By: Sarah Menuck | Reviewed by Dr. Clayton Greenway, B.Sc., DVM | Apr 18, 2017
It’s important as a dog owner to stay vigilant about ticks. These tiny pests can be particularly numerous following a mild winter, and in addition to their painful bites, they can carry a host of transmittable diseases, including Lyme disease. These nasty little bugs don’t restrict themselves to rural areas: they can be found anywhere with lots of vegetation, including city parks and your own backyard.
While it’s possible to treat and get rid of ticks on dogs after they’ve already attached themselves, prevention is always the best measure. Consider the following tips and tricks before heading outdoors with your dog.
Remember to consult with your vet before using any tick preventions or treatments.
BEFORE YOU HEAD OUT
One of the easiest ways on how to keep ticks off dogs is to treat them with a tick repellent that deters them from biting in the first place. These topical insecticides are applied directly to the animal’s skin; as the treatment is absorbed, your pooch becomes less of a tasty treat, thus keeping parasites such as ticks away. These types of treatments require repeat dosages at regular intervals (typically once a month) but are long-lasting and effective.
You can also try a flea and tick collar, which has been specially treated with an insecticide that kills ticks and wards away the bugs. Bear in mind that these collars only work when they come into direct contact with the animal’s skin, so they must be relatively tight on your dog’s neck. In addition, they generally only protect the head and neck area.
With either product, read the label carefully to ensure it affects ticks, as some products are only designed for treating fleas. Also, ensure that you’re getting the correct product for your geographic area, and for the size and age of your dog.
Oral treatments may be a better option for families with small children or a dog prone to licking itself a lot. These treatments require a prescription from your vet. Another factor to consider is that pills are arguably less effective against ticks than other treatments, so they may need to be used in conjunction with other prevention methods, such as treating your yard.
Bathing your dog regularly with a tick shampoo can help keep the insects away. Shampoos are generally more effective at killing ticks and fleas already on your pet rather than preventing them from catching a ride in the first place.
A tick dip or rinse is a similar treatment that can be longer-lasting than a shampoo, as it is a much stronger product that is not rinsed off. Make sure you apply the product in a well-ventilated area and ensure it doesn’t get in your pet’s eyes or ears.
It’s easy to forget about yourself when trying to keep your pet safe, but ticks can just as easily hitch a ride home with you — which potentially puts you both at risk for disease. When heading to locations that are likely to contain ticks, make sure to wear clothes that provide maximum coverage. It’s tempting to show some skin, especially in the summer heat, but exposed ankles may attract more than a tan if you’re walking through the bush. Wearing long sleeves and pants (tucking the cuffs into your socks) is more appropriate. For extra protection, you can spray your clothes with a tick repellent before going outside.
IN THE OUTDOORS
No, not by picking up litter, but by paying attention to your surroundings. Wooded or brushy areas are more than likely to play host to a flourishing insect population, including ticks.
While it’s fun to walk your dog along nature trails, be extra vigilant so that you don’t end up bringing some of the outdoors home with you. Ticks often crawl up into bushes or long grass and wait to jump on unwitting passers-by. Keep your dog leashed to prevent them from wandering off into the brush, and avoid areas with tall grass.
Even if you regularly treat your pet for ticks, it’s important to always do a thorough check after extended time outside, particularly if you’ve visited an area known to have tick populations. Getting rid of ticks on dogs is critical as a tick can transmit a disease to its host animal within 24 hours, so finding them early is important.
Housework isn’t fun, but regularly vacuuming and cleaning your home can help wipe out any ticks that may have found their way indoors. If you suspect a brewing infestation, there are a number of products, including natural ones, that can deter insects from making your home their own.
It’s also a good idea to keep your yard well-trimmed, including grass, trees and shrubs, reducing the amount of space for parasites to live and breed. For a more extreme approach, you can use an outdoor insecticide or pesticide, but be mindful that these can be harmful to humans, animals and fish alike. Keep both children and pets away after treatment until the area has fully dried and any fumes have dispersed.