What’s New In Flea / Tick Control? Battling Bugs with Tasty Tidbits

Sharon Billings, CVT
Senior Veterinary Information Specialist

Here in the upper Midwest, Spring has finally sprung!  And while we’re rejoicing in the longer days and milder temperatures we know that the dreaded “flea and tick” season is upon us (yes, we do get a bit of a break as a silver lining for enduring those below-zero winters!).

Many of us choose to treat our pets with topical products like shampoos, sprays, squeeze-on drops, and collars.  But more of us are turning to the convenience of oral products, often in the form of tasty tablets, to help make battling bugs and preventing parasitic pests more enjoyable for us and our four-legged family members.

There are many new and/or returning oral products now available and while it’s nice to have choices, the variety of products can be a bit confusing.  So, in this article we’re going to take a closer look at oral products that might be of interest to you and your furry family members.

Potential benefits with oral medications include:

  • they are easy to administer (no messy liquids to squeeze onto the skin),
  • they go to work quickly after administration (squeeze-on liquids can take time to spread over the skin and become effective),
  • since they work from the inside out, there’s no residue on the skin or fur and no waiting for bathing and swimming either before or after administration.

Possible downside:  All these products use one or more drugs that circulate in your pet’s bloodstream (in most cases for a month or longer).  All drugs have potential adverse effects associated with them.  So, although it is not likely, experiencing side effects is always a possibility.

You’ll note that not all these medications provide protection for all parasites.  The four main groups of parasites are:  fleas, ticks, heartworms, and intestinal worms.  The best way to approach parasite control is to have a discussion with your veterinarian to understand which parasites present a risk for your pet (your pet’s species, geographical location, lifestyle, etc.) and then determine which product(s) will provide the best protection for your unique situation.  Also, bear in mind that many of these medications require a prescription while others are available over the counter.

Sentry CapGuard®, PetArmor Fast Caps ®, Capstar®:  These three brand names all utilize the same active ingredient, nitempyram, which is available as an over-the-counter medication.  Available for dogs and cats, these products kill adult fleas on your pet very quickly (starting within 1 hour) after administration.  They are not preventives; they work for only about 24 hours.  They can, however, be very helpful to achieve a “quick kill” of fleas on your pets and can be used at the same time as a topical product which may take some time to begin working after application.

Advantus®:  Available for dogs, Advantus utilizes imidacloprid as its active ingredient.  It is a chewable tablet that kills adult fleas.  Similar to the nitempyram products it is available without a prescription.  It is fast-acting (starts to kill fleas within 1 hour of administration) but short-acting; it can be given as often as once a day as needed.  It can be used concurrently with other medications such as heartworm preventives.

Comfortis® and Trifexis®:  These two medications are made by the same company and share one active ingredient.  Both medications require a prescription and so they are available only through a veterinarian (not over the counter).

Available for dogs and cats, Comfortis contains spinosad as its active ingredient.  It is a beef-flavored tablet that kills fleas and prevents flea infestations for a month.

Available for dogs, Trifexis contains spinosad and milbemycin oxime as its active ingredients.  It is a once-a-month beef-flavored tablet that covers fleas (just like Comfortis) and it also prevents heartworm disease plus it treats and controls infection of several intestinal parasites (adult hookworm, roundworm, and whipworm).

Sentinel Spectrum®:  This is an “oldie but a goody” that was off the market for a time but now is once again available.  There are other Sentinel products but we’ll focus on this one.  Sentinel Spectrum is available for dogs.  It is a once-a-month chewable beef and bacon flavored tablet.  This product utilizes three active ingredients:  milbemycin oxime, lufenuron, and praziquantel.  Given once a month, it provides protection from:  fleas, heartworms, and several intestinal parasites (roundworms, hookworms, whipworms, and tapeworms).  It is available by prescription from a veterinarian.

Bravecto®:  Bravecto chews for dogs, and Bravecto topical solution for cats, use the same active ingredient, fluralaner.  Both medications require a prescription and so they are available only through a veterinarian (not over the counter).  Both products kill fleas and ticks for up to 12 weeks.

NexGard®:  NeGard is a chewable tablet available for dogs.  Its active ingredient is afoxolaner.  NexGard is a once-a-month medication that kills fleas and ticks. NexGard is available only by prescription from a veterinarian.

Simparica®:  Available for dogs, Simparica is a once-a-month chewable tablet that kills fleas and ticks; its active ingredient is sarolaner.  Its manufacturer states a monthly dose lasts up to 35 days (so you have some “wiggle room” if you are a bit late with a dose).  It starts killing fleas within 3 hours of administration and it starts killing ticks in 8 hours of administration.  Simparica is available only by prescription from a veterinarian.

As always, I’d like to add that this article is meant to provide information but is not intended as a recommendation or endorsement for any of the products discussed.  Be sure to work closely with your veterinarian to determine which methods of pest control are best for your situation and your furry family members!