Who likes ticks?

I sure don’t.  And I’m unhappy seeing more and more of them in and around our Seattle neighborhoods where I practice.  But I am taking action to prevent the little bloodsuckers from creating problems for my patients and clients.  Thankfully, there are some excellent new options for safe tick control currently available for our dogs and cats.

It’s Getting Warmer

What seems to be a rising number of ticks on pets may be a sign of inevitable changes in our local climate and the environmental factors that favor their spread. We in the Pacific NW have long been favored with a relative lack of ticks affecting our dogs and cats.  When I moved her nearly 25 years ago from Florida, I was so excited to learn of the paucity of these disgusting creatures around Puget Sound!  I’d seen few cases until the past 3 years.  Now I’ve heard many more clients reporting or presenting with ticks on their dogs. Not all of these afflicted dogs have been out hiking in the woods.  I had even pulled a tick off of the forehead of a cat last fall.  Unheard of in the decades past!

Ticks are parasitic arthropods (actually arachnids and related to spiders) that feed on the blood of their hosts. They can carry a variety of diseases that can affect dogs and humans alike.  We have all heard of Lyme disease, which is relatively rare here, but other conditions transmitted by ticks are more common in WA State, such as Anaplasmosis, Rocky Mountain spotted fever, Babesiosis, and Tularemia.

Spreading Disease

In all of these diseases, the tick transmits pathogenic bacteria via its mouth during feeding.  Ticks usually bite and attach their mouthparts first, then about 20-24hrs later begin to feed on the blood of their host. This is when they quietly start to transmit dangerous germs into their victim’s bloodstream.  If the tick is killed before this stage of feeding, there is little or no risk of contracting disease, even if the tick is still attached. So, rapid killing or paralysis of the tick preventing it from feeding is an important way to limit risk of tick borne illness. The newer drugs act super-fast!

Seattle Ticks

The tick species in our state that most commonly bite dogs and cats are American dog tickDermacentor variabilis,  Rocky Mountain wood tickD. andersoni , Brown dog tick, Rhipicephalus sanguineus, and Western Black Legged bear tick, Ixodes pacificus.  Of these species, only the Brown dog tick does not transmit disease.


The newest class of tick killing prescription products are the isoxazolines.  They have a very rapid rate of tick kill, working within 24hrs, before blood feeding starts.  With flurolaner, surolaner, and aflaxolaner we also see less adverse effects compared to other older anti-tick products containing agents such as: spinosad, ivermectin, organic phosphates, permethrins, etc.

Talk to your veterinarian about the best options for your pet’s lifestyle. Also be aware that not all products will work for every pet, so a bit of trial and error may be in orde


Mark Donovan

Ravenna Animal Hospital