughly clean your furniture, but you should vacuum under it as well just to be on the safe side. Also, make double-sure that you have washed and cleaned any pet bedding or cage areas.
2. Keep Your Yard Maintained
I don’t mean to sound like a nagging spouse here, but make sure that you’re keeping your yard maintained. Ticks love to hide in tall grass and thick brush, so if you keep the grass and vegetation around your house nicely trimmed and well-maintained, there will be less places for the little critters to hang out.
Remove any leaf litter or mulch (a favorite spot for ticks), and try to make your waste areas (e.g., trash cans, compost bins, etc.) as inaccessible as possible. This isn’t so much because ticks love to hang out in trash cans, but rather because it will keep away wild rodents and other animals that could potentially bring ticks with them.
3. Use Spot-On Treatments
Spot-on treatments are basically liquid drops that you apply to the skin of your dog’s back once per month in order to stave off ticks. Some common examples of spot-on treatments include K9 Advantix and Frontline Plus.
When applying the treatment, make sure that you’re parting your dog’s hair to the point where you can actually see its skin, and put the drops directly on the skin for the best results. Spot-on formulas seep into your dog’s skin and basically make it unappealing for ticks (and fleas) to bite. Not only will spot-on treatments keep ticks away, but if there are any ticks on your dog at the time when you apply the treatment, they will die. Not a bad deal! Just be sure to read the label carefully before you buy any spot-on treatment to ensure that it is the appropriate fit for your dog’s age and size.
4. Use Tick Sprays
Most tick sprays are actually designed to kill fleas as well, so you will probably see more “flea and tick” sprays on the shelf than just tick sprays alone. These sprays kill ticks on contact, and provide a powerful protective barrier against future tick attacks. They come in pump spray bottles or aerosol spray cans, and are often comprised of natural ingredients such as pyrethrin, which is an organic insecticide.
Make sure to follow your veterinarian’s instructions (as well as the instructions on the label) regarding how to use the spray, and always make sure that you spray your dog in a well-ventilated area. Keep in mind that you don’t have to completely saturate your dog with the spray, but you do need to make sure that you have sprayed every inch of your dog’s body.
Whatever you do, don’t spray your dog’s face! Instead, spray a little bit onto a cotton ball and apply it around your dog’s eyes and ears, being careful to avoid its ultra-sensitive nose. Do your best not to get any of the spray in your dog’s eyes.
5. Make Your Own Natural Anti-Tick Powder
I’m a big fan of natural remedies for my pets, because I consider them to be safer than most store-bought anti-tick products. This is not to disparage any popular anti-tick products, but my thought is that if you can accomplish the same thing with organic or natural ingredients, why not give it a shot?tick
With this in mind, I wanted to share with you an awesome natural anti-tick powder than can work wonders for keeping ticks away from your dog. Here’s what you’ll need to make this power-packed powder:
- Diatomaceous earth – This is a fine powder that is made from tiny fossilized aquatic organisms. Although the powder feels light and ultra-soft to us, it can wreak complete havoc on bugs, piercing and shredding their exoskeletons and causing them to die from dehydration. Sounds kind of vicious, I know, but ticks will have no mercy on your dog if they find it, so why not return the favor? Keep in mind that the diatomaceous earth I’m talking about is not the same thing as the powder used in pools, so be sure to get food-grade diatomaceous earth, not pool-grade.
- Neem powder – This extract is from a tree that is native to the country of India, and it contains a natural pesticide known as oneliminoid.
- Yarrow – This is powder from an herb that acts as a natural tick repellent. Mix equal parts of each of these powders in a bowl, and then pour the combined mixture into a shaker jar of some kind. Now ruffle your dog’s fur so that the skin is exposed, and then sprinkle small amounts of the powder from the back to the front of your dog, including the neck area. Just make sure not to loosely sprinkle the powder on the very outside of your dog’s fur, as this will basically cause the powder to fall off not long after you apply it. Rub the powder into your dog’s skin as best as you can to ensure that it will get into the areas where the ticks love to stake their claim. This natural powder is a serious threat to ticks, so keep it on hand as one of your “secret weapons”.
6. Use A Tick Collar
Tick collars are a common solution for keeping ticks away from your dog. They can be used in conjunction with other anti-tick treatments, and they can fit right alongside your dog’s regular collar. Double-check the instructions on the package to see how long the collar should last; most collars will remain effective for anywhere between 3 to 4 months before you need to change them out. Make sure to keep the collar from getting wet, as this can diminish its effectiveness.
In addition, when you apply the collar, keep it snug, but not too tight; you should be able to comfortably fit two fingers between the tick collar and your dog’s neck. If there’s any excess collar hanging over, be sure to cut it off so that your dog won’t start chewing on it (mine definitely would). These collars emit chemicals that are basically unbearable to ticks, so they do a great job keeping those little bloodsuckers away.
Alright, I feel like I’ve done my job here – you now have plenty of good information to help you prevent ticks from making their home on your dog. Just remember to be vigilant about tick prevention, so that you will leave no room for those nasty little bugs to sneak into your dog’s life!