While most pet owners hate to think of applying insecticides on their pets, often it’s the only way to control a flea or tick problem, particularly if your dog loves to go outside a lot. Permethrin can be one of the most effective treatments in killing and controlling tick infestations on a dog.
When using an insecticide on your dogs, it’s important to be aware of safety guidelines and dosages. And if you have cats, you’ll want to note that permethrin is toxic to them, so never mix up your dog and cat flea and tick treatments.
Is Permethrin Safe for Dogs?
Permethrin has been in the news a lot lately, due to whether it’s safe to use on dogs or not. Permethrin is generally safe to use on dogs, but not on cats. It’s a synthetic insecticide that’s been created by scientists to tackle that troublesome tick problem. In some parts of the world, ticks are more of a problem. In certain countries, there may be no tick problem within the cities, but out in the wilderness it can be an issue.
You’ll also be pleased to learn that tick treatment products for dogs only contain a small amount of the chemical, permethrin.
While it’s good to regularly examine your dog for ticks and other problems after a fun day out in the countryside or park, you should still use permethrin to kill any ticks that you might miss.
Since ticks can cause many health issues in dogs and humans, it’s better to have a small amount of risk from insecticide use, than to risk the health of your family.
Obviously, if your dog stays indoors or sticks to concrete sidewalks or roads, there is decreased risk of tick infestation. It’s up to you whether you decide to use a product that contains Permethrin, or not. However, if you have cats, it’s best to avoid using it and seek another alternative, because cats can rub against dogs or lick their skin and transfer this toxin to their bodies.
Permethrin is sold in different commercial product forms to help you apply it easily to your dogs. These products may also contain other ingredients that work together, including insect growth inhibitors.
Why Ticks Are Dangerous to Dogs
The main reason you would use an insecticide on your dog is to kill any ticks that he may have picked up during a walk outdoors. Again, you’ll have to check your city’s webpage to see if ticks are a problem where you live. If not, you can treat your dog for fleas with a much safer product.
Ticks are from the arachnid family and are actually not insects, just like spiders, even though people call them that. They are ectoparasites, attaching to mammals, including dogs. They have no preference, and will attach to any human or mammal in order to get their main meal—blood.
Ticks have an oval shape with eight legs. They have a hard shell and are several times larger than fleas, which makes them harder to kill.
Ticks are known to transmit twelve different diseases to humans and animals, including dogs, unlike a flea bite which has minimal risk. Since ticks bite the skin and burrow underneath for a certain length of time, the timeframe for transmitting diseases to mammals is increased, unlike a flea that bites only once.
Ticks can click to grasses, bushes, and leaves and wait for a host to walk past. If you brush past this vegetation, the ticks can transfer quickly to you or your dogs. They do not jump, but this method is just as effective.
Ticks on pets can also transfer to humans. The ticks burrow quickly into the skin, so even the most conscientious adult may only notice a tick once it’s burrowed under the skin. A trip to the doctor may be required to remove it, as well as a simple lab test to determine risk of disease.
A tick can have four lifestyle stages: egg, larva, nymph, and adult. A tick can reproduce in your dog’s fur or hair, causing further infestations.
A dog with longer hair or fur is going to be harder to treat than a dog with extremely short hair or fur. The type of hair or fur can also make it difficult to do a visual inspection for fleas.
Pet owners may also wish to buy a special flea and tick comb for their pets, so that the ticks get scooped up by the prongs. Keep a bowl of soapy water handy for killing the ticks immediately, as these aren’t beneficial bugs, such as spiders, that you would just release outside.
The types of diseases a dog, human, or mammal can get from ticks are worrisome. Besides Rocky Mountain Spotted fever and Lyme disease, there are many other diseases. These are rare and difficult to treat diseases that have terminal outcomes. Even Lyme disease, which has been around for some time, proves to be stubborn to treat with long doses of antibiotics. Treating pets for some of these diseases can be more difficult and with less success.
Because of these high risks, pet owners choose to treat their dogs with permethrin, rather than the risking serious illness in pets or humans.
How Does Permethrin Work?
Permethrin works by targeting the nervous system of parasites that can trouble your dog, such as fleas or ticks. It paralyzes the ticks and stops them from biting or moving. There may also be other drugs contained in the product that will serve the same purpose.
It works as quickly as five minutes after you have applied it to your dog. The ticks have to come within contact of the insecticide, so your first treatment should involve completely spraying the dog, while observing safety around face and bottom.
Besides killing the fleas, the medication will also work to repel ticks for up to a month after application.
It’s beneficial to use permethrin-based products during the height of flea and tick season.
How to Apply Permethrin Products to Your Dog?
There may be different types of tick treatment products for your dog, so it’s important to read the instructions first. Tick products may work a bit differently than flea products you apply behind the neck.
To use your tick spray, you’ll first need to apply gloves so you don’t get any on you. You may wish to spray your dog outside. You need to spray your dog from the tail and upwards, and make sure his entire body is covered, but avoiding the bottom region. You also want to avoid the eyes and face.
You’ll want to spray enough on your pet that your pet’s fur, hair, and skin is thoroughly wetted, but not so saturated.
Differences Between Permethrin Vs. Deet
You may be more familiar with DEET, which is short for diethyltoluamide. This is a common ingredient in insect repellants, including for humans. However, DEET is only for humans and is not meant to be used on dogs or other pets.
This is a slightly yellow oily substance that is rubbed onto the clothing or skin. Unlike permethrin, DEET works more as a repellent than an insecticide. Many people choose to use DEET as a preventative, which works to repel ticks, fleas, mosquitoes and other biting insects.
Permethrin works more as an insecticide by disrupting the neurons in the brains of the ticks so that they die. It can effectively kill the parasites. It also works as a tick repellent too, just like DEET.
However, DEET is not safe to use on dogs or cats. But, if you’ve discovered that your dog has a tick problem, or is picking up ticks from outdoors, you may wish to apply it to your skin or clothes to prevent picking up ticks yourself. But note, apply it to parts of your body that your dog won’t be brushing up against. You can rub it onto your skin, and then cover with clothing.
Precautions & Safety Measures to Observe
- If you own cats, you may not want to use permethrin on your dogs. It’s highly toxic to cats as they have different immune systems and are smaller.
- Do not mix up permethrin with pyrethrin. Pyrethrin is safe to use on cats. It can be tempting to use the same flea and tick products on all your pets at the same time, but don’t do it!
- If you do have cats, ask your vet for a tick treatment product for your dogs that is safe to use around them.
- Permethrin can cause mild skin irritation and burning. If your dog is scratching at the application point, you may wish to wash with soap and water and discontinue usage. Next time, you may wish to try a small application.
- If your dog experiences any shakes or seizures after application of permethrin, take him to the vet immediately.
- Keep an eye out for any rashes, redness, hair loss or skin discolouration at the application site.
- Never use on puppies that are under twelve weeks old.
- Permethrin may not be the ideal product for elderly dogs, or those with serious medical conditions or diseases.
- If you have a nursing dog, check with your vet first.
- If a human pet owner is pregnant, she may wish to check with her doctor first before using permethrin on her dogs.
- If you have a smaller breed of miniature dog, ask your vet if permethrin is a good option. You may need to cut down on dosage or use a different product.
- Human insect repellents and sprays should never be applied to your dog or cat.
- Read all safety literature before choosing a tick product for your dogs.
- Also read the literature on any sprays or household products that allow you to treat your home for insect infestations, as they can also contain permethrin.
- Check your dogs, cats, and other family members for ticks on a daily basis during bad tick season. If you’ve pulled out any ticks from your pet’s skin, wash out bites thoroughly and use a pet-safe antibiotic ointment (from your vet) to treat their skin.
- If it’s not the height of flea and tick season, or you’re keeping your pets indoors during a cold winter, you can use alternative or natural forms of parasite control that will tackle any stragglers.
- A vet’s store will have safer tick treatment products for your dog than are available from a store.
- You can buy special test kits to test ticks that have burrowed under your pet’s or your own skin. The ticks can be tested. If the test shows as negative, you can rest easy. But if the kit tests positive for the worst pathogens, you’ll need to head to the doctor’s office to get you or your pet treated. It doesn’t necessarily mean you will come down with that disease, as our body’s immune systems are there for a purpose, but you should be cautious.
- If the product has expired, drop it off at your vet’s where they’ll properly dispose of it so it doesn’t impact the environment.
- Place a leash on your dog when outdoors, to keep her from roaming into grasses or regions where ticks may lurk.
Closing Thoughts on Permethrin
Ticks are becoming a higher-risk for your pets and family. For some reason, they seem to be carrying more infectious diseases than in the past century. This can be a serious and troubling concern for you and your family.
While you can purchase tick treatment packs at your local grocery store, it’s better advised to ask your veterinarian what the safest tick treatments for your dog are. Often safer permethrin treatments can be prescribed by your pet doctor than what are available on the your store’s shelves. They may also cost a bit more, but are well worth it to keep your pet and family safe and secure from tick infestations.
Ticks aren’t something we like to think about. Choose a good product with permethrin in it, and you and your dog will have many years of fun playing outside, even during pesky tick season.