To Flea or Not to Flea (part 1)

We've all seen them. Those commercials telling you to order your flea and tick medicine from this website instead of your vet, or the commercial of the puppy at camp playing flea free. But what is the real difference between each of the flea medicines? Is one product really better for your pet than another? I am not promoting one product over another, but I do add my own personal comments about the products I have dealt with.

Always consult a licensed veterinarian about switching to a new flea/tick medication and about trying new products for your pet in general.

Here's some of the basics.

Frontline -
This product is topical, which means you apply a liquid directly onto the skin of the pet. It is a product designed to kill both fleas and ticks. This product, since it is oily, is also waterproof. The active ingredient, Fipronil, is stored in the oil glands of your pet's skin and is distributed continuously for a month through the hair follicles to the pet's skin and hair.
Fipronil disrupts the flea life cycle and prevents them from reproducing.
When using Frontline, it has a restriction on bathing your animal. You cannot bathe your pet directly before or after applying this product. Frontline recommends not bathing your pet for at least 2 days after administering this product for optimal effectiveness.

Frontline is great if you have a dog or cat that doesn't mind staying still while you put something oily on their skin. From my own personal experience, Frontline works well on animals which are outdoors in an area where ticks are prevalent. If you go hiking with your dog a lot in brushy areas, Frontline may be a good option. I do not find that Frontline works well on cats. The oily-ness of the product tends to make some cats sick and very lethargic for a few days. Also, trying to apply the product to a squirming animal just makes an oily mess on your hands and the surrounding areas.
You will need to weigh your animal to get the correct dosage amount if you decide to go with Frontline. You can only get this product from a veterinarian.

Frontline also sells a Plus version of their flea medicine. This version not only kills the adult fleas, but prevents baby fleas from developing to reproduce. This version also kills ticks.

Advantage -
The #2 biggest flea medicine in terms of market share (behind Frontline). This product is made by Bayer. Yes, the same Bayer who makes Aspirin. Advantage is a topical medication like Frontline. Advantage is a great product for those people who want fast relief from fleas for their pets. One disadvantage of Advantage (hehe) is that it only works on fleas, so if Fido goes for hikes with you, don't use Advantage. Advantage works well for cats but again, can make some cats sick and lethargic. Always consult your vet if symptoms like this start to be noticed.

Advantage has the added bonus of being able to wash your pet directly before or after. The effectiveness of the product does not diminish with bathing, which is great for those people who want fast results without worrying about Fido jumping in the pool directly afterwards.

K9

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Advantix -
Who doesn't love that commercial with the little yellow lab at camp singing about how bugs are no longer on him? This product is also distributed by Bayer. K9 Advantix is also a monthly topical. This product can only be used on dogs over 7 weeks old. This product can NOT be used on cats. There are two active ingredients in this product, Imidacloprid and Permethrin, which paralyze the insects and cause them to lose muscle control. K9 Advantix is good for an all around product. It controls fleas, ticks and mosquitos. I have not dealt with K9 Advantix directly, but I have not heard many negative things about it. Just remember that it cannot be used on cats. It is toxic to cats.

Capstar -
This medication is a pill that can be used on both dogs and cats. It is designed to work within 20-30 minutes and the active ingredient is called Nitenpyram, which damages the nerves of fleas, killing them. Some good things about Capstar... it can be used in conjunction with other flea products. it doesn't leave any oily residues on your pet, and can be used on both dogs and cats as young as 4 weeks old and on pregnant animals. Some bad things... Capstar only works on adult fleas that bite your pet, so you need to re-dose your animals to kill the baby fleas that hatch and the adult fleas that don't bite your pet. According to the manufacturer, there are no side effects of this medication. If you see any side-effects, however, immediately stop administering the product and contact your veterinarian.

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