Hiking With Your Dog: How to Protect Against Ticks

There’s something tranquil about hiking through the wilderness with your trusty canine companion. The open skies, trees blowing in the wind, the fresh air— it’s an experience both you and your dog can enjoy together. But as serene as the great outdoors can be, they are not without their risks, one of the most common being ticks.

They are most prevalent in wooded and grassy areas—the type of environment you might encounter on a hike. Certain species of ticks can transmit diseases, such as Lyme disease, so it’s vital to take necessary precautions. Here’s how to keep ticks off your dogs while hiking:


How to Keep Ticks Off Dogs Before the Hike

1. Vaccinate and Use Tick Prevention Products

Ensure that your dog is up-to-date with all recommended vaccinations, including those for tick-borne diseases like Lyme disease.

Additionally, talk to your vet about appropriate tick-prevention products for your pet. These products range from oral medications, spot-on treatments, tick collars, and sprays. Each product varies in how it works and how often it should be used, so it’s crucial to discuss these products with your vet.

Products to consider for tick prevention: 

2. Choose the Right Environment

Try to plan your hikes in areas that are less likely to be heavily infested with ticks.

Avoid areas with high grass or dense undergrowth, as ticks often lie in wait in these types of environments. Stick to well-traveled paths and avoid the fringes where vegetation is thick. Believe it or not, hiking under trees is not a risk – as ticks do not live in trees.

3. Dress Your Dog

Consider getting a dog vest made of a light-colored, tightly woven fabric for your dog to wear on the hike. Light-colored fabrics make it easier to spot ticks. Some vests are even treated with permethrin, an insecticide that kills ticks on contact.


How to Keep Ticks Off Dogs While Hiking

Keeping ticks off your dogs while hiking is more than just a one step process. You should ensure they’re up to date on their flea treatment, apply strong scented (and pet safe) aromas like citronella, stay within the hiking path to reduce exposure to tick-infested areas, and regularly check your dogs for ticks. 

1. Apply Strong Scented Aromas

Just like with mosquitoes, ticks use their sense of smell to target potential hosts. By using aromas like lemongrass, citronella, lavender, and even household spices like basil & thyme which will throw ticks off the scent. It’s important that whatever aroma you use is pet-safe and be sure to avoid application around their mouth, nose, & eyes. 

2. Stay on Path

While hiking, stay on the path as much as possible. This can limit your dog’s exposure to tick-infested areas. Ticks cannot fly or jump; instead, they wait on grass or leaves for a host to pass by. By sticking to the path, you can reduce the chance of your dog brushing against these potential tick-laden spots.

3. Regularly Check for Ticks

Periodically check your dog for ticks during your hike, especially if you’ve been through denser vegetation. Be sure to check the areas where ticks like to hide, such as the ears, between the toes, under the armpits, and around the tail and head.

After the Hike

1. Thorough Inspection

After returning from your hike, give your dog a thorough inspection for ticks. Comb through their fur and feel for any small bumps, especially in the hidden areas mentioned above. A tick will feel like a small bump on your pet’s skin.

2. Prompt Removal

If you find a tick, use a pair of tweezers or a special tick removal tool to grab the tick as close to your dog’s skin as possible. Gently pull straight upward, taking care not to squeeze or crush the tick, as this can cause it to release bacteria into your dog’s bloodstream. After removing the tick, clean the area with soap and water or an antiseptic.

3. Monitor for Symptoms

Even with preventive measures, there’s a small chance your dog could contract a tick-borne illness. After your hike, watch your dog for symptoms such as fever, loss of appetite, joint pain or swelling, lethargy, or unusual behavior. If you notice any of these symptoms, take your dog to the vet as soon as possible.

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Did you Know?

Depending on the type of tick, ticks can live without a host for 6 months to over 1 year!

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Keep Your Home & Yard Tick-Free

Finally, consider treating your outdoor area for ticks, especially if you live in a tick-prone region. Keep grass trimmed, clear out leaf litter, and consider using pet-safe yard treatments to keep ticks at bay. You can also use natural predators like ladybugs to kill ticks.

Hiking with your dog can be a wonderful way to enjoy nature and get some exercise. By taking some simple precautions, you can protect your dog from ticks and the diseases they can carry, ensuring many more happing hiking experiences.

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