No dog is completely safe from the tiny eight-legged creatures – halfway between spiders and mites – that we call ticks.
These parasites, which are mainly found in bushy areas, will attach themselves to your ball of fluff and feed off his blood.
Not only this, but some carry diseases which can be very harmful to your dog's health if caught too late.
It's best to be vigilant in avoiding ticks, and by taking the right steps to get rid of them if this should happen.
Here is some essential advice to keep these insects away as summer gets closer.
1. Avoiding contamination
You can minimise the risk of contamination in the first place by following some key guidelines.
Be careful about where your dog goes
The easiest way of stopping your dog from getting ticks is by keeping him away from "risk areas", such as wooded areas and fields, where the grass is high and brushy.
Check him regularly
It's obviously impossible to keep your pet at home all the time, but we recommend that you check his fur after he's been outside.
Look carefully between his toes, in his ears, between his legs, around his "armpits", his neck, and look for possible lumps on his skin. Using a tail comb is highly recommended.
If you come across a tick, you should get rid of it quickly but carefully: make sure that every part of the tick's body has been removed so that there is no trace left on your dog's skin. Be careful not to squash it, as this will spread the bacteria inside the bug.
Check your house
Your dog may bring ticks home with him, which will remain hiding in your house and contaminate him afterwards. Make sure to regularly inspect and disinfect your chairs, sofas and other furniture.
If your pup is still suffering with parasites despite your precautions, here are the options for getting rid of the problem.
2. Getting rid of ticks
Your first option is to use a localised treatment, usually in the form of a cream, that you can buy at your vet, in pet stores or on the internet. This kind of treatment is usually enough to get rid of ticks and stop them from coming back for the next few weeks.
Alternatively, you can give your dog oral treatment by making him swallow a pill, taken at most once a month. This option has the advantage that unlike localised treatments, there is no danger to your kids or cats in the hours following application.
These drops take the form of a concentrated solution which usually has to be diluted in water and administered to your dog's coat with a sponge. There's no need to rinse it off, but pay attention to the prescribed dosage: the solution is often very strong. You should not use this method for pups of less than 4 months, or on pregnant or nursing dogs.
Some specialised shampoos work to kill the ticks in your dog's coat. This method takes a little more time since it involves repeated application, but is probably the most affordable option.
Natural remedies with cider vinegar
It has been proven that (apple) cider vinegar is a natural alternative to anti-flea and anti-tick treatments. The parasites are put off by its acidic taste, so spraying your dog's coat with this remedy should keep them at bay.
These special collars should only really be used for additional protection. Their effect is mainly localised, only preventing ticks around the neck and the head.
But be careful when putting the collar on your animal. Make sure you don't fasten it too tightly (you should be able to fit two fingers underneath it) and cut off any excess so that your dog can't chew on it. Look out for any sign of discomfort, such as excessive scratching, in case of allergic reaction.
This powder is an alternative to shampoo, recommended for dogs who don't like water. Apply in small doses and avoid the face because if inhaled, it can irritate the mouth, eyes and respiratory passages.
The power should be used roughly once a week. You can also use it on the places your dog sleeps or spends a lot of time.
Sprays are some of the most common treatments for preventing ticks. They kill parasites quickly and provide protection in the hours following application. Sprays can be used between shampooing or drops, and as a preventative measure during visits to risk areas. Again, make sure to avoid the face.