Flea and Tick Prevention: 2015 Update

April 8, 2015
Photo: Vetstreet.com

Photo: Vetstreet.com

When I started my career as a veterinarian, the options for flea and tick control were limited, smelly and messy. I dispensed cans of spray, bottles of dip, and cartons of powder, but hardly ever prescribed a flea collar. Back then, the collars were not that effective and some thought the only way a flea collar killed a flea was by squashing it when you put the collar on your pet. Thirty years later, the options for pet owners to prevent ectoparasite infestations are infinitely better and way more numerous.

Better flea and tick control has resulted in healthier pets. I used to routinely see dogs and cats crawling with fleas from head to toe. Many developed flea allergic dermatitis, often complicated by a superficial skin infection. While we still see allergies in pets, flea allergic dermatitis is much less common and pets are much more comfortable, thanks to these new products.

Top Spot Products
The big revolution in flea and tick prevention started when top spot products were introduced. These are the little tubes of liquid that come in multipacks for monthly application to the nape of your pet’s neck. The product then distributes throughout the haircoat and kills fleas and ticks when they come in contact with the medicine on your pet’s hair. They also come with stickers for your calendar or an app for your mobile device to remind you when to apply the medication. Many of the manufacturers of these products have videos on their website demonstrating proper application of the product.

Oral Flea and Tick Prevention
Oral products can be active against only fleas or prevent multiple species of ticks as well. Most oral products come as tasty chew treats and are administered monthly; although long lasting products are also available. Not all oral products start working instantly. If your pet has a flea infestation because you missed a dose, check with your veterinarian about a rapidly acting oral product for quick flea takedown.

Long Lasting Collars
Unlike the early flea collars, today’s models last for months at a time. Depending on which collar your veterinarian prescribes, modern flea collars may be active against a single species of tick or fleas and multiple species of ticks. If you choose a collar, check the label carefully as some collars may take a week to reach full strength on your pet.

Choosing What’s Right for Your Pet
When selecting from this array of products, consider the following criteria:

  1. Talk with your veterinarian about the types of parasites in your area. Selecting a product with a profile that fits your area’s parasite population is critical.
  2. Top spot products often repel as well as kill fleas and ticks. If you live in a geographic locale with high numbers of fleas and ticks, you might want this added protection.
  3. Certain collars and oral preventatives last for months at a time. If you are busy and forgetful, one of these products might be a good choice.
  4. Not all top spot preparations and collars are waterproof. If your dog is a swimmer, choose a waterproof product or consider an oral flea and tick preventative.
  5. If you have a puppy or kitten, make sure the product you select is safe for the newest family member. Some products are not labeled for pets < 6-12 weeks of age.
  6. Use dog products for dogs and cat products for cats. Never switch, or you may need a trip to the animal ER.

What’s New for Fleas and Ticks?

April 24, 2013

scratching dogTicks have been around forever. Even the ancient Roman author, Pliny the Elder (23-79 A.D.) was vexed by these creatures. He is reported to have said, “Ticks: the foulest and nastiest creatures that be.” Ancient Rome must not have had fleas, or Pliny would have included them on his nasty creature list as well. Besides being nasty, fleas and ticks spread disease to you and your pets.

A new kind of collar

Collars to prevent flea and tick infestations have been around a long time, but their effectiveness has been limited. A veterinary school professor of mine said, “The only fleas killed by a flea collar are those squashed when the collar is put around the pet’s neck.” Polymer technology has advanced flea collars from a dusty plastic strap to a timed release medical device, and in the newest version even repels ticks before they attach. For additional information on year-round flea and tick control, check with the Companion Animal Parasite Council.

A new way to remove ticks

One of my most frequent calls is from an owner who finds a tick attached to their dog or cat and wants to know how to get rid of the nasty critter. The internet is rife with misinformation on how to remove ticks – nail polish remover, smoking matches and petroleum jelly. All of these are bad ideas. Either grasp the tick firmly with tweezers or a tick removing device and pull the tick, head included, out of the skin. This is easier said than done in a wiggly dog with a teeny tiny embedded deer tick. Now, there is a way that will make pet owners ecstatic with an easier way! A new a non-toxic product has been designed and produced to loosen the tick’s grip on the skin and allow it to be lifted off your pet with a cotton ball or moistened pad.

A new method to decrease ticks in the environment

Currently under investigation for the control of Lyme disease are bait boxes for mice. This clever study aims to attack Lyme disease where it starts, with the deer ticks that feed on the reservoir host of the Lyme disease bacteria: the white footed mouse. Bait boxes are placed outdoors. Mice enter the box and a mouse sized dose of fipronyl gets rubbed on their back. Fipronyl is an Environmental Protection Agency registered product found in several top spot tick and flea preventative medications for dogs and cats. When applied to mice, it kills ticks, decreasing the number of ticks which can bite you and your family.

Do you still want more information about ticks? The Connecticut Agricultural Experiment Station has an exhaustive tick handbook available online.

Confused about flea and tick preventatives for your dog and cat? Make an appointment with your veterinarian to find the right prescription for your pets. Follow their directions exactly, because reactions to flea and tick products are most commonly due to improper use of these products.


%d bloggers like this: