As with anything dog-related, the market is flooded with a variety of options when it comes to flea and tick prevention.
While we all know protecting our dogs from those nasty parasites should be a top priority, the choices are so many and so very different from each other, it can be hard to know what is best.
So what is flea and tick prevention?
Generally, flea and tick prevention encapsulates the usage of specifically formulated medicine, applied to the dog, that kills and/or repels ticks and fleas.
There are two types of flea/tick preventatives based on how they are administered – topical and oral.
Topical treatments include drops, collars, and sprays.
Oral treatments typically include pills or chews.
- Drops (or spot-ons) are a method of flea and tick prevention that is administered topically, by dropping a few drops of the substance on the back of the dog, usually a few drops cover the whole length of the body. They kill fleas and ticks and are split in two subcategories – some only kill fleas and ticks, while others have a second, repellent ingredient as well. Their effect usually lasts about 30 days and can be further reduced if the dog gets wet.
- Collars are the second topical method. They are long-lasting, depending on the brand they can last anywhere between 3-8 months. They can also withstand the occasional bath and getting the dog wet without losing a substantial amount of efficacy. Most have a repellent ingredient in them.
- Sprays are the third topical method. They are usually applied on the dog and in its environment. Their longevity is also about a month, much like the spot-on formulas.
- Oral treatment comes in the form of pills/chews. Some can only treat external parasites like fleas and ticks while others can be a combined pill that treats both internal parasites (such as longworm, roundworm, and hookworm) and external parasites (fleas and ticks). The pill’s efficacy lasts between 1 and 3 months in general and has the benefit of only needing 1 preventative to cover all parasites.
Alternative Methods for Flea and Tick Prevention
‘Natural’ remedies for flea and tick prevention do exist. They can be found in the form of sprays, or food additives that supposedly boost the immune system, making your dog less attractive for parasites.
There are also ultrasonic devices that use high-frequency sound to repel fleas and ticks.
While their efficacy cannot be completely measured, generally they can do no harm to your dog either.
Which prevention method should you choose?
Unfortunately, there is no one size fits all when it comes to preventatives.
Efficacy varies by dog, by area you live in, flea and tick infestation, as well as their resistance to the active substances in your chosen method.
Not all methods of delivery (e. g. drops, collar or a pill) will have the same effect and achieve the same results for any given dog, even within the same breed.
One can do well on drops while another sees no effect from them.
If you see that the prevention you’re using is not achieving the desired results, you should discuss alternatives with your vet.
They are the person with the knowledge of which active ingredients are more effective (and the bugs have built less resistance to) in the area you live in.
Sometimes all a dog needs is a change of the active ingredient (e.g. from one brand of drops to another) or a change of type (from drops to a collar or a pill).
Your veterinarian can also let you know if a particular active substance might not be ideal for your dog’s current health status or breed (some collie dogs have a gene that makes them extremely sensitive to ivermectin, for example).
When it comes to flea and tick prevention, another awesome step you can incorporate is to have your dog tested for tick-borne diseases at least once a year (ideally at least twice – in the beginning and end of the warm months) to make sure it doesn’t carry any diseases, even if you have missed a tick or two, unknowingly.
Tick-borne diseases can be fatal if not caught early enough, so it is important to protect our dogs from getting them as much as humanly possible.