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 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?
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.
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.
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.
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.