The Confusing but Important Topic of Flea & Tick Control Products
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On this page I've written short summaries of my favorite flea and tick control products.  Each has something special about it and each has some limitation. Hopefully this will help you decide on a product best suited to your pet and situation.

This is the product I use on my pets.  I especially recommend it for cats.
Read about Revolution in the column to your left.  It's safe, not too expensive, it's convenient, and there's no long lasting residue left on the skin that rubs off on you or your children when you hug your pet. It also takes care of preventing heartworms, ear mites, and mange.  It helps control intestinal worms.
It works very well in most cases, but not perfect, especially for ticks, so in addition to the Revolution, I sometimes give my 3 dogs the new NexGard tablet once a month for the few summer months if I find any fleas or ticks.

The biggest negative with Revolution is that if you already have a big flea problem, it may take several months before you stop seeing fleas if you just use Revolution.   Revolution is GREAT for preventing flea problems but SLOW at getting rid of a big problem.  It's a DEFENSIVE, not an OFFENSIVE product

Sentinel Once a Month Tablets:
Sentinel is a flavored tablet that does 3 things well:
1.  It prevents heartworm disease.
2.  It control round, hook, and whip worms well.
3.  It's a small, chewable, once a month tablet with almost no common side effects
It does NOT repel or kill ticks. 
And, it DOES NOT actually kill or repel fleas, HOWEVER,  fleas that bite dogs on Sentinel become sterile, and this keeps flea populations very low at your home and yard so it ends up working pretty well in the right situations.

If your goal is to have excellent parasite and heartworm control at the least expensive price, a good plan would be to use Sentinel all year round but have a few NexGard tablets on hand during the summer months if you start seeing a few fleas or ticks.

Capstar Tablets:
This tablet is inexpensive, very effective (95-100% kill of all adult fleas within a few hours) and safe even for young kittens, puppies, and pregnant pets. 

What's the catch?  Capstar is metabolized and excreted from the body in about a 24-48 hours. 

So quick, great, super safe, inexpensive, nearly 100% flea control; but only for a day or two. 

This is a great product for short term use along with Sentinel as it was intended...but also great for when you've just found or bought a pet or are taking a pet to a new home or for boarding to prevent transfer of fleas.

Frontline "TopSpot" Plus for Cats & Dogs:
Still an effective repellent and killer of adult fleas and ticks for 3-5 weeks.  Safety to mammals is excellent.

Frontline is applied to the back of the neck once a month and does a very good job of repelling and killing adult fleas and ticks "Plus" does a pretty good job of killing non adult stages of fleas.

Some potential problems include no bathing for 2 days before and after application, may not last a whole month if giving frequent baths, and I'm getting more and more complaints that Frontline is not working as well as it used too.  It may be that the fleas in our area of the country are getting resistant.
$12-15 a month.  It's applied to the back of the neck
Also; apparently this pesticide is quite toxic to maybe NOT a good choice for dogs that spend a lot of time in the water.

Comfortis Once a Month Chewable Treats for Dogs & Cats:   
1.  Super effective: 99.99% flea kill within minutes for at least 3 weeks. 
2.  Super safe.  This natural pesticide is apparently the only pesticide FDA approved for use on organic fruit and vegetables for sale for humans
Since this is an oral product; no pesticide residue to worry about on your pets coat.
3.  Safe and approved for cats
4.  Safe to combine with other flea control products

This is what I recommend if your dog is so allergic to fleas that even 1 bite causes severe skin reactions. 

This is what I recommend if your pets or home are overwhelmed by fleas

1.  Expensive.   $18 a tablet for large breed dogs.  Less for smaller pets.
2.  Only kills adult fleas.  Not ticks etc
3.  Fairly minor problem, but while non toxic, Comfortis is a mild stomach irritant and fairly often causes upchucking.  This is usually prevented if given after a meal.

NexGard chewable tablet for Dogs
Brand new in late 2013, this may be the most effective flea and tick control tablet available.
Super effective for both fleas and ticks.
Almost no side effects or upset stomach like Trifexis (the other, new, super effective product available)
Extremely delicious beef flavored chewable once a month tablet
Expensive; like Trifexis, about $20 a month
Does NOT prevent heartworms, so you will also need to buy and give your pet a monthly heartworm preventive (or give the new ProHeart 6 month injection)

Trifexis chewable tablet for Dogs
Trifexis is Comfortis plus another ingredient (Milbemycin) that prevents and controls heartworm and intestinal worms.  Not approved for cats. 
Near perfect flea control, heartworm prevention, and intestinal worm control
Expensive (about $20 a month)
Does NOT kill or repel ticks
It's a flavored tablet but a lot of dogs don't seem to like it
And a lot of dogs have upset stomachs for a short period after taking this pill, especially if given on an empty stomach. 
But, boy does it work well and most dogs don't have any problems with it.

Knock Out Dog Spray and House Spray:
If you have an overwhelming flea problem, it may be necessary to reduce the initial flea load with an extra strength flea spray.  KnockOut is the strongest flea spray available, containing twice as much permethin and Nylar as other brands you can buy over the counter.
It's available as a house spray or for direct use on dogs. 
It's not safe for direct application on cats.

Premise Spray for your yard:  For overwhelming fleas in your yard, we recommend Virbac Premise Spray which will get the number of fleas way down. 

Combining Flea Products for Maximum Results:
Speaking of overwhelming flea problems, it sometimes help to combine 2 or 3 of the products discussed above for a short period until the problem is under control.  An example would be an initial spraying of the house and yard to get the flea numbers way down so they aren't jumping on your family, a single Comfortis or NexGard tablet to kill 100% of the surviving fleas that jump on your dog, and putting Revolution on your dog and cat at the same time for killing the pre-adult stages, for long term control, and all the other things that Revolution does. 
Note: not all flea products are safe to use at the same time.

Combing & Grooming.

-Helps a lot with the general health of the skin; no small benefit.

-Helps you to have an intimate familiarity with your pet's skin condition; if you're grooming and combing your pet regularly, you'll spot parasite and disease problems early.

-It allows the early spotting and removal of ticks

-Grooming and combing usually makes your pet feel much better.

-And regular combing helps maintain your pecking order status as master which helps maintain your pet's sanity.  Have you ever noticed that dogs who think they're humans tend to become neurotic head cases.  As for cats...

So; grooming and combing is great. 

But not very effective at controlling an established flea problem.  I know there's a certain satisfaction in squishing fleas as you comb them out.  But remember that the adult fleas that you kill represent only the tip of the iceberg...for every adult you kill, there are thousands of larvae and hundreds of thousands of eggs.

This same principle is why flea traps don't work.   Yes, you can attract fleas to jump into a vibrating or hot pan of water, but so what?, you still have a major flea problem.

So, if your pet has anything but a brand new or very minor flea problem; quit dinking around.  Go to your vet and get the good stuff.


If you're having major tick problems, our choices are more limited and nothing seems to be working perfectly or for longer than 3-4 weeks at a time.  But the very best tick control products are:

Preventic Tick Collars:  Excellent for 3-5 weeks at a time.  (The label claims up to 3 months, but get real)

Frontline Plus:  Still our number one seller for flea and tick control. Doesn't work as well as new NexGard but half the price and still working well enough in most cases.

Revolution: I love Revolution for most pets because it kills, prevents, or controls so many parasite problems including ticks.  But when it comes to tick problems, it only does a fair job. 

NexGard: NexGard has a very safe, natural based active ingredient that fleas and ticks haven't been exposed to yet so there's no resistance.  So near perfect control of both fleas and ticks.  Safe, easy, and effective.  I have nothing bad to say about NexGard other than it costs about $20
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Nothing is more aggravating to pets and their owners than flea problems.

And there are so many products all claiming to work great.

And vets keep changing their recommendations as fleas become resistant to our previous best products.

We, of course, offer the products that we think are the very best and at your right I've written a little summary of each to include limitations and negative comments.

What Doesn't Work Well For Flea & Tick Control ?

Shampoos, Mousse, and most Sprays:

I'm a big believer in the benefits of frequent shampooing with the new moisturizing shampoos for dog skin conditioning and for treating various skin conditions.

But shampooing alone is usually ineffective at controlling all but mild flea problems. 

Fleas have become highly resistant to most sprays and mousses, although most permethrin or allethrin sprays do work well for very short periods. 

And KnockOut Dog spray works well for about a week at a time.

Flea & Tick Collars:
A few brands of collars (especially Preventic Collars) are working fairly well for ticks, but I have yet to find one that consistently controls fleas well.  I rate them as fairly ineffective. 

What about The stuff you can get at Walmart?

As soon as Frontline TopSpot and Advantage hit the market a decade ago, and it was obvious that they were working really well, pet product companies changed their packaging to look and sound like Frontline or Advantage.    All these look or sound alike products are applied to the back of the neck like Frontline and Advantage and all come with sales pitches along the lines of why spend twice as much at the vet when this is just like the stuff they sell.  Well, it is just like it except for the active ingredient is different and that does the work!

2014 update; products containing fipronil... the active ingredient in Frontline is now available in generic brands and available without a prescription at pet stores.
But while it has the same active ingredient, it doesn't work nearly as well as real Frontline because the big technology that made Frontline special was not the pesticide but the binding agent that made it stick to the dog for 3-5 weeks without causing skin irritation.  The newly generic brands don't have this.

Almost everyone knows how difficult and expensive it is to get a new chemical product through FDA and on the market in the U.S.  It has to be proven both safe and effective.

But what people don't know is that once a product is on the market, the FDA is pretty quick to remove stuff that turns out to be unsafe (actually, it's usually pulled first by the manufacturer fearful of possible lawsuits), but not much is removed just because it's become ineffective. 

And that's what has happened with many flea control products.  The labels that say effective against fleas etc doesn't say that was back in 1959.  Or effective against laboratory fleas raised in Alaska..not our native Southeastern Flea. HooBoy.

This is the same problem with believing labels for dewormers, other parasite medicines and pesticides, and in fact, many medicines.

And the Safety Question:  We've had several very sick cats in our clinic due to the application of over the counter topical pesticides meant for dogs...cats are much more sensitive as a rule to pesticides.

What about mosquitos?

Mosquitos can pester dogs and cats, especially outdoor and farm dogs.  Mosquitos certainly carry and transmit diseases to include heartworm disease and encephalitis.  But, in general, I don't think mosquitos are a big problem to pets.

We don't have many effective and safe products for mosquito control in pets. 
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