Ticks are more than a gross nuisance to our pets. They can cause infection and serious illness to us and animals. Once attached ticks can be tricky to remove so it’s important to take preventative action to manage ticks. In this post we will look at what ticks are and how to naturally control them without toxic chemical treatments.
What are ticks?
Ticks are parasitic mites which feed on the blood of mammals and birds. The little bloodsuckers attach to the skin and during feeding can spread harmful bacteria and diseases such as lymes disease. They can be found in dense woodland and long grass, finding their host as they brush through vegetation. When your dog runs through grass they can easily pick up one of these pesky parasites. If a tick attaches you may feel a small lump in your dog’s fur which could be as small as a seed or large as a baked bean. They have 8 legs and if you look closely you should be able to see them underneath the body. Tick season (when ticks are most active) is March – September.
Conventional treatment options
Conventional control methods include spot-on treatments and oral tablets. These are effective methods which use pesticides to poison and kill the tick. In a spot on solution or chemical collar, the pesticide is spread through your dog’s fur. The oral tablets kill the tick by poisoning it via the dog’s bloodstream when it feeds. Many dog owners share concerns regarding the harmful effects of these toxins and chemicals on our pets – and us! Ticks (and fleas) are becoming resistant leading to stronger doses being used in such medications. In 2021 US Congress demanded a recall of the popular Seresto collar after the American Environmental Protection Agency received 75,000 incident reports including almost 1700 deaths since the product was introduced in 2012. Pet owners reported symptoms such as vomiting and diarrhoea, tremors and seizures, alongside various skin reactions including fur loss.
Alternative ways to manage ticks
More and more pet owners are choosing a natural approach to pet health care. There are a number of natural alternatives with tick repellent qualities which, when applied correctly, can be very effective. These include:
- Herbal remedies & sprays
- Essential oils including Rose geranium, cedar, citronella, eucalyptus, and lemongrass
- Apple cider vinegar
- Turmeric and garlic*
Essential oils (diluted) can be applied by either dabbing behind your dog’s ears or onto a bandana before their walk, or sprayed over the coat. Other ingredients such as apple cider vinegar and turmeric can be included in your dog’s diet to be ingested. It is important that essential oils are appropriately diluted into a carrier oil and correct quantities are administered. Canine Herbalist Rita Hogan advises a 0.5% to 1% dilution. (Only 3 to 6 drops to an ounce of carrier oil such as almond oil). The safest option is to purchase herbal remedies and sprays which have been prepared ready for use such as ‘Billy no Mates’. A holistic veterinarian can further advise on oils and quantities which are safe for your dog.
*Whilst very large quantities of garlic can be toxic, fresh chopped garlic in small quantities is safe and has a number of health benefits – ⅙ tsp per 5lbs dogs weight is the recommended guide.
Natural tick collars
My beaded tick collars are a chemical-free alternative to manage ticks. Hand braided paracord with EM Ceramic beads to naturally deter ticks from attaching to your dogs skin without toxins and chemicals. These collars are designed with a sliding toggle to slip over your dog’s head and adjust to fit the neck. The collars are attractive and designed to be worn loosely like a necklace – please do not attach a lead to the tick collar.
How do EM Ceramic Beads work?
Developed in Japan by Dr Teruo Higa, EM Beads are made by fermenting the clay with effective microorganisms. They are more widely used in agriculture and water purification but the anecdotal evidence of their natural ability to guard against ticks is supported by many dog owners worldwide who choose natural remedies to safely manage their pets’ health and wellbeing. Once baked the resulting EM ceramic holds beneficial properties and emits far infrared waves (FIR) which penetrate the skin tissue, detoxify and promote a healthy skin microbiome. FIR technology is increasingly used for muscular ailments, relieving tension and increasing circulation. Furthermore, FIR saunas are used to help relieve the symptoms of lymes disease, one of the most concerning diseases carried by ticks. Recent interesting research has found that ticks have a unique organ (called the Halers Organ) which can detect infra red rays. In a similar way to herbal remedies, it is believed that ticks find the FIR and the altered skin environment unpleasant and therefore do not attach to the dog. It can take 3-4 weeks for the beads to start to work and the collar should be worn continuously and replaced each tick season for maximum effect.
No solution is 100% guaranteed and a regular grooming routine is advised to check for ticks in your dog’s coat.
How to avoid ticks
A combination of natural remedies can be used but there are other steps we can take to avoid ticks as follows:
- Stick to paths and avoid long grass where possible
- Wear long sleeves and trousers (this one’s for us!)
- Groom your dog regularly and especially after each walk. Ticks which have not attached can easily be brushed or combed out of the fur.
- Physically check for ticks, particularly around the head, ears, groin, legs, and between toes.
What to do if you find a tick on your dog
Although ticks are gross it’s important to deal with them promptly. But don’t panic – Ticks which have latched onto the skin can be safely (albeit carefully) removed at home. You can remove a tick with fine point tweezers but it’s worth buying a tick removal tool because they are very inexpensive and easy to use. The tick needs to be grasped as closely to your dog’s skin as possible and pulled away without squeezing.
Once removed you can dab the area with a salt water solution to help fight bacterial infection. Although the risk of tick borne diseases are low, look out for signs such as lethargy, loss of appetite, stiff or sore joints and fever. If you do notice these symptoms after a tick removal get help from your vet asap.
Make checking for ticks part of your daily walking and grooming routine for a happy, healthy life with dogs!
Until next time,
Julie & Bosun
Cover photo credit: Sam Field via Unsplash