Dog Ticks: Holistic Solutions To Prevent And Treat Them
Dog ticks are one of the most unwanted pet parasites, and they can cause a host of health problems for your dog. In this article you will learn what the more common ticks are, the signs of ticks, and common diseases they cause. Most importantly you’ll learn the best ways to treat and prevent ticks on your dog with natural options.
So what exactly is a tick? Well it’s a parasite that feeds on the blood of mammals, being attracted to your dog’s heat, and movement. The ticks are often found in brushy, wooded areas; they attach to your dog walking in the dense vegetation. Most ticks have 4 life stages ( egg, larva, nymph, adult), and during the adult stage they can lay up to 6000 eggs. Ticks need a blood feeding to progress to each stage. But they are extremely hardy, and can survive for years until a mammal comes by for them to attach to. The adult female tick feeds for 10 days, falls off, stays inactive in the winter, then lays all the eggs in the spring to continue the cycle.
There are three common species of ticks found in North America. The tick of biggest concern is called the Deer Tick, or Black legged tick, known as Ioxodes Scapularis ( in the east) or Ioxodes Pacificus ( in the west). This is the tick responsible for carrying and transmitting Lyme disease. It is extremely small, not much larger than the tip of a pencil, making them difficult to find. The Brown dog tick, known as Rhipicephalus sanguine, is far more common and easier to identify.It starts out being small, red-brown in color, but when it has a blood meal and is fully engorged, it is very large, and a gray/green color. The American dog tick, known as (Dermacentor variabilis) or it’s cousin, Rocky Mountain wood tick, known as (Dermacentor andersoni , are hard shelled, brown, being about .5cm long. They can cause paralysis in dogs known as tick paralysis by releasing a neurotoxin into their hosts.
The most common tick borne diseases in dogs are: lyme disease, canine ehrlichiosis, canine babesiosis, and tick borne paralysis. These diseases take hours to days to be transmitted to your dog, but the current topical insecticides do not always work fast enough to prevent transmission of disease. The signs of serious tick illness vary, but here are the bigger ones to be aware of: weakeness, tiring easily and pale gums suggesting anemia. Flu like symptoms, lameness, joint swelling, fever suggestive of lyme disease. Then there is a rapid progression of neurologic sigs, with turn into paralysis; in this situation your dog is unable to walk, and this is suggestive of tick paralysis.
Tick treatment and prevention is very controversial, primarily as many of the common conventional pharmaceuticals can have serious side effects, such as the tick collar containing an insecticide called amitraz. It can cause lethargy, weakness, disorientation, vomiting, and if ingested, lead to coma and death.
So what do you do to prevent and treat dog ticks naturally? First you’ve got to regularly check for ticks on your dog, especially after walking in the dense grasses, and during the peak times of infestation ( in the spring). Carefully look in the cracks and crevices, such as behind your dog’s ears. If you find a tick, you want to remove it immediately. Use tweezers, and grab the tick at the mouth parts where it is attached to your dog. Pull slowly, but firmly straight out, not twisting it, and if some of the skin comes off, that is fine. Clean the area with a disinfectant scrub ( such as chlorhexidine or black tea), and dispose of the tick being careful that you don’t touch it.
Shampooing your dog with some of the holistic anti-tick shampoos can eliminate ticks. You need to look for shampoos that contain these ingredients: Neem oil, Eucalyptus and Cedarwood oil. Ticks are extremely resistant to most products, but these essential oils appear to have some effect on preventing their life cycle.
A relatively non-toxic natural substance, has been shown to be effective in the eradication of ticks in dogs is cedarwood oil spray. I encourage you to be cautious in spraying excessive of essential oils on your small dogs. It is best to only lightly mist them; following that use a flea comb to spreading the spray. A cedarwood oil spray that I have had success with tick treatment in dogs is: Triple Sure Natural Flea and Tick Spray made by Natural Wonder Products.
Keeping your grass short, and reducing the amount of dense vegetation around your home is one of the easier, and simple ways to lower your dog’s chances of getting ticks. Ticks prefer tall grasses, and low overhanging bushes while waiting for their next host to feed on. Regularly remove fallen leaves (leaf litter), and create a natural buffer by putting down wood chips between your lawn and the wooded areas to keep ticks away. Lastly consider discourging deer from coming into your yard, as the deer tick is the carrier of lyme disease; motion controlled water sprinklers can be very effective.
Then there are the use of natural topical outside, such as Diatomaceous earth- it consists of the skeletons of microscopic algae. Spread the diatomaceous earth at the edge of your lawn, acting as another natural barrier preventing tick infestation.
Ticks are a rather difficult external parasite to prevent and treat, but there are many things that you as an involved dog owner can do. There are a few very potent conventional tick medications, but concerns of side effects of these has lead many a dog owner to try some of the holistic options. These include common sense environmental ones, such as keeping the dense vegetation down, and maintaining a natural ‘tick’ barrier with wood chips. Lastly there are the specific shampoos, such as Neem oil, along with effective sprays containing cedarwood oil.
Dr Andrew J