Fleas and ticks can make your pet's life miserable. Everyone that owns a dog or cat is familiar with the incessant itching and scratching that accompanies a flea infestation. Anyone that has ever had to remove an engorged tick knows how unpleasant a task this can be. But fleas and ticks do more than just cause discomfort. In addition to the hair loss, scabs, and skin irritations that accompany flea and tick infestations, there is the real and frightening risk of disease spread. Fleas can cause anemia, and transmit the plague and tapeworms. Ticks carry organisms that cause diseases such as Rocky Mountain spotted fever and Lyme disease, along with the several other potentially fatal illnesses. Animals that are allergic to flea bites can suffer torment for weeks from one single bite and tick bites can become infected. And the worst part is that for every one of these nasty parasites that you see on your pet, there are hundreds more in the environment. Simply removing the fleas and ticks on your pet does not eliminate them from your house and yard.

Mosquitoes are an additional problem. Although they do not live and reproduce in your house, they rapidly multiply in still water anytime the weather warms up. The tire swing in your backyard or the empty planter on your porch may contain thousands of mosquito larvae. Mosquito bites hurt, can cause allergic reactions, and can become infected. But most importantly, they can spread heartworm disease, West Nile disease, and other life-threatening infections to our pets.

There are ways to deal with these parasites. There is no perfect control, but by educating yourself regarding all the available products, and using the best product for your particular situation, you can reduce the chances that your pet will be infested with fleas or become a meal for ticks. Some of the flea and tick products repel mosquitoes, as well. When choosing an insect-control product, it is important to examine the length of the flea, tick, and mosquito season in your area, the severity of the problem, the type of external parasites involved, the species, age, and health of the pet, and any chemical sensitivities in the household. Many people find that they need to treat the yard and the house, as well as the pets, to achieve adequate control.

When reading product labels, look for the active ingredients, the species and age of animal that the product is intended to be used for, the types of parasites killed, and whether or not the product includes an adulticide, an insect growth regulator, or both. Adulticides are insecticides that kill adult insects; insect growth regulators are insecticides that help to reduce fleas in the environment by preventing eggs from hatching and larvae from molting. The insect growth regulators (IGR's) are of vital importance to reduce fleas in the environment and eliminate them before they have a chance to jump on your pet. They are a simple, easy method of flea population control and an excellent addition to flea products that kill fleas on your pet.

Traditional methods of flea control for pets have included flea shampoos, dips, powders, combs, and sprays. Although effective, these products often only kill the adult parasites and have little or no residual activity. So, new ticks or fleas can re-infest your pet in a matter of days. Traditional methods are also time consuming and often messy. The labels must be read carefully to assure the best use of the products. Never use a flea, tick, or mosquito product for a cat unless the label specifically states that it is safe for cats. Many dog products are very dangerous for cats.

Newer products work quickly to kill the parasites. Rapid control on the pet can be achieved with Capstar. This is a tablet that is given by mouth and kills the fleas within a matter of hours. It only lasts one day, but is great at rapidly removing heavy flea infestations. It is easier to use, more effective, and safer than shampooing the pet to kill fleas and ticks. It starts to work within 30 minutes and eliminates over 90% of the fleas on cats in 6 hours and on dogs in 4 hours. It is safe in pregnant and nursing animals, and can be used on cats and dogs 4 weeks of age and older that weigh at least 2 pounds. It has no side effects and no contraindications and can be used daily, if needed.

Other new products kill fleas quickly and keep on killing them several weeks. These include topical, spot-on products that are used monthly. They are applied to the pet's skin according to the label directions. These spot-on products may all look similar, but they do contain different ingredients.. It is very important to read the entire label to make sure that you are using the correct product for your pet's needs. Some products are only safe for dogs, some work faster than others, some last longer than others, some are rinsed off with bathing, and some kill only fleas. Some of the products kill ticks, some repel and kill ticks, and some discourage or kill mosquitoes. Some contain IGR's. It is important to understand that more potent products may have an increased risk of unwanted side effects. The product label will explain how the product works, what parasites are controlled, which animals it should be used on, and the proper dose of the product

It can be confusing to compare the different spot-on insecticide products. The choice is made by balancing safety, efficacy, duration, addition of an insect growth regulator, and whether or not the product can be used on cats or dogs. Be aware that individual pets may react to any given insecticide product. If a negative reaction does occur, the product should not be used again. Switching to a different product may solve the problem, in that different individual animals do react differently to the varying insecticides. Let's take a look at the most common spot-on insecticide products for your pets. These include Advantage, K9 Advantix, Frontline Plus, Bio Spot for Dogs, Bio Spot for Cats, and Revolution.

Advantage is made by Bayer. The product contains one insecticide, imidacloprimid: It can be used on dogs over 7 weeks of age and cats over 8 weeks of age. One of the fastest-working products, it kills 98-100% of the fleas on the pet within 12 hours and eliminates new fleas within 2 hours. It lasts up to 4 weeks. It has no repellent and cannot kill ticks or mosquitoes. It does not contain an IGR and cannot kill eggs, but it will kill larvae in a pet's bedding if the larvae contacts a treated pet. It has an extremely good safety record. It is effective in the face of baths, swimming, and sunlight. Advantage kills fleas faster than other spot-ons and is very safe, so it is a great product if fleas are the only problem with your pets and when safety is a major concern. It is especially good for indoor pets. It should not be reapplied at less than one month intervals.

K9 Advantix is also made by Bayer. This product contains imidacloprimid (found in Advantage), plus a second insecticide, permethrin. The second insecticide makes this product more efficacious and potentially increases the risk of side effects in pets. This product cannot be used on cats; it is only to be used on dogs. It can prevent and kill fleas, ticks, and mosquitoes on dogs 7 weeks of age or older. Like Advantage, it lasts up to 4 weeks, kills 98-100% of fleas within 12 hours, and is not affected by bathing or swimming. It also kills flea larvae. It takes approximately two days to kill ticks. It should not be reapplied at less than one month intervals.

Frontline Plus is also manufactured by Merial. It also contains the same active ingredient found in Frontline Topspot, fipronil, along with (S)-methoprene, which is an insect growth regulator. It is licensed for cats and dogs over 8 weeks of age. Like Frontline, it controls fleas, ticks, and lice, and aids in treatment of sarcoptic mange mites on dogs. It kills ticks for up to one month on dogs and cats, and fleas for up to six weeks on cats and 12 weeks on dogs. It is safe for breeding, pregnant, and lactating animals. Because of the additional IGR, it has been shown to kill flea eggs and larvae for up to six weeks for the cat product and 12 weeks for the dog product. This provides a more rapid reduction in fleas in the house and environment that Frontline Topspot. If both fleas and ticks are a problem, it should be applied monthly. It is not affected by bathing or swimming. It should not be applied at less than one month intervals.

Bio-Spot for Dogs is made by Farnam Corporation and contains permethrin (found in K9 Advantix) along with an insect growth regulator, pyriproxyfen. It kills and repels fleas for up to three to four weeks, kills flea larvae and eggs for up to four months, and kills and repels ticks for up to 4 weeks.. It repels and kills mosquitoes for up to 4 weeks, but it is not a heartworm preventive medication. It is for use only on dogs over 12 weeks of age.. It cannot be used on cats. It controls over 92 % of fleas within 24 hours of use. It is relatively stable in water or bathing, but it listed as being able to be reapplied if removed by shampoos. It is not removed by mild shampoos. It is usually applied at 4 week intervals.

Bio-Spot for Cats, from Farnam Corporation, contains etofenprox and the IGR, pyriproxyfen. It can be used on cats 5 pounds and over. It kills fleas for up to one month, deer ticks for up to one month, and flea eggs and larvae for up to three months. It also repels mosquitoes for up to one month. This product is made for use on cats only.

Revolution is made by Pfizer. It contains the insecticide, selamectin. A prescription is required for this product. It can be used on dogs six weeks of age and over and cats eight weeks of age and over. It has different indications for dogs and cats. For dogs, it kills adult fleas and prevents eggs from hatching for one month. It helps prevent and control heartworm disease, ear mites, and sarcoptic mange, and kills ticks for one month. For cats, it kills adult fleas for one month, prevents flea eggs from hatching for one month, prevents heartworm disease, kills ear mites, kills roundworms, and kills hookworms. It is typically used at monthly intervals unless a different use is advised by the prescribing veterinarian. It is absorbed systemically and will not be removed with bathing or swimming.

Program is an oral product for dogs and sold as a tablet for dogs and a suspension for cats. This product contains the insect growth regulator, lufenuron. This product prevents flea eggs from hatching and larval forms of fleas from maturing. It effectively sterilizes any biting fleas. It does not kill adult fleas, but is effective at eliminating flea populations in the environment. Since only 2% of the flea population is in the adult form, the product works to eliminate the fleas in the house and yard. It must be administered in conjunction with food. Lufenuron is also found in the heartworm preventive medication, Sentinel. The Program tablet is labeled for dogs and in addition, can be used in cats that are 7-15 pounds and over 6 weeks of age. The feline suspension can be used for cats that weigh more or less than this range. Program is a great product if fleas only intermittently bother your pets and you wish to make sure that biting fleas do not add hundreds or thousands of eggs to your environment.

The flea and tick-killing spot-ons have dramatically improved our successes at controlling these parasites. However, even the fastest product takes hours to kill fleas on your pet. So, if your environment is full of maturing and biting fleas, it can take several months to get control if you only use a spot-on and do not treat the environment. Many choices are available for environmental control. Products for the house and yard include sprays, powders, and foggers, such as Adams's Room Foggers.

Your choice of flea control product will vary depending on the needs of your pet and you. For example, a dog that is highly allergic to flea bites needs a product that repels fleas and kills them, not just one with an IGR. An older, toy dog that spends 98% of its time in the house may do fine with only an IGR, such as Program, or a product that only kills fleas, such as Advantage. A stray pet that is coming into your home and has fleas may be treated with a product such as Capstar and a spot-on product, or bathed with a flea and tick shampoo, then be treated in the next few days with a spot-on product. A dog or cat with ticks may need a product such as Frontline Plus or the appropriate Bio Spot. Any pet that has side effects from a product should be bathed with a shampoo that will remove oils from the coat and not be treated with the product again.

It is important to read all labels to properly select and use the products that best fit your pets' needs. Only use products according to the label directions. Do not use partial doses, do not give dog products to cats, and do not overdose the pet. Misuse of these insecticide products can significantly increase the chances of side effects. Insect Growth Regulators increase control without significantly increasing side effects, so choose these when it makes sense to do so. By picking the product that best controls the parasites and fits your pet's age, health, and weight description, you can eliminate the pests that are bothering your pet and limit side effects. With so many flea and tick products available, there is no reason for any pet to suffer from these parasites.
CSR Library