Ticked Off at the Tick Situation: What Do You Use for Tick Prevention?

In Cookie's wellness exam results report, I mentioned that ticks, which weren't really ever a big problem for us, suddenly became one. Even more interestingly, the whole year we were doing fine until last December.

Last December, out of the entire year, we suddenly started finding ticks on Cookie daily.

It wasn't really as cold as you'd expect for a Canadian winter, but it was cold enough. Back when I was first researching the influence of temperatures on tick activity, I learned that ticks become active when the temperature gets to be +10 degrees Celsius or higher. We had temperatures hovering on both sides of freezing but generally with +7 degrees or so being the highest only the odd day.

The Department of Health information cites tick being active when the ground temperatures are above 45 degrees Fahrenheit, which a little over +7 degrees Celsius. (July 2011) That would make the highest temperatures we were having borderline and the rest below the assumed threshold. Yet, we just kept finding them until the ground got covered with over a foot of snow.

When I asked Jasmine's vet, he said, "Our local ticks are happy to play and eat at temperatures around 4 degrees C. Last winter we saw ticks all winter long as the winter was mild. We are still getting sporadic tick reports yet. The number of ticks one can catch is related to the numbers in the environment so more baby ticks more on the dog."

Having not had a tick problem before, where did they all come from?

Of course, that is just a rhetorical question because the answer to that won't change the fact they're here. Unless it was some kind of a fluke ... one can always hope, right?

The question to which we do need to find the answer is what we're going to do about it.

At one time, when Cookie came back from the horse farm with the odd tick, we decided to put her on Advantix. That, however, didn't work out very well and Cookie had an adverse reaction to it.

After dropping the Advantix, we were deliberating what we should do regarding tick prevention. I did not like the available options, and because the ticks weren't a serious problem, we decided not to use anything.

Now we're back to deliberations.

So I'm not very happy about that. Advantix, of course, is out. There are many products out there but is any of them worthy of my Cookie? By worthy I mean effective enough and safe enough? I'm not feeling it.

After consulting with Jasmine's vet, our local vet, and a couple of others, Bravecto seems to be touted as the most effective and most safe.

That is unless you do a Google search. Now, I don't automatically subscribe to anything that's out there but reading those things doesn't add to my already low comfort level, particularly if it's a product that is supposed to be effective for such a long time.

One positive criteria about Bravecto would be the fact that it is moving to a cat product and cats tolerate medicine much less than dogs. "If the company is willing to put it on cats, it is expected to be very safe for dogs." Which is reasoning I've been aware of and does make sense in a way.

I also asked my veterinary friend who is a toxicologist, whether she has seen or heard of any serious adverse reaction to fluralaner, the active ingredient in Bravecto.

"No I haven't. You can see all the comments on my blog about this. I've never seen one and use it in my own dog."

What about the petitions to have the product removed from the market?

I was told that the evidence based on the FOI and toxicology studies is very solid. It's really safe. Unfortunately, some dogs have an underlying disease, and the owner blames the Bravecto as having caused pre-existing cancer or kidney failure. These drugs aren't excreted through the kidney or liver but through bile and feces.

She also suggested that if I was uncomfortable with the long-lasting Bravecto, I could try Nexguard instead, as it has shorter "half-life."

That all sounds good, so why am I still not comfortable with it?

Spring is coming fast, and I need to make up my mind about what we're going to do. My gut, however, is not on board with the preventive products.

I brought up my issues again with our local vet, and she said she completely understands my concern.

"Tick/Lyme control is a conundrum that vets across North America wrestle with."

I also inquired which diseases do ticks in our area actually spread. If it was Lyme disease only, I was toying with the idea of using the Lyme vaccine instead of a tick preventive.

While the vaccine too is controversial, at least it is less "foreign" to a dog body that is used to getting jabbed with all kinds of things.

But of course, things are not as simple as that.

First, do our local ticks spread Lyme disease only? One of the ticks they tested was positive for anaplasmosis. Is that significant? It's hard to tell because out disease-tracking system is far from perfect.

Second, she feels that Lyme disease is feared more than is warranted.

"Experimentally, very very few dogs ever get sick from Lyme's when exposed to the bacteria. Immunologists believe it is widely overdiagnosed. "

As for the vaccine, it doesn't seem to cause side effects and may provide some protection. The immunity likely lasts only up to a year, and it isn't clear how long the immunity really lasts. Though that could be accounted for by choosing the right time of the year, vaccinating just at the beginning of the tick season and by the time the protection runs out it technically should be cold enough for the ticks not be a problem until next spring.

Here comes the part I have the biggest problem with.

"Vaccinated dogs can still get infected, and of those that do some develop a fatal, untreatable form."

*Enter the sound of screeching breaks.

So much for that bright idea. And I felt so clever ...

Bottom line? I don't like my options, and I have no clue which is the least of the evils. It feels that picking the ticks off manually while letting fate and nature take its course is still the best plan.

The ticks Cookie might pick up may not be infected. Even if they are, they might not infect her. And if they do, her immune system might be able to deal with it. And we know what to watch out for, and Lyme disease is technically perfectly treatable.


I feel ready to reach for some voo science solution.

So that is my conundrum. I welcome your thoughts, suggestions, and experiences.

Related articles:
Cookie's Wellness Exam
Will Ticks Inherit the Earth?

From The End Of A Lead Line To Casa Jasmine: Meet Cookie, Our New Adoptee
And So It Begins Again(?) Our First Health-Related Heart Attack With Cookie 
I Didn't Know I Could Fly: Why Cookie Wears A Harness Instead Of A Collar
C.E.T. Oral Hygiene Chews For Dogs CAN Be A Choking Hazzard 
Our First Health-Related Heart Attack With Cookie: The Knee Or The Foot?
Creative Solutions And An Incidental Product Review
Too Young For Pot: Cookie's Snack With A Side Of Hydrogen Peroxide  
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Putting The Easy Back Into Walking
Cookie's Ears Are Still Not Happy 
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Cookie Meets The Electric Horse Fence And Her First Chiropractic Adjustment  
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Cookie's ALT Update
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Figuring out What Might Be Going on with Cookie's Legs: The Process 
Figuring out What Might Be Going on with Cookie's Legs: The Diagnosis 
Cookie's Iliopsoas Injury Treatment: Trazodone  
Cookie's Iliopsoas Injury Treatment: Other Medications 
Cookie's Iliopsoas Injury Treatment: Laser, Hydrotherapy and Chiropractic 
Cookie's Recovery from Iliopsoas Injury: ToeGrips 
It Never Rains ... Cookie's New Injury 
Mixed Emotions: When What You Should Do Might Not Be What You Should Do for Your Dog 
Cookie's New Injury Update 
Cookie's Iliopsoas Injury: The Symptoms 
Cookie's Iliopsoas Injury: Battling the Zoomies 
Cookie's Muscle Injuries: What Else Is Going On?
Theory and Actual Decisions for an Actual Dog Aren't the Same Thing: Cookie's Knee Injury
Does Your Vet Listen to You? Cookie's Post-Sedation Complications
Would I Ever Treat a Symptom Directly? 
Platelet-Rich Plasma (PRP) Treatment for Cookie's Bad Knee(s)
Platelet-Rich Plasma (PRP) for Cookie's Bad Cruciate Update 
Injury or Surgery Recovery: Mishaps versus Setbacks 
See Something, Do Something: Cookie's Lumpectomy 
Cookie's Lumpectomy Update 
Using Pressure Pads to Evaluate Lameness in Dogs: My Observations
Cookie's Musculoskeletal Challenges: What Supplements Am I Using?
Cookie's Musculoskeletal Challenges: Restricted Activity and Weight Management
Cookie's PRP Treatment for Partial Cruciate Tear: Update
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Cookie's PRP Treatment for Partial Cruciate (CCL/ACL) Tear and Leg Circumference
Cookie's Wellness Exam

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What were the first signs you noticed? How did you dog get diagnosed? What treatment did/didn't work for you? What was your experience with your vet(s)? How did you cope with the challenges?

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  1. This story is so very familiar...
    I too dislike all tick battle options. When I gave up the natural route for a trip into heavy tick country a few years ago, two dogs got attached ticks less than two weeks after their Advantix treatment. So I went back to the everyday search and destroy natural route, which as long as we are not traveling to more tick infested areas than our relatively tick thin Cascadia, shouldn't be too hard. An occasional attached tick is not a disaster if we are testing for tick born diseases 2x per year. Then we had a mild winter and suddenly facing everyday tick searches on three very furry dogs year round was too much. So I went back to the drawing board. I researched Bravecto. My mom and dad both use Nextgaurd for their dogs. I was unimpressed with everything that I read about both. So I went back to what I know works, the percentages of effectiveness, and that I am positive my dogs do not react badly too upon application. But I hate it. I get super stressed about applying it and in watching for any reactions for the first 24-48 hours. And I still have to search for ticks because nothing is 100% effective. *sigh*

    1. Thank you, Behtany; I hear you. We felt Advantix was a good plan but Cookie's body disagreed. I still have a little bit of time to figure out what we're going to do but at this point I am completely undecided.

  2. We use Frontline and Wondercide on our babies. We did try Nexgard briefly and although it was fine, I just got the heebie jeebies about having them ingest it. Good luck Jana!

    1. Yeah, heebie jeebies, that's what I have :-) Frontline, the way I understand, is quite good for fleas but not as effective for ticks? We don't have a flea problem so I need something that is effective for ticks in particular. I think voo science is going to win as it is slightly better than doing nothing. And maybe it will just work as a placebo LOL

    2. Where we live, ticks can be bad. We've never had an issue with them attaching, maybe crawling on them. I'll spray them down with Wondercide when it gets too bad. Never heard of Voo Science. Have you tried Wondercide?

    3. Voo science is a derogatory term used for "non-science-based" stuff :-) Wondercide would qualify as such as well. Thank you for the tip, I'll look into that one.

  3. I'm totally with you on all of that. We wrestle with the same things. We used to use Frontline, but I still found and had to pick off ticks, so what was the point of putting poison on my dogs?
    We do VOO science stuff. The dogs wear flea/tick tags from Only Natural Pet. We spray our yard with Cedarcide. When we go for walks I use sprays and wipes from Vermont Naturals. I think these things help but we still find ticks sometimes, and so we just always check and pick them off. I know we're taking our chances but I've seen vaccine reactions (so Lyme vaccine is out) and we've had too many dogs with cancer so I just don't like the chemicals. Just to complicate things, our reactive dog Luke does not like being handled when we're trying to do something to him. So we have to be ninja to get a tick off him. I sometimes wonder if we should just give into the chemicals with him, but I just can't bring myself to do it. I hate the thought of him ingesting something that stays in his system for so long, because what if it doesn't agree with him? I know many people use them without issues but....I just don't know.

    1. Yes. It seems Frontline does a good job against fleas, not so much against ticks. So pointless for us to go that route.

      Ah, tag, that's one of the things we're considering, however "voo" that might be. Do you feel it's making any difference or it's because of the other steps you've taken?

      Cannot really spray 80 acres of yard ;-)

      One of the crazy notions I've been entertaining are white overalls ;-)

    2. I honestly think it's a combination of the things we do that probably helps. We continue to use the tag since it does work for fleas so we've got that going for us anyway.
      I do think spraying the yard helps, but yeah, that only works for us because we spend most of our time in the fenced in yard. I've seen an increase in the ticks when it comes time to apply it again.
      Ticks are such nasty creatures, and I often think nothing but chemicals will kill or repel those suckers!

  4. We use Soresto collars. I don't like putting topical chemicals on my dogs and we have a lot of ticks in our area. I used to find ticks on them EVERY time we hiked, even on other meds. Since we switched about 2 years ago, I have not seen one tick on any of my 4 dogs. Not once. And they last for 8 months. May be worth looking into for you. (And no, not sponsored by them or anything, just love the product). Good luck whatever you decide.

    1. Thank you Debbie, heard about it, will take it back into consideration.

  5. I'm in Canada as well and from what I've been told is that ticks are becoming a real issue. I'm fortunate that we have not experienced any tick or flea issues - so far. Each spring once the temps go above freezing we treat with a preventive from our vet. Last year we included Bravecto for the first time without any adverse reactions to my dog. I will be treating her with the same this year as well. I hope you find something that works for you.

    1. Thank you, Edie.

      By all accounts Bravecto seems to be a good products; there are no actual facts keeping me from using it, it's my gut feeling. Unfortunately, my gut has been right more often than I'd like and that's why it's a dilemma for me.

  6. We've always done the lyme vaccine, and have gone on and off flea/tick preventative over the years. Most recently we're using NexGard

    1. Thank you, Nichole. NexGuard is one of the considerations and the lyme vaccine was high on the list of options.

  7. I use natural sprays and daily combing. It's been very successful with only one tick to date.

    1. We tried some of the sprays too; one problem with that is the strong smell which makes Cookie to get major zoomies.

  8. I refuse to put chemicals on my dogs. I have been using the Only Natural Pet products combined with daily flea and tick checks. I also am going to put out tick tubes this year behind the fence where the dogs cant get to them. the tubes have permethrin soaked cotton that mice use in nests and then that kills the ticks.

    1. Interesting idea - tick tubes. Do the ticks go after that?

    2. I second the Only Natural Pet flea and tick products - they've worked really well for us!

  9. So far, we haven't had many ticks in my area but fleas are almost year around here and I have the same issues with flea preventatives.
    I'm trying some natural options this year.

    1. If we had a flea problem I would be likely to consider Frontline as it's been around for a long time with little to no reports of problems. But it does a lousy job for ticks. We tried some essential oils but Cookie gets total zoomies from the smell. Plus it's not conclusive it would do much other than smelling nice.

  10. Sorry I don't have a solution! We avoid parks and areas with long grass in the warmer weather. That hasn't kept our dog from getting ticks, but generally not many, and we've been able to get them off quickly. I guess we've been fortunate.

    1. We live in the bush. And Cookie would not be happy avoiding wild areas. So we're stuck with that part. Maybe this year there won't be any again LOL But I don't know ... those she didn't pick up (and got removed and killed by us) might be out there breeding. So hoping she picked them all up.

  11. We don't get many ticks here (well on the cats at least) but I think they are THe nastiest thing every for any poor dog to endure.

    I need to try a complet change in flea medication though. We tried Revolution they got used to it, We tried Bravecto (wonderful 3 month Bravecto and after half of it Miranda is still scratching).

    1. Yeah, resistances can develop. And each of the products out there seems to be really good for one and rather weak for another ... that's why Revolution or Frontline are a poor choice for ticks in terms of efficacy.

  12. I had no idea ticks could survive in such cold!

    1. Oh, they survive ANY cold. But they should not have been feeding and yet they were.

  13. We tried the Seresto flea and tick collar for our dogs last spring after Frontline stopped being effective for our dogs. I am sure there are some risks to the collar, but it was very effective. We have a terrible tick problem here, if I go out in the woods, I find ticks on me, but not the dogs.

    1. Yeah, after reading all the comments and talking to people, Seresto is making its way up the list of considerations.

  14. Used to use Frontline; Used Nexguard for the past 6 months but I do feel weird about ingesting. Hard to stomach poison to prevent disease.... Dear Mishu

    1. Yeah, I totally agree. Lacing our dogs with chemicals is a poor solution to the problem.

  15. I am in Toronto and apparently ticks are an issue all year here too. I need to find a solution so will watch with interest.

    1. Those bastards are taking over the planet. I will, of course, post what we decided to do.

  16. We live in the South where fleas and ticks are a problem year round. Even though Truffle and Brulee live inside, fleas and ticks can come indoor on my clothes. I do use a treatment on the girls year long, but watch them carefully for any reactions.

    1. So unfair that even indoor pets need to worry about these blood-sucking beasts.

  17. Ticks are scarce here so right now we use the bath after hikes and comb thoroughly method.

    1. Cookie would have to get bathed 4 to 5x daily ;-) Or at least once daily. We're outside all the time.

  18. We currently use a natural spray with essential oils. I know it doesn't necessarily work as well as a lot of the chemical options, but I feel more comfortable with it. Since we live in an apartment, my dogs have limited outside exposure and we always inspect them from head to toe after any extended time outside including camping trips and hikes.
    -Jessica from Beagles & Bargains

    1. The success with such products depends on the level of exposure too. I'm glad essential oils are working for you.

  19. This is such an incredibly informative post - I've bookmarked it so I can come back to review. We try to stay as natural as possible and sometimes that can be problematic with ticks and the like. Thanks for helping me understand a few key elements that I need to consider!

    1. We are at a point when we're considering which is lesser of the evil - doing something or not doing anything (letting nature take its course). I looked up the Seresto collar and don't feel much better about that either, particularly knowing that Cookie did have a reaction to a product using pesticide from the same family.


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