Tick and Flea prevention
Ticks and fleas are ectoparasites — organisms that feed off the host while living outside the body (endoparasites like tapeworms live inside their host). They live on the skin and bite to suck blood and feed themselves. This causes the host — in this case, the dog — to scratch the bite to relieve the itching, technically called Pruritus. In some dogs, the Pruritus is so intense that it leads to severe scratching and biting, which result in open wounds and secondary infections.
Ectoparasites are public enemy no. 1 for any dog owner and warrant thorough preventive measures. Before we get into how to prevent them, let’s see what these horrid creatures are and how they get onto our dogs. We’ll be covering the most common ectoparasites — Ticks, Fleas and Mites. Click on the smaller images below to read more about each creature.
Note: Unfortunately, my experience with mites is negligible so I cannot write from experience here, but do make sure your vet runs a scrape test before diagnosing and treating for a mite infestation.
Preventing ticks and fleas:
We’ll approach preventing ticks and fleas from three angles — internal, external and environmental.
Internal measures are changes you can make inside your dog’s body to repel ticks and fleas. Good immunity is the best defence you have against these freeloaders. The goal is to repel parasites while ensuring the dog’s immunity is good enough to sustain health while under attack.
A meat-based, balanced diet goes a long way in boosting your dog’s immunity and guaranteeing good health. Apart from all the essential nutrients, these are two things you can add in limited quantities to your dog’s bowl to repel ticks (please consult a nutritionist for actual quantities for your dog):
ACV with mother:
Apple Cider Vinegar is an excellent addition to your dog’s bowl. It not only makes their blood unpalatable for external parasites but also helps eliminate some internal parasites. When buying ACV, ensure that you get one that says ‘With the Mother’ or ‘With mother culture’ on the bottle. This indicates that the vinegar is unfiltered and unpasteurised, so it contains beneficial bacteria.
Make sure you always dilute the vinegar while feeding your dog — mix it with either food or water; never feed it directly. Please consult a canine nutritionist for exact quantities for your dog.
Many pet parents avoid adding garlic to their dog’s bowls because garlic is infamous for being toxic to dogs. This holds true for large quantities of garlic, but in controlled quantities, it is a safe and beneficial addition to your dog’s meals. Always add garlic to your dog’s bowl only as per instructions from a canine nutritionist. Remember, that it is beneficial for dogs only in moderation.
Before you add garlic to your dog’s bowl, chop it up and leave it outside for 15 minutes. This releases allicin, which is the active ingredient in garlic. Once your dog starts eating garlic routinely, the smell escapes through the skin and repels ticks and fleas.
When NOT to feed Garlic:
You should not feed garlic to pregnant dogs and puppies under 6 months of age, and to dogs with anaemia or severe gastrointestinal issues. Certain breeds, especially Japanese breeds like Akita and Shiba Inu are sensitive to garlic and should not be given any. Discontinue garlic if your dog is scheduled for or is recovering from surgery.
A note on tick and flea medication:
The market is flooded with miracle cures that guarantee you that your dog will not get ticks for the next ’n’ number of months. These medicines, while positioned as a convenient ‘one pill’ solution, contain pesticides and often result in the dog’s death because of poisoning. Not every dog that takes these medicines dies but do you want to take that chance? You are your dog’s advocate; she will eat whatever you feed her. So please do your due diligence before administering your dog any of these drugs.
At the end of this post, under ‘Resources,’ you will find links to 2 Facebook groups. Please be mindful that the content on these groups can venture into anti-vaxx territory pretty quickly. I want to make it clear that I am neither anti-vaxx nor anti-allopathy. This particular set of medicines has proven to be problematic and these groups are linked only for you to read testimonials from pet owners affected by these medicines, and find natural remedies and alternatives.
External measures are things you can apply to your dog that repel ticks and fleas.
ACV (with mother):
Apart from helping internally, Apple Cider Vinegar can be sprayed onto the dog before walks. You have to dilute it in at least a 1:1 ratio. Some people suggest a 4:1 ratio of water and ACV. Do not spray ACV on wounds and cuts.
Sprays made with Orange or lemon by steeping cut pieces overnight in boiled water can be used as a repellent spray.
Diluted oils of neem, citronella, lavender, peppermint can be sprayed onto the dog. Always make sure you dilute the oil before applying it on the skin — no more than a few drops per 500ml of water.
Repellent powders, sprays and shampoos:
My all-time favourite product is Scooby Dub Dub from Back in The Day. It smells like a prayer and works like a charm, but you need to use it consistently and as a supplement to a good diet, not a standalone remedy. I use it as a powder and to give my dogs a bath every once in a while, along with another product of theirs called Quicky Clean.
Another product that I have used for a while is the Erina EP powder by Himalaya. Unfortunately, my experience with their shampoo wasn’t great.
There are several other repellent sprays, powders and shampoos available. While buying one, ensure that you get one with no pesticides. These can cause more harm than good, both to you as well as your dog.
Spot on treatments:
Unfortunately, I have come across only one spot on treatment that claims to be natural — Bark Out Loud by Vivaldis (a pharma company). I usually do not give my dogs spot-on treatments. However, if I’m boarding my dogs somewhere and the boarding requires it, I prefer using Bark Out Loud to other pesticide-laden options. Spot on treatments vary in dosage based on the weight of the dog so ensure you get the right one for your dog.
Repellent collars and tags:
Repellent collars have either natural oils or pesticides that repel ticks and fleas. Repellent tags usually use ultrasonic waves to do the same. Neither of these has worked for me, but if they work for you, that’s great! Just make sure you always go for a pesticide-free option.
Environmental measures control your dog’s environment to prevent tick and flea infestations. I mentioned in the slide about ticks earlier, the female tick falls off the host after feeding to lay eggs. If inside the house, she may nest in a corner. It is, therefore, important to eliminate any ticks that you find roaming around the house. If you find a nest (it looks like a cluster of fish eggs), spray it with oil and remove it from your house instantly. Here are a few things you can use to control ticks and fleas in your house:
Diatomaceous Earth is a non-toxic powder that consists of ground-up fossils. It kills ticks and fleas by damaging their exoskeleton and dehydrating them. It can be sprinkled around your house to prevent tick and flea infestation. Leave it for 24 hours and then vacuum it. You can also sprinkle it on your dog’s body like a powder but avoid the nose, eyes and mouth.
If your dog is bringing back several ticks from her walk, try putting her in a white/light coloured t-shirt when she’s out. Ticks will be easier to spot and get rid of, and fleas will have trouble getting into her coat.
Use a lint roller on your dog’s bed, your furniture and any other areas where your dog sits or sleeps. It will pick up small ticks that might go unnoticed. You can even try rolling it over your dog’s fur.
Wash your dog’s bedding and your soft furnishings regularly in warm water.
Instead of pressing down to kill ticks, which might release eggs and infect you, drown the ticks in a jar of undiluted oil or Dettol/Betadine. Make sure you use viscous oil. I use a jar of citronella oil, and my parents use a jar of kerosene oil to kill ticks.
Regular brushing and checking:
Nothing can guarantee that ticks and fleas won’t hitch a ride on your dog. Preventive measures ensure they are either repelled before they bite or at least before they have had enough time to transmit infections. The best way to ensure your dog is not playing host to these parasites is by regularly checking and brushing your dog.
Check the following areas for ticks by feeling them and by parting the hair and checking:
- Between the toes and between the toe and paw pad
- Earflaps and behind the ear
- Along the spine
- Below the tail
- Under the front legs — what would be the ‘underarm area’ on your dog
- Around the eyes
- Around the snout and mouth
- Along your dog’s front — collar bone and chest, especially under the collar, if she wears one.
Brushing your dog with a tick and flea comb may catch some. Even if the comb misses fleas, it will bring up flea dirt — black specs that are indicative of fleas. You can then treat the dog for fleas.
Ticks and fleas are nasty, and prevention is definitely better than cure in this case. While you cannot create a protective bubble that simply keeps them off your dog, you can do a lot to ensure they don’t stay and cause trouble. There are 20,000 options for anyone looking for tick and flea prevention. Choose the ones that work best for you and your dog without harming her or you. Avoid pesticides in oral or topical options, and be consistent in checking your dog for these parasites.
I have a list of all the products I use for my dogs. You can find it here.
None of the products on the list have been sponsored; I have paid full price (and shipping, where applicable) for them.
Back In The Day | https://www.instagram.com/backintheday.in/?hl=en | Please read through their ‘Ditch the Itch’ series
Georgina’s Kitchen | https://www.instagram.com/georginaskitchen.blr/?hl=en | For more information on ACV and Garlic addition to diets
7 Natural Ways To Repel Ticks | Farmer’s Almanac | https://www.farmersalmanac.com/7-natural-tick-remedies-work-27452
Does Bravecto Kill Dogs? | Facebook Group | https://www.facebook.com/groups/411371212394679/
Bravecto Nexgard Comfortis Simparica Trifexis & others Do They Kill Dogs? | Facebook Group Dehm | https://www.facebook.com/groups/fb.comgroupsnexguardbravecto/