Tick Prevention for Dogs: 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.

Tick Prevention for Dogs: What Do You Use for Tick Prevention?

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 don’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 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 our 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.

Further reading:
The 10 Best Ways to Get Rid of & Prevent Ticks on Dogs

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Jana Rade

I am a graphic designer, dog health advocate, writer, and author. Jasmine, the Rottweiler of my life, was the largest female from her litter. We thought we were getting a healthy dog. Getting a puppy from a backyard breeder was our first mistake. Countless veterinary visits without a diagnosis or useful treatment later, I realized that I had to take Jasmine's health care in my own hands. I learned the hard way that merely seeing a vet is not always enough. There is more to finding a good vet than finding the closest clinic down the street. And, sadly, there is more to advocating for your dog's health than visiting a veterinarian. It should be enough, but it often is not. With Jasmine, it took five years to get a diagnosis. Unfortunately, other problems had snowballed for that in the meantime. Jasmine's health challenges became a crash course in understanding dog health issues and how to go about getting a proper diagnosis and treatment. I had to learn, and I had to learn fast. Helping others through my challenges and experience has become my mission and Jasmine's legacy. I now try to help people how to recognize and understand signs of illness in their dogs, how to work with their veterinarian, and when to seek a second opinion. My goal is to save others the steep curve of having to learn things the hard way as I did. That is the mission behind my blog and behind my writing. That is why I wrote Symptoms to Watch for in Your Dog, which has turned out being an award-winning guide to dog owners. What I'm trying to share encompasses 20 years of experience.

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