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Do Dog Tick Collars Really Work

↯ Key takeaway points

  • Dog tick collars work by releasing a controlled dose of two active ingredients, imidacloprid and flumethrin, which kill or repel ticks and other parasites.
  • Ticks are dangerous to dogs, transmitting viral, bacterial, and protozoan diseases, making prevention key.
  • There are three types of tick collars: gas, absorption, and ultrasonic, with absorption collars being the most effective.
  • Tick collars are convenient, cost-effective, and provide long-lasting protection, but they do come with risks and should be removed if a dog shows any signs of illness.
Written by Jay
BsC (Hons) Animal Behaviour & Welfare graduate with a passion for advocating for misunderstood animals.
Licensed veterinarian and animal behaviorist with over three years of experience and a Ph.D. in Poultry Science.
Published on
Tuesday 25 January 2022
Last updated on
Wednesday 17 May 2023
Do Dog Tick Collars Work
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With so many preventative products on the market, many pet parents find themselves wondering, “do dog tick collars really work?” Why should we prevent tick infestations? And what are the risks that come with using dog tick collars?

When looking at the effectiveness of tick collars, we must consider how they work, whether they repel or kill ticks, and if there are any negative side effects of them. To find out more about dog tick collars, read on with us!

What are Ticks

Ticks act as vectors for a wide variety of viral, bacterial, and protozoan diseases in dogs. There are four life stages in the life cycle of a tick, namely eggs, larvae, nymphs, and adults. All of these stages require a blood meal before they can develop any further. Unfortunately, this leaves dogs at risk of several illnesses from tick bites. Some of the most important illnesses include Lyme disease, ehrlichiosis, and babesiosis. Because so many dogs are at risk of these potentially devastating illnesses, prevention is key. This is where products like flea and tick collars come in.

The following ticks are most commonly responsible for tick infestations in dogs in Europe and the USA:

  • Castor bean tick (Ixodes ricinus)
  • Deer tick (Ixodes scapularis)
  • Hedgehog tick (Ixodes hexagonus)
  • British dog tick (Ixodes canisuga)
  • Ornate cow tick (Dermacentor reticulatus)
  • Brown dog tick (Rhipicephalus sanguineus)

What are Tick Collars and How Do They Work

Most absorption-based tick collars contain two active ingredients, namely imidacloprid and flumethrin. The collars work by continuously releasing a controlled dose of both ingredients, remaining effective for several months. It does this by distributing the ingredients throughout the skin, where ticks are subsequently killed or repelled – they don’t even need to bite your dog to be affected in some cases. But what exactly are these two ingredients?

Imidacloprid is an ectoparasiticide that has been used for dogs since 1997. Flumethrin is another ectoparasiticide that has been in use since 1986. While the imidacloprid component aims to control fleas and lice, the flumethrin component aims to control mites and ticks. But how does this hold up in a scientific study?

Studies show that this specific combination of ingredients is highly effective at controlling ticks in dogs. In one study, it was found that a tick collar was 100% effective at preventing re-infestations with Ixodes ticks. The American tick, D. variablis, was slightly less sensitive to the flumethrin component of the collar than the European tick, D. reticulatus. However, efficacy against the American tick never fell below 90% during the 34 weeks of the study. The study also found that two days after the collars were fitted, there was already enough flumethrin on the coat to reduce the number of two specific tick species by 99.2% and 100% respectively. These results suggest that the majority of ticks that attach to a dog on the same day that the collar is worn will die, and nearly every tick that attaches 2 days later will die within 6 hours.

Other flea collars may kill some of the younger stages of fleas.

Types of Tick Collars

Each type of tick collar functions a little differently. Namely, we have three types: gas, absorption, and ultrasonic. But which type is the most effective? Do all of them work?

Absorption-Based Collars

The absorption collar is said to be the most effective type. These collars contain insecticides that are distributed all across your dog’s skin, rather than staying around your dog’s neck area. Because they spread, the active ingredients also spread into natural skin oils, potentially killing and repelling fleas and ticks on contact before they bite. They are also absorbed into the fat layer of the skin, causing ticks and fleas to die after biting and ingesting the insecticide. 

Gas-Based Collars

Gas-based collars provide more localized action rather than widespread action. While these collars can and do kill fleas and other parasites, the parasites must come close to the collar to be affected. This sums up the main downside to this type of collar: its effectiveness is mostly limited to your dog’s neck and head area. These collars are, nowadays, less popular and tend to be thought of as older than absorption collars.

High-Frequency Collars

High-frequency collars, also known as ultrasonic collars, emit high-pitched, ultrasonic sound waves that repel parasites. These collars are said to be more environmentally friendly, as they contain no chemicals or fragrances. However, studies show that these collars are not as effective as other collars. One study states that ultrasonic flea and tick collars have no effect on the activity of ticks. As well as this, numerous studies show that ultrasound may not repel fleas or ticks at all – there is no change in jumping, walking, or running, even when the collar’s output increases 6000 times. Other studies find that fleas and ticks even nest near to, or inside, the ultrasonic device.

Benefits of a Tick Collar

There are several benefits to fitting your dog with a tick collar. Perhaps the most appealing to pet parents is the convenience. No messy application is necessary, simply pop on the collar and allow them to carry on as usual! As well as this, many tick collars will also provide protection from other parasites like lice and fleas. Second, flea and tick collars are often cost-effective and are inexpensive to buy. And, most importantly, they provide long-lasting protection. Some tick collars may protect your pup for up to 8 months at a time. However, be aware that tick collars do not come without risks. If your dog shows any signs of illness when wearing a tick collar, remove it immediately and go straight to your vet.

Do Dog Tick Collars Really Work – FAQs

Do dog tick collars really work? Maybe our Frequently Asked Questions section can help to further answer this question. If in doubt about your dog’s health, always ask your vet for advice.

Can tick collars be dangerous to dogs? 

Unfortunately, no pesticide is completely without harm. Since Seresto tick collars became available in 2012, the EPA has seen incident reports of over 1,698 pet deaths. Overall, through June 2020 alone, the EPA received more than 75,000 incident reports relating to the collars, including nearly 1,000 involving harm to humans. Similarly, pet collars containing tetrachlorvinphos brought 4,600 incident reports between 1992 and 2008. However, it may be worth noting that this is significantly fewer incident reports than those associated with collars containing imidacloprid and flumethrin.

What is the best tick collar for dogs? 

Two tick collars dominate the market: Bayer Seresto and Hartz Ultraguard. Although more expensive, the Bayer Seresto tick collar proves itself as a highly effective tick repellent. It provides 8 months of continuous tick prevention and treatment and can kill upon contact. The active ingredients are imidacloprid (10%) and flumethrin (4.5%). The Hartz Ultraguard tick collar provides full-body protection for up to 7 months using a combination of tetrachlorvinphos and methoprene. This collar is also water-resistant and reflective.

Can a tick kill a dog? 

There are several diseases from ticks that may kill dogs, especially without treatment. Two examples are canine babesiosis and Lyme disease. Canine babesiosis causes fever, lack of energy and appetite, dark urine, weight loss, and a swollen abdomen within two weeks of the tick bite. Unfortunately, some dogs die due to low blood pressure and shock from this illness. Similarly, Lyme disease can cause lameness, fever, a loss of appetite, and swollen lymph nodes that can damage the kidneys, nervous system, and heart. With the help of antibiotic treatment, however, this disease is now seldom fatal.

What instantly kills ticks?

Ticks are no match for three substances: rubbing alcohol, bleach, and eucalyptus oil. Nothing does the job quite like a good dose of rubbing alcohol – simply pop the tick into a cup of the alcohol and let the alcohol do its job. Eucalyptus oil, too, kills ticks but also makes for an effective repellent. Lastly, bleach is a powerful way to kill any ticks that you remove from your dog. Do not apply these substances directly to your dog’s skin!

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