By Dr. Kristian Sorbo BVM&S MRCVS
Five of the seven common tick types of the US can be found in the Mid-Atlantic region, and all of them transmit diseases that affect humans. The American dog tick (known by some as the “Wood Tick”) can transmit Tularemia and Rocky Mountain spotted fever; both diseases can affect dogs and humans. The Blacklegged tick transmits Lyme disease, anaplasmosis, ehrlichiosis , babesiosis, Borrelia miyamotoi, and Powassan disease. As a matter of fact, the 5 tick species represented in the Mid-Atlantic region transmit almost a dozen different diseases. The Center for Disease Control (CDC) recommends routine tick prevention in your pet*. This blog article describes the options of tick control and the importance in choosing the correct option for your pet.
Not all tick products are created equal
When considering a product to protect your dog from ticks, you are also choosing whether to protect yourself. This is because tick preventatives can be classified by how they are applied and how they work (i.e. mechanism of action). Some tick products work by repelling the ticks, while others work by inhibiting the tick’s life cycle and thereby killing the tick. Some products are applied topically (on the dog’s skin) whereas others work by giving the preventative orally. The first table compares 2 different application types, while the second table compares the 2 mechanisms of action.
Topical Tick Preventative
Easy to apply
Requires direct and uninterrupted contact with the skin (must avoid water exposure and bathing for some time to allow complete absorption)
|Oral Tick Preventative||Correct dosing assured|
Most often flavored for easy administration
Some dogs do not like oral medicines
MECHANISMS OF ACTION
Mechanism of Action
|Prevents bite wounds|
Prevents tick borne diseases
Does not reduce the population of ticks in the environment
Killing the tick
|Prevents tick borne diseases|
Reduces the tick population in the environment
May cause tick bite wounds
Tick borne disease exposure is still possible
A word on efficacy of the active ingredient
With the myriad of products to choose from, it may feel daunting to have to choose one product over another. This often leads us to look at the cost of the product as the primary determinant, rather than efficacy, when selecting which product to use. There are several over-the-counter products available, and there are several prescription-only products available, too. When choosing the product, please consider the active ingredient used by the product and the available data regarding its efficacy. As veterinarians, it is our job to curate this information and offer you the products we trust for your pet. We need to be able to legally defend the product we recommend. When we do our research, we consider all the factors that play into protecting your dog from ticks. We also favor active ingredients that kill both fleas and ticks at the same time.
Which product to choose
Bottom line: we want a product that is safe for your dog, safely kills the ticks and lowers the tick population in the environment; thus, a product that has the highest efficacy at doing what it is designed to do. We typically recommend an oral product with high palatability as this ensures complete dosing with every administration. Many products meet these criteria, and all of the products we recommend are prescription-only products. We carry only FDA-approved, clinically-tested and trusted products.
To conclude – Our recommendations
- Always protect your dog against ticks – even in the cold months
- Always request an FDA-approved product
- Question the efficacy of any product and ensure it kills and not only repels ticks
- Choose an oral product when possible to maximize chance of correct dosing
- Consider products that kills flea too
- Ask our veterinary support staff whenever you have a question about tick prevention
“If you think you are too small to make a difference, try sleeping with a mosquito” – his Holiness the Dalai Lama