Lyme disease is a significant concern for people across the country. According to an analysis of insurance records by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, each year approximately 476,000 Americans are diagnosed and treated for Lyme disease. But Lyme disease is not the only tick-borne problem. Data from the CDC says instances of Rocky Mountain spotted fever and anaplasmosis grew by 244 and 396 percent, respectively, between 2009 and 2017.
Blacklegged ticks are typically the culprits in disease transmission. When this tick latches on to a host, bacteria that causes Lyme and other diseases can be transmitted if the tick remains attached for 36 to 48 hours or more. Ticks will attach themselves to any moving living target, including people. But individuals who own dogs may be at increased risk because dogs often bring ticks indoors. Dogs as well as humans can be susceptible to the same tick-borne illnesses.
Pet parents are urged to use some sort of flea and tick preventative medication for their companion animals. But it’s important that pet owners recognize that many such products will defend against ticks only after they’ve latched onto a host. According to the Hills company, a pet food manufacturer, oral and topical tick medications work by killing ticks through doses of certain compounds that are not potent enough to harm most pets, but are effective at terminating ticks. Many flea and tick products do not repel parasites. Therefore, pet owners may want to take added measures to keep ticks off of their pets. While it is best to discuss all-natural tick repellents for dogs with a vet, these methods are generally considered safe.
Turmeric oil: A 2018 study published in Ticks and Tick Borne Diseases indicated turmeric oil was effective in keeping ticks from hanging onto a dog’s coat. The percentage of dogs with ticks attached to the legs or belly who were sprayed with turmeric oil suspension was significantly lower than that of unsprayed dogs and dogs sprayed with an orange oil suspension.
Geranium oil: Gardeners have long relied on geraniums as natural repellents against many pests. The plant has a woodsy, musky fragrance. A 2013 study published in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry found the oil has repellent activity against nymphs of the Lone Star tick.
Pyrethrins/Pyrethroids: These are a group of botanical insecticides that work by altering the nerve function in insects, resulting in death of the parasite. Compounds are extracted from chrysanthemum flowers. Low toxicity means they can be applied directly to a pet’s coat, according to the pet health resource PetMD.
The pet guide Top Dog Tips suggests other natural oils like lavender, peppermint, citrus, rose, basil, cinnamon, and lemongrass can be effective tick repellents for dogs. Dilute these oils in water or a carrier-oil like olive oil before spraying on a pet. While many of these repellents are effective, nothing is 100 percent foolproof, so individuals should always check pets (and themselves) after being in tick territory.