Tick prevention: cost versus benefit

Desperate in our search for status on a global stage, we Australians love punching above our weight in sport, and take pride in our lethal fauna. Snakes, sharks and crocodiles are the obvious ones but quietly killing from the sidelines are the tiny and unassuming, like Ixoides Holocyclus, the Paralysis tick. No other continent hosts this species of tick, and nowhere else is there an annual toll of thousands dead from  respiratory failure.  Sure, tick-borne Lyme Disease is insidious and debilitating but it’s not going to see you drowning in your own body fluids within days. Choosing the right preventative is an important decision that may save money, grief, or even a life.

 

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Choosing your tick control

Whether to use a tick preventative, which one, and for how long, will depend on your unique situation :

  • tick incidence and seasonality in your area. For Byron Bay, see here
  • pet lifestyle: contact with tick habitat, bathing and swimming
  • pet’s previous exposure to ticks, and possible partial or full immunity to tick venom
  • owner finances and attitude towards risk and insecticidal residues
  • need for a single flea and tick product

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Sources of information

When deciding what’s the best preventative, pet owners often seek veterinary advice. Vets have 2 sources of information for evaluating the effectiveness of tick preventatives:

.1. The information from Big Pharma

Manufacturers subject their products to scientific trials in which live ticks are put on dogs protected by these agents, then the numbers of live ticks counted each day. Registration of a ‘tick-control’ claim demands kill rates above 95%.  Just as humans vary in their ability to hold liquor, 1 in 20 ticks will remain standing, in the face of a slug of insecticide, and continue to feed.

The deficiency in these trials is their inability to replicate the huge number of environmental variables that impact on product performance, in the real world. Topical insecticides (collars, rinses and spot-ons) will behave differently on the laboratory kenneled dog, whose lifestyle will not include daily swimming, a variety of shampoos, 250g of beachsand migrating through coat each day, nor basking in UV radiation. These environmental effects may raise the failure rate from 1 in 20, to 1 in 10 ticks surviving.

The other variable that clouds interpretation of technical data is species of  tick used in the trial. This may seem an unimportant detail but  ticks vary markedly in sensitivity to insecticides. The same tick collar that’s registered to kill the Brown Dog tick for 6 months, wont protect again Paralysis tick much beyond 6 weeks! This issue is particularly important when evaluating the trials of the SKUDO ultrasonic pulse device, tested in Italy..

2. Anecdotal reports from pet owners, other vets, and our own experiences

These are less scientific and can’t be over-interpreted when there are so many unknowns. When a tick product works, killing a tick before the venom has an effect, vets never hear about it. When a tick-affected animal is brought to the clinic, however, vets have an opportunity to get the dirt on what’s not working, under real-world conditions. While the majority of such pets have received no prevention, or a product that expired weeks or months previously, those with correctly applied product can give us an idea of failure rates.

PRODUCT FAILURE

What constitutes product failure? Simply, a pet developing symptoms of tick paralysis while on a correctly applied preventative.

Given tick preventatives rarely repel, finding a tick attached to your pet may not amount to failure. It may be gravely unwell or already dead. Most products aim to kill within a short time after ticks start feeding. As it takes a couple of days before tick venom causes symptoms, this is OK. In fact, in terms of tick immunity, allowing small numbers of ticks to briefly feed, and sub-clinically expose your pet to tick venom, is ideal.

Of the tick preventative failures I see when admitting tick-affected animals, I’d guesstimate about 80% are spot-on failures, and 20% tick collar failures.

Vets and nurses are rarely surprised to hear of failure of spot-ons, whereas failure of a tick collar will usually raise an eyebrow.

With both spot-ons and collars, product failure is often associated with frequent swimming, even if the collar is removed at the beach. Tick collar failures are more likely in the 5th week of use, when nearing expiry.

Superficially, this may seem as if tick collars are 4 times more reliable than spot-ons. However, as the total number of animals treated with each preventative is unknown, this comparison can’t easily be made.  Spot-ons are also more prone to pet owner mismanagement; fortnightly is easier to get wrong than changing a collar every 6 weeks.

The industry could resolve this matter: drug manufacturers or distributors could tally the number of weeks of protection sold of each agent, in one year, and vets report on product failure (number of dogs with clinical signs of tick paralysis, while using preventative according to manufacturers instructions). Such large scale co-ordination isn’t likely any time soon. Until then you’ll have to rely on anecdotal reports from under-resourced local vets like me.

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Tick prevention options

These can be used alone, or sometimes in combination, depending on the tick load. Peak season may demand several, low season maybe just one, or none.

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1. Tick Search

If you’re religious with daily rituals, your pet’s coat is short, and you know what to look for, manually removing ticks is free, quick and non-toxic.  A thorough search can be as short as 2 minutes  or up to 45 in a Malamute.  Seasonal clipping of long coats will speed up tick searches. Dogs usually love the attention and tickle; cats will tolerate if trained.

85% of ticks attach on the head, neck or armpits of the animal with a special preference for lips, eyelids and earflaps, while the remainder can be anywhere, including down ear canals, between toes, and very rarely in oral and rectal cavities.

If you find one, remove it using your favoured technique and look for more. Before you pull it off, ensure it’s actually a tick. Vets too often see terrified and confused dogs with a nipple, injured and bleeding.

There is always the risk that one may be missed but given it’s several days before the venom will have a significant effect, if done regularly enough, you will have a second or third chance. Given the failure rates described above, all drug companies recommend daily tick searches to dodge legal responsibility in such an event.

If your pet develops symptoms of tick paralysis, even if your using a preventative, you should immediately start a search while calling the emergency vet.

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2. The ‘SKUDO’ ultrasonic pulse device

Recently marketed and sold through pet shops, proporting to repel both ticks and fleas, this is the latest electronic device to claim control of pests. Outside of our hearing range, to the tick (and the dog) it’s like a miniature, wailing, car alarm, dangling from the collar.

There’s an Italian scientific paper out there, supporting their claims, but  there are flaws in it’s recommended use for Paralysis ticks in Australia.  If you wanna believe the SKUDO claim, use it on your dog, challenge him with ticks and fleas, and report back to me.  For a more thorough critique of the Skudo Study, see here.

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3. Spot-on treatments

Unlike Advantage®, Advocate® and Revolution®, which kill fleas but not ticks, Frontline Plus® and Advantix® are the only spot-ons registered for tick control. They must be applied every 2 weeks to be effective, twice the recommended frequency of application for fleas (monthly). Concentrations of insecticide on the skin only reach tick-lethal levels after the second application.

Like the other topical preventatives below, they are vulnerable to failure under adverse environmental conditions: water, shampoos, UV and sand migrating through the coat.

The other reason for spot-on failure is pet owner compliance: not following manufacturers instructions. Given their expense, some owners stretch out the 2 week dosing to every 3-4 weeks. Effective concentrations in the skin are not reached until the second fortnightly application,  so less frequent application may never result in full tick prevention. For more information on offsetting the cosgts of spot-ons see Splitting Vials: risk minimisation.

Advantix® is highly toxic to cats and shouldn’t be used on dogs in households where the inter-species bond is strong and intimate.  See comments on toxicity below.

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4. Tick rinses

These are old-fashioned OP’s or synthetic pyrethroids, diluted and poured on your dog twice weekly, or sprayed on daily. They also kill fleas. They have some deterrent activity.  Used so infrequently for ticks these days, it’s hard to get an impression of efficacy. See comments on toxicity below.

5. Tick collars

These plastic collars, coated with powdery residue, last about 5-6 weeks (Kiltix®, Preventic®). At about $14-$18 they easily represent best bang-for-your-buck in terms of cost per week of protection. The downsides: your dog will smell like an industrial chemical for the first 2 weeks of the cycle.  See comments on toxicity below.

6. Proban®

This is an insecticidal drug, given by pill given every other day, that circulates in the bloodstream and poisons the tick when it starts sucking blood.  The dose needs to be calculated on an accurate body weight to avoid under or over dosing. If a problem arises with Proban®, it’s more usually due to toxicity to pet rather than failure to kill a tick. See comments below.

Organophosphate and synthetic pyrethroid toxicity

If the flea is considered a soldier, a Paralysis tick can be looked upon as a tank. Insecticides targeting ticks need to be stronger and in higher concentrations to be effective. This is why the OP’s continue to feature commonly in tick preventatives, despite being phased out of flea products.

This class of insecticide, together with the synthetic pyrethroids, are toxic to both host and parasite, and must be dosed to kill the tick, not the pet.  Anti-tick dose rates are right at the upper limit of dose tolerable to a healthy animal.

Caution is needed when using products in combination, or in the young, old, and liver-compromised. If you put a tick collar or rinse on your old dog or give Proban to a cat, and she goes off her food, seems groggy and lethargic or, worse still, starts twitching or vomiting, stop treatment straight away and speak with a vet.

Even if your dog or cat seems to be OK  when given these drugs, there can be hidden impacts on the liver and nervous system. If you dog develops weird neuromuscular weakness the vet can’t explain, that looks like tick paralysis but drags on for weeks, stop the Proban and rinses!

All cats are highly sensitive to toxic effects of these insecticides. The recent push of a synthetic pyrethroid into the tick prevention spot-on market has seen a climbing death toll, and calls for better warning labels and reporting of adverse events from feline practitioners around the country.

Even cats that just hang out with dogs can be fatally poisoned, which should prompt us to scrutinise our own contact with these chemicals. While humans  don’t suffer the same grooming compulsion and liver-enzyme deficiency that predisposes cats, regular contact in the home or workplace (vets, nurses) may be a long-term concern.  These insecticides may be fine when applied to an outdoor dog; intolerable on those that sleep with the kids.

This class of drugs persist in the environment, are not removed by water treatment, and are highly toxic to aquatic ecosystems. Even just brief and occasional swimming in the dam may wipe-out your entire native fish and yabbie population. If you have a fish farm you should even bring them on to the property.

All this being said, if you live in an area plagued by Paralysis ticks 6 months of the year, it becomes a process of weighing the risks of toxicity against the benefit of preventing a life-threatening episode of tick paralysis.  Vets and pet shops sell thousands of these products, and may only see a couple of problems with toxicity each year.

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Recommendation

Cat owners living in tick territory have a tough decision. The options are: tick searches; Frontline Plus® applied fortnightly (expensive and prone to failure); or Proban® (near toxic to your cat). If the cat has long hair and lives outdoors you may end up relying on immunity, which can be a dangerous thing.  Advantix is highly toxic to cats and can’t be used.

Dog owner, strapped for cash, and living in a tick prone area?  Best get a short-haired breed and rely on tick searches, collars or regular rinses.  Buy 4 ticks collars at the beginning of the tick season, and change them religiously, every 5 weeks, for peak  season. A $60 investment may save you $600 in tick paralysis treatment.

If you enjoy a close relationship with your pet, you’re offended if she reeks of an industrial chemical, or can’t cope with child’s cheek pressed close to tick collar during puppy cuddles, spots-ons may be preferable to collars and rinses. Applied fortnightly, this choice may treble the annual tick-control budget however, and they seem more vulnerable to failure.

Although Proban® is of very low toxicity to family members, by locking it away in your pet’s bloodstream, you’re essentially outsourcing any toxic impact to the animal.

If you’re a Trekkie and totally believe in technological salvation, go for the SKUDO ultrasonic device. Just make sure you know the early symptoms of tick paralysis and seek medical attention when things turn pear-shaped.

If you want to use a single agent to kill both fleas and ticks then use either Advantix® or Frontline Plus® every 2 weeks, or flea rinses twice weekly, or Proban® every other day.  Tick collars don’t seem to work well against fleas.

Holidaying in a tick area?

  • The Dangers: your dog will have little or no immunity, and family members may be unfamiliar with searching for ticks, and the symptoms of paralysis.
  • Tick preventatives need to be started before you leave home, to achieve protective levels. Two weeks for spot-ons, one week for others.
  • Ticks can wander for up 7 days in the coat, like a flea, before finding their ideal site to suck blood. This means continuing tick control for 2 weeks after returning home.

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41 Responses to “Tick prevention: cost versus benefit”

  1. jessica says:

    I’m sorry Matt but you are incorrect regarding tick prevention in cats. Currently the only approved tick prevention method for cats in Australia is Frontline Spray, applied to the cat every 3 weeks (and by applied I mean sprayed all over the cat and left to dry). Frontline Plus Spot-On, used every 2 weeks, is no longer recommended by the manufacturers for tick prevention in cats and Proban should definitely not be used. (As a side note, I have personal experience with fortnightly Frontline Spot-On use not being effective against ticks on cats).

    Please feel free to confirm what I’ve said with Merial (makers of Frontline) and the Australian Veterinary Assosciation.

  2. matt says:

    hi jess, you dont have to apologise, happy to stand corrected.

    i moved this comment to this post as its probably more appropriate here. Many this season would contend that frontline top spot and even advantix applied fortightly is also ineffective in dogs. I can think of three recent cases of tick paralysis in dogs on which owners dutifully applied these preventatives on time.

    Yes, proban is not good for cats, sometimes in the short, and always in the long term. But some owners are forced to balance risk. If their cat is a long haired, hands-off farm cat, that wont tolerate full body spray without sedation. Proban may stave off a fatal case of tick paralysis, and buy some good quality life before hepatotoxicity kicks in.

    During the 90’s cythioate/proban was more commonly used in cats and i would comment:
    I guesstimate I’ve encountered at least 20 cats recieving over the years.

    Rarely were they vet initiated.

    Many were owners who had lost a cat or suffered near fatal tick incidents and viewed it as the pragmatic answer to ‘better of two evils’ dilemma.

    I havent observed a case of proban failure in a cat.

    The only ADR was one cat that was transiently inappetant and returned to good health on discontination. There are undoubtedly more catastrophic misadventures than this, as there are for NSAIDs etc.

    This is, of course, all still anecdotal but it adds depth to the debate.

    On a side track, in terms of toxicity, advantix aint so good either. Recently i did repeated liver profiles on 2 border collies at induction of fortnightly advantix, on owners request. Female , aged 6, and male 6months, zero and 6 weeks. While the juvenile had no significant changes; the ALT increased from 32 to 154 in the older bitch. Results below.

    I could not reassure the client that, although such changes didnt represent any immediate threat to the dogs welfare, there would not be secondary pathology and/or insufficiency in the long term.

    Her last dog died of liver neoplasia after years of religious flea and tick control and she blames herself to some degree. In her case, I would agree, proban and collars should be ruled out, probably advantix, leaving only fipronyl. Given its recent failure rate, that choice may run the risk of life threatening tick paralysis.

    what to do?

    Pre advantix

    VETNOSTICS COMMENT
    No significant changes. Dr Brett Stone

    VETNOSTICS
    SERUM CHEMISTRY
    Bilirubin 2 umol/L (0-10)
    ALT 32 U/L (0-80)
    GGT < 5 U/L (0-5) Alkaline Phosphatase < 10 U/L (1-120) Protein 65 g/L (55-78) Albumin 37 g/L (22-36) Globulin 28 g/L (25-40) Albumin/Globulin Ratio 1.3 Post 3 fortnightly advantix VETNOSTICS COMMENT Mild hepatopathy. Dr Brett Stone VETNOSTICS SERUM CHEMISTRY Bilirubin < 2 umol/L (0-10) ALT 154 U/L (0-80) GGT < 5 U/L (0-5) Alkaline Phosphatase 14 U/L (1-120) Protein 61 g/L (55-78) Albumin 36 g/L (22-36) Globulin 25 g/L (25-40) Albumin/Globulin Ratio 1.4

  3. Jessica says:

    Thanks so much for the extra info Matt – all VERY interesting. I had no idea how toxic some of these chemicals are, which was very naive of me. I see you have mentioned long-haired cats a few times, are they less prone to ticks attaching? If so, my persian cat is very unlucky as she’s had tick poisoning twice now (the second time she was being dosed fortnightly with Frontline Plus). She is now a strictly indoor cat.

    Someone told me that ticks can ‘float in the breeze’ so even a cat on an enclosed balcony is at risk. Does this sound plausible to you?!

    Have you ever encounted a dog or cat with tick poisoning who had been correctly dosed with Frontline Spray?

    Sorry for all the questions!

  4. matt says:

    Long haired cats present 2 problems:
    1. their coat makes manual tick searches less effective. There is simply more hair to hide amongst.
    2. The greater the coat surface area, the more topical insecticide required to acheive toxic levels throughout. Its hard to get frontline spray deep down into the coat or on skin with a thick persian.

    Both these factors will tend to make long haired cats and dogs of greater risk of tick paralysis. Ticks are part of the spider family, and they climb, or are carried on animals up into trees. They dont fly on the wind with web like other spiders, but they will drop on humans and animals from above ( personal experience with this).

    I havent encountered a frontline spray failure but, to be honest, the all over spray isnt used very commonly, so it’s hard to say.

    Sorry to hear of your loss. It understandably adds to your frustration surrounding tick prevention.

    cheers
    m

  5. Kerry Shqrman says:

    An excellent and comprehensive article that presents a balanced viewpoint on tick and flea prevention.Thanks so much for an easy to understand report. Will be book-marking for future reference.

  6. Kristy says:

    Proban question…

    My longhaired cat had a tick on the Thursday before Easter Friday.. so an emergency call to the vet was required.
    He was in a bad way, staggering on his legs, fortunately the antidote worked.

    Tuesday after Easter he got another tick, another emergency vet visit…saved again by the antidote.

    Between the visits, antidotes & hospitalisation the cost was over $1,000.

    I asked the vet if there wasn’t a sound tick prevention method….He told me of Proban.

    I asked why he hadn’t told me of it before & he said he didn’t stock it as people thought it was too expensive.

    I asked how much it cost. $70 dollars & will last about a year for a 5.5 KG cat he replied.

    I said “that’s got to be cheaper than $1,000 in 4 days” so I got some and have been giving it to him at half a tablet, twice a week ever since.

    My cat is over 20 years old but still seems very healthy (a bit of arthritus).

    With all the waffle over Proban I haven’t been able to find out why it is no longer available (did the Gov’t ban it) and importantly what negative effects it may have on my cat in well explained detail that a lay person can understand.

    Will it have immediate physical problems and secondary side effects such as dementia or strange behavioural problems ?

    I should have mentioned that there is a large bush area next to me and paralysis ticks are a real problem, I get them on me frequently.

    Maybe I should have given the Proban a break during the winter months but I thought I was playing it safe by keeping it up to him.

    Ticks are less prevalent in the winter but the risk is still there in this area.

    I should also mention my longhair is an outdoor cat and loves to sleep in the garden, on the lawn, in piles of leaves & the bush etc.

    Longwinded case I guess but I am searching for answers, what has happened to Proban & how do I protect my cat if it is gone.

    I have found Frontline sprayon useless, expensive and doesn’t last on an outdoor cat.

    Thanks in advance for your help, your information is the best I have found, down to earth all nuts & bolts explanations, bookmarked for future reference.

    Regards

    Kristy

  7. Jo says:

    Hi can I just ask Jess I live right near the beach,
    An my cat is long haired cat an full of 5 different types
    Of ticks an now I’m keeping him indoors
    Which he hates do I buy the frontline plus
    At $74.00 which I can’t really afford an hope
    It works or are there any natural products out
    There to repell these horrible things??? Ps I’m in nsw Australia thanks

  8. admin says:

    hi kristy,

    its toxicity either targets liver or nerve function. most cats with hepatotoxicity just go off their food, some vomit, and some will suffer liver failure. if your concerned about this you can get his liver enzymes tested before, or intermittently while on treatment.

    neurologic are more immediate than a delayed, demetia-style effect. if he’s tolerated proban without neuro effects previously, they proably wont develop, unless his liver starts to fail and the cythioate builds up in his system, and eventually reaches neurotoxic levels.

    at the end of the day, the most constant gauge of your cats wellbeing while on proban is his appetitie. monitor it closely and stop proban if he starts to get ‘fussy’.

    long haired cats in tick areas are in constant risk of death from paralysis, and its perfectly reasonable to weight the risk of proban toxicity against the risk of death by tick. I agree, spot-ons are unreliable.

    i’m uncertain why the product is becoming unavaialable in australia, and it may be a commercial decision rather than govt policy.

    you may still be able to source the active in proban, cythioate, as some other banded product from overseas on the net.

    hope this helps.

  9. admin says:

    unfortunately theres not natural products that work effectlively. you could approach holistic vets for homeopathic treatments but i’m uncertain if they will also recommend you continue with expensive spot on treatments.

    this may help to offset the costs of the spot ons…..

    http://communityvet.net/2010/11/splitting-vials-risk-minimising/

  10. Kelly says:

    I’ve read and heard that garlic given to dogs is a helpful repellent. Do you know if this is true – and since too much garlic could be toxic, would you know an amount that can be safely given – per weight of dog – and how often?

    We had our dog on Proban and are now trying to find another solution (in a tick area) since Proban is no longer available. Tried Advantix and after the 2nd application, our dog had problems: lethergy, overall distress, pacing, yelping/whining for no apparent reason (even waking him from a sound sleep), inability to jump up on things (work table, quad bike for work around the place), either because he couldn’t calculate the distance (kept missing) or because he was weak in the hind legs. When I read about side effects to Advantix, I immediately washed off the remainder of the dose and he began improving the next day – with all symptoms disappearing in a little over a week.

    Thanks for any help you can give me on garlic or another natural deterrent. We’re thinking that, along with thorough tick checks (he’s a short-haired beagle cross), and controling areas where he goes (always has to be on a lead anyway or his nose takes him far away) may be our only solution.

  11. admin says:

    hi there, ive never read anything the quantified the toxicity of garlic in dogs. the post below describes the toxicity of onion in dogs as a medium onion to a 20kg dog. youd have to check the concentrations of organosulphates in garlic relative to onion. if your dealing with non-toxic ticks, outside australia, deterrent may be sufficient. if in australia, and thinking of garlic as a preventative for paralysis ticks, i’d be very very cautious. check to make sure they’re not surviving.

    http://communityvet.net/2010/07/when-the-oxidant-is-onion-in-dog-and-cat/

    the other thing to understand is that ticks often have only once chance to feed and reproduce. tick deterrents need to be very strong to deter any creature in a life vs death situation

  12. Excellent post. I was checking constantly this blog and I am impressed! Very useful information specially the last part 🙂 I care for such information much. I was seeking this certain information for a very long time. Thank you and best of luck.

  13. Suz says:

    I must admit, I agree with Gilbert. Very informative article and posts, thank you.

    I too have tried everything to no avail. I have tried Proban, and hard to say whether it’s effective, the cat seems to bring a tick home every other day. We have found the tick checks are the most successful.

    Just curious whether anyone has heard of or tried the Vet Kem Breakaway Tick Collar for cats?

    Thanks
    Suz

  14. Suz says:

    Sorry, probably should’ve added I’m in Brisbane Australia, so the paralysis tick is a big concern.

    Cheers
    Suz

  15. Helen says:

    Hi

    Is it safe to use Advantix and Kiltix on a 25kg 2 year old Golden Retriever? I hear conflicting opinios from our local vets on this question.
    We live on the Central Coast of NSW and we have a very high level of ticks in our particular area.
    We have lost 2 dogs previously to ticks so are really concerned with tick season nearing.
    He also goes down to beach regularly and comes home wet and full of sand. Did not know that the sand in his coat affected the insecticide. Would brushing him help?

    ta
    Helen

  16. amanda says:

    very informative site, but depressing. i’m getting 5 to 6 ticks a day off my ragdolland it’s only august.I’m very very worried about summer as my cat is almost impossible to keep inside, picture much darting through open doors! I’m thinking maybe there may be some sortof sonar method i could fit into doorways, similiar to the garden dogwrecking method? any ideas anyone. amanda

  17. admin says:

    hi helen, the simple answer if we ont know for sure. They have overlapping toxic side effects, in the short term, and possible long. one vet is giving you a cautious approach ( we dont know, so dont risk it), other other a pragmatic one ( we very rarely see definiative side effects of acute toxicity with such combinations of insecticides).

    there is a low likleyhood of tocicity, but the risk of getting a tick whden using 2 products may be even lower.

    if things are tight, use a collar regularly tick check, if shes your baby, you lost your last one a tick, and money is no object use both and monitor liver enzymes.

    its all about balancing the risks, ewithin ones budget

  18. admin says:

    the skudo tick dettgerant is on the market, which would be like an alarm going off around the dogs neck, only audible to the dog and the tick, but this product hs never been tested on australian parlysis ticks and ive seen plenty opf failures. they cost about $90- from pet hops but i dont recommend.

    cheerio
    m

  19. lee says:

    We live on 30acres….up in the hills…..where no frosts go..(heard frosts kill ticks)…! We are riddled in ticks, brown, scrub, cattle and paralysis ticks ALL year round….! I use advantix on our dogs…. tried tick collars but the smell is horrible and just dont feel they are working. Pulled 9 ticks off border collie other day…now we have a stray…dumped cat on our doorstep I am just befriending atm now I am worried as he has a few bumps where ticks have been…how and what should I try to use on him…? Our horses get riddled in ticks and absolutely hate using chemicals on them…and is full time job picking them off. Old horseman told me to use two tick collars co-joined to put on our foals…. Last spring we had a foal go down for two days on a drip because of the mongrel paralysis ticks. Often wish someone would drive by and light a match….heard burnoffs help in controlling ticks…much cheaper and safer than chemicals if you ask me. Surely their is something on the market thats safe to animals but toxic to the ticks?

  20. admin says:

    hi leanne, sorry to hear of your situation. I’ve met a few people who have moved away after a few years of feeling besieged by an insect!

    The active ingredient on preventic collars, amitraz, is odourless, and the manufacturer even adds a mint scent, so you will find this less offensive than kiltix collars.

    cats are a problem. Currently there are no products registered for paralysis tick prevention in the cat, with the exception of full body spray with frontline, monthly. I can guarantee the stray cat will not stick around if you start using this protocol.

    environmental control? clear bushland, keep grass cut very short, do things/get animals that deter wildlife (jack russell. ferret, stoat, mongoose)

    unfortunately insecticides tend to be toxic to most species, to varying extents. cats are usually most sensitive, but there will be subtle, more hidden, but usually non-life threatening, effects in dogs, humans, and horses.

    hope this helps

    cheerio
    m

  21. mandie says:

    Just pulled 4 ticks of my kitty wish there was a more viable solution than spraying him and my other cat once a month

  22. Sue says:

    Has anyone heard of the magnetic discs that are now available called Oz Pet Protector …need to wear hanging from collar ..supposed to last two years…..about $50 …would like feedback before I buy. Thanks…Sue

  23. laylah says:

    We live in a tick infested area in Maleny , Sunshine Coast, My puppy a long haired Bijon cross maltese,was getting 2to4 ticks on him a week, we ordered an electronic tick device,and after putting it on our Dogs collar it was 10 months before we found another tick on him. Just wanted to share this information for anyone who wants a chemical free solution for there pets.

  24. Lisa says:

    Try odourless tick collar Kiltix, no strong odour, I am very happy with this brand. Preventic collars absolutelty stink like petrol but not Kiltix brand. Costs a little more but cheaper online to buy. I also use Advantix fortnitely living in north brisbane in a very high tick area. With my small dogs I cut off the big clip and put a hole in each end of collar and join ends with small elastic.

  25. Gwynn Williams says:

    We are holidaying in NSW and Qld with 2 Chinese Crested Powderpuffs- long haired. l have some Pro ban left from a previous trip (exp 6/13) and wondered if I could use Advantix at the same time? Would a tick collar be better? Last time one picked up a paralysis tick from the lawn at a petrol station near the Glasshouse Mountains, so I am really worried. One dog weighs 5 kg and the other 7 kg. Would a half pill each be enough?

    Many thanks,

    Gwynn

  26. Shawn Goodwin says:

    I was desperately searching for answers for my tick problem when I stumbled across your site. What a FORTUNATE stumble for me that was! I almost stopped reading your article when I realized you are in Australia, again, fortunately I didn’t

    I learned more from your site today than I have in 20+years with my vet! Due to the changes in climate, in addition to living in FL, I am seeing an abundance of ticks and have been very disappointed in Revolution, LOL, now I know why! With 4 dogs and 7 cats (indoor only), I need to have the upper hand on this situation.

    I still need to research, but your site has helped me tremendously and I wanted to thank you!

    Sincerely,

    Shawn & Her 11 Rescues

  27. admin says:

    hi gwynn, the toxicity of drugs/insecticides is highly variable between individuals. If your dogs are young and healthy it is likely they will tolerate proban/advantix, but its probably more protection than you may need given the time of year, and a largely hairless dog.

    Many people use advantix with a collar with no ill effect, and this will be less likely to result in ill effect.

    On the relative reliability of the products you have described, in my opinion: proban, collar, spot on (descending order)

    cheerio

  28. Meg says:

    Matt thanks for the information. I was searching for information as we currently live in a low risk area for paralysis tick (urban Townsville) but are considering a move next year to a higher risk area (Tamborine Mountain) with our healthy 7 year old Golden Retriever. It would be devastating to lose him due to paralysis tick, and we are now wondering about not relocating soley because of the tick issue , so I found your site very useful in our decision making.

    Realistically, even with the best of intents, 45 minutes each day checking for ticks on a golden retriever would not be able to be maintained forever – and that wont allay the risk of a tick entering and hiding in the anal orifice (we have heard of a friend in Brisbane whose dog died, the location of the tick finally only being discovered on autopsy).

    We have heard that in Cairns some local dog owners administer Advantix weekly during peak tick season ( which I know does not accord with manufacturer’s advice, and I dont know if the benefits would outweight the disadvantage of toxicity).

    The measures we feel we could realistically take and always adhere to are to have a tick collar and combine it with a two-weekly advantix, as per the manufacturers instructions. I could renew a tick collar earlier than manufacturers instructions ) as an extra safeguard – say at 4 weeks to ennsure it was still effective. I presume that would not increase risk of toxicity to the dog?

    I am led to believe in the Tamborine Mountain area it may be necessary to have that dual preventive treatment (collar and advtantix) given throughout the whole year not just in tick season, but we would be prepared to do so rather than risk paralysis tick.

    Have you personally seen/heard of many preventive treatment failures related to that combination regime when it is complied with? Is that the best prevention treatment currently available?

    Thank you for the assistance Matt.

    Meg

  29. Gwynn Williams says:

    Thanks for your reply Matt. I will get them collars to go with the Pro ban, till it runs out. They are both long haired, not the hairless, so are groomed daily anyway, but now will also get a close examination too.
    Cheers, Gwynn

  30. admin says:

    My sympathies, Meg. Your in a difficult position.

    I have never seen a dog with dual preventative develop tick paralysis, but I have found sick and dying ticks attached to such dogs. Ticks attach and are killed before they get an chance to intoxicate the dog.

    Yes, tick collar and fortnightly is currently the maximum prevention i recommend, although i’m not surprised pet owners in Cairns have resorted to weekly application. The value of coat clipping and regular checks cant be understated.

    In terms of toxicity, these is immediate and delayed.

    Immediate is usually GIT and neuro symptoms. If your dog tolerates dual preventative for a couple of months, its likely you wont have problems with this level of insecticide load, going into the future.

    Linking possible delayed toxic effects, like liver damage and tumours, is more difficult for vets to be sure of. I have worked about 10 years in urban sydney, and 10 years in a tick area, and I do not see a significantly larger number of patients with polyneuronal or hepatic disease, so i dont see this as a big issue.

    Changing tick collar at 4-5w wont be a problem. I recommend this for dogs that swim frequently.

  31. Taz says:

    Hi Matt,

    I’m still confused with what to get my outdoor cat for flea and tick prevention- Frontline Plus or Advantage? I live in Byron Bay and for the last couple of months have found the random tick on my cat whether it be under his arm or on his eyelid. He usually is outside three times a week and the rest indoors. I know to avoid ticks all together I should keep him in but he just goes a little crazy if he doesn’t get outside.
    If you have any other suggestions that would be fantastic.

    Cheers

  32. admin says:

    Advantage does not claim to control ticks.

    Frontline Plus, as a spot on, has been proven to be effective against ticks in laboratory settings, but had such high failure rates in the field, the manufacturer withdrew registration as tick preventative.

    Frontline sprayed all over the coat, with a pump pack, claims to control ticks is applied monthly. They hate this treatment, and expect stink eye for a day or two.

    No easy answer, i’d do the spot on fortnightly, but don’t be complacent: it may be killing 80+% of ticks that attach.

    Remember, finding tiny ticks that have just started feeding doesn’t not equal product failure. No products are completely repellant, and their aim is to kill the tick as it feeds in the first day or so, ideally before the toxic effects manifest.

  33. Luciana says:

    Hi Matt,

    Ive just gone through Paralysis Tick with my beautiful brave 5 month old pup Gulliver. We have bush surrounding our property and possums maurauding the garden at night. Could you please explain exactly what happens to a dog affected by paralysis tick and also what is the best for me to use for 2 x pups 4 months old and 7 year old dog. We also have a cat at home who is more outdoor that indoor. She is quite aloof from dogs so they dont have much contact but they do pass like ships in the night. What is the best for me to do for my pups, larger dog and cat. Ive clipped the other pup and pulled a tick off today so Im watching carefully for any signs. I learnt that ticks life cylce is did not reliase that ticks go from nymph (apparantly not harmless) to adult (lethal)

    You mentioned collars and Im really loathe to use Advantix as I know its toxic, however they were on Advantix and Gulliver still got the tick. Im studying Horticulture and a lot of biological controls are used for pests. Im even thinking of ordering some wasps as they are natural predators … just trying to find out which ones. Below info I have reseearched for everybodys info. There is much more on wikipedia and please all, correct anything or add anything…. as these ticks are killing on a massive scale, and I dont really see any benefit in them.

    Paraylysis Tick (Ixodes holocyclus) natural hosts are include koalas, bandicoots, possums and kangaroos.4) stages- egg, larva, nymph, adult. Ticks hatch as six-legged larvae after incubation of 40 to 60 days. Larvae search for a blood meal from a host, feed for four to six days, then drop from the host and moult to become an eight-legged nymph. Nymphs require a second blood meal before they can moult again to become an adult. Female adults then require a further blood meal of up to ten days before dropping off to lay up to 3000 eggs in leaf litter. Male adults will search for females on the host for mating, and to parasitise the females for blood meals. This life cycle takes around a year to complete[1] (average 365 days, minimum 135 days, maximum 437 days).Natural predators of Ixodes holocyclus include insectivorous birds and wasps.

    I would really appreciate any advice as to what I can do to protect my animals as the cost was huge … but worth it.

    Many thanks all for this interesting and important discussion.

  34. Luciana says:

    Matt,

    You are AWESOME. I have been on your website now for a good hour …. and so much appreciate all the valuable information you ahve one here. Thank you. Thank you.

  35. Amanda says:

    Thank you so much for providing such an informative article. My 6 month old poodle is recovering after stage 3 tick paralysis , I had applied spot treatment 1 week prior ! In fact my dog had undergone desexing op with 3 ticks on him – the vet didn’t check him before the op, so when he wasn’t recovering from his op I was told he had post op symptoms – wobbly legs, hoarse cough . I knew something was wrong and took him back , they found 3 ticks on him. Having lost a dog to ticks 2 years ago , I was devastated and really didn’t think my poodle would make it – thankfully he has. I’m now going to use a combination of collar and spot treatment. I live on the North Shore in Sydney and being warned to expect a dreadful tick season due to lack of winter conditions.
    Amanda

  36. laura says:

    I have to say I am Not finding the spray to work too well for my cats, and I DO soak them with with (thank goodness they will put up with it) and they ARE RELATIVELY short haired (especially this time of year, as the weather is warming. I have pulled two ticks of my snoeshow siamese already this season, thankfully before they have had a chance to gorge and make him sick. Frontline sprayed all over the coat, with a pump pack, claims to control ticks is applied monthly. They hate this treatment, and expect stink eye for a day or two. Matt mine don’t, or at least not enough to scratch me, and as yet I have not had any eye problems. HOWEVER, if you read the label, it suggests spraying onto your hands, or rubbing hands in wet fur and rubbing over the face. Ir explicitly says not to apply spray directly to the cats face.
    I can really only suggest, buy the spray anyway and apply it as per instructions, and CHECK YOUR CAT DAILY, if you catch the thing within the first 12 hours of it latching on, your cat will be okay.
    If in doubt go to the vet, or ring on of the many after hours emergency numbers. They will advise you on the best thing to do.

  37. Andrew says:

    For those living on small to medium acres. Guinea Fowl are the answer. They are like chickens only they will live in a tree or bush so they are safe from foxes and other nasty’s. They eat ticks by the tens of thousands and will warn you of any snakes that may appear by making the most unusual noise, almost like an alarm.

    Good luck

  38. natalie says:

    what is the rough cost of treatment for tick paralisis..I am asking as I had a 3 week old kitten who was treated and it was almost as much as a full size cat ?

  39. admin says:

    cost of treatment is highly variable, and not necessarily dependant on size of animal. Anywhere from $400- $1200, much higher if your pet needs specialist, afterhours, or time on a respirator.

  40. Colleen says:

    Hi,
    I have just found this article while doing a google search for the Skudo tags for my two dogs and just thought I would let you know my experience. We moved to Moruya NSW on 40 acres in December 2013 with our two maltese x pomeranians. They both have very dense thick coats. Previously they were treated for fleas with Comfortis as one can not have any chemicals applied to his skin due to sensitivities. Our vet recommended Scalibor tick collars which we put on two weeks before we relocated. I was still paranoid and checked them daily. I found quite a few ticks in the first month then saw the Skudo tags at the produce and decided to try them. I put them on the tick collars in the second week of January. They have not had a tick or a flea since. They have not had Comfortis since their January dose. I still use both the Scalibor collar and the Skudo tag as our place is heavily infested with ticks, we can’t seem to avoid getting them but the dogs have not had one since the tags were put on. I don’t mind the extra cost as I am saving on the Comfortis and have peace of mind. Also the Scalibor collars don’t smell very bad at all and both dogs have free rein of the house (lounge, bed etc) so it would bother me if they did smell. By the way the Skudo tags are still working even though they say six months, but I test them weekly and they are still flashing. I am looking for replacements now as the produce can not get them anymore.

  41. Melanie says:

    Hi Matt,

    My furr baby (cat) was just attacked by 2 paralysis ticks a few weeks ago. I have been doing a lot of research and noticed a lot I people are trying natural alternatives which apparently work and save money, not to mention ‘non toxic’ for our loveable pets.
    I went knot the natural food store kn the Sunshine Coast where I live and both of the ladies suggested I wash my cat with a drop or 2 of 100% eucalyptus oil to prevent fleas and mix a small drop of neem oil with any other oil, such as olive oil, coconut oil etc, rub both together into hands and run over his furr, however they have been using this on their dogs and ne oil can be harmful for cats – have you ever read anything about using natural oils to prevent ticks and if so, what have you read as the best prevention or cats? My poor cat is going crazy locked up inside as I am waiting I role r move into our new he to let him out but I want to ensure I al using the best protection I can on him. Also what is the best option to use to remove ticks? Thanks in advance for your reply!
    -Melanie

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