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How Do I Choose the Best Tick Medication?

By Rebecca Mecomber
Updated Jun 04, 2024
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Ticks are pests — insidious parasites that can spread disease and inflict pain and discomfort on you and your pets. A puzzling array of tick control choices might await you as you browse your local pet store or veterinarian office: powders, collars, sprays, dips, shampoos, "spot on" applications and pills. When you need to choose a tick medication, you should consider affordability, ease of application, length of effectiveness, time period between applications and, most importantly, safety. Read the labels very carefully, taking note of the various age and weight requirements for your pet.

Tick bites are more than annoying and painful little lesions. Ticks can spread Lyme disease, Rocky Mountain spotted fever, babesiosis and other serious and life-threatening diseases. Pets can expose the family to these diseases, too. Before tick medications, a pet owner's only recourse for tick control was physically removing ticks from the pet with tweezers — an onerous job.

Medications to treat tick infestations are not without problems, either. Some pets are allergic to tick medications and might experience various reactions, from skin irritation to seizures or even death. Some pets have experienced adverse reactions to the effective but potent "spot on" tick and flea medication applications. Pet owners are advised to exercise caution when trying a new tick medication on their pets. In most cases, it is best to consult the veterinarian before trying a new, potent medication.

When selecting a tick medication, consider the ease of application and duration of tick protection. For example, the "spot on" applications are very popular because they are easily applied and last several months. These applications, however, are not suitable for pregnant or nursing pets; pets that are sick, injured, medicated or aged; or pets that have shown sensitivity to pesticides. A milder tick medication, such as a shampoo or powder treatment, might be needed and will have to be applied more frequently.

Consider the cost when choosing a tick medicine. Oral tablets have shown to be an effective and convenient tick medication, but the pills typically must be prescribed by a veterinarian and therefore might be costly. Tick collars are very inexpensive and are somewhat effective, but the pesticides could produce toxic effects in humans, particularly young children.

Finally, choose only the tick medication recommended for your type of pet. Tick medications for dogs differ greatly from tick medications for cats. Cats have sensitive livers that are unable to filter many toxins. Never use tick medication labeled for dogs on a cat, or the cat might become fatally ill.

All Things Nature is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
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