Nearly every pet parent, at some point in their dog’s life, will encounter one… the dreaded tick. Known to carry a variety of diseases, from Lyme disease to ehrlichiosis, anaplasmosis, and more, these parasites can live anywhere – the dog park, your favorite hiking trail, and yes, even in your own backyard.
Luckily, there are several ways to make your yard less attractive to ticks (and the diseases they carry) with a few simple landscaping rules!
First, some facts about ticks:
1. Most people mistakenly believe ticks are insects. In fact, they are arachnids, making them more closely related to spiders and mites than to other insects.
2. Ticks have four life stages, egg, larva, nymph, and adult. After an egg hatches, ticks can bite a host during each of the following 3 life stages. In other words, it’s not just the larger adult ticks you’ll need to watch out for!
3. While ticks are typically more active in the summer and warmer months, there is no “tick season,” they can bite any time of the year, even in winter.
4. There are roughly 850 species of ticks, many of which can transmit diseases including Lyme disease, Ehrlichia, and Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever. An infestation, even by a non-disease carrying tick, can lead to life-threatening anemia or infection.
5. Contrary to popular belief, ticks do not, and cannot, jump or fly, nor do they drop from trees onto a host. Instead, they crawl from the ground up. Ticks typically climb up a blade of grass and wait to grasp onto a potential host passing by. Ticks are, however, hard-wired to feed around a host’s head or ears, so once they grasp on, they tend to crawl upward.
6. Ticks, tick bites, and tick-borne diseases are completely preventable! And, one very important step to preventing ticks on your dog is to make your yard less attractive to the blood-sucking arachnids.
Preventing ticks in your yard:
These tips, along with an appropriate tick preventative, either pet-safe pesticides, tick collars, topical sprays or “spot-on” treatments directly on your dog, will help to keep your furriest family members tick-free:
• Mow regularly, keeping your lawn free of tall grasses, particularly around the home and bordering the lawn.
• Don’t allow fallen leaves to accumulate. Rake often.
• Whenever possible, keep playground equipment, patios, and lawn furniture in a predominantly sunny location.
• Keep your yard free of debris, trash, wood piles, old furniture, and other items that either give ticks a place to hide or attract the rodents that ticks feed on.
• If your yard borders or backs up to a wooded or overgrown area, create a border of rock or gravel, about 3-feet wide, to reduce the likelihood that ticks will crawl into your yard.
• Consider planting tick-repelling plants around your property to keep the bugs at bay. Lavender and Peppermint are known tick-deterrents and are non-toxic to dogs.
What if I find a tick?
Sometimes, despite our best efforts, a tick will find it’s way into your yard or onto your dog. Generally, if a tick is found and removed within 24-hours, the chance of it transmitting a disease or virus to the host is greatly minimized.
Make a routine of checking your dog for ticks regularly, all year long, paying close attention to feet, armpits, and around the head, face, and ears. If you find a tick, safely remove it as soon as possible. For detailed instructions, check out this guide to Safely Removing a Tick From Your Dog’s Skin.
Remember, prevention is the most important step in avoided ticks and tick-borne diseases.