It’s funny because I’ve back-country camped in Keji about 25 times and only had one tick on me until this year. Now Dartmouth and Eastern Passage are loaded with ticks and they have become a daily problem for me and my dog.
To be honest they are much bigger problem for me then for Macy as I pick up a lot of them birding as birds do best in wooded habitat and marshlands. Thankfully a lot of birds eat ticks, but I digress.
Most of the ticks we encounter are what we call dog ticks so are more of a nuisance than anything, however deer ticks are also about and I believe both myself and Macy have had the odd encounter.
Realistically, Macy is only getting a few ticks per week and I’m getting pretty good at making sure they don’t bite her and removing them quickly when they do. Vigilance is key as ticks don’t tend to spread disease until they have been attached for the better part of a day.
In the year Macy has lived with me she has never had one flea so combined with the fact she only gets a few ticks on her I am hesitant to treat her with any chemicals. As the ticks increase in numbers I may change my mind about that and can’t blame anyone who is dealing with large numbers of the little buggers for treating their pets. But for now, there are more ticks on me than Macy so unless I’m going to get a monthly treatment from the vet I think we will be losing the battle.
Ticks are hitchhikers. You brush by they grab on for a ride. So, you must make that difficult or undesirable for them. There is some talk that they may blow in the wind too, who knows but you aren’t going to avoid these suckers anymore even if you just driving with your windows down so you better get tick savvy.
The risk of Lyme disease is growing and for people a round of antibiotics will do the trick but can run undetected. That’s not something I know a lot about so do your own research, but I know in dogs it is a much more serious risk sometimes leading to death.
I have been reading extensively about ticks and all evidence points to the fact that you must discourage them from getting on you and if they do you must remove them as quickly as possible. There is not a chemical for sale that will repel them all so even if you and your pets are treated you will still have to do a tick check when you come indoors. Nova Scotia this is your new normal I’m afraid. For me to gain perspective I remind myself much of the world is having far worse problems than this and I’m certainly not staying inside so trying to toughen up and get better prepared.
There are no reports of ticks breeding indoors in Nova Scotia thankfully but I would rule nothing out. If they are in the house they have hitchhiked in so remove them and kill them to avoid that problem. I believe some got in my laundry basket when it was on the floor when I was not careful one day coming home from birding. As well sometimes the dog removes them from herself and they get onto clothes lying on the floor, etc. so this has taught me to check EVERY day. It just should become part of the routine for us outdoorsy types.
Okay, now that you are completely terrified of the outdoors get the heck over that. Nature is wonderful and somehow ticks have a purpose even if it is to feed birds. I don’t know what to say about that except all man’s messing with nature is creating new and interesting problems every day so consider the effects of all interference and support conservation groups.
Frankly, I’m a big sookiebaby when it comes to bugs. My hugest fears are leeches (not a bug but it does stick to you), Junebugs (will get caught in hair and clothes), and the little monsters we call ticks. I have been having nightmares, waking in the night screaming because the blankets are touching me, and developing OCD checking behavior a la Howard Hughes. And I’m not staying inside.
Here is a checklist of things I’ve been researching on the internet and through speaking to friends that might help you and others as we try to cope with the recent invasion.
I welcome all feedback as I am no expert or professional, just a simple outdoor enthusiast and pet owner trying to deal.
For the home:
- Hang clothes up and line drawers with Cedar.
- Do not leave clothing lying on the floor or on the bed
- Use the dryer instead of the clothes line for anything in question. Especially dark coloured materials may be difficult to inspect.
- Put clothes in the bathtub when coming in from high risk areas to see what crawls out.
- Wash pet bedding in hot water and put in the dryer frequently.
- Vacuum frequently.
- Run a dehumidifier as these critters thrive on moisture.
In the yard:
- Keep the lawn short enough to keep it dry but not so short it is unhealthy.
- Ticks multiply in woodpiles and leaf piles so clean up.
- Ants and wasps eats ticks.
- Birds eat ticks.
- Cedar chips repel ticks.
- Guineafowl eat ticks. We need some levity, right?
- Beneficial Nematodes may work but may create other problems please do your own research.
- Diatomaceous Earth may work but may be unsafe for humans and pets please do your own research.
- Borax not known to be effective.
- Pesticides dangerous and illegal.
Repellents and clothing for humans:
- Light coloured clothing with elastic cuffs. Tucks pants into light coloured socks. Rubber boots and slippery clothing.
- Deet on clothing not on skin, so socks, hats, scarfs etc. all great places to spray deet.
- Frequent inspection and removal while in the field.
- Natural sprays may be effective against ticks I have not tried any personally but lots of great ones on the market such as my friend Laura’s new Wilderness Spray. Laura and her family and their Golden Retriever do spend a lot of time outdoors so that leads me to believe this is worth a shot.
Repellent and treatments for pets (my focus on dogs):
- Check frequently remove and kill any ticks before entering home if possible.
- Again, natural repellents are thought to be a good deterrent spray thoroughly and frequently and don’t miss hiding spots such as armpits.
- Flea Collars are frequently accused of being toxic and harmful. At the very least please do not shop at discount retailers for these products and do your research heavily. Shop at boutiques and pet supply shops with knowledgeable staff and ask a lot of questions. Consider a bandana spayed with natural repellent as an alternative.
- Monthly chewables to prevent fleas and ticks for dogs are the most popular solution I’m encountering. Nobody can convince me that ingesting an insecticide is safe and they have only been on the market since 2013. There are numerous reports of dog deaths and lawsuits filed in the US. So, for me and Macy this is a resounding NO. Do your own research and make your own decision.
- Monthly spot on topicals for flea and tick prevention are still not very appealing to me personally because again I think anything that is in the bloodstream for a month that will kill and repel insects approaching your dog has to do damage to their internal organs and nervous system but they have been on the market a lot longer. There is more study information available, and in my opinion, they could be safer. Again, please do your own research.
- Lyme Vaccine is controversial. I’ve contacted the Nova Scotia Veterinary Medical Association for a position statement and will share the results. If a vaccine is considered safe, it would be a no brainer for me. Vaccinate to reduce risk of Lyme disease, use natural repellents and do frequent inspections and removals.
- Tick comb. Resounding YES.
- Good luck and please send ideas and feedback. I understand many of you are encountering much higher number of ticks then Macy and I are currently facing and you may have weighed out the options and chosen chemical treatment for your dog. No pet wants to be covered in parasites. I get it, just be informed and do your best.
Happy birding and dog walking and be safe out there!
Angela & Macy (my bird dog in training)