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The Very Best Tick Treatments for Dogs

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If you’ve ever had to remove a fully engorged tick from the folds of skin behind your dog’s ear, you know that keeping the tiny pests at bay is a battle, even in the best of times. Tick season used to be a spring and summer thing; depending on where you live, you’d typically get a break come late fall, with cold weather killing off a lot of them. But now it can be tick season year-round, thanks to warmer winters and growing populations of the deer, mice, and other creatures that ticks love to bury their Lyme-disease-carrying heads in.

If unprotected, dogs can contract lots of nasty illnesses from ticks, including Lyme disease, canine ehrlichiosis, canine anaplasmosis, canine babesiosis, and Rocky Mountain spotted fever. And I have learned the hard way that keeping ticks off your dog is an important step in keeping ticks off you and your family, too. (Just because a tick starts off on your dog doesn’t mean it won’t end up catching a ride into your living room and burrowing its way into your thigh while you watch Love Is Blind on the couch.)

Because ticks can be tiny and easy to miss — deer ticks that carry Lyme disease are often as small as poppy seeds — regular tick checks are essential, especially if you take your dog hiking, play with them in areas with a lot of tall grass, or live in the prime tick country of the Northeast. The best way to check for ticks is to “run your hands through your dog’s fur against the direction it normally lays. This allows you to see down to the skin, even on very furry dogs,” says veterinarian Dr. Jennifer Coates, who serves on the advisory board for Pup Life Today. You should pay close attention to your dog’s face, ears, belly, groin, and feet, and if you find any ticks, remove them right away with fine-point tweezers or a tick key. After a tick bite, if your dog displays any warning symptoms — which include joint pain, limping or lameness, swollen lymph nodes, fever, lethargy, or decreased appetite — speak to your vet as soon as possible, as tick-borne illnesses can be fatal.

Still, performing regular tick checks on your dog won’t prevent all bites, which is why veterinarians recommend that dog owners, no matter where they live, consider a preventative treatment (since ticks can also be found in city parks). To help you find the most effective tick prevention for your dog, we asked veterinarians, plus our own writers and editors, to recommend the products they like best. Their favorites take different forms — from chews to topical treatments and wearable collars — and because some require a prescription from your vet, you may notice fewer (but all expert-approved) options on this list.

What we’re looking for

Active ingredients

Tick-prevention medications come in three main categories: oral chews, topical treatments you apply to the skin, and collars embedded with medication to repel ticks. Most topical treatments and tick collars use insecticides that repel ticks so they jump off your dog’s body before biting them. Oral medications absorb into a dog’s bloodstream and then into the tissue fluids just under their skin; when a tick bites the dog, the medication in their body is transferred to the tick, which then dies before it has a chance to infect your dog with Lyme or any other illnesses it might be carrying. Because oral medications kill the ticks instead of just repelling them, they also help prevent future infestations where topical treatments and collars usually don’t.

Whichever method of prevention you prefer, all our experts agree that you should stick to newer classes of repellents and medications, since ticks have become resistant to certain chemicals over time. For example, according to Dr. Jamie Richardson of New York City’s Small Door Veterinary, “Frontline has been around for 25 years now, and it’s not as effective as it was when it first hit the market. It definitely works for some, but not for all.” Below, we’ve listed the active ingredients in each recommendation; as always, it’s best to consult your veterinarian before starting a new treatment.

Type

Tick-prevention medications are designed to be poisonous to insects but not harmful to mammals (like you, me, and our dogs). But because oral treatments are prescription medications and all tick treatments have potential side effects, even the ones sold over the counter, finding the best one for your dog should always start with a conversation with your vet, especially if you have a puppy, a toy breed dog, or a dog with preexisting health conditions. For instance, some oral tick preventatives, including the ones mentioned below, are not recommended for dogs with a history of uncontrolled seizures. But Richardson, whose own dog takes one of the treatments on our list (Nexgard), told us that the risk of seizures from taking tick prevention medication is rare and that the benefits far outweigh this risk. “In my [career] as a vet, I have treated probably thousands of dogs with severe and sometimes life-threatening tick-borne diseases, but I have never treated any dogs with the side effects known to these medications,” she explains. Another benefit of oral tick treatments is they don’t pose a danger to other pets or children in the home, which isn’t necessarily the case with topical treatments, and your dog won’t have to wait several days to swim or bathe after taking them.

That said, Richardson does recommend topical treatments for dogs with gastrointestinal issues. “If, when they eat anything out of the ordinary, they have a tendency to vomit, then the oral probably isn’t the best product for them,” she says. There are dozens of topical tick repellents on the market, many of which are sold over the counter. Still, while you may find some for less money or see an all-natural spray that sounds safe to use at the pet store, you should always discuss the ingredients with your vet. As Richardson explains, “some over-the-counter products have been associated with pretty nasty side effects.” And when it comes to natural alternatives to flea and tick prevention, both Richardson and Dr. Tory Waxman, a veterinarian and the co-founder of dog-food brand Sundays, are wary: “A lot of people use tea-tree oil, but it actually can be pretty poisonous to dogs,” says Waxman, noting that essential oils and other over-the-counter treatments are not as well regulated as prescription products.

Dose range

Since dogs come in a wide variety of sizes from teacup to giant breed, dog medications come in a variety of weight-based dosages. In general, this makes buying the safest and most effective medication possible for all dog owners. And since my own dog, Uli, weighs just five pounds — a size that is vulnerable to potential overdose — I put more trust in brands that offer clearly labeled options for many different sizes of dogs.

Duration

Depending on where you live (the Northeast versus Alaska, for instance) and how active your dog is, it might make more sense to give them one dose of medication that lasts several months instead of having to remember to give them their medication every month. But for dogs who spend limited time in tick-infested areas, individual monthly doses could be convenient.

Approximate cost per month

The cost of each tick treatment varies depending on the brand and the length of protection provided. But whether you’re planning to buy a few doses or enough to last an entire year, it’s helpful to know the starting price of a single unit. We’ve listed the approximate cost of each treatment per month based on the retail price.

Best tick prevention overall

Type: Prescription medication, oral and topical form | Active ingredients: Fluralaner | Dose range: Five dosages | Duration: Three months | Approximate cost per month: Starts at $24

Bravecto was mentioned by all of the vets we talked to, with Waxman telling us her own dog takes the chewable oral treatment. It is also what I give my five-pound dog Uli, whose gray fur makes finding ticks very difficult. According to the vets, its main appeal over other oral treatments is that it protects dogs from ticks and fleas for three months at a time, as opposed to one month at a time. The chewable tablets are meat-flavored, so you won’t have to hide any pills in peanut butter or cheese, and they are available in different sizes for dogs from (roughly) four to 123 pounds.

To say Uli is a fan of Bravecto would be a lie, but she does happily eat the chew and it has kept her safe from fleas and ticks for many years. Dr. Alejandro Caos, a veterinarian at the Vets, also gives Bravecto to his own rescue Sharky and likes that it starts killing embedded ticks in as little as 12 hours and fleas in as little as two hours, which is ideal if you don’t follow a year-round dosing schedule. He also says his dog never experiences any adverse side effects, like diarrhea or vomiting. Like Caos, Fable Pets co-founder Jeremy Canade gives Bravecto to his border collie Ranger and says he appreciates that the pup is always prepared for an impromptu hike or a trip to the park. Plus, Ranger likes the chews so much that he sometimes “picks them out of his food and brings them over to the couch to enjoy as a special treat,” Canade says. Most clinics will carry Bravecto, but you can order it online with a prescription from a veterinarian.

Sakura Davis, a veterinary technician and consultant who gives her dog Bravecto’s oral treatment, is also a fan of the brand’s topical solution. It uses the same active ingredient that is found in chewable tablets, which means the topical will also protect your dog for three months at a time.

Best oral tick prevention

From $75 for 3

Type: Prescription medication, oral treatment only | Active ingredients: Afoxolaner | Dose range: Four dosages | Duration: One month per chew | Approximate cost per month: Starts at $25

Nexgard was also recommended by all the vets we spoke to, including Davis, who prefers it over other oral preventatives and calls it “the most effective prescription medication for ticks.” When we polled Strategist dog owners, Nexgard was the top choice among four staffers. After trying a tick collar on her rescue Harmony, Strategist editor Maxine Builder switched to this oral option — which she calls a mess- and hassle-less treatment — and says it keeps her dog tick-free on summer trips to Maine (a state where the tick-borne illness called babesiosis is considered an endemic in 2023, according to the CDC). Strategist writer Arielle Avila, who gets prescriptions delivered through Chewy, says her hound mix has been taking it for at least five years with no side effects; meanwhile, Strategist writer Latifah Miles says a veterinarian exclusively recommended Nexgard for her under-1-year-old Lab. Strategist junior writer Brenley Goertzen also gives Nexgard to both her Great Dane and Aussie mix and likes that the medication is straightforward to administer because it can be given with food or on its own. Each month, the dogs take a dose determined by their weight, and because the chews are beef-flavored, Avila, Miles, and Goertzen all say their pups gobble them down like they’re treats.

Nexgard claims to kill or control black-legged ticks, American dog ticks, lone-star ticks, and brown dog ticks, which together account for the majority of ticks that dogs in the U.S. will encounter. Each dose lasts for one month (as opposed to Bravecto’s three), which could be useful for mostly indoor dogs and their owners planning to spend a limited amount of time vacationing or adventuring in the great outdoors. Avila says the monthly method is easy to remember, but both she and Miles set reminders on their phones to ensure their pets never miss a dose.

Best combination tick and heartworm prevention

Type: Prescription medication, oral treatment only | Active ingredients: Sarolaner, moxidectin, pyrantel | Dose range: Six dosages | Duration: One month per chew | Approximate cost per month: Start at $27

Simparica Trio works against the same ticks and fleas as Nexgard and also protects your dog from heartworms, hookworms, and roundworms. Three experts recommend it: Waxman, Brooks, and Dr. Gabrielle Fadl, a medical director at Bond Vet, who says it’s the tick treatment carried at the company’s New York City clinics. Like Nexgard, Simparica needs to be given to your dog every month, which Fadl says can be easier for some dog owners to remember. She also says she prefers monthly prescriptions to those with a quarterly dose duration because, in her experience, the efficacy of the latter can diminish before the 90-day mark. “If you’re in an area where the bugs are at large, your dog might do better with a monthly product,” she says. It’s available for dogs from 2.8 pounds all the way up to 132 pounds.

Best topical tick prevention

Type: Over-the-counter, topical | Active ingredients: Imidacloprid, permethrin, and pyriproxyfen | Dose range: Four dosages | Duration: One month per tube | Approximate cost per month: Starts at $13

Unlike other topical treatments, K9 Advantix can actually kill insects on contact. Waxman recommends it because it repels ticks and fleas, along with mosquitos, biting flies, and lice. It uses a different class of drug than Bravecto and other oral tick prevention medications, so it’s a good choice for dogs with a history of uncontrolled seizures. It is available for dogs who weigh as little as four pounds, and each application is effective for one month. Richardson and Caos also say non-ingested treatments like this are an excellent option for dogs with food allergies, but Caos warns that the active ingredients can be harmful to cats. For example, in multi-pet households, a cat may rub against a treated dog, which can cause severe reactions and is sometimes fatal, Caos says.

Best (less expensive) topical tick prevention

Type: Over-the-counter, topical | Active ingredients: Fipronil and (S)-methoprene | Dose range: Four dosages | Duration: One month per tube | Approximate cost per month: Starts at $13

This topical treatment is slightly more affordable than the option above but differs from K9 Advantix in that it’s not considered a repellent, says Dr. Paola Cuevas, a veterinary consultant at Hepper and Pet Keen. PetArmor works to kill ticks, fleas, and lice within 48 hours of application, reducing the likelihood of blood-borne disease transmission. For this reason, Cuevas recommends using it in conjunction with a repellent spray before going outdoors or bathing your pup in a flea-and-tick shampoo afterward.

Cuevas says the active ingredients are also considered safe for dogs with the MDR1 genetic mutation, a condition that can cause serious reactions to some common drugs and affects approximately three of every four border collies. Other herding breeds, including Australian shepherds, German shepherds, old English sheepdogs, long-haired whippets, and some mixed breeds, may also carry the genetic variant. That’s why it’s best to consult your veterinarian before starting any type of treatment or if you otherwise suspect the possibility of drug sensitivity. PetArmor is available for dogs who weigh five pounds up to 132 pounds.

Best tick collar

Type: Over-the-counter, topical treatment contained within a collar | Active ingredients: Lumethrin and imidacloprid | Dose range: Two dosages | Duration: Eight months per collar | Approximate cost per month: Starts at $9

Much like topical treatments, tick collars contain chemicals that coat a dog’s skin to repel — and in this case kill — ticks on contact. Similar to the way topicals are applied to the skin, collars like this one release chemicals onto the dog’s skin as soon as you put them on. Over time, as the chemicals wear off, the Seresto collar will release more for continued protection. For some pet owners, especially those who live in particularly dense tick areas, our experts recommend adding a tick collar in addition to oral prevention as part of your dog’s treatment. “In highly endemic areas, sometimes we need to double up on protection,” explains Dr. Stephanie Liff of Pure Paws Veterinary Care, who recommends the Seresto collar. Davis likes Seresto because it’s a cost-effective over-the-counter option that kills fleas and ticks for up to eight months, which, as Coates points out, makes it a great option for owners who have trouble remembering to give their dog monthly treatments. Plus, it’s water-resistant and comes in two sizes. Waxman calls the Seresto collar “awesome” and says that it’s nothing like old tick collars, which were “greasy and disgusting.”

Other tools for tick prevention (and for removing ticks)

Goertzen purchased this ultrasonic device after noticing it in several pet stores. Although she already gives monthly doses of Nexgard to her Aussie mix, Goertzen says she wanted an added layer of chemical-free protection (rather than using a tick collar). Tickless attaches to her dog’s collar and works by emitting a series of ultrasound impulses that are harmless and imperceptible to people and animals, but disturb ticks and can repel them for up to 12 months. While Caos says he can’t comment on the product’s efficacy, he sees no problem with using it as a preventive solution (in addition to one of the oral prescriptions above). Goertzen says the nontoxic repeller has provided extra peace of mind when taking her dog to highly wooded areas like northern Minnesota and Manitoba.

If you still find a tick latched onto your dog after taking all the recommended precautions above, our experts say you should not try to pry it off with your fingers. Veterinarian Dr. Rachel Barrack, the founder of New York City’s Animal Acupuncture clinic, says to instead “use fine-point tweezers” like these — not flat-edged ones — “to avoid tearing the tick and spreading possible infections to the area.” In more revolting terms, Dr. Thomas N. Mather, director of the University of Rhode Island’s Center for Vector-Borne Disease and its TickEncounter Resource Center, says you can “think of the tick as a bag of germs that happens to be connected to your skin with a straw.” He cautions that if you squeeze the bug’s body with an imprecise tweezer, all those germs will be released through the “straw” and into your skin. Pointed tweezers will get you as close as possible to the head of the tick, right next to the skin, without accidentally squeezing the bug.

While pointy-tipped tweezers are the best way to remove ticks of all sizes, Dr. Nadine Cohen of CareMount Medical notes that sometimes you might not have access to a pair. That’s why she suggests keeping a tick key on your keychain, so you’ll always have a tool designed for the job at the ready. As she explains, it “works by sliding underneath the body of the tick, close to the skin, with the goal of removing the entire tick easily and safely.” Conveniently, it works on both people and dogs.

I have successfully used a tick key on my own body more than once. I’ve also used one to pull a tick off of a former boss’s back in a Condé Nast bathroom. And while I enjoy the outdoorsy cred that carrying one affords me, using it on my squirmy curly-haired toy poodle has never worked out well. I much prefer this tiny crowbar-shaped tool called the Tick Tornado. It makes pulling out a tick much quicker, allowing me to get in and get out without her feeling the approach of the tool against her skin. It has never failed, even at the height of tick season in coastal Connecticut, just nine and a half miles from Lyme — the town where the eponymous disease was first discovered. Like an actual crowbar, it uses leverage to gently but firmly remove ticks without squishing them.

Some other Strategist-approved products for repelling ticks (on humans and dogs)

Our experts

• Arielle Avila, Strategist writer
• Dr. Leslie Brooks, a vet advisor for Better Pet
• Maxine Builder, Strategist editor
• Jeremy Canade, co-founder of Fable Pets
• Dr. Jennifer Coates, who serves on the advisory board for Pup Life Today
• Dr. Alejandro Caos, veterinarian at the Vets
• Dr. Paola Cuevas, a veterinary consultant at Hepper and Pet Keen
• Sakura Davis, a veterinary technician
• Dr. Gabrielle Fadl, a medical director at Bond Vet
• Brenley Goertzen, Strategist junior writer
• Dr. Thomas N. Mather, director of the University of Rhode Island’s Center for Vector-Borne Disease and its TickEncounter Resource Center
• Latifah Miles, Strategist writer
Dr. Jamie Richardson of New York City’s Small Door Veterinary
• Dr. Tory Waxman, a veterinarian and co-founder of dog-food brand Sundays

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The Very Best Tick Treatments for Dogs