Tick Season Already?

March 7, 2010 at 7:48 pm 36 comments

With daytime temperatures rising into the 40’s, spring has been on my mind. There’s still more than a foot of snow on the ground but the creek is filled with meltwater and the birds’ spring migration is just beginning. Life was great — until this article from The Culpeper, Virginia Star-Exponent ruined my day…

Robins and many other songbirds are often the heralds of springtime and warmer weather just around the corner. Unfortunately, a new report is stating these welcome spring visitors are quite possibly spreading a serious disease of humans and pets … Lyme Disease.

Ticks are the primary vector for spreading Lyme Disease to people, dogs, and horses. Most ticks acquire the disease-causing bacteria by feeding on infected rodents. Deer also play an important role as expanding populations import large numbers of ticks into new areas of the country.

But now, researchers at Yale have found that robins, blue jays and other common birds are also reservoirs of this illness. Furthermore, the nymph and larval stages of the tick life cycle can be carried by the birds across distances and into the yards where pets and people often roam. What this means is that the heralded robin of spring could be leaving their parasite passengers and Lyme Disease in your backyard.

I hate ticks. I really hate ticks. If I could wave a magic wand and make every last one of the evil eight-legged bastards disappear – I’d say damn the environmental torpedoes, full speed ahead!

Sadly, I don’t have a magic wand. And – if robins and jays are dropping evil arachnid invaders into our midst, they could already be active during the day. Deer ticks typically become active at temperatures above 45° F.

This means it’s time to get off my duff and figure out what kind of preventative to use on the dogs this year. Here are the options:

Revolution/Stronghold (Pfizer)
These are monthly spot treatments typically applied between the shoulder blades. They enter your dog’s bloodstream through his skin and then are selectively distributed from the blood to the skin where they provide protection against a wide range of pests. The active ingredient in these products is selamectin.  Revolution and Stronghold are listed as being active against fleas, American dog ticks, ear mites, sarcoptic mange and heartworm in United States and fleas, ear mites, sarcoptic Mange, heartworm and roundworm in Europe.  Selamectin kills parasites by blocking nerve signal transmission. These products are absorbed through the skin and travel to the bloodstream and gastrointestinal tract where some of the pesticide action occurs. The products eventually migrate out to the hair and skin where they provide some external protection against fleas, mites and ticks. There have been scattered reports of adverse reactions to these products.

Frontline Top Spot (Merial)
Another monthly topical spot treatment with the active ingredient Fipronil. It is listed as being effective against fleas for 90 days and ticks for 30 days. Frontline used to be the treatment of choice here for ticks, but studies suggest that fleas and ticks are quickly becoming resistant to it. Frontline only protects against fleas, ticks and biting lice.  The fipronil is mixed with an oil carrier that allows it to collect in the sebaceous glands of the skin where it is released over time. This product offers some water resistance and it acts by blocking chlorine in the insect’s nervous system which causes paralysis and death. It doesn’t contain permethrins that are toxic to cats. There have been some reports of adverse reactions in dogs.

Frontline Plus (Merial)
Frontline Plus contains fipronil and methoprene, an insect growth regulator. Methoprene mimics juvenile growth hormones and keeps immature fleas from developing by preventing them from molting. The main advantage of this product over regular Frontline is that it provides extra protection against fleas.

K-9 Advantix (Bayer)
Advantix is a topical treatment marketed as preventing heartworm by repelling and killing mosquitoes before they bite your dog. Like Frontline, it collects in the sebaceous glands of the skin and is released over time. Active ingredients are the pyrethroids imidacloprid and permethrin. Imidacloprid acts by blocking insects’ nerve receptors. Imidacloprid kills fleas but doesn’t affect ticks so permethrin is added to provide protection against them. Pyrethroids may offer some environmental advantage because they are highly biodegradable, but permethrin is extremely toxic to cats, so you may not want to use this product if your household includes cats (or ferrets). There have been some reports of adverse effects related to Advantix.

Advantage Multi/Advocate (Bayer)
A  monthly topical treatment that protects against fleas, ear mites, sarcoptic mange, heartworm, roundworm, and hookworm. Advantage and Advocate provide NO TICK PROTECTION. The active ingredient in both products is imidacloprid. A poodle in Canada was reportedly glued to the bottom of his crate after application of Advantage. Benzyl alcohol, one of the inactive ingredients in the product, is a common organic solvent. Benzyl alcohol can be used to extract and dissolve many kinds of plastics. It is used as a preservative, solvent, anesthetic, and viscosity-decreasing agent in many products for human use. It is probably an ingredient in other topical antiparasitics as well. Be sure these products are fully dried and/or absorbed before putting your pet in a crate, car seat or other potentially adhesive environment.

Bio-Spot On (Farnam)
This monthly topical treatment contains imidacloprid and permethrin like Advantix and adds insect growth regulators and insect growth inhibitors. Insect growth regulators include methoprene, pyriproxyfen and fenoxycarb. Insect growth inhibitors include lufenuron and diflubenzuron. Bio-Spot On is listed as being active against fleas, ticks and mosquitoes and, like K-9 Advantix, should provide some repellent action. There are scattered reports of adverse reactions to this product. Like Frontline and Advantix it collects in the sebaceous glands where it is released over time.

Preventic and ProMeris (Fort Dodge)
Preventic is a collar, ProMeris is a monthly topical treatment. Both products contain amitraz. ProMeris also contains metaflumizone which targets synaptic sodium channels and blocks nerve impulses resulting in the paralysis and death of fleas. Amitraz kills ticks by disrupting nerve function leading to reduced feeding and attachment, paralysis and death. ProMeris is listed as controlling fleas, ticks and mange. Preventic is a tick collar. There have been several reports of adverse affects related to ProMeris. Both products have a very strong, eucalyptus odor that many people (and pets) find offensive.

Program and Sentinel (Novartis)
Program and Sentinel are monthly oral treatments containing the insect development inhibitor lufenuron. Lufenuron is stored in the animal’s body fat and transferred to adult fleas through their bite. It acts by inhibiting chitin production in larval fleas and is NOT EFFECTIVE AGAINST TICKS OR ADULT FLEAS. Sentinel also contains milbemycin oxime, a microfilariacide which disrupts nerve transmission in parasites leading to their death. Milbemycin oxime is active against immature heartworm larvae and adult hookworms, roundworms and whipworms.  It is not listed for use against ticks.

Capstar (Novartis)
Capstar is an oral treatment containing nitenpyram. Nitenpyram blocks fleas’ nerve receptors. It enters your pet’s blood stream in about twenty minutes and when the fleas bite they’re killed very quickly. Capstar can reportedly be used as frequently as on a daily basis. It is listed for use on pregnant or nursing dogs and cats, and puppies and kittens 4 weeks and older. Capstar can wipe out an ugly infestation but it provides no long-term pest control because it passes through your pet’s system in just 24 hours. Capstar also provides NO TICK PROTECTION.

Comfortis (Elanco)
Comfortis is a monthly oral flea treatment. The active ingredient is spinosad, a tetracyclic macrolide that activates nicotinic acetylcholine receptors in the fleas’ nervous systems and makes it seize until it dies. FDA has warned that it has received adverse reaction reports on spinosad that are consistent with ivermectin toxicity, so use caution in treating dogs with known or potential ivermectin sensitivity. Because Comfortis acts by triggering lethal seizures in the flea, I would not use this product on an epileptic dog.  Comfortis is NOT EFFECTIVE AGAINST TICKS.

Vectra 3D (Summit)
Vectra 3D is a quick-acting monthly topical treatment that repels and kills fleas, ticks, mosquitoes, lice, sand flies and mites. The active ingredients in Vectra 3D are dinotefuran, pyriproxyfen and permethrin. Dinotefuran is based on acetycholine, other flea control products are based on nicotine.The manufacturer states that the differing lead compound makes it less problematic with respect to . Dinotefuran also binds to different nerve synapse receptor sites than other products and it kills pests by contact, not ingestion. Unlike other products, it is reportedly spread through a dog’s hair. Because it contains permethrin, it is highly toxic to cats.

TriForce (Agri Laboratories Ltd.)
TriForce is a fast-acting monthly topical flea and tick treatment for dogs. The manufacturer states that it also repels ticks and mosquitoes. The active ingredients are etofenprox and pyriproxyfen. Etofenprox is a pyrethroid, so it cannot be used on cats. Pyriproxyfen prevents larvae from developing into adulthood and reproducing.

We don’t have a significant problem with fleas, ticks are our primary concern. So Program, Sentinel, Capstar, Advantage, Comfortis and Advocate are easy to eliminate. Like many other people, I’ve noticed that Frontline doesn’t seem to be as effective as it used to be, so I’ll nix Frontline and Frontline Plus as well. I’m not comfortable with the number of reports of adverse effects I’ve seen with ProMeris so it’s off the list too.

That leaves me with Advantix, Bio-Spot On, Revolution and Preventic. Since we don’t have cats, I’m more comfortable with pyrethroids than growth inhibitors and regulators (on a purely subjective level, neurotoxins don’t seem as nasty to me as compounds that interfere with the growth and development of organisms). So the current plan is to use Preventic collars (we’ll try them on top of bandannas) when we’re out hiking in the brush and have some Advantix on hand for any infestations the collars don’t prevent. The dogs are already on Heartguard, so they don’t need the extra protection (and chemicals) in Revolution. If we have significant tick problems this year, I may try Revolution next summer.

Pyrethroids are toxic to fish and other aquatic organisms at part per trillion concentrations, so I’ll make sure I apply Advantix on a day when the dogs aren’t going to be in or near the water. Because it’s safe to assume that benzyl alcohol or other organic solvents are probably a part of all topical formulas, I’ll make sure they’re completely absorbed before I put the beasties in crates or let them wrestle on the rubber mats in the training room. And because there is some risk of adverse reactions to all drugs and treatments, I’ll treat the dogs when I’ll be home with them for a least a few hours after applying the product.

The usual caveats apply: I’m not a veterinarian, your experience may be different than mine and your pets may have sensitivities and problems not mentioned here. This information is incomplete and simply represents the process I went through to decide what products to use for my own dogs. In other words – your mileage may vary.

Ideas? Opinions? Anecdotes? – Put them in the comments!

Entry filed under: dogs, health.

Cave Pullum! Unintended Consequences

36 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Jean  |  March 7, 2010 at 10:22 pm

    I’d suggest you be careful with the Advantix collars if the dogs have any tendency to bite at each other’s necks; there’s been mention on the tick-l of dogs getting very sick and needing emergency care after biting into one.

  • 2. Jan  |  March 7, 2010 at 10:39 pm

    I live in an area where ticks are not indigenous, but one year a neighbor brought two puppies down from the mountains, as i soon discovered covered with ticks.

    Somehow they made it past the six foot fence separating us and I spent one entire season fighting them in my yard and the idiot neighbor’s yard and on my then two dogs and theirs.

    There were few products available then. As I remember I did a lot of tweezing that summer. Hopefully I won’t need this list, but thanks if I ever do.

    I like bats and snakes, but I really hate ticks.

  • 3. SmartDogs  |  March 7, 2010 at 10:44 pm

    Thanks. The plan is only to wear them on hikes. The dogs don’t play bite-face or crocodiles and alligators on hikes.

  • 4. Jess  |  March 7, 2010 at 11:57 pm

    When we lived in Florida we had terrible ticks. No fleas, just ticks. It got where I was picking ten or fifteen ticks off of EACH FOOT on each dog every day. I got to where I enjoyed squishing them.

    Preventic collars worked for us, but I stopped using them because they made the little dogs kind of logy. They do stink, not like eucalyptus, a nasty chemical smell. Frontline spray also worked, I sprayed the dog’s feet, making sure I got it between the toes and under the foot, and their undersides and arm pits. That was prior to 2003, so maybe the ticks have built up a tolerance.

  • 5. SmartDogs  |  March 8, 2010 at 12:11 am

    We used Frontline for years but in the last year or two the effectiveness noticeably decreased.

    Interesting that you saw so many ticks on feet. We get them on heads, necks and dog-pits.

    I don’t like the logy thing. Crap. Wish there were more options….

  • 6. Amy Lorentz  |  March 8, 2010 at 8:11 am

    Since you are looking for tick preventative, Comfortis won’t help you but for the sake of completeness it should be included in your list. It has become very popular, at least in my area, after the sudden (and massive) frontline failure of last summer. It is a monthly chewable pill. As for ticks, I see very few thanks to the CHICKENS!!!

  • 7. SmartDogs  |  March 8, 2010 at 9:50 am

    Thanks Amy, I’ll update.

    We haven’t had many problems with ticks at home (even pre-chickens) – but in warm weather we go hiking several times a week in places where there are scary lots of them.

  • 8. cyborgsuzy  |  March 8, 2010 at 11:28 am

    Wow. This is the most accurate and thoughtful flea/tick spot-on article I’ve seen in a while. (I’m a pesticide toxicologist and I’m used to a reading lot of misinformation on this subject, even from vets).

    The benefit of pyrethroids is that they do have a repellent property that other ingredients don’t. Often, for example, a tick has to bite before Frontline becomes effective which sort of makes it less useful to prevent tick-borne disease.

    If it’s just for hiking, you might even consider a repellent spray containing DEET or picaradin (although I don’t know if they’re available in your area for dogs).

  • 9. SmartDogs  |  March 8, 2010 at 11:48 am

    Thanks it’s nice to see another science geek / animal person here! My background is mostly in groundwater geochemistry so this kind of thing isn’t a huge stretch.

    I’m really sensitive to DEET (enough so that when the bugs are bad I just suck it up and deal with getting bitten) so it’s out, but I’ll look into picaridin.

    The bummer with Frontline is that the dratted ticks and fleas are developing resistance to it at a frighteningly rapid pace. I had references to cite for this, but they were eaten while I edited the original.

  • 10. EmilyS  |  March 8, 2010 at 2:18 pm

    FYI: Advantage Multi/Advocate is also used for treating demodectic mange. It’s labelled for that use in other countries, but not in the USA. But the CSU dermatology dept recommends it and vets are allowed to use off-label remedies I think it’s still Rx only though

  • 11. Catherine  |  March 8, 2010 at 6:01 pm

    I’m in South Florida and believe that fleas are immune to both Advantage and Frontline. My dogs have them and I keep my dogs clean, put stuff down in yard and have even started spraying inside. I think the problem is outside. Any suggestions for an alternative are welcome.

  • 12. SmartDogs  |  March 8, 2010 at 6:46 pm

    I’m in Minnesota, so my experience probably isn’t very helpful.

    At the training center (the only place where I have any concern about fleas) I apply beneficial nematodes to the ground every spring and spread diatomaceous earth as needed. I also have the place professional sprayed with a permethrin spray twice a year.

  • 13. Laura Sanborn  |  March 8, 2010 at 11:40 pm

    I too have heard reports about Frontline not being as effective as is once was against ticks. I’ve found a few partially engorged ticks on Rikki even when he had had Frontline Plus applied within the previous week or two.

    But I’m still finding more dead than live attached ticks on Rikki, so the Frontline is not totally ineffective.

    Frontline is supposed to kill ticks after they bite, not repel them. I don’t know how long it should take to kill ticks. Before they get engorged at all? When they are partially engorged?

    I’ve also read reports that there’s a lot of counterfeit Frontline floating around. Could it be that those who are experiencing a failure of Frontline are actually using fake Frontline?

  • 14. H. Houlahan  |  March 9, 2010 at 10:42 am

    I found the Frontline plus pretty nearly totally ineffective this year. It used to work very well.

    My vet admits the same, and is very frustrated.

    If there is “counterfeit” Frontline out there, it’s coming through a lot of channels, including my vet.

    I simply do not believe that ticks are “developing resistance.” Not enough ticks are exposed to a dog that has been frontlined — at least not here, where the major hosts are deer and deer mice. There just isn’t the opportunity for that kind of selection pressure.

    I think they’ve monkeyed with the formula, or it’s all counterfeit.

    And I’m at a loss. We’ll try the guineas again to control them on the property, but other than laminating the dogs, what is to be done when we are out training and working and hiking?

  • 15. cyborgsuzy  |  March 9, 2010 at 12:44 pm

    It’s possible ticks are becoming resistant to the Frontline ingredients. The same active ingredient (fipronil) is used in other pesticide products like termite treatments, so they could be coming into contact in the environment from other sources.

    There’s at least one recent published study that shows fipronil resistance in some wild populations of ticks: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20056329

  • 16. Gina Spadafori  |  March 9, 2010 at 1:12 pm

    Two things:

    Comment No. 1: I really have a problem with “there have been mentions.” Citation, please.

    Otherwise … I just gotta say:


  • 17. SmartDogs  |  March 9, 2010 at 1:28 pm

    The interwebs are FULL of wild allegations of horrific adverse reactions to all of the products I listed here. There are entire websites full of them. Unfortunately FDA doesn’t provide a simple, searchable database of this kind of information.

    So I just used a relative and entirely subjective measure of the internet rant index to assess the general idea of how likely any of the reactions are real. Totally unscientific. And that’s why I left it vague.

    However – I will soon have more regarding the resistance that Houlie questions.

  • 18. cyborgsuzy  |  March 9, 2010 at 2:05 pm

    Part of the problem re: adverse effects reports is that half these products are regulated by FDA as drugs, and half by EPA as pesticides (the ones like Frontline and Advantage that don’t absorb into the bloodstream and stays on the ‘surface’ of the skin).

    EPA is currently in the process of reviewing all adverse effects reports (from the public, manufactures, and the ASPCA’s animal poison center). Who knows how long it’ll take, or what info they’ll make available to the public, but it’s something: http://www.epa.gov/pesticides/health/flea-tick-control.html

  • 19. Meredith Roberts  |  March 9, 2010 at 3:40 pm

    Try ATLAST! Flea & Tick Spray. It is 100% organic and cedar oil based. Works great to repel ticks! Go to http://www.atlastflyspray.com

  • 20. Viatecio  |  March 9, 2010 at 6:33 pm

    Just a mention about the Lyme disease tick…a lot of people seem to freak out and think that all ticks carry Lyme. It’s only the deer tick (Ixodes spp), as far as I know, and while it’s stayed in certain regions, I guess it’s spreading. The tick that people, at least here in Ohio, are most familiar with, is the brown dog tick…not to say that the others don’t spread diseases (ehrlichiosis, babesiosis and RMSF, oh my!), but Lyme is pretty much limited to the teeny tiny deer ticks.

    I concur with everyone on the intense hatred for ticks as well!

  • 21. Rob McMillin  |  March 9, 2010 at 10:26 pm

    The UC Davis website informs me that we do have ticks in Southern California, but I have lived here my entire life and never seen a one.

    We have religiously used Frontline — one of my childhood experiences was coming home from a one-week vacation and being absolutely eaten alive by fleas upon our return — but are starting to notice the odd live flea in the house. I believe Helen has mentioned that our vet has said something about Frontline’s decreased efficacy against fleas as well, but I can’t swear to it.

  • 23. Ed  |  March 10, 2010 at 11:17 pm

    My preferred method of flea and tick control is to live at the beach and swim every day. Sadly, gainful employment and other adult responsibilities interfere with this safe, organic, and fun method.

    I make horse fly spray with various oils (eucalyptus, cedar, etc.) but worry about dogs ingesting too much (from licking their own paws, tussling, and all those things dogs do.). Also, the dogs live with cats and cats are super-sensitive to essential oils. Need to have a chat with the vet about this.

  • 24. Dogue de Bordeaux Puppy  |  March 12, 2010 at 6:59 am

    Very informative article. I am searching for the best method to repel ticks for our Dogue de Bordeaux Puppy. Thanks for posting this list of products!

  • 25. Linktastic « Trials of an Agility Neophite  |  March 12, 2010 at 6:12 pm

    […] edited 3/12 to add another great link on flea and tick meds * Its that time of year–YUCK. […]

  • 26. Wild Dingo  |  March 13, 2010 at 2:21 am

    i personally LOVE the preventic collar. never thought i would. I was an advantix user for my previous dogs. my current 2 dogs, one of them possibly has an autoimmune disease and i have to be super careful about drugs. tho the tick collar has a drug on it and it works by touching the fur, i find it is less invasive. i also find using it only during tick season is necessary as i do not use flea medicine during the rest of the year (like advantix). thankfully, my dogs don’t get fleas. i think they don’t get them because they live inside, tho we hike outdoors daily in the woods where there are ticks. i’m surprised they don’t get fleas but possibly we don’t live in a flea area. or maybe i’m lucky. but i really love preventic. i works like a charm. i do see ticks crawling on her after walks, but i’ve never seen one attached. and she’s had one attached before i used it. i plan to use it only during tick season. the collar can go under your normal collar and my holistic vet suggested even double stick taping 3 large pieces of it to the inside of the normal collar. i’d be curious to know if you use it and like it…

  • 27. Wild Dingo  |  March 13, 2010 at 2:22 am

    oh and great report. we are almost “through” tick season here in NorCal…

  • 28. Donna  |  March 24, 2010 at 5:00 am

    I think there is a typo in your entry for Frontline Plus. It just has fipronil and (s)-methoprene in it, no lufenuron or diflubenzuron.

  • 29. SmartDogs  |  March 24, 2010 at 8:22 pm

    Donna – thanks for the head’s up. I double-checked this. You are correct and I have edited the post. While I was at it I also added Vectra 3D and TriForce to the list.

  • 30. Kim Bennett  |  March 30, 2010 at 7:01 pm

    I’m glad I found this! It’s March 30 in Maryland and I just pulled a tick out of my hair! I thought, “ALREADY!?” and then looked down at my snoozing dog… time for the Frontline!

  • 31. frontline cats  |  April 24, 2010 at 4:03 pm

    It’s a good idea to act fast when your pet has come in contact with fleas. If you use frontline for pets, you will start to see resluts right away. When you apply frontline for pets; fipronil, the active ingredient, is stored in the oil glands under your pet’s skin. It is then distributed continuously to the skin and hair of your pet through the hair follicles.

  • 32. Amy  |  May 17, 2010 at 2:05 pm

    Is there a reason you decided to not use TriForce on your dogs?

  • 33. Rod@GoPetFriendly  |  June 8, 2010 at 8:29 pm

    We are looking for a tick prevention solution. Our GSD cannot tolerate Frontline – so I was wondering how the Preventic collar worked for you.

  • 34. SmartDogs  |  June 8, 2010 at 8:34 pm

    They seem to be doing a good job of keeping the ticks off. In fact, better than the Frontline ever did.

  • 35. Buster Wants to be Ticked Off  |  June 9, 2010 at 3:01 am

    […] a listing of the major flea and medications (they’re not all the same) that we found over at Smartdogs’ Weblog. Her post names the active ingredients and includes a brief discussion of each product. It’s […]

  • 36. Michael Dawson  |  November 30, 2011 at 6:20 pm

    You mentioned K-9 Advantix but not Advantix II or K-9 Advantix II. Are these all one and the same or do they differ from one another? Thanks for the most informative article I have read to date!

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