How to Prevent Your Dog from Getting Ticks

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Ticks are the 'Billy-no-mates' of the bug world, as no-one is ever pleased to see them. Indeed if ticks were people, they'd be the social pariah who doesn't wash properly and is shunned at parties.

But ticks love dogs, which is a shame because your dog doesn't love them back. Far from it, tick attachment is to be strongly discouraged. Ticks can infect the dog with serious, life-threatening diseases such as Rocky Mountain fever, Babesiosis, Ehrlichia, and other conditions with equally unpronounceable names.

The good news is that ticks need to be attached for 24 hours before they transmit disease to the dog, which means that prevention and prompt removal are key to keeping your dog healthy.  Here's what can go wrong and how to prevent it.  

Lack of Preventative Care

Happily, there are a wealth of excellent products which help in the fight against tick infestations. But not all anti-tick products are created equal. Don't be seduced by the promise of 'natural tick deterrents' because life isn't that simple and they don't work

  • Use a licensed product:. Choose a product scientifically proven to be effective. Be aware the different products work in different ways: Some are repellents that prevent ticks hopping on board, whilst others kill ticks once they are attached. The gold standard is a repellant such as Bravecto (™) or the Seresto collar (™) which discourage ticks from feeding. However, most licensed products kill ticks quickly and are also a good choice.

  • Select a product that matches your and your dog's lifestyle: Does your dog love to swim? Are you forgetful when it comes to applying products? Be aware that some products aren't waterproof directly after application, so you'd need to keep your pet away from water. Also, spot on products need to dry thoroughly before your kids hug the dog. Therefore choose a products that meets your needs. The options include:

    • Collars: Such as Seresto or Scalibor

    • Spots ons: eg Advantix, Certifect, Prac-Tic, Frontline, or Promeris

    • Tablets: Bravecto, Nexgard Spectra

  • Apply as per the instructions:  It's easy to lose track of when you last applied the product. If the spot-on is monthly, be sure to set an alert on your phone when it's time to reapply. Thinking your dog is protected when the cover has run out is all too common.

Visiting Tick Habitats

A fun day out with the dog can be spoiled if you aren't tick-savvy.

  • Time of year: Spring and autumn are traditionally peak time for ticks. But be aware that they will survive frosty weather, so even during a cold snap your dog is not safe. Don't assume there's no risk, just because of the season.

  • Wood and shrubland: Ticks love hanging out (literally) in grass and woodland. Do a mental risk assessment on your dog, and if their favorite playground is scrubland, then take active steps to protect them..

  • Overgrown yards: Your dog is at risk even in the backyard. If your yard is a tangled jungle then it's also a paradise for ticks. To reduce the risk, prune back overgrown plants and sweep up leaf litter. If there's a well-established tick colony you may need to use an environmental insecticidal spray.

Not Being Tick Aware

Complacency is the enemy when it comes to the battle against tick infestations.

  • Tick check every day: It's a mistake not to check your dog over for ticks, even when using a preventative. Some products work by killing ticks after they're attached. Therefore, using a tick hook and removing them is a great belt-and-braces idea.

  • Be prepared to remove ticks: A tick hook or other removal device is your dog's best friend. Yes, products kill ticks but the sooner those unsightly bugs are removed from the skin, the less chance there is of feeding and transmitting infection.

  • Tuck your trousers in on walks: And last but not least, don't forget your own vigilance. When walking through long grass or woodland, tuck your trousers into your socks, just to be on the safe side. It may not look cool, but neither is catching Lyme Disease.

Preventing tick infestations can save your dog from a serious, debilitating illness. Happily, there's never been more choice with regards to great products that do what they say on the label. But those products are only effective when applied regularly and in accordance with the manufacturer's instructions.

In addition, you can't play it too safe, so get into the habit of running a daily tick patrol on your pet. And don't just check the obvious places but look inside the ear flaps, between the toes, and in their armpits or groin. Remember, ticks aren't above playing things dirty, so you need to be one step ahead to keep your dog healthy around ticks.