How to Choose a Flea and Tick Pill for Dogs

5 min read

When the weather warms up, many pet parents’ thoughts turn to parasites, particularly fleas and ticks. The ongoing battle against those creepy crawlies is a fact of life for dog owners, but flea and tick pills can work wonders in keeping them off your dog and out of your home.

 

Some medications only kill fleas and leave dogs open to a tick infestation, so it’s important to know which products cover what before you decide on one.

 

Now you can find chewable flea medicines for dogs that also offer protection from various species of ticks. Which is the best flea and tick pill for dogs, though, and how do you choose?

 

Finding the Right Flea and Tick Pill for Your Dog

 

The first thing you need to do when you’re deciding on an oral flea and tick medication for dogs is to speak with your veterinarian. In most cases, you’ll need to get a prescription for the pills, so it’s a great time to discuss the pros and cons of various flea and tick pill options.

 

Several factors play into choosing the best pill for your dog, including:

 

  • Your dog’s age

  • Your dog’s size

  • The parasite population in your area

 

It’s important that you choose a medication that is safe based on your dog’s age and size. Your veterinarian will prescribe the correct flea and tick pill based on the age and weight requirements listed on the package.

 

Your vet will also have important information about how well a particular medication is working in your geographical area. This is important because insect populations can build up a tolerance to parasite prevention medications over time, which makes them less effective.

 

Ask your vet about a medication that also kills ticks if your pet is frequently exposed to ticks in wooded or grassy areas.

 

Options for Oral Flea and Tick Medications for Dogs

 

Brand

Parasites

Treated

Frequency

Weight and Age Restrictions

Active 

Ingredient

 

Bravecto

 

Kills adult fleas and ticks

Every 12 weeks

4.4 pounds

6 months

Fluralaner

 

Capstar

 

Kills adult fleas

Once in a 24-hour period (not used as ongoing treatment)

2 pounds

4 weeks

Nitenpyram

 

Comfortis

 

Kills adult fleas

Monthly

5 pounds

14 weeks

Spinosad

 

NexGard

 

Kills fleas and ticks

Monthly

4.4 pounds

8 weeks

Afoxolaner

 

Simparica

 

Kills adult fleas and ticks

Monthly

2.8 pounds

6 months

Sarolaner

Trifexis

Prevents heartworm disease

 

Kills adult fleas

 

Controls roundworms, whipworms and hookworms

Monthly

5 pounds

8 weeks

Spinosad

 

Milbemycin oxime

Sentinel

Prevents heartworm disease

 

Prevents flea maturation

 

Controls roundworms, whipworms and hookworms

Monthly

2 pounds

4 weeks

Lufenuron

 

Milbemycin oxime

 

Bravecto

 

Bravecto is a multi-action, chewable flea and tick tablet that treats and prevents infestations. It uses the active ingredient fluralaner to kill adult ticks and fleas. Once a flea or tick has attached to a dog, they are exposed to fluralaner, which attacks the nervous system of fleas and ticks and paralyzes them.

 

This pill is given every 12 weeks, rather than the more common monthly pills, or every eight weeks for the treatment of Lonestar tick infestations.

 

It shouldn’t be used in dogs under 4.4 pounds or younger than 6 months. This medication may cause seizures, even in dogs that don’t have a history of them.

 

Capstar

 

This is one of the few over-the-counter options for oral flea control on the market. Capstar comes in a pill form and utilizes nitenpyram to kill adult fleas. As soon as fleas latch onto your pet, they are dosed with nitenpyram, which attacks their central nervous system and kills them in as quickly as 30 minutes.

 

It’s safe enough for dogs as small as 2 pounds and as young as 4 weeks. Although you could technically use it daily, Capstar is mainly used to deal with flea infestations. It’s not convenient or wallet-friendly to be used daily as the sole flea and tick treatment.

 

Instead, it can be used occasionally in conjunction with other medications to offer complete flea and tick protection and to control outbreaks.

 

Comfortis

 

The active ingredient in Comfortis is spinosad, which is derived from soil bacteria. It targets the nervous system of adult fleas to eliminate infestations. This medication is given monthly and does require a prescription from your veterinarian.

 

It’s indicated for use in dogs over 14 weeks old, so if you have a very young puppy, Comfortis isn’t the right flea control medication for you. It’s also not an ideal option for dogs prone to seizures or those on high doses of ivermectin (the doses used for heartworm prevention are safe).

 

NexGard

 

NexGard is one of a few chewable flea and tick pills on the market, and it comes in a beef-flavored chewy prescription tablet.

 

It’s given monthly and can be used in pups that are at least 8 weeks old and 4.4 pounds. The active ingredient is afoxolaner. Similar to the other medications on this list, afoxolaner kills fleas and ticks by attacking their nervous system.

 

Simparica

 

Simparica is a prescription chewable flea and tick treatment utilizing the active ingredient sarolaner to kill fleas and ticks.

 

It is given monthly but offers protection from four tick species and targets adult fleas for 35 days, which provides a nice cushion for busy pet parents.

 

Trifexis

 

Trifexis combines spinosad and milbemycin oxime—active ingredients in other popular parasite preventatives—to target heartworms, intestinal parasites (roundworms, whipworms and hookworms) and adult fleas. It’s safe for use in dogs 5 pounds or more and 8 weeks or older.

 

As with Comfortis, it shouldn’t be used alongside high-dose ivermectin treatments, as adverse interactions have occurred.

 

Sentinel

 

Sentinel is mostly used for the prevention of heartworm disease, but it also kills intestinal parasites like adult hookworms, whipworms and roundworms. It is also effective at controlling flea populations by preventing flea eggs and maggot-like larvae from maturing. Its active ingredients include lufenuron and milbemycin oxime. The lufenuron acts as a growth inhibitor for flea eggs, while the milbemycin oxime affects insect neurotransmitters. It can be used in dogs 4 weeks or older and 2 pounds and up.

 

This prescription medication may be used with a medication that kills adult fleas for more comprehensive control of fleas. It doesn’t work on ticks.

 

Be sure to follow up with your veterinarian if your pet experiences any adverse reactions or if you continue to have problems with parasites.

 

By: Jennifer Coates, DVM

Featured Image: iStock.com/vyasphoto