It’s no fun having to remove ticks from your dog during the spring and summer months. Not only are these blood-suckers nasty to look at, they are also notoriously difficult to dislodge. If left too long or not removed entirely, ticks can cause some serious diseases. So, how can you keep your dog tick-free this season? Here are a few ideas to consider…
Using an over the counter spot-on medication can be a very effective method for controlling both ticks and fleas. These medications are effective at keeping parasites at bay for up to a month. While these products are great, you still need to be very careful about which one you use. Make sure you read all labels carefully, and if you have any doubts, be sure to get advice from your veterinarian before application.
Pills that are given once a month are readily available for dogs. These medications will work to kill ticks (and immature fleas). They are easy to give and you won’t have to be concerned about small children and cats coming into contact with dogs immediately after application, as you might with spot-on treatments.
Bathing your dog with a shampoo that contains medicated ingredients will generally kill ticks on contact. This can be an inexpensive (though labor-intensive) method of protecting your dog during the peak tick season. You will need to repeat the process more often, about every two weeks, as the effective ingredients won’t last as long as a spot-on or oral medication.
A dip is a concentrated chemical that needs to be diluted in water and applied to the dog’s fur with a sponge or poured over the back. This treatment is not meant to be rinsed off after application. The chemicals used in dips can be very strong, so be sure to read the labels carefully before use. You should not use a dip on very young dogs (under four months) or for pregnant or nursing dogs. Ask your veterinarian for advice before treating either.
Tick collars are another effective preventive, though they are mainly only useful for protecting the neck and head from ticks. The collar needs to make contact with your dog’s skin in order to transfer the chemicals onto the dog’s fur and skin. Cut off any excess length of collar to prevent your dog from chewing on it and watch for signs of discomfort (e.g., excessive scratching) in case an allergic reaction to the collar occurs. Also, read the labels carefully when choosing a tick collar.
Another method of topical medication, tick powders work to kill and repel ticks from your dog. Be sure that the powder you are using is labeled for dogs before use, as well as for your dog’s specific age. This very fine powder can be an irritant to the mouth or lungs if inhaled so use small amounts and slowly rub it into the skin. Keep powders away from the face and eyes when applying. You will need to reapply the product more often, about once a week during peak season.
Another topical application of medication, tick spray kills ticks quickly and provides residual protection. Sprays can be used in between shampoos and dips, and when you are planning to spend time out in wooded areas -- where ticks are most prevalent. Be careful when using this product around your dog’s face, and do not use it on or around any other animals in the home.
Keeping your lawn, bushes, and trees trimmed back will help reduce the population of fleas and ticks in your backyard. If you still have a problem, consider using one of the various household and yard sprays or granular treatments. Just be careful when using these products, as they can be harmful to animals, fish, and humans. If you have a severe problem, or you are concerned about the proper handling of these chemicals, you might want to consider hiring an exterminator to apply yard and area sprays to control ticks (and fleas).
After a romp outside in areas where ticks could be lurking, be sure to carefully check your dog for ticks. Look between the toes, inside the ears, between the legs (in the "armpits"), and around the neck, deep in the fur. If you find any ticks before they have had a chance to attach and become engorged, you may have prevented serious illness for your dog. If you do find a tick attached to your dog, removal should be done immediately and carefully, making sure to get all parts of the tick’s body removed from the skin.
Preventing your dog from roaming through wooded areas where ticks are likely to be lying in wait is a very effective way of keeping your dog safe from exposure. You will still want to check your dog over thoroughly, even after short walks through grass and brush. And remember, use tick preventives on your dog year-round and not just at the height of the tick season.