Funny about Money

The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing. ―Edmund Burke

Springtime Dog Tick Attack

Last night my son had me over for dinner at his house. This is always a treat, because he cooks like a dream. He happened to be dog-sitting for a friend: the guest was the cutest little critter named Lady. Looks exactly like my friend Susan’s dog, videlicet…

Have you ever seen anything more adorable in your life? {ahem} This side of a corgi, of course.

So as we’re petting and loving up this critter — she jumps up onto our laps while we’re consuming the rest of the wine for dessert  — what do we discover but a tick on her little noggin.

And then another tick…and then another! All told, this beast has five ticks attached to her head and ears!

Of course, I’ve got my dogs there. He’s naturally got his dog there. The poochlet has been around for several days, presumably dropping ticks on the floors and all over the yard. Dayum!

We inspect our dogs and can’t find any other ticks, but that’s not saying much. Cassie the Corgi and Charley the Golden Retriever have coats like carpets: you can’t really feel their skin through those rugs. Ruby, I don’t think, is infested…yet. But as for the other two: who knows?

I point out to him that some dogs seem to have a natural resistance to ticks. The German shepherds I’ve had, in particular, seem to bounce them right off, and over Cassie’s entire residence at the Funny Farm, I’ve only ever found one tick on her…right after an agility training class that was held on a grassy field in a semi-rural area.

We throw the little dog’s bedding and the cover for Charley’s bed into the washer; he pledges to vacuum thoroughly the next day, and we hope for the best.

Some dogs, on the other hand, are decidedly not immune to ticks. One of my first dogs, a young Doberman pinscher, was a tick magnet.

You never saw so many ticks in your life as that dog had. He apparently came to us with the ticks, and apparently they were resistant to insecticide — presumably because the breeder had been overtreating for so long. That dog was covered with ticks constantly.

We lived at my parents’ house in Sun City, which had gravel landscaping, like every other house around it. So there was no grass to harbor the things. Chances are, they had gotten into the wall-to-wall carpeting, where they were living. They would climb up the walls and my mother would get hysterical.

We would then call an exterminator and make an appointment to have the dog tick-dipped while the exterminator was at the house.

The dog was allergic to tick dip, among the many things it was allergic to. (It was also allergic to bermudagrass.) So every time we would take the dog to be dipped, it would come back with hives all over its body. These would take several miserable days to subside. Within a week or two, the ticks would come right back.

We treated the house time after time, to no avail.

Some people believe, like the proprietor of this interesting website, that dogs are more susceptible to fleas and ticks when their health is not up to par, if they have allergies, or if they have a skin condition. That would explain why four German shepherds, two golden retrievers, a Labrador retriever, and two corgis would rarely get ticks — all those dogs were in top condition into their old age.

A dobe, on the other hand, is best described as “a walking vet bill.”

Even though mostly I tend to think of the holistic stuff as bullshit, in fact this writer has several good points:

1) Vacuuming up hard floors regularly — every day — helps to keep ticks at bay. It’s carpet that they get into: carpet is pretty much the same as grass, to the buggish mind.

2) Boric acid works very well against any crawling insect and, used sparingly, will not harm your dog. You can find it marketed as an insecticide in a handy poof-bottle at any drugstore that’s frequented by Latinos, and probably at Walmart; otherwise ask the pharmacist.

3) DE (get the food grade, which you can order from Amazon) is less harmless but not VERY harmful if used only along baseboards and around entrances. However, I believe it to be more effective against ants and termites, because insects need to range around a bit to walk through it, and to control infestations they have to take it back to a hive, meaning both DE and boric acid are most effective against social insect species.

4) Some essential oils in fact are effective insecticides. Which ones, I do not know. IMHO they stink to high heaven, but some people like the odor. A few latter-day exterminating companies peddle them as “organic” and “natural” spraying products.

Resistance to ivermectin has been observed recently in brown dog ticks. Ivermectin is  (to my knowledge) the most commonly used and least toxic of the insecticides used on dogs (it’s in heartworm pills). Resistance mostly has been seen in tropical areas — Mexico, Panama, Florida — but of course with airplanes and global warming, the little guys aren’t likely to be confined to those areas long.

Avoid the use of collars and spot treatments that are supposed to kill ticks. These can be highly toxic to dogs.

Here’s a good guide from the University of Florida. If you spot even one tick on your dog (to say nothing of five of them!) vacuum the house thoroughly. If your vacuum uses disposable bags, vacuum up a small amount of DE or boric acid first, since these chemicals kill insects by causing mechanical damage to their carapaces and are by and large harmless to human and dogs (don’t breathe the DE, of course) (and don’t overdo it: a little goes a long way).

Vacuum everyplace where the little guys are likely to hide — in their nymph form they’re tiny and can easily get into crevices and corners. Vacuum carefully along the walls and underneath all the furniture. Carry the bag out to the garbage directly after vacuuming. If you have carpets, resign yourself to doing this every day for some weeks.

Sprinkle a fine, thin layer of DE or boric acid all along all the baseboards. If there’s a little gap between the baseboard and a hard floor, take a broom or hand-held brush and sweep the powder into that gap. Ticks like to move up a wall toward the corners of the ceiling — remember that they spend 3/4 of their lifetime off the dog, and during that time they’re living on your floors, in your furniture, or inside your walls. Forcing them to cross a DE or boric-acid barrier to reach the wall will do them in. Not instantly…but just give it awhile.

Once you’ve accomplished these fun tasks, just keep checking the dogs regularly. If you don’t find any more ticks for a week or so, you should be fine. If you do, then call a bug guy and have him spray inside and outside; on the same day, have the dog tick-dipped. Keep the dog away from the house until after the exterminator has done the job.

Outside, hang up feeders to attract seed-eating birds, as most of these, especially Abert’s towhees and thrashers, eat insects…including ticks. Really, most birds will eat insects, even sparrows and house finches, but some are adapted to eat mostly insects. In our parts, these include towhees, thrashers, mockingbirds, and woodpeckers. If you can call them into the yard, you’ll have a lot fewer undesirable insects around.

Ridiculously cute little dog: Shamelessly ripped off from my friend’s Facebook page
Dog tick image: By Sam Droege – Flickr: Dermacentor variabilis, U, Back, MD, Beltsville_2013-07-08-19.15.11 ZS PMax, CC BY 2.0,

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Author: funny

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  1. It’s amazing that with as much camping as our family does, that we *knock on wood* haven’t had a single one of us get a tick yet. Now my son gets at least one splinter on every trip it seems, and I’m by default the removal service, so I guess there’s that 🙂

    • A kid who’s a splinter magnet? Uh oh! 😀

      I do think it’s true that some dogs are resistant or maybe somehow just not very appetizing to ticks. Surely, in our parts you’ll find dogs that seem to grow crops of ticks and dogs that have had maybe one tick in their entire lifetime.

  2. Fleas and ticks can be dropped in your yard by other critters that carry them, like rabbits. I give my dog Nexgard, a chewable that prevents ticks and fleas for a month. One park that we frequent has terrible tick problems in the spring, so I consider the preventative a must. Even in our sedate, on-leash meanderings, she’s picked up ticks. I spot them right away because they are trying desperately how to either get off the dog ASAP or perhaps trying to find any “palatable” surface on her body, so that stuff works!

    I’m sure all these other precautions have their merits, but I don’t have time to fit in the extra housecleaning. I’m too busy working to support two: me and my future self. (Or is that three: me, my future self, and my dog…)

    • True! Anyplace where you get into grass, your dog (or, depending on the variety of tick) you can pick up a little hitch-hiker.

      In some parts of the country, there are a LOT more ticks than there are in my parts. Maybe it’s too hot for them? Or maybe there’s just not enough grass in the areas my dogs frequent. That said, though, once you get an infestation, it can be a headache to get rid of ’em!