If your pet has ever had fleas, you're probably already convinced
that prevention is better than treatment. But if you do find
yourself in that awful situation, we've got you covered! We hate
to think that your adventurous pet should get punished for
exploring and experiencing the outdoors. But picking up fleas
means symptoms like itching, sores, hair loss, and an increased
risk for infections and parasites. Check out our infographic
below to find out what steps you should take if fleas become an
issue. Fight back against fleas the right way and they won’t come
Embed this infographic on your site:
Are you aware of how the treatments actually work to help save
your pets from teak and flea infestations? the next section gives
you an overview of the same.
How Do Flea and Tick Treatments Work?
There are dozens of options when it comes to medications that
keep dogs and cats safe from disease-causing pests, like Advantage for dogs or Advantage for cats...but, how exactly do
they do what they do?
How Flea & Tick Spot On Treatments Work
All pet owners do it: we mark our calendars, and each and every
month we snap the tip of our trusty flea & tick
medication and apply a dab to that one spot on our dogs’ bodies
they can’t reach with their mouths. But how does
that one little squeeze of
liquid do the trick?
Killing Insects Where They Lay
Insect neurotoxins are the primary active ingredients in most
canine flea & tick medication. Insect neurotoxins will stop
existing infestations of fleas and ticks by attacking the
central nervous systems of bugs. It poisons insects as soon
they eat it, but it doesn’t kill them too quickly! It gives
infected insects time to return to their evil lair to infect
others at the nesting site. These chemicals, in small doses,
are harmful to insects but are generally safe for your pet.
The most common insect
neurotoxins in dog flea and tick medications are:
(eye-mid-uh-CLOP-rid), found most commonly in the K9 Advantix and Advantage II products.
- Permethrin (per-METH-rin), also found
most commonly in Advantix products, as well as
Some other common active ingredients you may come across in
topical spot-on treatments may include Etofenprox (in BioSpot
products), Selamectin (in Revolution products), Dinotefuran
(in Vectra products), and others. Most active ingredients in
dog flea and tick spot-on essentially function the same way.
Banishing Future Generations
Different chemicals do different jobs. The neurotoxins listed
above do the dirty work of killing existing infestations, but
there are still eggs and larvae to deal with. That’s where
Juvenile Hormone Analogs come in. Also known as Insect Growth
Regulators (IGRs), these chemicals work to make it impossible
for larvae to develop into adulthood, and we can guess what
happens when baby insects never make it through buggy puberty
- they’re unable to reproduce.
The most common juvenile
hormone analogs in dog flea and tick medications
(pie-rih-PROX-ifen), found most commonly in K9 Advantix products.
(S)-methoprene (ess-METH-oh-preen), found most commonly in
Frontline Plus products.
The “Helping” Ingredients
Synergists are used to enhance the effects of the other
ingredients in the medication. If neurotoxins and juvenile
hormone analogs are the bullies, synergists have their back.
Two of the most common
butoxide (pie-per-OH-nil byoo-TOX-eyed)
bicycloheptene dicarboximide (enn-OCT-il bye-sih-cloh-HEP-teen
Both synergists listed above work to make some “active
ingredients” last longer by slowing their chemical
degradation. This means the killing chemicals can stick
around longer in the metabolism of the insect, which gives
fleas and ticks time to get back to their nesting site,
thereby bringing the poison home to roost.
How Flea & Tick Oral Tablets Work
Oral tablets may be
preferred over spot-on flea treatments for a few reasons.
Parents of small children, for example, sometimes have to
quarantine their dog so babies won’t rub their hands in a
recently applied spot-on. Physical contact with medicine is not
a concern with oral flea tablets.
The most common active
ingredients found in dog flea and tick oral medications
Spinosad works quickly to kill fleas and to prevent future life
cycles, and it lasts a full 30 days. Nitenpyram, conversely,
only kills adult fleas and will not prevent future
infestations. Nitenpram should be followed up with another oral
treatment like Lufenuron, which does not kill adult fleas but
does prevent future infestations by rendering eggs and larvae
unable to grow and reproduce in much the same way as spot on
How Flea & Tick Sprays Work
The active ingredients in flea and tick sprays work in the
exact same way as flea and tick spot-on: neurotoxins upset
the nervous system of the insects which quickly kills them,
and growth inhibitors prevent eggs and larvae from developing
in order to prevent future infestations.
The most common active
ingredients found in dog flea and tick sprays are:
found in Frontline Spray
- (S)-methoprene, found in
Zodiac Power Spray
- Pyrethrins, also found in Zodiac Power
Special care should be taken when using sprays, as
introducing the chemicals into your environment through a
spray greatly increases chances of inhalation and physical
contact, especially when children are present.
What are “Other," “Inactive” or “Inert Ingredients?"
The actual work-doing medicine in many flea and tick treatments
- spot-on, sprays, and tablets, may sometimes account for less
than 10% of the actual product. The rest - between 15%-90% of
the treatment - is other stuff. These ingredients may be
classified on the label or box as “other ingredients,"
“inactive ingredients," or “inert ingredients."
Inert ingredients may serve a variety of functions including
extending shelf life, helping a pesticide stick around on your
pet’s skin, and keeping the product in its desired state of
viscosity or solidity.
The EPA provides a very long list of non-food
inert ingredients that are permitted in products. Any of
these could be in any number of flea and tick spot-on treatments.
Why aren’t they listed on
Companies aren’t required by law to list their inactive
ingredients. Inert Ingredients are protected as trade secrets or
private business information.
* Examples based on ingredients in the leading flea & tick
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.