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Dear Katie, how can I prevent ticks?

It’s tick season, and I’m really worried about my dog picking up ticks, but I don’t want to keep treating her with chemicals. Are there better ways to prevent them naturally?

The question of how to prevent ticks, fleas, and worms is common amongst pet parents and vets – and hotly debated. You’re not alone in your wish to avoid chemical treatments, and I would definitely advocate using more natural preventatives where you can. Fortunately, nature offers up lots of handy parasite-fighters, but first, let’s delve a little deeper…

spot on treatment on dog to prevent ticks

Chemical tick preventatives

Spot on (chemical) treatments are insecticides that are applied to the skin of a dog or cat to kill off fleas and ticks. Many of these won’t actively prevent your hound from getting fleas or ticks; they will simply help eradicate them once they’ve arrived.

Due to over-use, these chemical treatments don’t tend to work particularly well and often come with negative side effects. Certain breeds can be highly allergic to them, so it’s crucial to look at the ingredients, discuss each option with your vet, and understand what you’re putting on your canine’s skin. Always avoid the over-the-counter medications you can find in a supermarket or pet store – these treatments should only be purchased through professionals who can ensure they are being administered correctly, keeping your pooch safe.

Removing ticks

As ticks can carry various diseases, you want to remove them from your dog’s skin straight after you find one – and prevent them from dropping off somewhere in your house and attaching to you! When extracting a tick, it’s essential to avoid squeezing it: this can cause it to regurgitate blood back into your pet, further increasing the risk of disease and infection. Using a tick hook, slowly twist the tick until it comes away, always ensuring all parts of the tick, including the head, are removed.

If you are unsure of how to use a tick hook, speak to your vet or vet nurse, and they will happily show you how to do this correctly. Don’t try to burn a tick off, and don’t use creams or Vaseline to “suffocate” it – this again can lead to infection, and we want to avoid this. Once you have removed the tick, keep the area clean and continue observing it. If you notice any reactions that concern you, speak to your vet.

tick hook removing a tick

How to prevent ticks naturally

Luckily, thanks to high demand, more natural parasite treatments are now readily available, from sprays to shampoos. It’s still vital to check the ingredients in these products, though. Some may claim to be natural but, on second glance, turn out to contain harmful elements, so do read the labels before applying to your pet.

Also, look for the correct dosage: although some treatments may only be using essential oils, these can still be toxic to your pet in high quantities. Make sure you follow the instructions the brand gives you or double-check with your vet.

One essential oil that’s often used to prevent ticks is Rose Geranium. Ticks are guided by their sense of smell and apparently aren’t fans of Rose Geranium’s sweet scent, so you’ll find it in many natural tick preventatives.

citronella in a bottle

Citronella is another common parasite preventative. It works by masking the scent of things that would normally attract parasites or insects.

Neem oil has been proven to be a great preventative for parasites, including ticks. Better still, it also has antibacterial, antiviral, and antimicrobial properties: these aid the healing of the skin if a tick manages to attach or your pet suffers from any other insect bites.

Natural, food-grade diatomaceous earth is a handy parasite-buster, too. It covers parasites and then sticks to them, drying them out, causing their pores to shrink, and ultimately suffocating them. This can be used topically on your pet or scattered over affected areas such as bedding or the carpet if you suddenly have an infestation in your home.

Apple cider vinegar has also been shown to be a natural repellent. You can use it topically, add it to your dog’s water bowl, or mix it in with their food. The acidity is meant to be less appealing to fleas and ticks, thus preventing them from attaching.

Here are a few companies that provide ready-made, natural parasite repellents:

Hedgerow Hounds – Natures Bounty

Aniforte – Tick Spray

Billy No Mates – Flea and Tick Prevention

Herbal Dog Co. – Flea & Tick Natural Spot On

Dermadog – Insect Spray

tick on a dog

Even if you use these methods to prevent ticks, it’s still important to carry out regular tick checks, especially in the spring and summer months. Combing through your dog’s coat and checking their ears will hopefully enable you to catch and remove them quickly, but it can be hard to find the tiny ones – especially if you have a pooch with a lot of fur!

I hope these pointers help, and you feel more prepared to combat those pesky ticks this summer.

Katie x

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