There are three major standard situations regarding tick control in dogs:

  • Urban dogs that occasionally visit tick territory during a walk.
  • Rural dogs that move more or less freely in tick territory, e.g. in cattle or sheep farms.
  • Kennels, boarding houses, etc. where many dogs live together.

Most urban dogs can catch "a few ticks" during a walk. Tick control usually meens, either preventing this to happen (e.g. avoiding tick territory) and/or killing or removing those few ticks that the pet has caught after the walk. Several pet tickicides (spot-ons, collars, etc.) described here provide appropriate curative and preventative efficacy in these situations. Some "soft" products (shampoos, sprays, soaps, etc.) may provide sufficient control as well.

Rural dogs may catch dozens if not hundreds of ticks regularly. Many classic dog tickicides (spot-ons, collars, etc.) are not potent enough to completely prevent this to happen, especially during the high tick season. "Soft" products (shampoos, soaps, sprays, etc.) are mostly completely useless. Such dogs are often treated off-label with more potent livestock tickicides (that are much cheaper...). Whether they are safe or not for the dogs is another story...

Wherever many dogs live together (kennels, boarding houses, etc.) the brown dog tick (Rhipicephalus sanguineus) can become a pest, indoors and outdoors. Such dogs do not pick a few ticks visiting tick territory: they live in tick territory! Suck ticks can become a pest comparable to fleas. What is needed is not protecting individual dogs from ticks, but effective tick population control in the whole facility. Some modern spot-ons can achieve such tick population control, but require a professional approach that includes systematic monitoring, quarantine measures, strict treatment schedules, etc.

Nowadays, there are basically four types of veterinary products containing tickicides for pets:

Rhipicephalus sanguineus, unfed adult female. Picture from Wikipedia commonsThe vast majority of the active ingredients used in this products act by contact, i.e. they have no systemic mode of action (though the blood of the host). The most notable exceptions with a systemic mode of action are afoxolaner (NEXGARD, NEXGARD SPECTRA), fluralaner (BRAVECTO), sarolaner (SIMPARICA) and selamectin (STRONGHOLD = REVOLUTION).

So far there are no tickicides for pets in the form of injectables or drenches.

When using low-cost topical products (e.g. shampoos, soaps, sprays, lotions, dusts, ointments, etc) it is important to treat the whole body surface of the pet and not only those parts where you have seen ticks. The reason is that you may notice adult ticks, but not larvae or nymphs that are too small to be seen by the naked eye.

Many veterinary products have a broad spectrum of activity, i.e. they control not only ticks but also other pet parasites, e.g. fleas, mites, gastrointestinal roundworms, heartworms, tapeworms, etc. Since your pet may need treatment or protection against some of these other parasites as well, it can make sense to select a product based on its spectrum of activity.

Be aware that not all veterinary products with a claim for tick control are effective against all tick species. In fact, most pet tickicides, even the most expensive ones have been checked against the major tick species in Europe and the USA, the largest markets. These species are typically Ixodes (ricinus and scapularis), Dermacentor (reticulatus and variabilis), Amblyomma americanum and Rhipicephalus sanguineus. But they have not been tested against dozens of other tick species that are less frequent in Europe or North America but prevail in other regions of the world. They may work, or they may not work.

You may be interested in the general features of parasiticides or active ingredients.


SPOT-ONS (=pipettes, squeeze-ons, drop-ons) against ticks in dogs and cats

Spot-ons are ready-to-use concentrates containing one or more active ingredients with parasiticidal efficacy. Depending on the active ingredient(s) they are effective against other pet parasites too, e.g. fleas, mites, gastrointestinal worms, heartworms, etc.

Spot-ons are products for topical administration, i.e. they are applied on the skin of the pets. They are often sold in single-use squeezable vials or ampoules of different sizes for dogs or cats in a particular weight range. The whole content of a vial is applied on a given "spot" (typically on the neck or on the back). Once applied to the skin, the active ingredient spreads throughout the body of the pet or is absorbed through the skin into the pet's organism (so-called systemic products). Both spreading and/or absorption through the skin can be slower or faster, more or less complete, etc. depending on each animal's features (e.g. size, breed, hair coat, behavior, etc.) and also on the non-active, inert ingredients in the product, i.e. on its formulation, which can vary significantly between manufacturers. This is why product quality (and safety!) depends not only on the active ingredient(s), but also on the formulation (which is true for spot-ons and for whatever parasiticide or medicine, veterinary or human).

Most spot-ons are quite resistant to occasional washing and shampooing, i.e. the pet won't loose protection against parasites after a splash. But repeated splashes or shampooing can indeed diminish the length or protection.

Click here to learn more about spot-ons, pipettes, squeeze-ons: efficacy, safety, etc.

The best-known original spot-on brands that control ticks are the following (not all available worldwide):

  • FRONTLINE TOP SPOT, with fipronil, from MERIAL; available for dogs and cats worldwide. Introduced in the mid 1990s. Fipronil is a broad-spectrum contact insecticide and acaricide that kills ticks and belongs to the phenylpyrazole pesticidesBesides ticks it also controls fleas and some mite species. Fipronil is also vastly used in agriculture as well as in public and domestic hygiene. There are numerous generics.
  • ADVANTIX, with imidacloprid and permethrin, from BAYER. Available for dogs worldwide. Introduced in the early 2000s. Imidacloprid is a broad-spectrum contact insecticide that kills adult fleas (adulticide) and belongs to the neonicotinoid pesticides. It has no efficacy whatsoever against ticks. Besides fleas it also controls a few lice speciesPermethrin is a synthetic pyrethroid effective against ticks, fleas any many other external parasites. Permethrin is also a broad-spectrum pesticide vastly used on livestock, in agriculture and in hygiene. Imidacloprid is also vastly used in agriculture as well as in public and domestic hygiene. There are numerous generics of both imidacloprid and permethrin. ADVANTIX is a follow-up brand of ADVANTAGE, which was introduced in the mid 1990s and has no efficacy against ticks. ADVANTIX is available only for dogs because permethrin is toxic to cats.
    • Follow-up brands from BAYER:
      • K9 ADVANTIX with pyriproxyfen in addition to imidacloprid and permethrin. Available in some countries only for dogs. Pyriproxyfen is a juvenile hormone analogue, i.e. an insect development inhibitor, which prevents deposited flea eggs from hatching, because a few adult fleas may survive the imidacloprid treatment. Pyriproxyfen has no efficacy whatsoever against ticks. It is available only for dogs in certain countries. Pyriproxyfen is also used in agriculture and hygiene. K9-ADVANTIX is available only for dogs because permethrin is toxic to cats.
      • Related BAYER brands such as ADVANTAGE and ADVOCATEADVANTAGE MULTI are ineffective against ticks.
  • PRAC-TIC, with pyriprole, from ELANCO (NOVARTIS). Available in the EU and other countries, but e.g. not in the USA. Only for dogs. Introduced in 2007. Pyriprole is a broad-spectrum contact insecticide and acaricide that kills ticks and adult fleas (adulticide) and belongs to the phenylpyrazole pesticides. It is uite similar to fipronil. Pyriprole is not used on livestock, agriculture or hygiene: it is only used on dogs. There are no generics so far.
  • REVOLUTION = STRONGHOLD, with selamectin, from PFIZER=ZOETIS. Available for dogs and cats worldwide. Introduced in the late 1990s. Selamectin is a macrocyclic lactone effective against a few tick species in addition to adult fleas and certain lice and mite species, as well as against roundworms, including heartworms. It has a systemic mode of action, i.e. it is first absorbed through the skin into blood and then distributed through the whole body of the pet. There are no generics so far.
  • BRAVECTO TOPICAL, with fluralaner, from MERCK (MSD) ANIMAL HEALTH. Availabe only for dogs in certain countries. Introduced in 2016. Fluralaner is one of the newest insecticidal active ingredients from the chemical class of the isoxazolines. With a unique 3-months protection claim against ticks and fleas. It has also a systemic mode of action, i.e. it is absorbed into blood and then distributed through the whole body of the pet. There are no generics so far.

Be aware that excepting selamectin, other macrocyclic lactones (e.g. ivermectin) at their usual therapeutic dose are not effective against pet ticks, neither as injectables, nor as tablets, drenches, feed additives or whatever formulation. Off-label use of livestock products with macrocyclic lactones (they are much cheaper...) in dogs can be fatal for ivermectin-sensitive dog breeds.


TABLETS, pills, chewables, against dog and cat ticks

All products for internal use, including tablets, pills, etc. contain active ingredients with a systemic mode of action, i.e. once ingested they are absorbed into blood and distributed throughout the pet's body. They reach the ticks during their blood meals, wherever they are biting, which is not always the case for products for external use that act by contact. This means also that they remain unaffected by whatever external influences such as washing, shampooing, rain, exposure to sunlight, dirt, etc. But to be killed they have to bite the pet first, and therfore such products may not be able to completely prevent disease transmission by the ticks.

Such products are a good option for pet owners that want to avoid getting themselves or their children in contact with pesticides, which is unavoidable when using topical products such as spot-ons, collars, shampoos, sprays, etc.

Until 2014 there were no tablets (or other oral products) for tick control on dogs. Since 2014 several new brands have been introduced:

  • BRAVECTO, with fluralaner, from MERCK (MSD) ANIMAL HEALTH. Availabe only for dogs in certain countries. Introduced in 2014. Fluralaner is one of the newest insecticidal active ingredients from the chemical class of the isoxazolines. With a unique 3-month claim against ticks and fleas. There are no generics.
  • NEXGARD, with afoxolaner, from MERIAL. Availabe only for dogs in certain countries. Introduced in 2014. Afoxolaner is one of the newest insecticidal active ingredients from the chemical class of the isoxazolines. For monthly administration against ticks and fleas. There are no generics.
  • NEXGARD SPECTRA, with afoxolaner and milbemycin oxime, from MERIAL. Availabe only for dogs in certain countries. Introduced in 2015. For monthly administration against ticks, fleas, several roundworm species and for heartworm prevention. There are no generics.
  • SIMPARICA, with sarolaner, from ZOETIS. Availabe only for dogs in certain countries. Introduced in 2016. Sarolaner is one of the newest insecticidal active ingredients from the chemical class of the isoxazolines. For monthly administration against ticks, fleas, and certain mite species. There are no generics.

COLLARS impregnated with tickicides against ticks on dogs and cats

Before the introduction of modern spot-ons in the 1990s, insecticide-impregnated collars were quite popular for controlling fleas and ticks on pets. Many brands are still available.

Good collars should kill 80-90% of the ticks within 1 week after application and provide a about a 90-60% protection against re-infestation for 8 to 12 weeks, whereby efficacy usually diminishes during the last weeks.

Most collars consist of a plastic or a thick textile strip impregnated with a tickicide that is slowly released to the hair coat around the collar. It spreads more or less rapidly and completely to the rest of the hair coat. All insecticides used in collars kill adult fleas or ticks by contact.

Most insecticide-impregnated collars are quite resistant to occasional washing and shampooing, i.e. the pet won't loose protection against ticks due to a splash. But repeated splashes or shampooing can indeed diminish the length or protection.

Such collars contain mostly only one active ingredient, frequently a "veteran" from the following chemical classes:

Some collars have also some efficacy against fleas, lice, mites, etc.

All these pesticides are vastly used on livestock as well as in agriculture and in public and domestic hygiene.

There are also collars impregnated with "soft" natural insecticides such as pyrethrins, d-limonene, linalool, etc. Their efficacy against ticks is usually rather modest.

Click here to learn more about insecticide-impregnated collars: efficacy, safety, etc.


Baths, shampoos, soaps, sprays, etc. for the control of ticks on dogs and cats

A common feature of all these products is that efficacy strongly depends on product administration, which can be cumbersome: it is quite easy to do it wrong. As a consequence parts of the pet's body remain insufficiently treated by the product. Therefore, such topical products are often not very reliable for tick control. But they are often the cheapest.

Many products of this category contain veteran, broad-spectrum acaricides such as:

They are often used in mixtures, sometimes with a synergist. Most such products have also some efficacy against fleas, lice, mites, etc.

Many such products contain also natural insecticides such as pyrethrins, d-limonene, linalool, etc. Their efficacy against ticks is usually rather modest.

To ensure complete coverage of the whole body surface dipping the pet is usually a more reliable approach than spraying.

Click here to learn more about shampoos, soaps, baths, sprays, dusts, and the like: efficacy, safety, etc.


RESISTANCE of dog and cat ticks to tickicides

There are a few reports on resistance of the brown dog tick, Rhipicephalus sanguineus to amitrazorganophosphates and synthetic pyrethroids, of Rhipicephalus evertsi and Rhipicephalus appendiculatus to organophosphates and synthetic pyrethroids and of Amblyomma cajennense to synthetic pyrethroids. So far there are no reports on confirmed resistance of dog ticks to the newest tickicides (fipronil, pyriprole, afoxolaner, fluralaner, selamectin, etc).

This means that if a particular product has not achieved the expected control, it is most likely because the product is not adequate for tick control on pets or because it was not used correctly, not because the ticks are resistant.

Learn more about parasite resistance and how it develops.


  • Click here to view the article on NATURAL CONTROL of ticks in dogs and cats (prevention, natural tickicides, medicinal herbs, vaccines, biological control, etc).
  • Click here to learn the basics of tick biology in order to have a better chance to get rid of them. Knowing how ticks make their living (where they live, how they reproduce, how they behave, etc) will help you to choose the right tick control measures among the many options available. 

Other articles in this site