Flea and Worm Treatments – Are Any of Them Good?

Having pests – including fleas, worms and ticks – attacking your dog and possibly your family is awful. But, finding a way to prevent them can be challenging. While there are lots of products on the market, it does seem like none of them work 100% of the time.

Topical Flea Treatments

These are the most common. They are easy to apply and once they have been absorbed, you don’t have to worry about your family being exposed to the toxins like you do with flea collars.

Like most pests, these common household plagues do adapt to our chemicals. So something that has worked, may stop working. We have found that Frontline doesn’t really work anymore. Personally, for fleas we recommend Advantage or Advantix. For worms, it really depends on the type of worms your dog may have, which you may need to have a vet diagnose. Especially if you suspect heartworms, which need to be treated by a vet.

Oral Flea Treatments

Oral flea treatments have become very popular lately. They are quickly replacing topic flea treatments in terms of sales. This is because brands like Panoramis and Comfortis are said to be 99.9% effective, which is 11.5% more effective than what the topical treatments have been rated as. That’s a big difference! Plus, for many, all they have to do is put a pill in some wet food or a piece of cheese and their dog swallows it. Done! No chance of contamination– your kids can immediately snuggle the dog. Bonus, these orals also prevent/kill worms. Panoramis even prevents heartworm. Nexgard kills ticks and adult fleas.

BUT THERE COULD BE RISKS ASSOCIATED WITH THE ORAL TREATMENTS!

The drugs in these treatments attack the nervous system of the fleas and ticks, causing death. Of course, the question is – how does that affect the dog who is also ingesting them? Is the dosage enough to cause harm?

There have been some scary reports on forums asking for people’s feedback on the different medications. One lady lost her 9 month old puppy after giving her an oral flea medication (Bravecto) 7 weeks prior. She said her vet confirmed it was a reaction to the drug. The dog had been perfectly healthy prior. Another one said her dog went into stage 4 kidney failure (also on Bravecto).

On the other hand, a March 2014 study published in the journal Parasites & Vectors said they found no serious adverse side effects when Bravecto was given to “healthy dogs at dose rates of up to 281.3 mg/kg on three occasions at 8-week intervals. [The study] did not lead to any treatment-related findings that could be detected through careful clinical observation, clinical pathological evaluation or on gross or microscopic post mortem examination.”

But there are still people who do not feel it’s worth the risk. There are even petitions on Change.org asking that these drugs be removed from the market. While not as severe, there has also been anecdotal evidence of oral medications causing itching and other health problems in some dogs.

Tick Treatments

Ticks are tricky. Nothing really prevents them 100% of the time. I do have a friend that lives in a bad tick area and he likes the tick collars. While he still finds ticks on his dogs, he says they seem to be more easily removed when the dogs are wearing the collars.

Natural sprays for ticks have been found to be somewhat effective as well. Rose geranium oil (not for cats!) has been known to work. And so do products containing Neem and Eucalyptus oil. However, none of them are 100% either, so you should always check your dog (and yourself!) over after being outside anywhere there are ticks.

This fight against these pests is not any easy one. Definitely noticing an invasion early can help get rid of them faster and reduce the risk that you will end up being plagued as well. A note – If you have carpet and just cannot get rid of your fleas, you may have to replace the carpet. Fleas lay eggs in the carpet and often that is the culprit behind you not being able to break that cycle, even if your dog is covered in flea preventions.

Also with all these treatments use common sense. In the cooler areas of Australia fleas and ticks only come out in the warmer months so I don’t even use these products from Autumn to the end of winter. Same goes for worms. Its recommended to worm your dog every 3 months. If your dogs are relatively worm free and you don’t live in an area where worms can be an issue then you don’t have to be too religious with it.

Heart worm is probably the most life threatening of the worms so best keep up to date with that one. Even so, it is curable these days with long term continued ivomectin treatment.

(Important Notice- There is an Ivermectin intolerance shown by Collie breeds. Collies, Shelties, Border Collies, Old English Sheepdogs and Australian Shepherds have been known to suffer serious side effects and even death due to a genetic defect which allows the toxin to build up in the brain.  Even low doses can present an unacceptable risk in susceptible dogs, especially puppies, and should be avoided unless your collie breed dog has tested clear of this defect.)

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34 Comments

  1. I have always dipped my dogs treated worms with panacur have used this for 30 yrs and old fashioned daily heartworm never used their new stuff too much chemical, keep it simple is out motto

  2. An interesting read … over the years of having dogs I’ve used quite a variety of preventatives, but I currently have 2 Border Collies and upon my vet’s recommendation have used only Bravecto with no adverse effects. While we live in a “tick free” area, I still worry about ticks when we go on outings/holidays as the dogs coats are so thick

    1. Hi Polly, Thats great that your dogs dont have any adverse effects. I guess the point of the article is just to make you aware that these chemicals can cause issues. So if you notice any symptoms you can take the actions.

      1. I would think that Robert would be referring to long term effects/cumulative.

        I worm my dogs but we don’t have fleas so I don’t treat for fleas because of the concern of long term effects.

    1. Hi Jenny, i use advantage for fleas and any Allwormer. I dont use the flea treatment in winter because where i live its too cold for fleas. I only worm adult dogs 2 times a year and find even that seems too much. if i see a dog has worms or looks “wormy” i’ll worm it again.Pups are different they seem to need worming every second week until they hit 12 weeks where you can decrease the worming to monthly and every 3 months.

      1. Hi Robert
        I live in Adelaide and find that i don’t need flea or tick treatment for my dogs. I only worm them twice a year too and like you feel thats too much as it only upsets their tummy or they vomit it up. they of course are protected against heart worm but even that isn’t prevalent here .
        my boys are 10 and almost 9.

  3. I totally agree with your recommendation of Advantix to control fleas and ticks. I have used this product since the beginning, with my 12 year old Staffy and I have NEVER seen a flea or tick on her.
    For heartworm, as well as round, whip, hook and tapeworms, I have always used Interceptor Spectrum. Can’t fault it!

  4. I’ve always used Advantage for fleas and never had a problem with this brand. For heartworm I take my dog to the vet and have a once a year preventative given via injection. Again this has no side effects.
    I want to give my dog the least amount of ‘poison’ as possible so I only worm him every 4-6 months with a general wormer from the vet. So far I’ve had no issues with this. I don’t believe we should be giving worming tablets to dogs every month. It seems excessive.
    Always do your own research on a product before giving it to your dog. Even if the vet says it’s ‘ok’ doesn’t mean your dog won’t have a reaction to it.

  5. Hello Robert,
    Thank you yet again for a very informative article which arrived after we had a flea problem. My Tenterfield is a very successful rodent killer so we thought maybe we should give her a flea treatment as rodents are a big carrier of fleas. We treated her with Advantage and within 24 hours she was scratching and biting her skin, in short she had a very strong reaction to the drug. A friend then reported that her Labrador has since developed cancers on the sites she has always put the topical treatments, so no more of those treatments for us. After an anti-histamine and cortisone injection from the vet they recommended Bravecto which luckily has worked on the fleas with so far no negative reaction from the dogs. I also use eucalyptus oil in the shampoo and rinse water which results in dead fleas in the water.

    1. Hi Dessie, that’s interesting. Obviously every dog is different to a degree and it seems they all react differently to the different drugs.
      I’m sure in the future with genetic testing we will learn which treatments suit which breeds or genetic anomalies.

    2. Hi, I had a small Maltese/Cav X and I used to always treat her with Advocate but she also developed a rare cancer right near the application site – also right near the injection site. I’ve had three dogs die with Cushing’s Disease too, including the same little girl. I’ve become so wary I now only treat ifmits absolutely necessary

  6. Thanks Robert for keeping pet owners “up to date” with various medications. I am currently giving my dog Gus your Stay Loyal food and he seems to be doing well on it.

    I gave Gus that Bravecto at my local vets advice but I’m not sure if I will keep it up over the winter period. I think if animals are always on the same product their immune systems build up resistance…change is always a good thing.

    cheers Peggy :)

  7. Good story Robert. I can certainly add to the chorus of pet owners who report serious itchiness and other issues after using Panoramis and Bravecto. I know titer testing is becoming more widely used for checking if vaccinations are still ‘protective’, it would be interesting to know if it could be used to test if flea and tick medications are still active.

  8. we have been using seresto for our puppy n cat this is their 3rd one with the last one we have noticed both are scratching , we did find with the collars they can have a scratch for a day or 2 then they stop so we think the collar is doing its job, well we hope it is, they are very expensive, we also live in a tick area thats why we decided to pay the money an protect them both

    1. Hi Val, If your dog is healthy then i wouldnt change what you are doing. If it has issues like itching then consider changing or stop any flea treatment through winter if your area allows it.

  9. Dear Robert,
    You are giving excellent advice and suggestions. Yet , I see a lot of people don’t get it, innocent animals suffer with all these chemical products forced onto them. I use only totally natural products on my dog and it works.
    I have a yearly titer test done. Plus I do take my dog for check up.
    Regards, Gunda

    1. I too am concerned about the chemicals we feed our pets. What are the natural products you use and what is a titer test?

      1. Hi Basil,

        So for fleas and worms i dont have any recommendations for natural products i just use wormers and flea treatments when needed rather than constantly putting those chems through my dogs. Diatomaceous earth is one product you ay want to look into. i’ll be trialing it this summer for fleas. try searching Diatomaceous Earth for Pets and Animals.

        1. I have been using Diatomaceous earth for 6 months in my dogs food (human food grade). He has not had any fleas, ticks or worms in this time. I live in Central QLD so fleas, tick and heart worm are always here. If you have fleas and ticks you can dust it straight onto there fur for a topical treatment too. Natural and effective with no harm to your pet.

      1. Hi Gunda, For fleas i havent used Diatomaceous earth but heard it can do a good job on fleas and worms. Do some research first which are the best to use on pets.

  10. These comments have me worried. My dog, rotty x has been on Advocate – for heart worm, worms, fleas – topical – but it does make her sick for a few hours. Has anyone any update on this as I see no one else uses it.
    Cheers- Valerie

  11. My cavoodle is three years old and is on Milbemax for internal parasites and Bravecto for fleas and ticks at three monthly intervals, as recommended by the vet. No parasites as yet! Only problem is that I can’t disguise them in any tasty food item – she ferrets them out and discards them. Only option is down the throat by hand, a process neither of us enjoys…

  12. Great info on here ! thanks Robert, i have just started trialing DE (Diatomaceous earth ) we dont have ticks and very rarely fleas, Our dog was having episodes of vomitting (18mth old Groodle) vet tried to get us to switch food as said it was food allergy, but think now looking back at when the vomitting occured it was more likely the flea treatments, we were using Advantage and advocate over his lifetime so far. There has been some alarming findings just recently about the flea treatments (inc Bravecto) and i didnt realise the side effects until i read the fine print on the leaflet supplied with the drug. Just hope he doesnt have any lasting effects…….at least i got his food right !!!!

    1. Hi Mandy, i hope you have found the reason for your dog being unwell. I’ll be trialing DE with my dogs as well because it does seem like a healthier option. And when i do i will report back. thank you for your input Mandy

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