Dear Dr. Fox: How can I protect my dog from ticks without resorting to Bravecto and similar products? I worry about how toxic they might be to my dog. S.B., Tulsa, Oklahoma
Dear S.B.: We should also be concerned about the environmental toxicity, and about the exposure of family members, especially children, petting animals treated with some of these insecticides. Several holistic veterinary practitioners are now advocating various essential oils to repel ticks, as I have been doing for decades, in order to avoid the risks of conventional petrochemical-derived insecticides.
Both the CDC and EPA recommend oil of lemon eucalyptus as a natural insect repellent for humans. Note: “Lemon eucalyptus” is not approved for use in disease-endemic areas due to its lack of efficacy. In contrast, “oil of lemon eucalyptus” contains a much higher quantity of a substance called PMD, which provides highly effective mosquito protection and is approved for use in all disease-endemic areas.
Mix six to eight drops of this essential oil in a quarter-cup of warm water and sponge this over your dog. It will remain effective as a repellant for a couple of hours. This is one of the essential oils detailed in the Animal Wellness magazine article “Natural Tick Repellants” (volume 22, issue 4, 2020) by Kyle Holgate. He reports the benefits of oil of lemon eucalyptus, and similar benefits from oil of turmeric, which, according to studies in the U.K., was comparable to insecticides such as DEET in its ability to repel ticks. He also notes that essential oil of geranium has been shown to repel ticks, especially Lone Star tick nymphs.
In addition, I would advise keeping dogs out of vegetation that can harbor ticks, and using a flea comb after going outdoors in grassy or wooded areas. Rake the comb through the dog’s fur, and especially look between the dog’s toes and around the ears where ticks can lodge.
Insect-borne virus concerns
Iowa health officials confirmed the state’s first case of Heartland virus this year, as well as a case of mosquito-transmitted West Nile virus. The cases should serve as a reminder to prevent tick and mosquito bites, said veterinarian Ann Garvey with the Iowa Department of Public Health. Symptoms and signs of Heartland virus disease are often similar to those of other such tickborne illnesses as ehrlichiosis or anaplasmosis.
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