by Dr. Kristin Williams, DVM
Flea and tick season is in full swing!! Is your dog protected? Are you confused about what the best option is for your pet? Here’s a quick summary of the products available and my personal experience with using them.
Let’s start with the newest products out there, which are the oral flea and tick preventatives including Nexgard, Simparica and Bravecto, among others. These products are highly effective in killing fleas and ticks FAST before they are able to transmit diseases to your dog, However, they do NOT have any labeled repelling activity, so if your dog comes in the house with lots of ticks on him/her and they do not bite your dog before they go elsewhere, this can expose your family to tick bites and tick-borne diseases. FYI, the only one of these medications that is labeled for multiple months is Bravecto, but this product has been shown to lack efficacy against some types of ticks for the full 3 months so I no longer recommend it for tick control and prefer the monthly options. The biggest side effects seen with the oral flea and tick medications are vomiting and diarrhea, and these products should not be used in a dog with a history of seizures.
The topical flea and tick medications have been around for a long time. Frontline is one of the most well-known of these products, and is highly effective against killing ticks. However, like the oral products it does not repel. In addition, some people have found that it is no longer as effective against fleas as it has been in the past – perhaps a flea resistance has developed? Advantix is my preferred topical product, because it DOES repel and is still highly effective against fleas. The disadvantage of topical products, in general, is the greasy mess you have to live with for a day or 2, as well as the risk that if your dog managed to go swimming shortly after product application and it washes off, this may cause a lapse in efficacy. And don’t forget – Advantix (and some of the other topicals available) is toxic to cats, so never ever use this on your cat!
My favorite product currently is the Seresto collar. Why? It lasts for a full six months regardless of swimming activity, and it is highly effective as both repelling and killing fleas and ticks. In addition, you only have to remember to put it on every 6 months! This product is technically labeled for 6-8 months, but I personally never let mine go longer than 6 months as I do not want to risk a break-through by those pesky ticks! In addition, to help guarantee that the Seresto collar is effective you need to make sure that the collar is tight enough on your dog – it is not meant to be worn like a bangle bracelet. The biggest issues I have seen with this collar are in multiple pet households where the dogs pull them off of each other and destroy them, or in dogs with very thick coats where the collar just can’t seem to penetrate deeply enough to work properly.
There are other combination products out there such as Revolution, which also has a heartworm preventative in it, but is not effective against ticks in general. In addition, a new product called Simparica Trio is a once-monthly oral product effective against heartworm and internal parasites, as well as fleas and ticks. However, once again we are stuck with a product that does not repel, which I consider to be important.
Last, if you want the ultimate barrier in flea/tick prevention for your dog, you can certainly use an oral product in combination with a topical product so that you have 2 layers of protection. The products act differently and are safe to use together.
Just remember that nothing is 100% guaranteed to work, so I also recommend a thorough check of your dog and perhaps a brushing of the face, chest and ears to monitor for tick activity after your dog comes in from outside so that you can pick up on ticks immediately before they have the chance to bite your dog. And remember that with warmer winter temperatures ticks are active YEAR-ROUND, so don’t hang up the tick armor in the colder months.