People always seem to be more worried about fleas than ticks. That is misplaced emphasis. Ticks transmit disease and can cause long term chronic pain. Lyme Disease is one of the most serious diseases transferred by ticks. We will start our story from there. This is an update to a previous article I published a few years ago about fleas and ticks.
Fleas and Ticks 2017 – No Rest for the Wicked
Depending on the circumstances fleas and ticks can be present year round, so don’t become complacent just because the temperature drops. The ticks will overwinter in fermenting leaf litter. When it gets warm for a couple of days, they begin looking for a meal. Remember to comb out your dog when he is out where there are ticks. There is more to controlling Lyme disease control than just putting on a topical.
Over the years there have been all kinds of products produced to help prevent being bitten by ticks. There are two separate philosophies regarding tick and flea control. People don’t like chemicals so they decide to use the so-called “all natural” ingredients. This is foolish. The risk of their inefficacy is too high. There is no such thing as “moderate” success when repelling ticks. Even with humans there are no foolproof repellents. The other school of thought is to use topical and systemic toxins to kill the parasites. The problem is some of the products only kill fleas. Advantage, Advantus, Capstar, etc. Some 10 years ago Merial came out with Frontline. This worked against fleas and ticks. It helped more than Bayer’s Advantage because Advantage only killed fleas.
Prior to this the vets sold Program. That was a farce. It contained a well-known chemical called Ivermectin. Every flea in a house had to bite the pet to die, and people thought Program was all they needed to cure their infestation. Premise spray with permethrin was also needed but that wasn’t conveyed to the client. I personally like Ivermectin. It is a great dewormer — but with regards to ticks, the put must already have been bitten for the drug to take effect. If the pet’s been bitten, the damage has already likely been done. It does not protect against getting Lyme.
Now Bayer has introduced Advantus. This is another product that will only kill fleas. It is a systemic product that has an active ingredient called Imidocloprid — the same as Advantage. Fleas are a nuisance, but ticks are dangerous and potentially deadly. Lyme disease is everywhere now. It’s doubly dangerous because it’s hard to diagnose and the tick population seems to be exploding.
Many of the other products take up to 48 hours to kill ticks. Some, like Advantix, will kill both fleas and ticks but it still takes 24 to 48 hours to kill a tick. The nice thing about Advantix is that it uses permethrin (dogs only — the chemical is toxic to cats) which also acts to some degree as a repellent.
The new Seresto collar from Bayer seems to be quite effective, but I suggest using a bit of Frontline spray around the tail region of larger dogs. In big dogs the collar seems lose efficacy on the far end of the dog. Frontline seems to be going out of favor for some reason. Some say it isn’t as effective as it used to be. I have not noted any dropoff in quality. We use a product called Spectrasure (basically the same as Frontline Plus with an IGR – insect growth regulating hormone – that for the life of me I see no immediate use). If the flea or tick bites an animal protected with Spectasure, they’ll die and their eggs won’t be around anyway. The IGR is to keep the eggs of the fleas from hatching. It seems a little redundant, but IGRs have little to no toxicity at any concentration. It’s superfluous, but harmless. Spectrasure is cheaper and saves money, but many still want to pay the extra cash for Frontline because that is what they know.
In the late spring when the tiny ticks are out and about you can barely see them. Be diligent about combing your dog for fleas and make sure they have a quality topical that kills both fleas and ticks. Cats are harder to treat because permethrin is toxic to cats, but there are a couple of new products on the horizon that hopefully will be available soon. I will keep you informed as they are released and tested.
I hope this helps you make decisions about controlling fleas and ticks. Talk to one of our managers — they can be a great source of information — or call me at (412) 367-0962.