How to protect your dog against tick-borne diseases
As the spring sun begins to warm and the snow melts away, it's not just people and dogs who start to move around more. Ticks become active when temperatures rise above 5 degrees. Depending on where in the country you live, it is advisable to start applying tick repellent to your dog in March-April. There are now countless tick repellents on the market, both over-the-counter and prescription, and many people find it a confusing jungle when choosing a tick repellent. In this article, we hope to help you understand the difference between the different tick products available and how you should think about choosing a tick product for your dog.
So what are the main differences and how should you think about choosing a tick repellent? Let's start by dividing the different tick repellents available into two main groups:
Included here are tick repellents that act only locally on the outside of the skin, killing the tick when it is in contact with the outside of the skin. Available in the form of collars (Seresto, Scalibor, etc.,) spot-on solution of the type that is not absorbed through the skin (e.g. Exspot) or various insect sprays.
Included here are tick repellents that are absorbed by the body and act in the bloodstream, killing the tick when it tries to bite. Available in the form of chewable tablets (e.g. Nexgard, Bravecto, Credelio) or spot-on that is absorbed through the skin (e.g. Bravecto spot-on).
Pros and cons of the different groups of tick repellents
Both categories have their advantages and disadvantages. The advantage of "topical" tick repellents (group 1) is that the risk of internal side effects is reduced, e.g. vomiting and diarrhoea, which are the most common drug side effects. However, there are still side effects in the form of skin irritations, itching, etc.
The "external-acting" type of tick remover may feel like a safe choice for an impaired/sick individual or an individual with a very sensitive stomach. This is because one wants to minimise the risk of the drug causing internal side effects that further depress the immune system.
The disadvantage of this type of preparation is that the effect wears off with bathing, shampooing, etc., which is unsuitable for dogs that love to go for a swim in the summer or that are in need of regular grooming. In addition, the active substances that are on the outside of the body can be directly harmful to other individuals (cats/puppies/children) that have close contact with the dog during the treatment period.
Children are often discouraged from prolonged close contact (e.g. sleeping together) with animals with "outside-acting" preparations. In addition, several of these preparations are harmful to fish and aquatic organisms.
With the other group, tick repellents that are absorbed into the bloodstream, the risks of reactions to external close contact are avoided. Instead, the risk of internal side effects in the treated individual is slightly higher. A misconception is that this type of preparation would not protect against tick-borne diseases because the tick has to bite the dog to be poisoned. In fact, the ticks die so quickly after the bite that the risk of spreading infection is very small, but as with "external" preparations, protection is not 100%.
How do I know which product to choose for my dog?
There is no "one right" tick repellent that works for all individuals as there are many factors to consider. It is therefore usually best to discuss the choice with a veterinarian. Here are some factors that are important to take into account:
- Does the dog have any underlying medical conditions, is on any medications, or has the dog been sensitive to any medications in the past? Always discuss the choice of tick remover with a vet in these cases!
- Do you have cats in the same household? Avoid topical preparations that are toxic to cats (e.g. Scalibour and Ex-spot) also for the dog in the household.
- Do you have puppies at home that can bite/lick the other dog or small children that are in close contact with the dog? In these cases, tablets may be preferable to topical preparations.
- Does the dog like to bathe or does it have a coat that needs regular shampooing? In these cases, removable tick collars or one of the preparations that are absorbed into the bloodstream are preferable.
- Is it a puppy that needs tick treatment, and if so, will it gain a lot of weight in the next few months? It may be advisable to use a preparation with a shorter treatment interval so that the dose can be adjusted according to new weight, e.g. every month.