In Part 1 of our Dog Owner’s Guide to Ticks we talked about why ticks pose a danger to dogs, the different types of ticks, and where ticks live. Part 2 will outline ways to protect your dog against ticks and Part 3 will explain what to do if you find ticks on your dog, including the proper way to remove a tick from a dog.
As I mentioned in Post 1, we had a lovely hike the other day, followed by several hours of removing ticks from the dogs. Some people might say that “we asked for it” since we don’t use chemical flea and tick treatments on our dogs. I dare to say that even if you do choose to use these chemicals, venturing into the wilderness is likely to bring about some unwanted pests on both you and your dogs no matter what.
*A note about chemical flea and tick preventatives or treatments:
Conventional flea and tick medicines are typically pesticides, whether taken as a pill or applied topically. These pesticides go directly into your dog’s blood system and can effect your dog’s overall health in many negative ways, including by taking a toll on your dog’s immune system. Read packages carefully and take caution when something warns against coming into contact with your skin – it’s probably not something you want in contact with your dog’s skin either. The effects of these pesticides on the planet raises many more red flags and is another reason we choose to steer clear of their use. For more information I encourage you to read the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) report “Poisons on Pets: Health Hazards from Flea and Tick Products.”
The good news is there are some easy and earth friendly ways to reduce your chances of a tick infestation on your dog.
1. The first part of reducing your dog’s chances of pests and disease is to keep them healthy from the inside out. Dogs with weak immune systems are more likely to suffer from pest infestations. Make sure your dog eats a high-quality diet and gets plenty of exercise.
2. Maintain a pest free yard – naturally! Keep your grass trimmed short and consider sprinkling diatomaceous earth (DE) in your yard if you live in an area highly prone to ticks. See our post about Eco Friendly Yards for Dogs for more information.
3. Clean up around the house. Ticks can live for a long time (sometimes up to 2 years) without a host body such as a dog or human, this means it’s crucial to stay on top of housekeeping. Wash your dog’s bedding regularly and vacuum frequently. If your vacuum uses bags, dispose of the bags regularly to avoid creating a breeding ground for pests.
4. Groom prior to extended outings. If you’re planning for an outdoor adventure with your dog, make sure to give him a good brushing prior to. Removing extra hair and mats will make it easier for you to do a post-walk check for pests.
5. Consider natural repellents, essential oils and herbs. These can offer a much safer approach to repelling ticks. They do not kill ticks but they will help ward them off and can easily be applied to a cloth collar or bandana for your dog to wear.
Remember that essential oils should always be mixed with a carrier oil prior to use on pets. Do your research to ensure that you are using a proper dosage and dog-safe oils. A great source for more information is Holistic Aromatherapy for Animals by Kristen Leigh Bell. This book includes a recipe for “Goodbye Ticks Spritz” that you can make yourself with essential oils.
6. Groom regularly. A flea comb is a great investment and will comb in handy during tick season, plus your dog will love the extra attention. Comb every day or two if you start to notice ticks on your dog. You can also use our Organic Flea Bar or Holistic Bite and Itch Relief Shampoo to help keep your pup well groomed.