Options for Protecting Your Pets from Ticks

The tick season is here and if you haven’t done so far, it’s about the time to start protecting your pet. What options do we have, what are the differences between the individual possibilities and what do I see as their advantages and disadvantages?

There are more and more ticks every year and as the winters are getting shorter, the tick seasons are getting longer. It’s been some while since we could only protect from them during the summer holidays. In addition, ornate cow ticks started to spread more and more. It is a rare species of tick that causes malaria-like disease in dogs. How can we protect our companions from these parasites? There is a whole range of options these days.

I cannot give any general advice which ectoparasiticide (i.e. an antiparasitic drug used in the treatment of external parasites) is the best. I have learned that the efficiency of the individual types and brands is also influenced by the circumstances, such as the region you live in. However, I can help you decide which type of protection to choose according to your preferences. There were several important aspects that played a role for me besides the efficiency.

Collars are classic. I see their greatest advantage in their long efficiency. Some state it is even up to 8 months. You put it on your dog in the beginning of a tick season and you have nothing to worry about. It’s even okay with most of them if the dog likes to swim. However, frequent shampooing could reduce the efficiency. Most collars not only destroy ticks as soon as they suck in but they also repel them. Another advantage is their price. If we want the collar to work, we should not look for bargains, one bigger investment pays off. However, if we calculate it for the number of months of its efficiency, even the more expensive ones with up to 90% efficiency, are one of the cheapest options of ectoparasiticide. 

Another common protection against external parasites is an ectoparasiticide in a pipette, the so-called spot-on. The advantage is that it is quick and easy to apply, but it can’t protect the dog as long as the collars. The application usually needs to be repeated on a monthly basis. However, the advantage is that the active substance is not distributed through the dog's bloodstream. It is concentrated in the sebaceous glands from where it is gradually released to the whole body, so bathing is also permitted. Moreover, some pipettes have a repellent effect against mosquitoes and other insect vectors. 

In recent years, chewable tablets in the form of tasty treats have become very popular. The active substance in them is said not to metabolize nor accumulate in the dog's body and it is lethal for ticks and fleas for 12 weeks. The manufacturer states it is safe or puppies from 8 months of age and pregnant and nursing bitches as well. However, the chemicals get into the blood through the digestive tract, so it means the dog is directly exposed to these substances. If a dog has a negative reaction to the active substance after the administration, you can’t stop its action as you can with the collars and pipettes mentioned earlier. As these tablets have a very short history, there are no relevant data from side effect reporting or testing the influence on dogs when used for a long time. Their disadvantage is also their price and the fact that even though it kills ticks, it is only after 12 hours after they sucked.

Besides these options, there are powders and sprays. These work similarly to human repellents, so they must be repeatedly applied before each walk. With some, only once a day or once a week is enough. We can also choose alternative ways of protecting against ticks naturally. I wrote an article about it last summer. Last year, I also used a home-made natural repellent as an additional ectoparasiticide before every longer walk. I chose a mixture of rosemary, lavender and cloves with wine vinegar. The two-legged members of our household used only this repellent and we didn’t have any ticks the whole summer. However, the application needs to be repeated very often. Needless to say, our results may have only been a lucky coincidence, even though we spent most of our time outside.

Although they have been on our market for a few years, I first came across ultrasonic tick and flea repellers in the form of collar pendants this year. By making ultrasonic pulses that humans and animals can’t hear, they interfere with the sense of orientation of the parasites and therefore they keep them away from our pets. It therefore serves as prevention, it doesn’t kill ticks. They should be completely safe for users, there is no known contraindication or adverse reaction. It should work for 6 to 12 months from the activation and its price is similar to more expensive antiparasitic collars. However, after reading various discussions about these products, I am really not able to say whether they really work or how effective they are. The experience of individual users varies widely. However, one of the technologies used has been tested and its effects were proven by clinical studies of experts from the veterinary University of Camerino in Italy.

How do you protect your companions from ticks? Do you have a verified option that works or do you look for something new every summer? For example, I noticed that after a couple of years with the same kind of collar that worked perfectly the efficiency decreased. And the same thing happened to my friends as well. It seems that ticks adjust or maybe something else causes this, it’s difficult to say.

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