Ah, summer time! Thoughts of BBQs and lazy Sundays in a hammock come to mind. The last thing you want to do is go to your family vet because Fluffy has fleas and is keeping you up at night with the constant licking and chewing. If Fluffy is also a diabetic, you have a tougher road to comfort because the mainstay of flea allergic dermatitis (other than getting rid of fleas of course) is use of corticosteroids. Remember that steroids cause insulin resistance and a vet would rather visit the in-laws than give steroids that may deregulate your sweetie’s diabetes.

Luckily, scientists have been working overtime these days concocting great new flea and tick products. Today I’m going to briefly discuss some of these nifty new options.

Now, before I do that, I’m going to bring up what I know some of you are thinking: “My pet seems to be immune to fleas” or “We never have fleas”. Even when I point out the flea allergy classic hair loss pattern over the tail base and dorsal lumbar spine, many clients can’t wrap their brains around the idea of parasites on their sweet angel. Even with the abundant wildlife reservoir we have down here in South Florida, some folks don’t believe there could be fleas in their yard. Denial ain’t just a river in Eqypt. Those raccoons and squirrels in my backyard sure aren’t on flea control.

The next concern I commonly hear comes from years of practicing in the beautiful Pacific Northwest, where I honed my tree-hugging nature-loving habits that make my friends here in South Florida think I’m some kind of hippy. There is a pervasive thought that flea products are harsh or dangerous. Decades ago this may have been true, but short of an oddball idiosyncratic reaction, flea products that you get from your vet these days are very safe. Yes, there are still some dangerous products lurking on shelves of stores, so I strongly advise you consult your family veterinarian for the best product for your pet. Don’t reject the idea of flea control in favor of a “natural” remedy. There’s nothing natural about steroids should your house and pets become infested.

We have our beloved old trusted friends (such as Advantage, Comfortis, Capstar and Frontline, Revolution, Vectra) but in the last 2 years we’ve got newcomers to the market that deserve a look. Which is the best choice for your pet depends on other issues. If your pet turns into a snapping turtle when you give it an oral medication, a topical may be your preferred flea preventative. If your pet rubs a topical all over your furniture, irritating the heck out of you, then an oral option may be best.

Nexgard. This product came out just a few months ago. It is a monthly oral medication. Unlike the other well-known oral flea product (Comfortis), it can be given on an empty stomach. It also gets 3 types of ticks and has FDA approval pending for other species of ticks. It is a little pricier than Comfortis, but then again, Comfortis doesn’t get ticks. Nexgard is only approved for dogs, whereas Comfortis is labeled for both dogs and cats. In my own hospital, I carry both products.

Activyl. Activyl has been on the market about 2 years. In a direct head-to-head study here in south Florida last year, Activyl outperformed Frontline (fipronil) dramatically for fleas. There is no known flea resistance to Activyl at this time. Activyl is an effective and economical option for monthly topical flea control. In fact, it lasts a bit longer than a month. For folks who like topical flea products, Activyl is a fantastic choice. For those who want heartworm prevention and flea control in a single product topical application, you might stick with our trusted friends Revolution or Advantage Multi. Or, you could pair a topical flea product with an oral heartworm preventative. Yep, since I practice in south Florida, I have Activyl on my pharmacy shelf as well.

As I write this there is a product on the verge of release this summer called Bravecto. If is for dogs over 6 months of age and weighing more than 4 pounds, and it lasts for three months. It is given by mouth and kills fleas and 4 species of ticks. It is not approved for cats. It should be given with food. Bravecto does not prevent heartworm disease, so it will need to be paired with a heartworm preventative.

Speak with your vet about parasite control for your sweetie. As they say, an ounce of prevention…

NOTE: Consult your veterinarian to confirm that my recommendations are applicable for the health needs of your pet.

Dr . Joi Sutton

Dr . Joi Sutton

Dr. Joi Sutton is a 1993 graduate from Oregon State University. She has practiced both in emergency medicine and general practice. Dr. Sutton has done extensive international volunteer work though Veterinary Ventures, a nonprofit organization that takes teams of veterinarians to undeveloped countries for humane medical care. She also runs a small animal practice in South Florida.
Dr . Joi Sutton