For most of the ruffed grouse range, ticks, particularly those nasty Lyme disease carrying deer ticks, are a real concern to both hunters and dogs alike. Over the last two decades Lyme disease has gone from a partially taboo-like issue to a well-documented and commonly treated affliction in the field of medicine. Like any other health risk which can lead to irreversible damage, prevention is a far easier road traveled than treatment and recovery. Dogs are victims that often go untreated, with their Lyme symptoms being attributed to their age in combination the wear and tear of their endeavors with kidney failure tending to be their final demise.
Tick numbers go up and down each year varying throughout the countless regions in every state with a number of factors lending a hand in the final outcome. Population factors are of little importance to the topic at hand with one exception, it only takes one tick to cause someone a problem. There are countless preventative measures out there, but here’s an effective solution that works for both dogs and people alike that is readily available from many hardware, farm and home-improvement stores sold by many different companies.
Both a chemical and medication, permethrin can be utilized as an effective repellent that will also aggressively kill ticks that choose to linger and not bail off immediately. Most stores sell it in concentrate requiring a little ratio measuring and mixing (with water). The concentrated options allow for a much broader spectrum of use than just as a clothing spray and a much more economical choice. Be sure to buy an empty spray bottle as well. The application options afforded by concentrated bottle allows for a clothing mix, direct application dog mix (both a maintenance spray and after-bath soak to act as a monthly treatment), kennel mix and about a half-dozen other applications. I generally use the maintenance mix for my dogs and myself. Any manufacturer I’ve used always has mixing ratios listed on the bottle for a number of uses.
The treatment is just part of the tailgate routine; a bell, a electronic tracking and/or training collar and then a spritz down of permethrin. I then use this same solution from the waist down on myself, the concentration being a little less potent than the normal recommended clothing mix but being applied right before the hunt and “fresh”, it’s as effective as need be. Permethrin also withstands several laundry cycles as well.
I don’t harbor any partiality to a specific brand but Gordon’s Permethrin-10, Duravet Permethrin 10, Permectrin II, and Martin’s Permethrin 10% are a few that are widely distributed. As permethrin is also very effective against fleas, I have long since moved on from topical flea and tick control that are usually only effective for 3 of the 4 weeks of a treatment dose. One 8 ounce, 10% bottle can make 12.5 gallons of tick spray. That’s a mixture of about 19ml per gallon. I’ve never used more than a 1/2 gallon over the course of a season, some seasons having as many as 6 dogs on the truck getting treated each time out. Being a synthetic, an open-bottle shelf life averages 2 years or more, and averaging a $1/ounce, is incredibly cost effective.
Sound sort of dangerous? Some may be a little timid about mixing up their own solution of toxic chemical, but the worry is largely unfounded with reasonable handling as it’s mammalian toxicity level is comparably very low. If you poured or spilled 19ml of a Permethrin-10 concentrate on your skin- only 10% of that volume is actual permethrin, of the actual 1.9ml that may contact your skin, less than 1% of that is absorbed. Important to note, according to the EPA, a 140 pound adult can be exposed to 32 grams of permethrin per day with no adverse health affects¹, nowhere near the weight in a gallon of mixed tick spray intended for clothing or dog application.
For the sake of comparison, another “quick” tick solution, the widely used (aerosol) Deet, is absorbed into the skin at over 20 times the rate of permethrin. Yet permethrin is 2,25o times more toxic to ticks than humans. Permethrin is also commonly used for direct skin application at a 5% ratio. Meaning if you added 8 ounces of water to a 8 ounce 10% permethrin solution, you’d be within limits approved by the Food and Drug Administration, however for tick preventing purposes, you’ll be adding 12.5 gallons to those 8 ounces. Deet also lasts just a few hours after application and doesn’t kill or disable ticks and doesn’t stand up well against rain or high wet grass. According to the EPA, the average toxicity level for permethrin treated clothing for toddlers is 27 times below their LOC system (Level of Concern) and generally with pesticides, toddlers are far more sensitive². Make note though, permethrin is also highly toxic to aquatic life as well as cats in a liquid state, so in short, don’t spray yourself before cleaning a fish tank, and don’t let any cats lick your freshly treated dogs.