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Flea and Tick Preventatives

Flea and Tick Preventatives

               Warmer weather means spending more time outside and higher chances for pets to come in contact with fleas and ticks. Fortunately, many products exist to provide safe and effective ways to protect pets from these external parasites.  Remember, indoor pets need protection, too.  Fleas can sometimes latch onto our clothing and we can unwittingly bring them into our homes.

               Fleas and ticks are bad news.  Fleas can cause itching and skin allergies, anemia and the spread bacterial illnesses including the plaque in some areas of the country.  Ticks spread diseases such as Lyme, Ehrlichiosis, and Anaplasmosis.  Proper protection against fleas and ticks will reduce the chance of exposure to these potentially serious illnesses and prevent the intense itching and discomfort that can come from flea bite allergies.  Prevention is far better than teating an existing infestation.  Protecting pets protects our families—fleas and ticks can cause illnesses in humans as well.  Various forms of flea and tick preventatives exist-chewable, topical and collars are the most common.

               Chewable flea/tick preventatives such as Bravecto or Simparica belong to a class of drugs called isoxazolines. These drugs kill fleas and ticks by targeting receptors on the nerves and muscles of insects and arachnids effectively causing paralysis and death to these parasites with no effect on mammals.  Despite being taken internally, isoxazolines do not affect internal organs and are distributed to the fatty layer beneath the skin where they remain effective for one to three months depending on the product used.

               Pros of chewable products include ease of administration, no residue on the skin or coat and length of activity.  Cons include not repelling fleas or ticks, difficulty medicating due to pets not liking the flavor, and there may be side effects such as vomiting or diarrhea. This class of drug is also not intended for use in pet how have a history of seizures as they may increase seizure activity.  The short acting chewable flea product Capstar contains a different active ingredient called nitenpyram and will kill adult fleas quickly but has no activity against ticks and only lasts for 24 hours.  There are no contraindications to using Capstar and it is safe for even very young pets, but it is not intended as a long term preventative. 

               Topical flea/tick preventatives such as Vectra 3D, K9 Advantix, and many others are also safe, effective, and readily available. The active ingredients vary but most repel and kill fleas and ticks.  Pros include ease of administration, rapid killing of fleas and ticks and repellency.  Cons include possible skin irritation at the application site, wearing off before the end of the treatment period especially if the pet is frequently exposed to water and they can leave a residue on the skin or coat and caution should be used in handling the pet until the product is completely absorbed and dry to prevent human exposure.  
A word of warning: some canine topical preventatives contain permethrin which is highly toxic to cats.  NEVER apply a product that is not explicitly labeled for cats to a cat and use caution in households with both cats and dogs to prevent accidental exposure.

               Flea and tick collars are generally not recommended by our veterinarians, but Elanco makes Seresto collars which appear to be safe and effective as far as collars go.  Collars must be worn rather tight so they contact the skin in order to effectively spread the active ingredient onto the skin and care should be taken to make sure other pets do not chew on the collars.

               Natural products such as garlic, yeast, diatomaceous earth and herbal products are not generally effective and are not recommended by our veterinarians.  These products not only do not effectively kill fleas and ticks but they can actually be harmful to pets.  While quality commercial products may cost a bit more, their efficacy is far superior and serious side effects are rare.  The cost of treating flea allergy dermatitis or kidney disease caused by Lyme disease is far more than the cost of monthly preventatives.  Ask our staff about the best options to fit your budget and your pet’s lifestyle.  Protect your pets and your family from fleas and ticks and associated diseases with a good quality preventative.

            This blog brought to you by the Patton Veterinary Hospital serving Red Lion, York and the surrounding communities.