What are some all-natural methods for protecting my dog from ticks? The chemical repellents available at the grocery store seem really harsh. Also, what's the proper way to remove a tick if it has attached itself?
While I am not opposed to the occasional, short-term use of chemical products if absolutely needed, I prefer an organic approach. Many of my new clients are using chemical products on a regular basis.
When I ask them why, they reply that the products were prescribed.
However, most pets don't need these harsh chemicals because there are safer, more natural approaches to control external parasites such as ticks.
Here are some ideas for a natural approach to controlling ticks. For treating the pet, I have several favorite products. The first is an herbal shampoo containing citrus oils. The shampoo is used one to two times weekly for several weeks to get the tick problem under control.
One suggestion about shampooing: Ticks and fleas do not die upon contact with shampoo. Rather, the shampoo works over time. This is why I suggest leaving the shampoo on for at least 20 to 30 minutes before rinsing. Also, pay special attention to the area between the toes and around the ears, since ticks love to hide there.
Since we can't bathe the pet daily to control ticks, we must use something in between baths. I recommend either an herbal collar (containing an herb such as citronella) or an herbal powder containing natural pyrethrum made from chrysanthemums.
The collar can be worn throughout tick season; the powder is applied as needed between baths.
To prevent further problems, don't forget environmental control. Cut the grass in the yard short to expose ticks to sunlight to kill them. Remove piles of wood, a favorite hiding place for ticks. Spraying the yard with beneficial nematodes, natural pyrethrum or applying diatomaceous earth (not the pool variety) are great natural approaches to killing ticks and other insects.
If you see a tick on your pet's body, it's a good idea to remove it. Here's an easy way to remove a tick that really works: Grasp the tick as close to the dog's body as possible using tweezers. Gently but firmly apply a continuous pulling motion until the tick loosens from the pet. Place the tick in a jar of alcohol to kill it.
Never handle the tick, as it can transmit the same diseases to you (ehrlichia, Rocky Mountain spotted fever, Lyme disease) as to your dog. In my practice, dogs with tick exposure get a blood test in 30 days to make sure the tick has not transmitted these diseases.
Dr. Shawn P. Messonnier is a veterinarian and pet care advocate.