This year’s unseasonably warm weather may have an effect on you and your dog. Due to the warm weather trends last winter, many experts are predicting a lot more tick traffic this spring, summer and fall.
It isn’t necessarily the warm weather that will be responsible for the rise in tick bites, rather the number of acorns. The number of acorns that drop from oak trees varies from year to year. In 2010, acorns were bountiful, creating a spike in ticks’ preferred host, the white-footed mouse. “We had a boom in acorns, followed by a boom in mice. And now, on the heels of one of the smallest acorn crops we’ve ever seen, the mouse population is crashing,” explains Richard S. Ostfeld, PhD, a disease ecologist at the Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies in Millbrook, New York.
“This spring, there will be a lot of Borrelia burgdorferi–infected black-legged ticks in our forests looking for a blood meal,” he adds.
With mice in decline, they’re looking for something—or someone—else to latch onto; including our dogs.
Black-legged ticks feed three times in a lifetime, as larvae, nymphs, and adults. This year, a large chunk of the tick population will consist of nymphs looking for a meal. The last time a surplus year (2006) was followed by a dismal acorn crop (2007), nymphal tick numbers hit an all-time high. Expect 2012 to be another record-setting year.
Ticks carry not only Lyme, but babeosis, anaplasmosis and other potentially harmful pathogens.
Be prepared for a very active tick season this year with the following alternatives to dangerous flea and tick chemicals:
Dietary Tick Preventatives
- Garlic – Garlic given as a dietary supplement makes the dog less appealing to ticks too. The smell is excreted through the skin and repels both ticks and fleas. However, garlic contain sulfoxides and disulfides, which can damage red blood cells and cause anemia in dogs. A couple of cloves per day is completely safe but don’t overdo it.
- Apple Cider Vinegar – Apple cider vinegar adds acidity to your dog’s blood, making it less appealing to ticks and fleas. Add 2 tablespoons of the apple cider vinegar to the dog’s food or water bowl as a preventative.
Topical/External Tick Preventatives
- Herbal flea and tick powder – There are several herbal flea and tick powders and sprays on the market utilizing various herbal combinations to prevent ticks. You can easily make your own powder at home with just three ingredients. Find the recipe here.
- Herbal flea/tick collars – There are several herbal flea and tick collars on the market, but you can also make your own at home. Mix 2 tablespoons almond oil with Rose Geranium Oil or Palo Santo. Dab a few drops on your dog’s neck area before heading out. Alternately, you could place the essential oil directly on his collar. Reapply the essential oil to the collar weekly.
- Tick Shampoo – Mix several drops of Palo Santo with your favorite organic lavender shampoo. Let the suds sit on your dog for twenty minutes before rinsing. This will kill any existing ticks or prevent new ones.
- Citrus repellent – Cut a lemon into quarters and put into a pint jar. Cover with boiling water and let steep overnight. Put the solution in a spray bottle and spray all over the dog, especially behind the ears, around the head, at the base of the tail and in the arm pits.
Environmental Tick Preventatives
- Nematodes – Beneficial nematodes are a microscopic, worm-like organism that live in soil. They feed on tick larvae so break their life cycle and kill off the parasite.
- Diatomaceous earth – Diatomaceous earth is a non-toxic powder consisting of ground fossils, marine life and fresh water organisms. While non-toxic to humans and animals, this powder is lethal to ticks and fleas.
Use Several All Natural Tick Prevention Products Together
When looking at the all natural tick prevention products, keep in mind that these products will be most effective if used in combination with each other. A dietary solution, combined with a topical and an environmental product, provides broad-spectrum protection while avoiding the complications that introducing chemicals into the dog’s system and surroundings can bring.
Preventing ticks doesn’t need to be a chemical based treatment. There a many all natural methods of prevention so your dog can live a healthy, chemical free life.