Fleas and ticks are a perennial problem for dog owners in the Philippines. The concern of pet parents is understandable — each time I step into the vet’s clinic, I would always encounter a dog suffering from ehrlichiosis, a tick-borne disease. (One case I saw was so bad, with the dog bleeding heavily as a result of this blood parasite.) Flea dermatitis is another problem. And then, of course, you don’t really want these pesky creatures crawling all over you or your beddings.
Keeping your dog safe from fleas and ticks calls for vigilance. Unlike temperate countries where these insects go into hibernation during the winter months, the year-round tropical weather in the Philippines means there is no let-up from this problem. Although there are many effective products out in the market, it is important to be mindful of prevention and maintenance so that you wouldn’t have a flea or tick problem in the first place.
Here are some of the most effective treatments I’ve used in my multi-dog household:
Frontline Plus spot-on (generic name: fipronil, methoprene) – I’ve been using this for more than 20 years and I swear by the efficacy of this product as a preventive, having seen how well it works even in a multi-dog household like ours. All you have to do is put it on one spot between the dog’s shoulders. I know there’s some bad press to it, but except for one dog who had what appeared to be a sudden allergic reaction (symptoms of which promptly quickly disappeared when I gave an antihistamine), I have only had good results with it. What’s good about Frontline Plus is that it has methoprene, which kills flea eggs, thereby stopping the life cycle of fleas. For me, it’s the fipronil and methoprene combination that works well. Note that there are some generic products that just contain fipronil, which acts only on adult fleas and ticks.
Frontline spray (generic name: fipronil) — If you can’t get the spot-on, then Frontline spray works just as well as the spot-on, except that you have to spray it all over the dog. There are generic variants as well. Some people think that the spray is more cost-friendly than the spot-on. Fipronil or Frontline works well if you like immediate knock-out action.
Revolution (generic name: selamectin) – If you use Revolution, remember that it won’t protect against ticks, and that it doesn’t have a knock-out action. What I like about Revolution is that it is a deterrent against earmites and heartworm. I usually use this in between Frontline treatments, since my dogs are based in the Philippines, where the tick problem is ever present. If you like Revolution, you can consider using it with an anti-tick spray.
Advocate (generic name: imidacloprid, moxidectin)- Just like Revolution, Advocate does not protect against ticks but works well on fleas. However, it works against several other parasites such as lice, demodectic mites, sarcoptic mites, as well as hookworms, whipworms, roundworms, etc. I usually start my puppies on Advocate, just to make sure they have protection against a broad range of parasites and protect them from earmites.
Advantix (generic name: imidacloprid, permethrin) – What I like about Advantix is that it repels fleas, ticks, mosquitoes and flies even before they can bite your dog. I use Advantix primarily on my dogs who like hanging out outdoors.
Bravecto (generic name: fluralaner)– This is a chewable that works against fleas, ticks, mites, and even worms for as long as three months. However, there is also some controversy to it, which you will have to weigh against the benefits it provides. I’ve used Bravecto on my smart dog who runs away when he sees that I have Frontline — he can smell it even when I am in the next room. However, he’ll happily chew Bravecto. I figure that in the case of this dog, the risks of Bravecto as reported are not as great compared to the real threat of ehrlichiosis, which is so prevalent where we live. 22 July 2020 Update: Bravecto has released its spot-on version in the Philippines, which I have tried on my dogs as a preventive. I applied this last April 2020 and I am glad to say that three months on, my dogs are flea- and tick-free.
Nexgard (generic name: afoxolaner)- This is a chewable with the same mode of action as Bravecto, but results last for just a month. There is also Nexgard Spectra, which additionally contains milbemycin oxime, which provides additional protection against heartworm and intestinal worms.
Seresto (generic name: imidacloprid + moxidectin) – This is a collar that kills and keeps away ticks and fleas. It’s great if you can make sure it doesn’t fall off. It works continuously for as long as 8 months. Some people are put off by the price but remember that its effects are supposed to last for a long time.
As you can see, I switch from product to product, and use some products that I feel are best suited for some of my dogs, depending on their habits and needs. Switching is fine, but make sure you continually monitor how your dog responds to the product.
Here are two important points to remember in keeping your dogs safe from fleas and ticks:
- Whatever you use, it is absolutely necessary that you check your dog for fleas and ticks EVERY. SINGLE.DAY. This is actually not hard at all. Just run your hands across his body and check out the neck, armpits, ears. If you see your dog scratching, check out that spot. The reason is that many of these treatments only work once they have been ingested by the flea–meaning, when your dog gets bitten. Additionally, you don’t know if the treatment is still working, or has been washed off.
- It is not enough to just treat the dog. You also need to manage the environment he is in. This isn’t really a problem if you have no ongoing flea infestation among your dogs, but if there is, you’ll have to treat the environment as well. I’ll write about this in a future blog. (Update: here’s my blog on using diatomaceous earth to treat the environment: Diotemaceous earth: a dog owner’s best friend)
Dealing with fleas and ticks is not at all fun, but as a responsible dog owner, this is a reality you have to accept and deal with proactively.