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
- 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
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.