Cool New Choices in Flea & Tick Meds

By Dr . Joi Sutton|2018-01-25T10:50:14-05:00Updated: August 7th, 2014|Pet Care, Pet Newsletter|6 Comments
  • Flea & Tick Medication

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.

About the Author: 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. Connect with Dr. Joi on LinkedIn


  1. Dr Joi September 27, 2014 at 1:57 pm - Reply

    I do worry a bit about long- lasting injectables in cats. For cats I prefer topical or oral flea preventatives. I hope the lump has gone away. If not be sure to have your vet evaluate the site. Some cats can form tumor sat injection sites. Better have your vet check if the lump hasn’t gone away. If you are able to pop a Capstar down the hatch you could consider comfortis instead which lasts a month instead of a day as Capstar does. In my own hospital for kitties with fleas I carry Comfortis, Capstar (in case a pet with fleas walks in my door I can administer a dose without a meal and prevent an infestation in my clinic), Advantage Multi and Activyl. There are other good topical flea meds but those are my faves. 🙂 Joi

  2. Coconutmom August 7, 2014 at 6:56 pm - Reply

    I have a 16 pound dog who has been on insulin for 8 years now. Is is also on seizure medication. Are these drugs safe for her?

    • Dr Joi September 27, 2014 at 1:49 pm - Reply

      Well, any anticonvulsant medication is going to have potential side effects. We veterinarians usually weigh the pros and cons before choosing a med and then warn owners the potential side effects in case they arise. I suspect it is the same doctor who prescribed the insulin as well as the seizure med, yes? You can verify with your veterinarian that they looked up potential complications, but most of us veterinarian types are very prudent about checking for potential drug interactions before we write a script. Have a chat with your vet. 🙂 Joi

  3. Ecto August 7, 2014 at 5:48 pm - Reply

    For a major flea infestation as my 9-y-o cat Oscar had some months back in San Diego the major products like Bayer Advantage and Advocate were ineffective. Capstar removed fleas for 48-hours, but they returned. The only product that permanently rid my home and cat of fleas was FDA food grade diatomaceous earth (DM) applied to all flooring, bedding, cat litter box, scratching posts and Oscar himself. A 21-day application and then repeated vacuuming killed all fleas, eggs and larvae. I comb and brush my cat twice every day and I have not found or seen a flea in nearly 2 months. It was the first time I had used DM and I trust and recommend it completely. While messy to use because of the fine dust sediment and powder that settles on everything, it is also safe for the environment, family members, including children, and all pets. I can’t say enough good things about this product, which is relatively inexpensive, safe for animals and people, and effective while it dehydrates and desiccates the fleas with the sharp, absorbent microscopic crystals. I highly recommend this product.

  4. MCP August 7, 2014 at 11:50 am - Reply

    I live in Florida too and, boy, do we have to fight the war on fleas. And my cat doesn’t even go outside. Do you have any thoughts on injectable Program? We tried it for the first time on my 20-pound diabetic cat back in March. They had to adjust the dosage for his large size and he developed a lump at the injection site that lasted for a couple of weeks. But, I think it helped with the fleas. He used to get the liquid Program, but they discontinued it. I’m wondering if I should consider something else when he’s due for his next shot in September. We’ve never had much luck with topicals. I also pop a Capstar in him once a month or so.

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