We have had a number of complaints from clients that they are seeing more ticks on their dogs this Spring than ever before, often after topical application of tick preventatives like Frontline Plus or Parastar Plus. Does that mean the products aren't working? Not necessarily.
We asked UW-Madison tick expert Professor Susan Paskewitz about this problem. She said this:
"Deer ticks have been steadily increasing in numbers and expanding the range in southern and eastern Wisconsin. In Madison, we couldn't even find them 4 years ago, yet we picked up more than 100 adults on April 26 in a small urban conservancy on the east side. So, one thing that may be different for your clients is that the density of ticks suddenly could be higher than it has ever been in their particular area and so they notice more ticks on the animals."
My understanding of treatments like Frontline is that you are trying to kill the ticks at an early stage of feeding, before Lyme Disease is transmitted. That doesn't mean you will get instant knockdown — it can take up to 48 hr for the impacts to be complete. I don't think the preventatives get overwhelmed; it's just that with more ticks you'll have a greater chance that some of them take a little longer to die — maybe because they don't get as much exposure to the acaricides as others do (depending on where they grab on to the body and the path they take to the final feeding site). As you note, that means people have to get used to the dog bringing them in the house (although eventually they should die)."
Dr. Paskewitz recommends that dog owners keep their dogs on leashes walking on mowed paths and out of areas of brush and tall grass during the early spring months when tick numbers are high to reduce exposure. Some of our clients are also using tick collars (recommended by their veterinarian) in addition to their topical tick preventatives to further protect their dogs (and themselves) from ticks.
Contact us if you have any questions about the best approach to preventing tick issues for your pets.