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One of the primary responsibilities you take on as a pet parent is keeping your furry charge free of parasites like ticks and fleas. These pests can not only make your dog uncomfortable, but prove detrimental to his health and well-being, and even end his life. There are many products available to control and prevent fleas and ticks for your dog. Perhaps two of the most well-known are Advantage and Frontline. To help you decide which product would best serve your pooch, we created a handy comparison based on price, efficacy, and ingredients.
Why use a Parasite Treatment?
Using a flea and tick preventive is one of the most effective ways to keep your dog–and everyone else in your household– healthy. Fleas and ticks suck your dog’s blood and can make your dog itchy, as well as give your dog disease. Ticks, for example, can transmit Lyme disease, Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, plague, bartonellosis, and other illnesses, while fleas are the most common cause of tapeworms in dogs.
If that’s not enough reason to use a product like Advantage or Frontline to prevent fleas and ticks, consider that these parasites can also bite humans, putting you at risk for the same diseases your dog can fall victim to if bitten.
Prevention proves much less expensive (financially, emotionally, and physically!) than treating any condition a parasite might induce in your dog. Once your dog has fleas or a flea- or tick-borne disease, vet visit, medications, pain and suffering, and reevaluation visits follow, along with all the associated costs.
General Rules of Thumb
The need for prevention varies seasonally depending on where you live, as flea and tick season varies by region. The general recommendation is to begin treatment at the start of the warm season in your area.
The length of flea and tick season also varies by location. If you live in a cooler climate, the season may last only a few months. If you live in a warmer climate, near the coast, or in a wooded area, it may last year-round. Regardless of region, in a warm house, fleas and ticks can thrive all year. Ask your veterinarian when you should begin flea and tick preventative, and how long you should continue.
Before applying a preventative, read the label carefully. Even if it’s a product you’ve used regularly, read the label with each new application in case warnings or instructions have changed. Be sure to follow the directions exactly to keep your pet safe and properly apply the product for maximum effectiveness.
If the product you use is a spot-on, or topical, treatment, separate your pets after application until the product is dry, or for as long as the label suggests.
After application, monitor your dog for any possible side effects and call your vet if any appear to manifest themselves in your dog. If a topical product causes an allergic reaction, bath your dog immediately and call your vet right away.
Wash your hands before and after applying, and between pets to reduce the risk of allowing a pet to accidentally ingest any of the medication. Store all preventative out of the reach of children and pets.
Signs Your Dog has Fleas or a Tick
While you definitely don’t want to wait until your dog is suffering from a tick bite or a flea infestation, it is wise to know what to look out for in case fleas or ticks find their way to your dog. The sooner you notice the parasites, the sooner you can get rid of them.
You might actually see fleas hopping or crawling around on your dog, his bed, your furniture, or your floors.
Your dog may seem restless or anxious, and he is likely scratching a lot. He may also be shaking his head a lot and scratching his ears more than usual.
Another sign your dog might have fleas is hair loss from scratching, black spots on his skin, or scabs on his skin.
If you suspect Fido has fleas, there are a few things you can do to find out if you’re right. Among the first is a thorough inspection. When you check your dog for a possible infestation, inspect his armpits, groin, and underneath his tail, as those are favorite flea hideouts. During your inspection, you might notice red bumps on the skin of your dog’s belly, groin, or the base of his tail.
You can also look for flea dirt (which is just a euphemism for flea poop). Stand your dog overtop of a white sheet, white computer paper, or white paper towel and comb him with a flea comb. If he has fleas, flea dirt will probably fall off on the white surface. To ascertain whether the substance is flea dirt or just plain old dirt, moisten it. If the specks of dirt turn a reddish-brown color, they’re probably flea dirt.
You can also inspect your dog’s gums. Dogs suffering from sever flea infestations will often have pale gums–a sign of anemia from too much blood loss.
If you don’t find any sign of fleas on your dog, but you still suspect he has fleas, check his bed(s), the area around his food and water bowls, and his favorite places to rest for evidence of fleas.
If you find a tick crawling around in your house after your dog has spent time outside, there’s a good chance the parasite hitched a ride in on your dog. There’s also a decent chance he wasn’t alone, and that Rufus might have more hitchhikers in his fur. This would be a good time to perform a thorough inspection by running your fingers through his coat. If you feel a small bump when you’re petting him, it may be a tick. Use your finger to part the fur around the bump and inspect the area to see if you find a tick. In addition, you should also visually inspect his body. Check his ears, armpits, groin, the base of his tail, and between each of his toes for ticks.
Aside from actually finding a tick, there are other signs your dog is or was a host to the parasite. If he has a fever, he may be suffering from a tick-borne disease. Signs of a fever can include weakness, shivering, decreased appetite, and panting. Another sign of a tick bite is a scab where the tick was previously engorged. Ticks also like to burrow into dogs’ ears, so if your dog is shaking his head more than usual, he may have a tick.
A dog may also incessantly lick or bucky-bite at the site of a tick bite.
Advantage vs. Frontline for Your Dog
Ideally, if you use a preventive, you will never have to worry about the above information because you will protect your dog from fleas and ticks before they can harm him. Two of the most popular preventatives you can buy are Advantage and Frontline. Each offers its own advantages and disadvantages, depending on your dog’s lifestyle, age, and needs. While you should always talk to your veterinarian before beginning any sort of flea or tick treatment, below, we compare Advantage II for Medium Dogs (11-20 pounds) and Frontline Plus for Medium Dogs (23-44 pounds), to give you middleground starting point.
Advantage II for Medium Dogs (11-20 pounds) is available for roughly $52.00 for four doses, or around $13.00 per dose. Frontline Plus for Medium Dogs (23-44 pounds) runs about $22.00 for three doses or roughly $7.50 per dose.
Advantage is not meant for protecting your dog from ticks, but kills fleas within 12 hours, before they can lay eggs. It also kills flea larvae and is waterproof after it dries.
Frontline Plus features a combination of two active ingredients and effectively kills fleas, flea eggs, and flea larvae, as well as ticks, sarcoptic mites (the organisms that cause mange), and chewing lice. It has been found to kill 100% of fleas within one to two days and is waterproof after it dries.
Advantage uses two active ingredients, Imidacloprid (9.1%) and pyriproxyfen (0.46%).
Imidacloprid can be dangerous but is EPA approved. It is not safe for dogs who are pregnant or less than seven weeks old, and some dogs are allergic to it. It kills fleas but does not kill ticks. You should exercise care to avoid getting it in your dog’s eyes, ears, etc. If your dog does ingest this ingredient, you may observe drooling, twitching, and muscle weakness.
Pyriproxyfen kills flea eggs and larvae but does not kill ticks. As with imidacloprid, you do not want your dog to ingest it. Upon application, this ingredient may cause red, inflamed skin. It is EPA approved.
Frontline also uses two active ingredients, Fipronil (9.8%) and (S)-methoprene (8.8%).
Fipronil is EPA approved, though some concern exists. Some dogs experience temporary skin redness or itching. If this applies to your dog, call your vet if the conditions last more than a few hours. As with the above ingredients, you do not want your dog to ingest fipronil. If he licks it, you may observe excessive drooling, among other reactions. Some dogs may be allergic to fipronil. While it is not safe for senior dogs or debilitated dogs, it can be used for breeding, lactating, and pregnant dogs. Do not use this ingredient on dogs less than 8 weeks old.
The role of the (S)-methoprene is to kill flea eggs and larvae.
The product shown below can protect your dog against fleas.
Advantage II Medium Dog 4-Pack
The product shown below can protect your dog against fleas and ticks.
Frontline Plus for Dogs Medium Dog (23-44 pounds) Flea and Tick Treatment, 3 Doses
While scouring the web for information is a good starting point and we’re glad you stopped by, always ask your vet before beginning a flea and/or tick prevention regimen. Some good questions to ask include:
- What parasites does this product work against?
- How often should I apply or administer the product?
- How long before it kicks in?
- What if my pet has an adverse reaction or allergy to it?
- Is this product safe to use with other medications my pet uses?
- What product is most appropriate for the specific age and size of my dog?
- Is the product FDA-certified and/or EPA-approved?