The Skinny on Flea and Tick Protection

Before we know it, the snow will be behind us.  As temperatures rise above 40 degrees, ticks will wake from their winter slumber and goal  one is to get a meal….from you or your pet.  While we have no good flea and tick preventatives for us ( I have oft joked with my pediatrician about why they don’t make effective tick preventatives for my human children other than DEET.),  there are many options for you to protect your pets from fleas and ticks.

Topical spot-on treatments have been around for over a decade and a half.  They are not all created equal. Stay away from preparations that contain permethrins or organophosphates which are old-school pesticides that carry a high risk for side effects.  The newer generation of  pesticides are safer in that their kill mechanisms target pathways specific to insect metabolism.  Many stay in the lipid layers  or  sebacious glands of the skin and don’t go systemically so we don’t have to worry about metabolic interactions.  Most topicals last for 30 days once applied, though anecdotally some owners report less efficacy against ticks in the forth week.

Frontline was one of the first spot-ons available.  It is extremely safe for both cats and dogs.  One canine patient who ate a package of Frontline did not suffer any toxicity problems,  but experienced more problems from the plastic applicators he ingested at the same time.  Frontline works well, but unfortunately has is no repelling action against the fleas and ticks.  The fleas and ticks must bite the dog or cat before suffering the ill effects of the Frontline.  It certainly can be unnerving to find a tick attached to your dog, but be assured that if your pet is protected by Frontline, the tick should die well before it can infect your pet with Lyme or Anaplasmosis.

Vectra 3D for dogs work similarly to Frontline, but has an added ingredient that repels the ticks, fleas and even mosquitos before they  have a chance to bite the dog.  This means overall fewer tick or fleas biting your dog.  The downfall is that Vectra 3D is toxic to cats. Thus this product is not recommended for use in households where cats and dogs groom each other and can’t be separated for a period of time after application.

With any topical application there is always the risk of a local reaction at the application site.  Usually this is limited to some red skin and itchiness that lasts for a couple of hours.  But for some patients it last longer and is  unbearable for patient and the owner.  These patients may get the same benefits with a collar produced by Bayer.  Serresto collars for both dogs and cats are not your typical flea collar.  They harbor no odor and are inert if chewed and consumed by the pets in your house….or your children!  These collars slowly release the flea and tick preventative into the skin.  Your pet gets a “daily” dose of preventive by wearing the collar verses getting months worth applied all at once which is typical of the spot-ons.  Similar to Vectra3D,  the collar’s active ingredients are not absorbed systemically and also offer repelling ability.  But the best thing about these collars is that they are effective for eight (yes, 8) months, unless you have a dog that swims several times a week or is bathed frequently.  In these cases, the collar may only do its job for 6 months.  But for those of us  who used to be reminded to reapply the topical spot-ons by finding a tick attached to their dog,  this product is a big help in making sure our pets are continually protected.

Many of our clients, especially those with younger children,  are concerned about contact with any of the topical residues.  Others don’t like the look of a flea and tick collar on their pet.  For these clients, there is a novel oral product, NexGard.  NexGard is the first oral product that offers protection against both fleas and ticks.  As an oral product, it does go systemically and does not offer any repelling ability, but it is a clean product that will protect your dog from fleas and ticks (as well as Lyme and Anaplasmosis).  Unfortunately, there is no product like this for cats yet….  and we may not see one considering how difficult it is get cats to take oral preparations.

No one product is perfect for all our patients, but all our patients need to be protected from fleas and ticks.  Discuss your pets’ situation with your veterinarian.  Given the options available, there is a solution to protect every cat and dog out there.