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Ticks wait in the grass and attach themselves to warm bodies passing by. Dogs and outdoor cats are common hosts for ticks these parasites. Ticks are carriers of several diseases that may infect your pet including Lyme disease, Rocky Mountain spotted fever and ehrlichiosis. Ticks also may cause anemia and skin infections. Some ticks release a toxin that can result in muscle weakness and paralysis that usually goes away when the tick is removed.
Chemical Tick Repellents
Chemical tick repellents are often toxic to cats and should not be used without direction from a veterinarian.
Some chemical products that kill ticks on dogs include fipronil, pyrethroids and amitraz. They are available as a liquid, dust, spray and saturated collars. While they kill ticks on dogs, they do not prevent the tick from biting and dogs still may become infected with tick-borne illnesses. Pyrethroid based treatments repel ticks, preventing bites and illness. However, they do not kill ticks if they do attach to a dog.
Read labels carefully before using any tick prevention. Topical treatments can be toxic if the dog absorbs too much of the insecticide. Use the appropriate size treatment for your dog's weight.
Tick collars should be used with caution as the chemical is absorbed into the skin and can be toxic to people, especially children. It should not be used on puppies younger than 12 weeks old and should not be ingested. They are not a good choice for multiple-dog families where playing dogs may chew on the collar.
Flea and tick shampoos help to kill ticks already attached to your dog, but do not prevent ticks from attaching in the future.
Natural Tick Repellent
Adding garlic or apple cider vinegar to your dog's diet may help make his blood less attractive to ticks. You can make a natural citrus repellent by steeping a quartered lemon in a quart jar overnight, then spraying the dog before going outdoors. Bathe dogs often to prevent infection from tick bites. Make a natural shampoo that kills and repels ticks by adding palo santo to an organic lavender shampoo.
Prevent Ticks in the Yard
Most ticks thrive in warm grassy areas of your yard. Prevent ticks in your yard by clearing all tall grasses, keeping leaves raked and removing any trash that ticks may hide under. Keep wood stacks in a dry area and maintain a 3-foot barrier of gravel or wood chips between your yard and any wooded areas. A single application of a tick pesticide in the spring also reduces ticks in the yard.
Prevent ticks in the yard naturally by adding nematodes, a small, wormlike animal, to the soil. These creatures feed on tick larvae. Diatomaceous earth, a powder made of fossils of marine and freshwater life is toxic to ticks as well.
Inspection and Tick Removal
No tick preventive method is 100 percent effective. Check your dog's entire body, including inside the ears and between the toes, by examining the skin and running your hands over his coat and feeling for bumps.
If you locate a tick, remove it immediately. Prepare a small jar where you will put the removed tick and fill it with alcohol. Wear gloves and use tweezers or a tick remover tool to extract the tick.
If you are using tweezers, grip the tick as close to the skin as possible and pull out. Do not twist as you are pulling as this may leave parts of the tick in the dog's skin. If you are using a tick remover tool, press the remover against the dog's skin and slide it under the tick until the tick is removed.
Place the tick in the alcohol filled container and label the jar. Wipe the dog's skin with antiseptic to prevent infection and observe the dog for any signs of a tick-borne illness. Take the dog to the vet if any symptoms appear.
- Humane Society of the United States: Getting a Tick Off of Your Dog
- WebMD: What You Need to Know About Fleas and Ticks
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: Preventing Ticks on Your Pets
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: Preventing Ticks in the Yard
- Dogs Naturally: Natural Solutions for Tick Season
- Drugs.com: Preventic Tick Collar for Dogs
- WebMD: Safety Tips for Using Flea and Tick Products on Pets
- MeePoohyaphoto/iStock/Getty Images