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How Do Broad Spectrum Pesticides Like Flea and Tick Meds Work?

Comparing "Broad Spectrum" Meds to Others

By Lauren Leonardi . November 01, 2013 | See Comments

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    PetCareRx Staff Veterinarian

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Boxer Puppy Laying In The Grass

Some broad-spectrum flea and tick products protect against mosquitoes, mites, and more. Find out more here on how your flea and tick medication works to keep your pets safe.

Broad spectrum pesticides have become an everyday part of most pets’ lives -- the flea and tick medications we use to keep them safe from infestation are usually considered “broad-spectrum.” So what does this term mean?

What Does “Broad Spectrum” Mean?

The term broad spectrum indicates that a medication addresses more than one issue at the same time. A broad spectrum pesticide will target more than one pest.

What Are “Broad Spectrum Flea and Tick” Medications?

In the case of flea and tick medications, the term is self evident: broad spectrum flea and tick medications deal with both fleas and ticks. Not just one or the other.

Some broad spectrum pest treatments will deal with mites, mange, and other parasites. Some flea and tick drugs may also deal with worms, and/or the larval and pupae stages of a parasite’s life cycle. Check with your veterinarian to be sure you’re using a medication that addresses the correct issues your pet may face.

How Do Broad Spectrum Pesticides Work?

The most common broad spectrum flea and tick drugs are topical. They’re a thick liquid, dispensed from individual-use tubes. The liquid is applied monthly to a pet’s skin. The medication will, over a period of 2 to 48 hours, be absorbed into the subcutaneous layer of fat on your pet’s skin. There, it makes your pet’s body an inhospitable environment for parasites.

Some flea and tick medications work as soon as a parasite bites your pet. They’ll be infected with the drug’s poisons and then they’ll bring the toxins back to their nesting site, where others will become infected and die. With other types of medications, bites are not necessary, and the poison is absorbed directly through the pest’s feet.

Most broad spectrum flea and tick spot-on treatments interrupt the pest life cycle in some way -- either killing eggs or rendering larvae sterile to prevent them from reproducing so that they die off.

What Are the Pros of Using Broad Spectrum Flea and Tick?

Using a broad spectrum spot-on treatment saves time and effort. Rather than remembering to apply or dispense several medications over the course of one month, you can apply just the one, and move on. Using broad spectrum meds can also save money, as opposed to purchasing treatments for each parasite individually.

What Are the Cons of Using Broad Spectrum Meds?

Broad spectrum flea and tick medications are formulations of strong chemicals. Insects everywhere are becoming ever more resistant to these chemicals as we use them more and more, forcing pharmaceutical companies to make their drugs stronger to combat those resistances.

Some people argue that we don’t know what the long term effects will be of saturating our environments, our homes, and our pets. Some pet parents believe it makes sense to err on the side of fewer chemicals. If you live in an area where one parasite is of more concern than another, you may want to treat just the one issue, rather than going for a broad spectrum approach.

What are Some Types of Broad Spectrum Flea and Tick Medications?

The most common types of broad spectrum flea and tick medications are Advantix II, Frontline Plus, and Revolution. Most of them treat not just fleas and ticks, but other parasites as well:

 Advantix II

 Fleas, ticks, biting flies, and chewing lice.

 Frontline Plus

 Fleas, ticks, chewing lice, sarcoptic mites, at every stage of the life cycle.

 Revolution

 Fleas and their eggs, ticks, ear mites, scabies.


Fleas and ticks are not only gross and uncomfortable for your pet, but they can result in more than a couple of seriously debilitating diseases. Keep them away with the best option for your pet. Compare more flea and tick meds.

More on Fleas and Ticks

Which Are More Revolting: Fleas or Ticks?
How to Find Fleas and Ticks
Do I Need Flea and Tick Protection Where I Live?

This information is for informational purposes only and is not meant as a substitute for the professional advice of, or diagnosis or treatment by, your veterinarian with respect to your pet. It has, however, been verified by a licensed veterinarian for accuracy.

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