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Flea and Tick Medications-The itchy truth

by User Not Found | Mar 24, 2013

I may be a bit early this year since spring hasn’t exactly sprung the memo to mother nature, but fleas are on their way.  Last year I covered Fleas 101 but in light of our recent chart busting of heartworm meds, I had a few requests to do the same with Flea prevention medications or topicals.  Unlike Heartworm medications (oral) regulated by the FDA, Flea and Tick preventatives are regulated by the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency).  That’s because humans can and do come in to contact with them so they have to pass all kinds of safety testing…a good thing.  Just like the storm of heartworm meds, there is a tornado twister of flea/tick preventatives available.  Remember that just because you are giving an oral medication that may cover fleas, you aren’t protecting your dog from ticks….so you will need a topical for that.  The tricky part is all the labeling!  Holy Mess it’s confusing!  You would think you could just look for a picture of a dog or cat, but nooooooooo, that would be way too logical.

Most topicals come in some cute little packet or tube that they claim is easy to apply.  Some days I would agree, some not so much, particularly when my dog is less than cooperative.  These medications are delivered to the skin and hair follicles via the natural oils on the skin, they DO NOT get in to the dog’s bloodstream.  Because the oils on the skin place such a crucial role, its best to apply these meds a few days before or after a bath.  Then for about a month, the solution is released to kill fleas, ticks, etc.  The good news is that, in most cases, if your dog is going to have a reaction to one of these, it’s usually just skin irritation.  I’m not saying there aren’t any other side effects ever, I’m just saying, it’s unlikely and most are safe to use.  If your dog does happen to have a skin reaction to the topicals, the best thing you can do is to give him/her a bath, right away.  Even better, use something like Dawn Dish Soap to bathe them.  This will effectively remove all the medication that you just applied.  Mental note, check dog for 1-2 days after applying flea/tick medication, especially if it is something you have never used before.  Ok on to the chart extravaganza!

Type

Brand

Active Ingredients

Adult Fleas

All Flea Stages

Ticks

Others

Cost/tube

Advantix II

Bayer

IGR, Permethrin, and Imidacloprid

Yes

Yes

Yes

Mosquitos, biting flies, Repels and Kills, Works within 12hr

$11.00

Advantage II

Bayer

Imidacloprid, IGR

Yes

Yes

No

Works within 12hr

$9.50

Frontline Plus

Merial

Fipronil, IGR

Yes

Yes

Yes

Works within 24hr

$12.00

Frontline Top Spot

Merial

Fipronil

Yes

No

Yes

Works within 24hr

$11.00

Pet Armor

Fidopharm, Inc.

Fipronil

Yes

No

Yes

Essentially the same as Frontline Top Spot

$8.33

Fiproguard

Sergeant’s Pet Care Products, Inc.

Fipronil

Yes

No

Yes

Essentially the same as Frontline Top Spot

$4.81

Fiproguard Max

Sergeant’s Pet Care Products, Inc.

Fipronil, Cyphenothrin

Yes

No

Yes

Kills within 1hr

$8.00

Bio Spot

Farnam Companies, Inc

Etofenprox, IGR, Piperonyl Butoxide

Yes

Yes

Yes

Starts killing within 15min, kills and repels mosquitos

$5.00




 


















Some key points:

  1. Fipronil, Permethrin, Imidacloprid—all broad spectrum insecticides.  However, interesting fact, Permethrin is often used in insect repellants and Imidacloprid is a neurotoxin to insects but has a very low toxicity to mammals.  Just wait, I promise this will be helpful.
  2. IGR-Insect Growth Regulators—inhibits the LIFECYCLE of an insect…mondo important if you know anything about fleas.  90% of a flea’s lifecycle is spent OFF the dog, but the use of IGRs in topical meds for dogs can interrupt this cycle to help prevent infestation…oh that’s a bad word, infestation.
  3. Inactive ingredients—careful of these.  In most meds, the insecticides you see above are only about 10% of the product and about 90% is “inactive ingredients”.  Most of these ingredients are just delivery systems…they help the medication go to where it needs to.  But!  In many of the “generic” versions that are now available, they use cheaper “delivery” systems. That’s how they can charge so much less!  That may result in something that looks like a BP Oil Spill on your dog’s back for as much as a week or more.
  4. Products like Fiprogard and Pet Armor are obviously less cost and claim to have the same ACTIVE ingredients as Frontline Top Spot.  This is true. But they may also add an additional insecticide to begin killing fleas faster, so this would be something you would need to watch for.  Dogs that have never reacted to Frontline, could still react to these products as they are not ENTIRELY the same.  They can sell these cheaper than Frontline, so there has to be a reason for it and there is.  They can save on cost by using cheaper “delivery systems” like I mentioned above, so remember that you get what you pay for.  Certainly doesn’t hurt to try it, but keep it in the back of your mind, kind of like when you buy that generic cheese at the grocery store and it doesn’t melt quite right.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, use what works and something is better than nothing.  If you don’t protect your dog from fleas, you’ll be dealing with bigger issues, like skin infections and tapeworms and then that 10 bucks on a medication will seem like a dream.  All dogs are different so reading a bunch of reviews on the internet won’t give you the information you need.  Do I put flea/tick medications on my dogs? Yes.  Do I do it 12 months out of the year?  Not usually, but that’s the risk I take and luckily I have had success with it.  READ THE PACKAGES.  Please, please, please, read the packages.  All of these medications are different.  Just because one product sells for dogs 55lbs and up doesn’t mean that they all do.  Make sure you are using the right size on your dog.  Don’t use a dog product on your cat and vice versa and don’t try to buy big doses and split them on to multiple dogs.  This may sound like common sense, but you may be surprised to know that this is how severe reactions occur that are reported to the EPA. 

 Discussing fleas over my coffee has probably gone on long enough and by this point, if you are still reading, you’ve started to itch a little bit.

Cheers!

Katie

Neuse River Golden Retiever Rescue
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