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My dog is treated regularly with Bravecto for flea and tick protection, but I’m not actually sure how this works with regards to ticks. We walk regularly in long grass near sheep, so I know we are at high risk of ticks, but should I still be checking for ticks and removing them if I find them? Does the treatment stop them attaching or does it just stop them passing on nasty things? 

Graham Finch advises…

Bravecto is a drug called fluralaner – part of the isooxazoline group of drugs that work on an insect’s nervous system. This comes as a chewable tablet and starts working within two hours to kill fleas and 12 hours to kill ticks. The drug is absorbed from the gut, into the bloodstream, so this does require the tick to attach and start feeding in order for the product to work.

While ticks are undoubtedly gross and can cause irritation and abscesses to form should mouth parts remain lodged in the skin when removed, or drop off, in themselves they tend not to cause major problems. For example, a recent study showed a significant number of dogs had ticks unbeknown either to the host or to the owner.

Where problems can occur, however, is when ticks also carry various diseases, which are then transmitted into a dog’s bloodstream. In the past, such diseases have been geographically isolated to rural sheep areas and cases of lyme disease, for example, have been relatively rare. However, with more frequent travel of dogs to mainland Europe, diseases including some new tick-borne ones, such as ehrlichiosis or babesiosis, have now been reported in the UK.

So yes, the ticks do need to attach to be affected by Bravecto. The key question is how long it takes for the tick to transmit disease. This has been a big area of study, especially as humans may also become affected by these diseases. It is understood that ticks need to attach for between 36-48 hours before they transmit disease. Bravecto begins working within 12 hours, as long as it’s been absorbed from the bloodstream, and effective levels occur by 24 hours after administration. So, in principle, ticks will be killed before they are able to infect the host.

That said, it is still a good idea to remove ticks at the earliest possible opportunity, as this should help reduce the risk and severity of skin irritation due to the tick bite.

Many different tick removers are easily available. The danger is leaving the mouth parts of the tick behind, which can then develop into an abscess. I’m sure your veterinary practice would be happy to show you how to use these gadgets.

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