Protecting Your Cats, Dogs and Kids During Tick Season

An approach for one becomes an approach for all!

Ticks, possibly the least lovable of all the multi-legged creatures, get very busy in fall. Like their warm-blooded meals, they enjoy the cooler temperatures of spring and fall, so here we are in the midst of a seasonal tick outbreak. A tick uptick, if you will.

To conquer the onslaught, you need to think like a tick. What do ticks think about? No big surprise really: breeding and eating. That’s about it. Understanding these limited goals will help you reduce tick exposure.

Ticks love to lay eggs in the loose, fallen leaves that accumulate in fall. From these eggs emerge hundreds of new and hungry ticks, so keep your yard tidy at this time of year.

Yard Treatments          

Yard treatments do not have to be toxic to be effective.  Lawn companies offer many choices to conquer the tick population boon. A recent innovation – spraying a dusting of sand to weigh the ticks down – is getting some attention in my neck of the woods and the word is that it’s quite effective.

Where to Look        

When a tick does find its target, it wants blood so it gravitates to the heart and areas where arteries are close to the surface—the head, ears, neck and under-pits.  In humans, ticks often nestle in the groin area as well. Have I mentioned how much I hate ticks?

Herbal Spray 

To confuse a tick’s sensory blood locators, use an herbal spray. If you don’t smell like a juicy meal, ticks might look elsewhere for a blood meal. Look for products that contain eucalyptus, lavender and tea tree oils. You’ll smell great and I can report that the results are effective.

Topical Squirts

There is little doubt that topical solutions applied to a dog’s back keep the tick population to a minimum. But these products are toxic and come with a warning not to touch the application site for three days after use. This is impractical in my home where three minutes of non-touching would be a record.

Finger Massage

During tick season, I disguise my tick searches as massage sessions. Probing deep into their fur, I hunt for ticks while the critters bask in the attention. I’ve even turned it into a little money-making opportunity for the kids: a quarter for every bump they locate. My daughter, with eyes on a new American Girl doll, is breaking all previous records.

Flea Comb           

The low-tech flea comb can be a pet owners best friend. Using during or right after a walk or hike, this thin-toothed tool removes ticks before they’ve implanted. I keep a separate comb for the kids’ hair. Yes, I flea-comb my kids…try it before you laugh. It’s very effective.

Emotional and Physical Health

I recently read a great article by Melinda Miller, the CEO at Smith Ridge Animal Hospital in South Salem. In her piece she makes the simple point that a healthy, well nourished and emotionally stable animal is far better able to defend itself internally against both viruses and bacteria than a pet whose emotionally distraught and whose physical energy is zapped of vitality due to poor health/diet. She stressed good diet and I’ll take it one step further—good diet and a good education improve the responsiveness, stability and self-reliance of us all.

NAO October 16, 2011 at 09:12 PM
I would like to note that a beach is a very effective way to walk yourself and or your dog and not encounter ticks. Ticks cannot live in the sand. for the last 10 to 15 years Westchester County has opened Playland Beach in the Off season for people and dogs to socialize and exercise. This is the first year that Westchester County has refused to open the beach. There is no extra cost to the tax payer and it is actually a benefit to the taxpayer, so why has Westchester County stopped this practice that has been loved by so many?
Ken McQuade October 16, 2011 at 10:55 PM
I'll bet its because to many pet owners dont pick up after their dog takes a dump and the residents complained. I agree though the beach is a good place to avoid ticks. Try not to let your animal walk through leaves that are piled high that is tick haven.
Sarah Hodgson October 16, 2011 at 11:57 PM
Thank you so much for adding these comments and wonderful suggestions! I've also heard of a wonderful dog friendly beach in CT. Jennings beach- off 95, exit 21( I believe). A few of my clients live for it this time of year. It's also my biggest peeve that people don't pick up after their pets...what is up that? Stoop to scoop. How about the people who peer around to see if anyone is looking....busted! People also need to train and work with their under-socialized/aggressive dogs before allowing them to run free with others. It results in a bullying dynamic, canine style.
Lisa Buchman (Editor) October 17, 2011 at 01:44 AM
Sarah - are there special tick-repellent collars and are they effective, based on your experience?
Jill Gertz October 17, 2011 at 04:42 AM
A beach can be loaded with ticks in the brush and bush areas. If you stay on the sand near the water you will probably be fine. If there are dunes or any area between beach and land where bushes and grasses grow you will find small animals who carry lots of ticks (birds, rabbits, mice etc). Beaches in Cape Cod, Nantucket, Long Island etc are loaded with ticks. Even Croton Point Park is loaded with ticks.
Sarah Hodgson October 17, 2011 at 10:52 AM
Based on my personal experience no. When I read that a child bit into one and died, and that there were toxic and fatal incidents of dog's biting into them I wrote them off, perhaps unfairly. Maybe other readers can share their experiences with these collars. I'm sure these are rare cases. While I tried to leave my personal bias out of the piece I'll go on record here to say that I only use non-toxic methods of pest prevention.
NAO October 17, 2011 at 12:59 PM
I thank you for your comments. The beach at Playland does not have any dunes or brush areas. The debris that has washed up on the beach is cleaned up by the people on our beach clean up days (unless if it is something too bog for a person to lift (ie tree limb)). If we get the beach open, will let you know so that you can come and share it with us.
NAO October 17, 2011 at 01:01 PM
In the past, the Ct beaches have not opened for the dogs until December 1st. and they are typically open until March 31st. The beaches in GReenwich don't have dunes that I am aware of either.
Michael Woyton (Editor) October 17, 2011 at 04:27 PM
I stopped using tick-repellent collars when I saw tick crawling across one of them on my dog!
Linda October 17, 2011 at 06:23 PM
Sarah, thank you for a wonderful article. We stopped using frontline, advantix and any other toxic tick repellent years ago. Our first Shiba Inu, Dodger, sadly, died at the age of 6 from a spinal tumor that grew exactly where you are instructed to apply the pesticide... The stuff is toxic and frankly it cannot differentiate between a tick or the dog or a person that touches the dog after this poison is applied. We have been a faithful user of the flea comb after every walk for years now with our other dogs and we have also read that 30 minutes in the dryer will kill the ticks...so our dog walking clothes get removed and put in the dryer right away as well. I wish our local vets would advocate healthy alternatives and stop selling the poisons.
Linda October 17, 2011 at 06:30 PM
Our vet thankfully has been very understanding of our stand on the toxins and twice a year we will have our dogs tested for any tick borne diseases whether they show symptoms or not. years ago, even with the use of frontline, Dodger would still test positive although never showed any symptoms of lyme or any other disease. In any event, we usually dose our dogs at least once a year with a round of doxycycline just to be on the safe side... since there is always that tick that is small enough to avoid detection until it takes a bite... Again, thanks so much.... it was a relief to read your article and find someone else who gets it that poison is poison and not safe for us and especially not for our beloved furry friends. We are deeply saddened to this day to think we probably caused Dodger's life to end so early... thinking we were protecting his health.
Ken McQuade October 17, 2011 at 07:10 PM
For you people out there who have Dobermans or Boxers Skin-dogs as I like to call them. One of the things I find useful for removing Ticks right after a walk are those sticky rollers that are made to pick-up lint and hair from clothing. They work great on ticks that are not embedded yet. Then just peel the paper off and throw away.
Sarah Hodgson October 17, 2011 at 07:18 PM
Sarah Hodgson October 17, 2011 at 07:22 PM
That is perhaps the saddest story I've read in a while. And I can only fathom the guilt. I remember well the chapter in Marly and Me where his wife had a miscarriage--which they traced to their unconscious use of flea repellants. Anything that advises you wrap the EMPTY containers in foil before throwing it in the TRASH can't be good for anyone.
Sarah Hodgson October 17, 2011 at 07:23 PM
This is brilliant! Thanks for adding your 2 cents! I love the two breeds- I grew up with Dobies (Dauntless and Fearless) and my aunt had 2 boxers that would fold themselves in half when they greeted you (Hanzel and Gretel).


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