Why Isn’t My Tick Prevention Working?

126Hi everybody. Welcome back to Tales & Tails with Dr. Ferrell. Let’s talk tick products this week! This is a longer blog than usual but stick with me because I get tons of questions about this and I think you’ll find the information useful.


My dog, Jiggy, uses Vectra 3D, and for those of you that have read about her deer chases through the woods, you know she puts the product to the test. When we’re at the lake, everyone has to do a tick check at the end of the day and inevitably, we humans find one or two crawlers despite the layers of OFF spray we’ve applied. But Jiggy never has a tick in sight. My parents’ dog, Conner, also uses Vectra 3D and never has any critters roaming through his fur either. If they made Vectra 3D for humans I’d be the first customer. My brother’s dogs, Emma and Buffy, both wear Preventic collars and never have ticks either even though they do their share of exploring the woods at the lake.


So if these products work so great for Jiggy, Conner, Emma, and Buffy, why do some people find ticks on their pets, even when they’re using a tick preventative? Well, there are lots of reasons and rest assured, it’s rarely due to failure of the product if it’s sold by a veterinarian. If you’re finding ticks on your pet, here are some things to consider:


  • Are you purchasing your product from your veterinarian? If you’re not applying a veterinary approved product, you have no guarantees about the manufacturing of that product, where the product was made, the distribution and shipping conditions, the storage environment or duration of time the product spent in storage. The products that veterinarians use and sell have been thoroughly studied for effectiveness and safety long before being released to the market. We purchase those products from trusted manufacturers and distributers so we know the conditions in which they were made and stored. So if you’re not already using the products your veterinarian recommends, ask them about your current preventative and what they recommend for your pet’s specific lifestyle.


  • Have you had your veterinarian show you how to apply the product? It seems like an easy thing, but the majority of “product failures” are actually due to incorrect application or bathing too close to the time of application. When you buy product from your veterinarian, you’ll be shown the most effective way to apply it and told when you can bathe your pet or let them swim again. My parents were having the worst time with their topical product making a mess on Conner’s fur. It sounded like they were doing everything right, but when I demonstrated the application process, there were some definite differences. The simple tips I was able to give them have eliminated their mess problem and Conner is tick-free!


  • Do you live in a tick endemic area? Meaning do you find ticks on you and your pet when you take a walk or play outside? Are you surrounded by fields or wooded areas? Is your neighbor in violation of every lawn care ordinance in your city? If so, you may see the occasional tick, no matter what preventative you’re using. If your pet comes in contact with high numbers of ticks, you are going to see them on your pet. But if you’re using a veterinary approved tick preventative, such as Vectra 3D or Preventic, rest assured your pets are being protected from tick transmitted disease. If you come home from a walk and find 3 ticks on your dog, just know that without the product you would have found many more and they would have been able to attach and transmit diseases like Ehrlichia, Lyme, Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, and Anaplasmosis. Ticks have to be actively feeding on your pet for 24-48 hours to transmit disease. Veterinary approved tick products prevent ongoing attachment and stop ticks from excreting the saliva that contains the causative agents of disease. If you live in an area truly infested with ticks, you may even need to combine two ticks products, like topical Vectra 3D and the Preventic collar, just due to the sheer numbers of ticks your pet is in contact with.


Dr. Michael Dryden, one of the leading veterinary parisitologists in our industry, is a professor at Kansas State University College of Veterinary Medicine and has performed extensive studies all over the country on the behaviors of ticks and the effectiveness of our preventatives. Here’s some things he has to say:


“While product efficacy is often excellent in most studies, significant variation in efficacy can occur and 100% control is rarely achieved. Therefore it can be expected that under natural conditions in areas where dogs are being frequently exposed to ticks pet owners will see ticks on treated dogs. We might also expect that efficacy in real world situations might be lower due to such factors as bathing and swimming, differences between dog breeds and haircoat types and frequency and correctness of product application.”


“The increase in tick populations means that pets are encountering ticks more frequently, are exposed to more ticks per encounter and clients may be seeing more ticks on their pets than in the past. Since tick products do not kill or repel all ticks instantly, clients may get the false impression that the products are not performing as well as in the past.”


“Since 100% tick kill is rarely achievable, perceived efficacy of [tick preventatives] may be directly related to the numbers of ticks to which dogs are exposed. If a dog is treated with one of these highly efficacious [tick preventatives] and encounters just a few ticks it is likely all those ticks will be killed. However, if tick exposure is considerably larger, we can expect a few ticks to be observed on these dogs and pet owners may perceive a lack of efficacy.”


Let me wrap all that up a bit. Most “tick product failures” are actually due to inappropriate product, difficulty with application, or the sheer number of ticks your pet is in contact with. The good news is, we can correct and manage all those problems and prevent tick transmitted disease in your pet! So if you’re using a tick preventative purchased from a veterinarian and still seeing ticks on your pet, give us a call and we can help.


Reprint from June 2013

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