Of Ticks, Prevention, Burrs and Foxtails

We live in California and we like to take QQ hiking outdoors every weekend. Both add up to one certainty – ticks!

When we first got QQ, I did a ton of research on what kind of prevention we should give him against heartworm, fleas, ticks and other nasties. I’m too paranoid to go without prevention, but on the other hand, I’m also paranoid about the toxicity levels of these oral preventives. After much debate, I decided to give him Trifexis. It’s an oral preventive that protects against both heartworm and fleas in one monthly pill. So he only needs to take one instead of two. However, the issue with Trifexis is that it doesn’t protect against ticks.

I did some research again, and decided to give Sentry Natural Defense Flea and Tick Squeeze-on a try. It uses all natural ingredients and is supposed to kill and repel fleas, ticks and mosquitoes. The box came with 4 tubes and instructions on how to separate QQ’s fur behind her head and apply. The contains of the tube resemble a yellowish oil and yes, it did turn QQ’s white fur yellowish. Each tube is supposed to last 1 month.

I’m not sure how effective this topical preventive is. This month is the third month we’ve used it on QQ. The 2nd time we used it, we went hiking to a place that is known to be heavily infested with ticks. It was a short hike and we stayed maybe 15 minutes before deciding to return. I found 1 tick on QQ in the car after leaving – for a place that is heavily infested with ticks – is that good or bad? We just applied the defense that very morning, so the scent was extremely strong. 2 weeks after, we went for a coastal hike and came back to find a single tick on QQ. So even with using this defense, we still do find the occasional tick, but then again, we don’t find ALOT of ticks, so perhaps the defense is working?

Anyway, effectiveness aside, I have to say, the scent of this tick defense is extremely strong. It doesn’t smell bad per se, but QQ definitely don’t like it. It smells like strong aromatherapy oil, and I can pick up on cloves, cinnamon and other spices. When QQ doesn’t like a scent, he does as dogs do and roll around on the ground to get rid of it. When we applied the defense, we try to do it in the morning before we take him out, in hope that the fresh air and wind will help dissipate the scent quickly. It worked the first two times and he didn’t try to roll around too much. However, this third time, it seems like the scent affected him more strongly than the previous times.

We decided to go to Berkeley for a day trip this weekend, and I planned a morning hike at Tilden Regional Park. Being a wooded area, ticks is an expected element. It’s been 1.5 months since we last applied the tick defense, so the morning before we set off, we called QQ over to apply the topical oil, and quickly left the house before QQ had time to roll around.

I noticed that QQ was acting strangely in the car. Usually, QQ has two favorite spots in the car. The first one is right at my feet on the passenger side, all tucked up beneath the air conditioner fan. He loves the cool air blowing out from the fan. The second one is sticking his head out the window, so he can smell everything and feel the wind against his face. It’s about a 2 hour drive from our place to Berkeley, and in those two hours, QQ stayed on my lap and tucked his head on my shoulder. He didn’ t move an inch even when I wound the window down. It’s so unlike him! If I had to describe it, I would say he was depressed, or even pouting.

The minute we got out of the car, he tried his best to roll around the grass whenever he could. That was when I realized it’s a bad mistake. Tilden Regional Park is filled with foxtails and burrs and when QQ roll around the grass, they get caught on his fur, not to mention the oil from the preventive seems to catch dirt and he quickly turned grayish in color. Although Tilden Regional Park allowed dogs off leash in the undeveloped areas, we kept him on leash for most part and only let him off leash when we came to a relatively bush-free area near the lake where there wasn’t any foxtails in sight. Even so, we spent about 30 minutes in the car picking out all the foxtails and burrs from his fur. It definitely wasn’t a very pleasant hike.

In the afternoon, we went to Cesar Chavez Park at Berkeley Marina. It’s a lovely park with an off leash area. It was very windy and I was hoping all the wind and running he did will help dissipate the scent of the tick preventive. Unfortunately, there was still a lot of foxtails. QQ didn’t roll around as much as he did in the morning hike, but we still spent some time picking out foxtails.

QQ @ Berkeley Marina

QQ @ Berkeley Marina

I’m pretty terrified of the foxtails, having read about how they can even be a cause of death. I brushed him thoroughly when we got home. I have to say, this time round, there wasn’t any ticks on him. Only a lot of burrs and foxtails.

And the next day we gave him a bath (according to the instructions on the tick preventive, baths are okay only after 24 hours of application). He is finally our sweet smelling, pure white, foxtail and tick-free QQ. However, this experience was so bad that I’m seriously thinking if there are other alternatives to tick prevention. Or at the very least, I will try to avoid going places where there might be foxtails or burrs when we just applied the topical preventive. Do anyone else have any suggestions to tick prevention?

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10 thoughts on “Of Ticks, Prevention, Burrs and Foxtails

  1. So glad we don’t have foxtails here on the East Coast! But we have horrible tick problems! It’s like being between a rock and a hard place with preventatives. I despise putting a toxic pesticide on my dog’s skin, but I also despise ticks.. I don’t use Trifexis for heartworm, I think mine is Sentinel.

    • Yes, it’s exactly like being a rock and a hard place! You don’t want to put toxic pesticides on your pet, but you also don’t want the nasty ticks and fleas. Thanks for the suggestion, I’ll check out Sentinel!

  2. I wish I could help, but we’re fighting this battle with ticks ourselves, and so far we’re losing. We used to use Frontline, but still found ticks, and I just hate putting chemicals/pesticides on them as well. We used a really smelly one once and I couldn’t stand it (I forget the name)! So we’ve been trying all natural treatments but so far they’re not working the greatest. One thing I’ve wanted to try is a tag that hooks to their collars and supposedly repels insects including ticks. We couldn’t try it this year because we have a puppy who likes to chew on his and his sister’s tags. We might try it next year though.

    • Yes, I’m super paranoid because of how dangerous they can be. And because I’m so bad at plants, I frequently do not know if some of the dried weeds I’m looking at are foxtails or not! Thank you for the compliment on my header!

  3. We’re also in the Bay Area (Sunnyvale, formerly SF), and have that fear and hatred of ticks and foxtails. They really freak me out, especially if they sniff one because that’s really dangerous going up the nose, but luckily haven’t caused a problem yet. Sometimes think about getting one of the foxtail guards, but it looks so uncomfortable. Maybe for a long hike if there were a lot of them around.

    • Hi! Sorry I missed your reply, I should have gotten a notification but somehow didn’t. Glad to find a fellow Bay area dog-lover!

      Yes, I checked out the foxtail guard, but it looks really bad! I don’t even know if QQ will agree to wearing it for the 1-2 hours we usually spend hiking. He struggles even when we make him wear doggie outfits, imagine if it’s something he has to wear on his head. Have you tried them out yet?

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