Fleas and Ticks

After a very cold winter Spring is finally here, and now is the time to start thinking seriously about flea & tick control for our furry friends.  If your pet spend any time outdoors, even just short periods of time, you need to be proactive about dealing with these bugs or there’s a good chance that at some point in time you will wish you had.  We have made some changes in our flea and tick control product recommendations this year.  Our old standby product, Frontline Plus has not been performing as well as it used to.  There are quite a few populations of fleas and ticks that have developed a resistance to it, and in many cases it is either not working at all or is taking much longer to kill the bugs than it used to.  Because of this, we will no longer carry Frontline for dogs.  We will still carry it for cats, however, because there are so few safe products available to be used in cats.  Fortunately, time marches on, and we have some new, effective flea and tick control products to offer.  The most noteworth of these is Nexgard, which is a one-a-month oral chew.  It is a dog-only product.  Many of you received a mailing from Merial, who makes this product.  The mailing contains some very nice rebate coupons.  We also have a new dog and cat collar called Seresto.  This highly effective collar last for up to 8 months.  More detailed information regarding both of these new products can be found below.

Let’s start off with a few general comments about fleas & ticks.
Fleas
Fleas are insects that feed by biting and consuming blood from mammals.  Their bites are itchy and make many dogs and cats lick, bite and scratch at themselves which sometimes causes severe dermatologic problems.  Fleas are susceptible to environmental temperatures.  Outdoors they are active during the warmer months of the year, but not in the winter time.  Once the outside temperatures drop below 25 degrees a few times, they disappear outside and don’t reappear until April.  However, when fleas find their way indoors, they become a year-round problem.  A female flea can lay up to 40 eggs in a single day, and the flea life cycle can take as little as three weeks to complete.  You don’t have to be a mathematician to see how quickly a small infestation can turn into a large one.  As the warmer spring and summer weather progresses, they increase exponentially number peaking in the late summer and fall.  Most dermatitis issues occur when there are large numbers of fleas around, because most dogs and cats can tolerate a few flea bites becoming overwhelmed only when the flea numbers are high.  Some dogs and cats have flea bite allergies and can have major problems with just a single flea bite.
Ticks
Ticks feed by attaching themselves to the skin of mammals and feeding on their blood. They can transmit some serious diseases such as lyme disease, anaplasmosis, ehrlichiosis, and rocky mountain spotted fever.  Ticks are much more hardy than fleas, so hardy that they are not killed off by the winter temperatures in the Philadelphia area even when the winter temperatures have been extreme like they have been for the past two years.  Ticks are a year-round problem, and they are very prevalent in our immediate area.
Recommended Flea & Tick Control Products
BE SURE TO CAREFULLY READ AND FOLLOW THE INSTRUCTIONS AND CAUTIONS FOR ANY PRODUCT YOU DECIDE TO USE.  Be aware that cats are sensitive to many flea & tick control products, so sensitive that they can become very sick and possibly die if a “dog-only” product is applied to their bodies.
Nexgard
This is a brand new product that we’re pretty excited about.  It’s a “dog only” product.  It’s an oral, once-a-month meaty chew made by Merial (the same people that make our Heartworm Preventative Medication, Heartgard.  It is highly effective against both fleas and ticks, kills both bugs rapidly, and is very easy to use.  There’s nothing to apply and no mess, just a tasty treat to give to your dog every month.  It comes in a package containing 6 doses.
Vectra 3D
This topical product is made by Ceva Animal Health.  It is very effective against both fleas and ticks.  It has the fastest kill time of any of the products we carry. It can kill both fleas and ticks before they bite.  It also has some repellant action.  For those who prefer a topical product, this is what we recommend.  It is a “dog-only” product that contains synergized pyrethrins.  Human toxicity to the pyrethrins in this product is very low, but not as low as Frontline.  VECTRA SHOULD NOT BE USED IN CATS.  It is applied topically once each month.  Its applicator is easy to use and insures that the product is properly applied to the skin.  Application with this product is much easier than it is with Frontline.
Comfortis
This product is made by Elanco.  It is a flavored, chewable oral flea tablet that is given by mouth once each month.  It is approved for use with both dogs and cats.  It should not be given on the same day that Heartgard is given, and it should be given with a meal.  IT IS NOT EFFECTIVE AGAINST TICKS.  Its advantages are its ease of use plus its speed and efficacy.  It kills fleas in as little as 30 minutes, so fast that fleas don’t have time to lay eggs.  This is the best flea-control product currently available.  It is especially useful in situations where fleas are established in the house or with dogs or cats that have flea bite allergies.  It can rid a house or apartment of a flea infestation without the need to call in an exterminator.  Because it does not kill ticks, people who use it need to use some other method for tick control such as a Scalibor or Seresto Collar.
Seresto Collar
This is a flea and tick collar which is very effective at killing both fleas and ticks quickly.  In addition it has some repellant action.  IT CAN BE USED IN BOTH DOGS AND CATS which is a real PLUS.  It is resistant to getting wet.  The manufacturer claims that this collar is effective for 8 months, but we recommend replacing it every 7 months in order to maintain maximum effectiveness.  This collar is a great choice for use in high tick density areas.
Scalibor Collar
This is a flea and tick collar which is very effective at killing fleas and ticks quickly.  It also has some repellant action.  IT IS INTENDED FOR USE IN DOGS ONLY.  This collar is resistant to getting wet and is therefore a good choice for the dog that swims.  The manufacturer claims that this collar is effective for 6 months, but we recommend replacing it every 5 months to maintain maximum effectiveness.  This collar is a great choice for dogs in high tick density areas.
Frontline Plus
This topical product is made by Merial.  It has been around for a long time, and unfortunately it does not appear to be as effective as it once was.  It contains a special insecticide to kill fleas and ticks plus a growth inhibitor that prevents the development of the various life cycle stages of fleas.  Frontline Plus’s main advantage is its safety.  It attacks a life process that only exists in the central nervous systems of bugs.  It has no mammalian toxicity at all which makes it safe for families with small children.  It’s also a safe product for use in cats.  Frontline Plus is applied topically in specific areas once each month.  It needs to be applied directly to the animal’s skin which means that special care be taken to apply it properly.  The pet should not be bathed for 48 hours before or after its application.  Failure to follow the proper application protocol can destroy or greatly diminish its effectiveness.  It kills fleas in about 24 hours and ticks in 48 hours.  Merial does not warrant the effectiveness of Frontline unless it is purchased directly from a veterinarian.  The reason for this is that there is a lot of counterfeit product out there at pet stores, department stores and on line.  NOTE THAT WE WILL NO LONGER CARRY FRONTLINE FOR DOGS BECAUSE THERE ARE MORE EFFECTIVE PRODUCTS AVAILABLE.  WE WILL CONTINUE TO CARRY FRONTILINE FOR CATS SINCE IT’S ONE OF THE FEW PRODUCTS THAT’S SAFE TO USE ON CATS.
Dealing Effectively With Fleas & Ticks
The key to having an effective Flea & Tick Program is really quite simple.  Use one or more of the products listed above and use them properly.  Apply topical products as directed and apply them religiously every month.  If you’re using Comfortis for fleas, don’t give it on the same day that Heartgard is given, give it with a meal and don’t forget to give it monthly from April through December.  If you’re using one of the collars, apply it properly and replace it one month before it’s due to expire.  If you’re using a topical product like Frontline and you don’t feel it’s working for you, please contact us for assistance.