Prescription flea and tick preventives: are they the answer for your dog's flea and tick problems?
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Should You Use a Prescription Flea and Tick Preventive?

Drs. Foster & Smith Educational Staff
Click here for a pdf version of this article.

With all of the over-the-counter flea and tick control options out there, you may be wondering where the growing selection of prescription preventives may fit into your pets' year-round defense against biting pests and the diseases they carry. Here's a helpful overview from a veterinarian's perspective.

Prescription flea & tick control combines protection and peace of mind

While prescription flea and tick preventives require a trip to your veterinarian or local Vetco clinic, they often offer more convenience and peace-of-mind than over-the-counter options. Some combine heartworm and flea and tick protection into one monthly medication, saving you the hassle and expense of managing two preventives. Others offer an oral form for pet parents not comfortable applying topical protection to their pets. All of them provide the sense of security knowing a licensed veterinarian is enlisted in your pet's defense against dangerous pests.

Why get a prescription when you can pick out a preventive from the store?

When you get a prescription flea and tick preventive, you have the assurance that your veterinarian examined your pet, and chose a product that is right for his age, weight, and lifestyle. Your local veterinarian is your ideal information source when choosing a flea and tick preventive for your pet. After examining your pet and talking with you, your veterinarian is now familiar with your pet's unique medical history as well as his lifestyle - both of which impact what flea and tick product would work best for him.

For example, if your dog has Flea Allergy Dermatitis, it's important to select a product that repels fleas as well as killing them. If your pet has a beef allergy, you need to know exactly what flavoring is used in the chewable preventive you are considering. And if your Labrador Retriever would stay in the water 24/7 if you let him, a collar (removed before he swims) may be a more effective choice than a topical. Your veterinarian's recommendations will also be based on products with safety and efficacy studies behind them, something over-the-counter products may lack. Take full advantage of your veterinarian's knowledge and experience when it comes to selecting a flea and tick preventive for your pet.

Understanding your prescription flea & tick options

Prescription flea and tick preventives fall into several different types: Multifunctional oral preventives, multifunctional topical preventives, and flea & tick oral.

Oral multifunctional preventives

If your preventive includes heartworm prevention, your veterinarian will test your pet to ensure that he does not have an active case of heartworm, since preventives can be dangerous to use in those cases. Multifunctional preventives can be found in different formulations.

  • Sentinel for instance, kills the immature form of the heartworm as well as controlling adult hookworms, removing and controlling roundworms and whipworms, and breaking the flea life cycle by inhibiting flea egg development. It is given monthly and is for dogs.
  • Sentinel Spectrum acts like Sentinel, but also controls tapeworms, and controls fleas by breaking the life cycle in both egg and larval stages. Sentinel Spectrum is given to dogs monthly.
  • Trifexis kills fleas, prevents heartworm disease and treats and controls adult hookworm, roundworm and whipworm infections. It is a chewable tablet that is given monthly to dogs.
Topical multifunctional preventives
  • Revolution liquid, which you apply to your pet's skin, protects against heartworm, fleas, certain ticks, ear mites, and certain mange mites. In cats, it also protects against roundworms and hookworms. There is a formula for dogs and a formula for cats.
  • Advantage Multi, with a formula for dogs and a formula for cats, also protects against heartworm disease, kills adult fleas, treats and controls hookworms, roundworms, whipworms, and certain mange mites in dogs. In cats (and the cat product is now approved for ferrets as well!), it does everything the dog product does plus controls ear mites. Advantage Multi for cats does not treat or control mange mites.
Oral flea & tick preventives
  • NexGard kills adult fleas and prevents/controls flea and certain tick infestations. It comes in a soft, beef flavored chewable, perfect for pets who prefer to be "treated" to their prevention. NexGard is given monthly to dogs.
  • Bravecto kills adult fleas and treats/prevents flea and certain tick infestations. Bravecto is great if you like to wait more than a month between giving preventives. Bravecto is a delicious soft chew and is given every 12 weeks. Note: for Lone Star Tick control, give Bravecto every 8 weeks to dogs.
  • Comfortis kills fleas and prevents/treats flea infestations in dogs and cats. Comfortis can save you money if you have dogs and cats, and is ideal for households that do not have to deal with ticks. Comfortis is a beef-flavored tablet and is given monthly.

Fleas and ticks can cause big problems for your pet, for you, and your family. Problems range from annoying itching, to allergic reactions, all the way up to lifelong conditions like Lyme disease. With all of the over-the-counter and prescription preventive options to choose from, it's always easier and less expensive to deter fleas and ticks than to deal with an infestation (or worse).

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