Updated verson of a blog I posted in 2020.
Tick season is well underway, we live in tick paradise, and I detest ticks, so I thought I would share some of the natural preventative and protective measures I take.
I don't use prescription medications, collars, or chemicals to prevent ticks & fleas with Perro & Zuma. The reason for this is the serious and pretty commonplace side effects reported by the FDA; you can google "FDA alert tick medication" for more information. I am, however, very aware of the serious consequences of tick-borne diseases, and I am diligent about checking myself and the dogs for ticks daily.
Bitten twice last year (for the first time), I went to my GP and got the (free) vaccination to protect myself against Tick-Borne Encephalitis (TBE). It's a series of 3 injections given over ten months. Protection lasts ten years. Unfortunately, it doesn't protect against Lyme's disease, but TBE is extremely serious and sometimes fatal, so being high risk (living in a forest, working with dogs, outside in long grass), I am happy to have had the vaccine. Incidentally, I also wear long trousers when walking the dogs.
My most important tip is this. I carry a tick remover in my pocket and I check myself and the dogs for ticks. Every. Single. Day. Most research shows that ticks require time (24-48 hours is generally accepted) attached before disease is passed on, so I check for (and usually remove) ticks daily. Now it's a habit and has become our one-to-one time, which the dogs love. I check them all over, including inside ears and under chins. It's also an excellent way to spot issues like redness, lumps and bumps, or sensitivity. I believe this is the most effective way to avoid tick-borne illness in our dogs without resorting to chemicals or drugs.
Rubbing dogs with a dry microfibre cloth immediately after walking through forests or long grass is a great and easy tip for quick tick removal before they attach. Try it; it works!
I got Perro tested for bloodborne pathogens in 2022. He gets bitten by ticks far more frequently than Zuma, probably because he's such a wanderer. Thankfully, he tested negative for disease, and I will repeat the blood test next year, but it was very reassuring to know that there is nothing sinister waiting to appear when he gets older, or his immune system is less robust.
I add Ticked Off to their food once daily. Handmade by Veterinary Herbalist and friend Jo Arbon from Holistic Hound in Ireland, it contains garlic, echinacea, and apple cider vinegar. Given daily (according to dog weight) on top of food, it takes 2-3 weeks to build up in the dog's system (maybe less in smaller dogs). I give it all year round, bar December/January. I also sell it here, just contact me to place an order. It is consistently one of my most popular retail items.
Jo from Holistic Hound has also just released a natural topical geraniol spot-on treatment applied to dog skin once or twice per month. I have been trialing it on Perro & Zuma and look forward to launching it here in the coming weeks.
In the meantime, I use a homemade topical spray of Apple Cider Vinegar, water, and almond oil with a few drops of quality essential oils (geranium, tea tree, lavender, and cedar wood). Shake the bottle and spray it onto legs before walking. Vinegar can irritate sensitive skin, so important to dilute well and rinse legs off after walks. It is costly to make this up for one or two dogs (because of the price of quality oils), so I always make up extra bottles, just send me a message, and I'll hold one for you.
I know many people swear by Baltic amber collars. Unfortunately, I don't have firsthand experience, mainly because my dogs play so much with the guest dogs that the collars would be in the drawer more than on their neck, but for "normal" dogs, these could be a good option.
And finally, to mention good old garlic: in size-appropriate dose, it is NOT harmful to dogs; in fact, there are many health benefits - including the fact that ticks (and worms) hate it. The garlic smell is excreted through the skin and makes the dog less appealing as a host. It takes about a week to build up in the blood. Not advised for dogs on blood thinners or certain other long-term meds. I don't give it to Perro or Zuma because it's one of the ingredients in Ticked Off, but it's another good option for tick prevention.
If anyone has other tips to share, it would be fantastic!
Aileen Woulfe, Irish expat, lifelong animal lover, Swiss qualified with a diplôme cynologique in breeding, grooming and kennel management and owner of Happy Dogs Aigle boarding and daycare in Vaud, Switzerland.