Should I Use a Tick Dip, Powder, Spray or Shampoo on My Dog?

A dog owner is bound to purchase a tick dip or other product at least once in a dog's lifetime. It can be difficult to decide what to buy when so many different flea and tick products are available to rid dogs of these blood-sucking parasites.

Dog Ticks

Ticks are part of the ectoparasite family, as they live externally on a host. Ticks are actually big fleas, but they look like spiders because they have eight legs.

Once attached to a host, ticks will increase in size because of the amount of blood they drink. A tick can attach itself to many different mammals, but tend to prefer dogs. Wood ticks and brown dog ticks are commonly found on canines. These parasites are worrisome because they can transmit diseases to the host, including:

  • Lyme disease
  • Babesiosis
  • Anaplasmosis
  • Ehrlichiosis
  • Rocky Mountain spotted fever

Tick Dips

Tick dips are a type of dog bath product and are a common method of ridding dogs of ectoparasites. Dips often contain pyrethrin, an insecticide made from chrysanthemum flowers. Pyrethrin has lower toxicity rates among dogs, but fatally affects the nerves and metabolism of sodium in ticks.

Some dips contain chemicals that have a strong smell. Dips can also greatly irritate a dog's skin, especially if he or she has open wounds.

Tick Powders

Tick powders tend to be more of a hassle than help for pet owners, depending on the situation and the amount of fleas on a dog and in the home. The chemicals in some tick powders are toxic to dogs if ingested. Some tick powders recommend dog owners shake the substance onto a dog's bed, the furniture in the home and even the carpet. A vacuum that has picked up tick powder needs to immediately be cleaned or have its bag changed, so the powder doesn't blow into the air.

Tick Sprays

Sprays can kill ticks or repel them, depending on the product purchased. The ingredients in tick sprays usually have lower toxicity levels and many contain natural ingredients that may be more gentle on a dog's skin.

Tick Shampoos

The ingredients in tick shampoos are meant to kill ticks while a dog soaks in bath water, per the guidelines listed on the shampoo bottle.

If a dog is soaked for the appropriate amount of time, the ticks will eventually drown or will un-bury its head from a dog's skin and be killed by the chemicals in the shampoo. If using a shampoo to treat ticks, it's recommended to apply the shampoo first to a dog's neck and rear end, so ticks won't try to enter the ears or anus. Take care to not get tick shampoo in a dog's eyes.

Many tick treatments are not recommended for pregnant or young dogs. If a dog has a tick, it's recommended that a veterinarian be consulted before treating a dog at home.