July 6, 2018
While we celebrate the return of summer weather and all the outdoor activities that come with it, there are some downsides to all of that outdoor adventure — ticks.
Last year was a bad year for tick bites, and experts say this year is shaping up to be just as bad. Ticks, of course, can cause serious illnesses in pets and humans, including Lyme disease and Rocky Mountain spotted fever. The bite itself can cause itching and scratching, and if enough ticks attach themselves to your pet, their feeding can result in anemia.
Here are some tips for having a tickless summer.
- Avoiding areas where ticks hang out is probably the best preventative. When ticks aren’t attaching to warm-blooded creatures, they reside on plants, primarily taller grasses where they wait for an unsuspecting human or animal to walk by and brush up against the plants.
- When hiking, don’t let your dog wander off paths or romp through tall grass or through brush.
- Check your yard for ticks. Cut grass and, if necessary, treat your landscape with a pesticide. If you’re like me and don’t want to use chemicals, create a 3-foot buffer between the lawn and any wooded area using mulch, wood chips or gravel.
- Discourage wild animals from hanging out in your yard by removing things that attract them, including pet food left out overnight and water sources.
- Make it a practice to check your pets for ticks whenever they’ve been outside.
Popular home repellents
- Feeding your pet garlic is a popular home tick repellent, but it should be used sparingly and with caution. Garlic is a member of the Allium family, along with onions, chives and leeks, all of which can be harmful — and sometimes even fatal to dogs, if they ingest large amounts. Using garlic as a food supplement causes your pet to exude a garlicky scent, which ticks don’t care for. Bathing, of course, negates the plan.
- Apple cider vinegar mixed into your pet’s drinking water may help repel ticks by increasing the acidity in your pet’s blood. As with garlic, the size of the dose matters. Talk to your vet about it and about what amount is recommended for your dog.
- Another popular home repellent involves lemons cut into quarters, added to boiling water and allowed to steep overnight. The solution is then put into a spray bottle and used on your pet, focusing on behind the ears, at the base of the tail and the arm pits. Avoid getting it into your pet’s eyes and nose.
- Talk to your veterinarian about topical and oral medications that can make your dog distasteful to ticks. Spot-on medications are those where a few drops of the pesticide placed on your pet’s back are spread throughout the body via the animal’s natural oils. An active ingredient — fipronil — in some spot-on flea and tick medications has shown up in the San Francisco Bay, leading some environmentalist to call for more study on the risks of these topical pesticides. Read the label — not all contain fipronil.
- Shampoos and dips also will rid your pet of ticks, but they can be labor intensive. Dips are not washed off.
- Tick powders and collars can be effective, but some animals have an allergy to them. If you use them, be sure to keep an eye on your pet for rashes and constant scratching.