The Best Tick-Repellent Products for Humans and Dogs
By Katherine Gillespie / Additional reporting by Maxine Builder and Dominique Pariso
Summer may be over, but that doesn’t mean we’re out of the woods when it comes to tick-borne diseases — forgive the pun. Unfortunately, ticks are active at any temperature above freezing. Places to watch out for include wooded areas and patches with tall grass and bushes, explains Dr. Goudarz Molaei, research scientist and director of the CAES Passive Tick Surveillance Program. It’s important to know that tick bites don’t just happen on the hiking trail. “Close to 75 percent of Lyme-disease cases have been reported from bites that occur in people’s own backyards,” Molaei explains.
Fortunately, there are some solid, science-backed ways to prevent the pests from latching on — as well as a couple of tools that’ll help you safely remove any that do break through your defenses.
What we’re looking for
Active ingredients: According to Molaei, there are generally two types of chemicals that serve as the first line of defense against ticks: repellents, which can be applied directly to the skin, and pesticides, which can be applied to clothing. Our experts say the best topical repellents use either DEET or picaridin as their primary ingredient; when it comes to pesticides, they all recommended clothing treated with permethrin (the same chemical used in delousing shampoos like Nix), which acts as a “tick-killing agent,” according to Dr. Rick Ostfeld, a disease ecologist at the Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies. We also considered natural tick repellants such as lemon eucalyptus oil.
When you and your dog go for a walk, your pet is more likely to come back into the house with a tick than you are. So if dog owners really want to protect themselves from tick bites, it’s important they make sure their pet is protected too. According to our experts, the best tick preventatives for dogs include oral medications containing fluralaner and topical treatments containing the chemicals imidacloprid, permethrin, and pyriproxyfen.
Safety: Using chemicals on your skin and clothing can be a little scary. For that reason, we only recommended skin-applied tick-repellent products that are registered in the Environmental Protection Agency database. As for pesticide-treated clothing, all pesticides sold in the United States must pass the EPA’s safety and efficacy standards, including permethrin.
We also checked that all of our recommended tick products for dogs were registered as safe by the EPA for both pets and owners. One popular tick product for dogs, the Seresto flea and tick collar treated with imidacloprid and flumethrin, is known to be highly effective against ticks — however, following a series of media reports and class-action lawsuits that claim it can cause adverse reactions and even death in some dogs, the product’s registration status is under review. For this reason, it doesn’t appear on our list.
Efficacy: For tick repellants, we looked at how long products retain their tick-defying powers before reapplication is necessary and whether their efficacy is affected by the use of additional topical body products like sunscreen. For pesticide-treated clothing, we noted how many washes an item will through last before its efficacy wears off. And as for furry friends, we took note of which products were best for long- and short-term use.
Whatever products you’re using, Jeffrey Hammond of the New York State Department of Health’s public-affairs office recommends doing “a final full-body tick check at the end of the day and also checking children and pets” in order to protect against ticks and tick-borne illness. A proper tick check starts with examining your feet then onto armpits, wrists, knees, and, yes, groin. “Ticks start low and crawl up,” adds Dr. Thomas N. Mather, director of the University of Rhode Island’s Center for Vector-Borne Disease and its TickEncounter Resource Center. “If they get to the top of your head, it’s not that they fell out of a tree. Instead, they’ve crawled all the way up your body.”
Continue reading more on the best repellent products for humans and dogs here.
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Most commonly, you’ll see 70 or more percent DEET in mosquito repellents.
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