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How to Remove and Prevent Ticks in Dogs

By: Dr. Dawn Ruben

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Tick Control and Prevention

Control and prevention of ticks is extremely important in reducing the risk of disease associated with ticks. This includes removing the ticks as soon as possible and trying to prevent attachment.

Tick avoidance requires avoiding environments that harbor them. Extra care should be taken in the woods and areas with tall grass or low brushes. When traveling, be aware that certain areas of the country have a much higher incidence of ticks (i.e. the northeast). In addition, since they can be carried unknowingly from one place to another on clothing or the body, it is always possible for an individual or animal to come into contact with a tick.

Ticks may be killed by spraying, dipping, bathing, or powdering, or applying topical medications to affected individuals with appropriate tick-killing products. Tick collars or products applied topically may act to prevent attachment of new ticks and to promote detachment of ticks already attached.

There are many products on the market that control ticks. Some are over the counter; others are prescription, only available through your veterinarian. Whether one purchases an over the counter or prescription product, it is a good idea to consult your veterinarian first.

Some of the safest and most effective products that your veterinarian may recommend include topical spot-on products and certain tick collars. Topical spot-on products are generally applied on the skin between your pet's shoulders once a month. Some are effective against other parasites as well (i.e. fleas, internal parasites). Systemic topical products include K9 Advantix® (imidacloprid + permethrin),
Frontline® and Frontline Plus® (fipronil with or without methoprene, an insect growth regulator), Revolution® (selamectin), and Kiltix® (permethrin). An effective tick collar for dogs is the Preventic® and Preventic Plus® (amitraz with or with out pyriproxifen, an insect growth regulator). Tick products for dogs should NEVER be used on cats because severe toxicity and death may occur.

Disease Transmission

Ticks are considered excellent carriers and transmitters of various diseases. Ticks within the Ixodidae (hard tick) family transmit the majority of disease. The brown dog tick and the American dog tick are the most common carriers of disease in the dog. This includes ehrlichia, Rocky Mountain spotted fever and Lyme disease.

Although all ticks have the potential to transmit disease, the vast majority of tick bites are disease-free. Still it is a good idea to check your pet frequently for any signs of ticks, after he or she comes back from a potential tick infested area, even if using tick prevention medications. Finding these pests and quickly removing them are important methods of controlling potential disease. The sooner ticks are removed from your pet, the less likely any disease transmission will occur.

The best method of controlling disease transmission is through a combination of tick avoidance and using tick preventative medications.

Your veterinarian can decide the best method of tick control for your pet, based on his or her risk factors (potential exposure, life-style, geographic location), and the need for any additional parasite control coverage. The advent of the many tick control medications has made tick control and prevention of disease easier and safer than ever.

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