Hot Literature: Flea and tick control is changing. Are you?

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Mar 01, 2010

Every dog and cat owner in North America knows that next to housetraining, the most difficult pet problems they face involve fleas and ticks. Veterinary practitioners deal with flea allergy dermatitis, flea-bite dermatitis, tick-borne diseases, and other consequences of these parasites every day.

In an article recently published in Veterinary Clinics of North America: Small Animal Practice, Drs. Byron Blagburn and Michael Dryden provide a comprehensive overview of flea and tick biology, treatment, and control. The article includes a detailed review of the common species, including life cycles and important aspects of their ecology. The doctors link treatment strategies to clinically practical discoveries regarding flea and tick habitat and behavior in both natural and home environments. Also included are details on the most commonly used and most recently developed flea and tick control products. A table summarizes selected individual and combination products available commercially.

Some key points the authors describe for the newer agents are included below:

  • Amitraz: Effective against ticks and used in products for dogs. Additionally, it is used topically to treat demodicosis.
  • Dinotefuran: Effective as an adult flea control product for cats and is combined with permethrin for adult flea and tick control in dogs. It is combined with pyriproxyfen in products for cats and dogs to control other flea life stages.
  • Fipronil: Spot-on and spray products for cats and dogs that affect fleas and ticks. Combined with methoprene, it also controls flea egg and larval stages.
  • Imidacloprid: A topical flea adulticide available for dogs and cats. It can be administered up to once a week, which is helpful in cases of flea-associated dermatitis.
  • Insect growth regulators: A group that includes lufenuron, methoprene, and pyriproxyfen, which are sometimes referred to as "flea birth control" because of their effects on flea eggs, larvae, or pupae. Some of these products are given orally or as an injectable; others are applied topically. These insect growth regulators provide more than 30 days of control. The agents are usually combined with a flea adulticide in commercially available products.
  • Metaflumizone: Available on its own to control fleas in cats or combined with amitraz for control of fleas and ticks in dogs.
  • Permethrin: An old faithful but recently shown to have additional modes of action. An active ingredient in flea and tick products for dogs and known for its quick kill and effective repellent properties.
  • Selamectin: A semi-synthetic avermectin in a topical solution for dogs and cats for control of fleas and other internal and external parasites.
  • Spinosad: Given orally, this canine product takes rapid action against adult fleas and works for one month.

For all of these products—and others not discussed in the article (including over-the-counter products), manufacturer-recommended doses and uses should always be followed. Many of the most popular commercially available veterinary products containing the agents presented in the paper are listed here:

Advantage (dogs and cats) — imidacloprid

Advantage Multi for Cats — imidacloprid, moxidectin

Advantage Multi for Dogs — imidacloprid, moxidectin

Capstar (dogs and cats) — nitenpyram

Comfortis (dogs) — spinosad

Frontline Plus (dogs and cats) — fipronil, methoprene

Frontline Top Spot and Frontline Spray (dogs and cats) — fipronil

K9 Advantix (dogs) — imidacloprid, permethrin

Preventic Tick Collar (dogs) — amitraz

Program (dogs and cats) — lufenuron

ProMeris for Cats — metaflumizone

ProMeris for Dogs — metaflumizone, amitraz

Proticall (dogs) — permethrin

Revolution (dogs and cats) — selamectin

Sentinel (dogs) — lufenuron, milbemycin

Vectra for Cats and Kittens — dinotefuran, pyriproxyfen

Vectra 3D (dogs) — dinotefuran, permethrin, pyriproxyfen

Virbac Long-Acting Knockout Spray (dogs) — permethrin, pyriproxyfen

Virbac Pyrethrin Dip (dogs and cats) — pyrethrins, piperonyl butoxide, n-octyl bicycloheptene, dicarboximide, di-n-propyl isocinchomeronate

This paper is a must-read, detailing pertinent flea and tick species and describing practical environmental control efforts. The overview is central to understanding why combined efforts are critical to parasite control. With so many new, effective products available to veterinarians today, it's important to tailor control programs to individual clients and households. No longer are the organophosphates and pyrethrins the only choice for frustrated pet owners. Veterinarians can combine environmental control programs with targeted user-friendly products to keep dogs, cats, and their homes protected from fleas and ticks.

Blagburn BL, Dryden MW. Biology, treatment, and control of flea and tick infestations. Vet Clin North Am Small Anim Pract 2009;39(6):1173-1200.