Pet Health
Tick Control
Race Foster, DVM
Marty Smith, DVM
Drs. Foster & Smith, Inc.

Tick control is not unlike that used for fleas in that there are no shortcuts, no sure cures, and
the battle must be on-going. Tick control is a two-step process, in that measures must be
implemented to treat both the environment and the pet. Ticks, despite all their legs and ugliness
are not hard to kill.

Environmental tick control

Tick control in the environment generally involves treating the yard and kennel areas. We prefer
an environmentally-safe spray containing fenvalorate for this purpose. Spray every thirty days
during the peak tick months. In our area, that is April through November. Regardless of the
product used, remember not to spray when or where runoff could go into lakes or rivers. Read
the label on all insecticides thoroughly and apply them as directed.

Remember the cold, frosty fall weather does not kill ticks, and in fact, that is when the deer tick
numbers are at their peak. In Northern, Wisconsin, the best time to contract Lyme Disease is
during September, October, and November since the deer tick is the primary carrier. The point
here, is to treat the yard late into the fall and early winter.

Removing leaves and clearing brush and tall grass from around the house and kennel areas can
help reduce the number of ticks.

The Brown Dog Tick, Rhipicephalus sanguineus is the most troublesome tick in kennels and yards
and is found almost everywhere. It can complete its life cycle in about 2 months, and although
uncommon, it can become established indoors. If you do encounter an indoor tick problem, then
use a flea and tick fogger. Fog as you would for fleas. In the house, ticks tend to crawl to a
higher area (like they do in grass). They may be found in cracks around windows and doors.
Because of this tendency and the fact that ticks crawl, and do not jump or fly, another option is
to apply a 1-foot barrier of insecticide such as a flea and tick powder where the carpet meets
the wall around the entire room. As a result, ticks moving to the walls to climb higher will come in
contact with the insecticide and be killed. And, finally, remember to wash the pet's bedding

Tick control on your pet

Keeping pets out of grasses and woods helps to reduce their exposure to ticks. But any animal
outside can quite easily have a tick crawl on board. Products that kill and repel ticks are needed.

Products for pets are many and varied and include once-a-month topical products, sprays,
powders, dips, shampoos, and collars.

Once-a-month Topicals: Once-a-month topical
insecticides are applied to a small area on the
back of the pet, are probably the easiest product
to use, and generally, last the longest. Some kill
fleas and ticks, and others just fleas, so check the label carefully. Ingredients generally include
permethrin, pyrethrin, imidacloprid, or fipronil. Examples of these products include Bio Spot for
Dogs, Defend, K9 Advantix for Dogs, and Frontline Top Spot. Revolution, which contains
selamectin, is a monthly topical product that controls American Dog Ticks (Dermacentor variabilis)

Sprays: Flea and tick control sprays can come as aerosols or pump bottles. When using a spray,
you do not have to soak the pet with the spray, but be sure to spray all parts of the animal.
Spray a small amount on a cotton ball to apply the product around the eyes and ears. Do not get
any of these products in the eyes. Follow your veterinarian's and the manufacturer's directions
on how often to spray, and spray in a well-ventilated area. Sprays often contain permethrin or
pyrethrin. Note: Most cats prefer the pump bottles, since the hiss from the aerosols may sound
too much like the hiss of another cat. If you are going to use an aerosol spray on a cat, it may be
helpful to spray a cloth with the product (away from the cat), and then rub the cat with the

Powders: Powders are generally easy to apply but can create a mess. If you or your pet has
asthma, powders may not be the best choice of product since the powder could be inhaled. Be
sure to use powders in well-ventilated areas. Powders often contain pyrethrin.

Dips: Dips and rinses are applied to the entire animal. They generally have some residual activity.
They should be applied in a well-ventilated area according to your veterinarian's and the
manufacturer's directions. It is helpful to put cotton balls in the pet's ears and ophthalmic
ointment in the pet's eyes. Even with these precautions, be very careful not to get any of the
product in the pet's ears or eyes. Dips and rinses may contain permethrin, pyrethrin, or

Shampoos: Shampoos help to primarily rid the pet of the ticks it already has on it, although
some have residual activity. To properly use a flea & tick shampoo you must be sure to work the
shampoo in over the entire body and then leave it on at least 10 minutes before you rinse it off.
This is true of almost any medicated shampoo. Again, remember to protect the eyes and ears of
the pet. (HINT: Cats often do not like running water It is often better to pour water over a cat
with a large pitcher.) Shampoos often contain pyrethrin.

Collars: Collars can be effective, but must be applied properly. To get the right degree of
snugness, you should just be able to get two fingers between the collar and the neck of your
pet. Be sure to cut off any excess portion of the collar after you have properly applied it.
Otherwise, that animal or other pets may try to chew on the end. Check the package for
information on duration of effectiveness since many collars lose effectiveness when they get
wet, e.g.; if a dog swims a lot. Watch carefully for any irritation under the collar. If this occurs,
you may need to use a different product.

Other collars contain ingredients such as carbamates and pyrethroids (Adams Flea and Tick Collar).

Do NOT use collars containing Amitraz, permethrin, or organophosphates on cats.

In severely tick-infested areas or for dogs who spend a lot of time outdoors and in the woods,
we have found a Preventic Tick Collar in addition to a permethrin-containing product such as Bio
Spot is going to give your dog the best protection. This collar contains Amitraz, which is FDA
approved to use in conjunction with most other flea and tick products. With the Preventic Collar,
95% of the ticks will detach and die within 24 hours.

Remember, with any tick preventive you use on your pet, the ticks must actually be in contact
with the active ingredient to be killed by it. For instance, if you only use a tick collar, you may see
ticks attached and feeding on the dog, even directly under the tick collar. This has to happen for
the tick to take in the insecticide and die. A good tick collar will kill the tick in 24 hours or less.
This greatly reduces the risk of tick-transmitted diseases since it generally requires more than 24
hours of attachment for disease to be transmitted.

Even a pet who is treated with an insecticide could potentially get a tick that attaches for a
sufficient time to transmit disease. Vaccines for Lyme disease for dogs are available to provide
that extra protection.

Tick control for you

The following recommendations on tick control for people have been made by the federal
government's Center for Disease Control:

It is best to avoid tick-infested areas especially during the times of peak tick numbers such as
spring and late fall. If you are going to walk through areas where ticks could be a problem, wear
a hat, long-sleeved shirt, and long pants. Tuck your pant legs into socks or boots, and tuck your
shirt or blouse into your pants. If you wear light-colored clothing you will be able to spot ticks
more easily. Try to walk in the center of trails to avoid long or overhanging grass and bushes.
Spraying insect repellent containing DEET on your clothes and exposed skin, except for your
face, will help. Or, you may want to treat your clothes, especially pants, socks and shoes, with
permethrin which kills ticks on contact.

When you come in from the outdoors, remove your clothing and wash and dry it at a high
temperature. It is a good idea to inspect yourself carefully for any ticks. If you find an attached
tick, remove it carefully.

(See article
Removing Ticks)

Copyright © 1997-2004, Drs. Foster & Smith, Inc. All Rights Reserved.
Reprinted from
Permethrin should NOT be  used on
cats.         Instead, use a product
containing                  pyrethrin  or
ALL ABOUT DOGS and CATS   Resource Center for Canine & Feline Lovers