It's that time of year again!

Pet owners search hastily in quest of the perfect pest deterrent for their furry friends, triggered by just two words: Tick Season.

While most dog owners are fully aware of the possible pestilence these sneaky insects may be carrying, the risk of Lyme disease is estimated to be far greater this year than any other in the past... and climate change is said to play a big part. 

One would assume that the frigid temperatures we endured this past winter were surely way too harsh for any tick to survive, right?


                   Tiny black-legged ticks carry Lyme disease

                   Tiny black-legged ticks carry Lyme disease

While we were all freezing our buns off trying to navigate through the accumulation of snow that just never seemed to melt, stubborn ticks were keeping warm under that same frozen blanket that covered the ground. Not only did the unusually cold winter allow ticks to expand their populations, but a climate shift towards warmer weather has also given them the advantage of increasing their range far earlier in the Spring. In the Northeastern United States, the risk of Lyme disease continues to increase as it's black-legged carriers begin to feed several weeks earlier than usual.

Rather than hiding indoors all summer in order to prevent your dog (and yourself!) from encountering one of these creepy crawlers, you can find comfort in your ability to detect and deal with ticks by remembering these simple tips!

There are numerous pet products offering an early solution to avoiding ticks this season. Monthly treatments, flea and tick collars, shampoos, powders, and other tick-preventing concoctions can be easily purchased at stores, but deciding which products are safe isn't always an easy task. Certain chemical ingredients pose a potential hazard to your pet so it is recommended that you speak with your veterinarian before buying or using a specific item. Contrary to store-bought products, there are natural, homemade solutions that may prove useful in safely keeping ticks away from you and your dog!

Dog's Naturally Magazine narrates a great list of natural alternatives for tick prevention. In knowing the effect that a chemical treatment may have on your dog's overall health, they offer a homemade remedy for herbal flea and tick powder that can be found here! Dog's Naturally offers a few other all-natural solutions as well: 

  • Make your own tick powder at home by mixing 2 tablespoons of almond oil with Rose Geranium Oil or Palo Santo and dabbing a few drops on your dogs neck or collar!
  • Palo Santo (a natural aromatic wood incense) may also be used to make a shampoo that will prevent and kill existing ticks; all you have to do is mix some into your favorite dog shampoo!
  • Citrus is another effective and natural tick repellent; cut a lemon into quarters and let them steep a jar of boiling water overnight and the next day you'll have a homemade remedy that will keep your pet safe and smelling great! (Read more about these great ideas here)

With all of the products and remedies associated with tick prevention, is it imperative to know that the first and most important aspect of Lyme disease prevention is knowing how and where to check for ticks on your dog. Preferring dark and hidden corners, you may find a tick lurking in one of several spots: 

Above image is from  PetMD

Above image is from PetMD

If you feel a bump or swollen area while running you fingers across your dog's body, check to see if a tick has begun to burrow in the skin or is just hanging around. If it's just loitering, removing and placing the tick in isopropyl alcohol will kill the tick quickly; out of sight and out of mind! On the other hand, you should probably grab your gear if you find that the little bugger has begun to burrow (and don't forget your gloves!).

A pair of tweezers can be used to remove a tick from your dog's skin, but it increases the risk of a small bit being left behind which can lead to infection. Commercial tick-removal instruments tend to be more effective in eradicating a burrowing tick and you can even make your own at home using a plastic spoon. 

(Instructional Video: Spoon cutting for tick removal)

Upon removing the tick, place it in a container with isopropyl alcohol and mark the date on the canister; if your dog starts to display symptoms of a tick-born illness, your veterinarian will be able to test and identify the tick that may have caused it.

After completing the suspenseful act of tick eradication, don't forget to clean the affected area using the same isopropyl alcohol solution and reward your dog (and yourself!) for being such a trooper! Remember the spot from which the tick was taken and keep an eye on it for the next few days; if the skin remains irritated or looks infected, make an appointment with your veterinarian just to be safe!

Aspiring to keep all dogs happy and healthy, the team at Dan's Dog Walking hopes that you and your pet can now enjoy some outdoor summertime fun with new found confidence in your knowledge of Lyme disease prevention!

Written by Alison Heyman

Sources: Health Day, author: Randy Dotinga (original article); Weed Man Lawn Care (original article); Humane Society (original article)


Alison has been with Dan's Dog Walking and Pet Sitting since 2014.  She loves going on adventures with her dog Maggie in the woods and playing with her on the beach.  Ali is a major advocate for the use of all natural pet products and specializes not only in giving pets the highest level of care, but creating educational material for our clients on how to best care for their pets with organic solutions.

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