Wednesday, September 29, 2010
Flea and tick prevention decoded
In this episode:
- Flea and tick preventives decoded: Sorting through all the product options to prevent these pests!
- Going green segment: Biodiesel!
Transcript of this week's episode of The Web-DVM:
Welcome back everyone to The Web-DVM. I am your host, veterinarian Dr. Roger Welton. We are going green with biodiesel today, but first, let’s get right into a very important topic for pet owners, choosing the right flea and tick preventive for your dog or cat. With many flea and tick preventive products out there and more added all the time, it is important that pet owners have this mess of products broken down and sorted out. For fleas and ticks cause discomfort and itchiness through their bites, transmit parasites and infection, and just simply decrease our pet’s quality of lives when they are infested. Fleas and ticks can also infest our homes and become a nuisance for even us personally, so it is in everyone’s best interests to keep them in check. However, in controlling fleas and ticks, we also do not want to put our pets nor ourselves in danger, so safety is also an important aspect of choosing the right flea and tick preventive.
In presenting flea preventives, I will be keeping the discussion to veterinary grade products, as pet store grade products, such as flea and tick collars, Adams, Hartz, Biospot, Zodiac, etc, just do not work. While flea collars may keep fleas and ticks away from the neck or the aforementioned topical products may keep fleas and ticks away from the site of application, the rest of the pet remains prime feeding ground for fleas and ticks. My advice is to not waste your money on these products, since no treatment works almost as well.
I want to also state unequivocally that I am not a fan of dips, as they tend to have uncomfortably high rates of toxicity and, while they are effective in killing pests that are on the pet, they do little to keep environmental pests from getting back on the pet and quickly re-infesting the patient. Lastly, as I have stated before, I am not a cheerleader for any flea and tick preventive manufacturer, and nobody is giving me a check for my sentiments. My views come plain and simply from my own experience.
So let us start by quickly naming the prevalent products out there for flea and tick prevention: Frontline, Advantage/Advantix, Capstar, Program, Revolution, and the new kid in town, Comfortis. From the point of view of what stage of the flea lifecycle each product kills, Frontline leads the way killing 3 out of 4 stages of the flea lifecycle, including adult fleas, eggs, and larvae; Advantage/Advantix kills 2 stages, adults and larvae; Comfortis kills adults only; Capstar kills adults only; Program kills eggs only; and Revolution kills adults and eggs only. Only Frontline and Advantix are effective in killing ticks. Revolution claims activity against ticks, but my experience with the product has been completely contrary. Frontline, Advantage/Advantix, and Revolution are administered topically, while Capstar, Comfortis, and Program are administered as an oral pill.
All of these products with the exception of Capstar are labeled for monthly protection. Capstar kills adult fleas only for 24 hours. That is why Capstar really is used as the modern alternative to a flea dip for a quick, safe kill-off, but one of the aforementioned monthly products really is needed properly prevent fleas long term.
Regarding effectiveness with monthly flea prevention, I find that Program and Revolution are only effective in cases where environmental flea prevalence is low. In more wooded, rural, or tropical settings, certainly here in Florida, these products are easily overwhelmed and often seemingly ineffective. Frontline, Advantage/Advantix are highly effective flea preventive products, adequate to prevent fleas in the majority of settings. However, in cases where there is a heavy environmental population, such as a yard frequently trafficked by strays, rural or wooded settings, or living among irresponsible neighbors that do not use flea prevention for their pets, Frontline and Advantage are known to sometimes fail to keep up with the flea burden. In these cases, where Frontline and Advantage/Advantix may not protect the pet adequately, Comfortis has proven to be the go to product, making it at this time, clinically the most effective flea preventive.
Regarding ticks, as previously mentioned, only Frontline and Advantix are effective against ticks, with their effectiveness overall good and each product comparable with one another.
So, which product should you go with? I already mentioned, for a quick kill off fleas, rather than dip your pet, I would just give Capstar, as it is highly safe and effective in killing all adult fleas on the pet within 90 minutes of administration. But, for monthly flea protection, you will still need to choose another product.
If flea loads are low and/or your pet resides in a cool or temperate environment, then you can likely get away with Program either by itself or Sentinel that has heartworm prevention with Program in it to provide an all in one heartworm and flea preventive product for dogs, and Revolution that is also and all in one heartworm and flea product for both dogs and cats. These products have a proven excellent track record for safety.
For more problematic flea areas, most of the time Frontline or one of the lines of Advantage topical products are quite effective. These products both have well established histories of safety and effectiveness and for me still comprise the staple of good flea prevention. Most pets that I see do just fine with these preventives, making them our top sellers.
I reserve Comfortis for the most stubborn of flea infestations, since it is a taken as a monthly pill. While the safety of this preventive to date seems quite good, it is known to cause occasional GI disturbance in certain patients. It is also not for use in patients with seizure disorders and is not currently labeled for use in cats.
Once again, if ticks are an issue, your only options are Frontline or Advantix, both of which also have excellent activity against fleas. However, if either of these products fail to keep up with a given flea problem, Comfortis can safely be used concurrently with either product in dogs.
Now, this is a lot of product information crammed into a short explanation, so feel free to start over and watch again, or refer to the written transcript of this show at my blog at webdvm.blogspot.com.
My going green segment today is about biodiesel. Biodiesel is a vegetable oil based fuel that is both clean burning, renewable, and actually more efficient and performs better that petroleum based diesel fuel. Oil to be processed into a diesel fuel comes primarily from the canola plant, a plant which grows readily in a variety of different soil types and in both tropical and cooler temperate climates, making it continually and perpetually renewable.
When I first learned of biodiesel, my first thought was that, if this fuel works to power standard diesel engines, then it must leave some level carbon footprint making it not truly a clean burning fuel. However, further research into biodiesel informed me that, while the burning of biodiesel does indeed provide the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide, the equivalent amount of carbon dioxide is essentially removed from the atmosphere by the canola plants that are the raw material for a given amount of biodiesel, making it a carbon neutral fuel. The processing of biodiesel is also far less polluting than the processing of petroleum into diesel fuel.
One criticism of biodiesel of course coming mostly from republican poiliticians bent on protecting big oil, is that farmers choosing to grow canola instead of corn, wheat and other consumable food crops, will drive up food prices. This is actually quite wrong. Food prices will actually go down, with farmers having an in demand crop to sell to help their bottom line, while having another crop to aid in crop rotation, which optimizes the fertility of their soil.
I am surprised that more people who run vehicles with diesel engines are not flocking to this stuff. Even if the environment does not concern you, nor does global warming or our dependence on foreign oil, use it because your vehicle will run better, more efficiently and more cheaply than on petroleum based diesel. If you do not believe me, then believe the Secretary of the Navy, who approved the building of a prototype F/A 18 fighter jet that’s powered by biodiesel. The pilot on its inaugural flight reported excellent performance and no less responsiveness than with a traditional petreoleum based jet fuelled aircraft. The largest consumer of oil in the world, this is prompting the US Navy to take a serious look at powering its vehicles with biodeisel.
To find a biodiesel station near you for your own diesel vehicle, go to drivealternatives.com. A quick search and I found a station just 6 miles from my home.
That is our show for this evening. Please do not forget to join me for my live call-in radio show every Wednesday night, 9PM EST, available at my blog at webdvm.blogspot.com, where this show is also embedded, along with bonus content and links. While there will be no lapse in the presentation of my live radio show, I will be taking next week off from The Web-DVM, as I will be in the hospital with my wife welcoming our new baby girl. Please keep us in your thoughts and prayers!
Don't forget to catch my live call-in radio show Wednesdays 9PM EST. Listen via podcast live or archived here:
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Dr. Roger Welton is the President and chief veterinarian at Maybeck Animal Hospital in West Melbourne Florida, as well as CEO of the veterinary advice and health management website Web-DVM.net.