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Family Pet Animal Care - Miserable Little Parasites — Revisited - July 2016

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Family Pet Animal Care 
Miserable Little Parasites — Revisited - July 2016

by Dr. Michael Trapani

I freely admit that I am not a fan of fleas. In my defense, I point out that I do not discriminate. I abhor blood sucking insects of all kinds. I am not flea-o-phobic: I have equal enmity for ticks, mosquitos, lice, scabies mites, biting flies, and all other insect forms that make a habit of sucking blood or feasting upon living flesh. Did I mention bed bugs? I detest them too. 

Oh sure, someone will claim that I suffer from sanguinoslurpinsarcochompinsectophobia. I am certain to get letters demanding that I apologize for my blatant insect profiling. But I don’t care. Blood sucking insects… uh… suck. We’re not talking about butterflies here.

And they spread disease. And they make you itch. And they breed like crazy. And boy are they breeding like crazy THIS year in particular. And that means they have already started FEEDING like crazy. And I hate that.

So when people come to my office and complain about fleas and ticks, I am highly motivated to put those little blood suckers six feet under. But it’s not as easy as it used to be. Back in the 1980s, fipronil based (and other) topical flea and tick control products revolutionized parasite control for our pets. These products could be applied to the animal’s skin, where they would spread out and sequester themselves inside dermal oil glands. Once applied, the products provided insect control that lasted about a month. In a parasite control world limited to a choice between stinky flea sprays, dusty and distasteful powders, or poorly effective flea and tick collars, these spot on products were spectacularly effective. Fleas and ticks were on the run!

Alas! All good things come to an end. It was inevitable, of course. When we expose a population to a poison, those that die, die. We can forget about them. But those that manage to survive, however narrowly, survive to breed. It hasn’t taken long for flea and other insect populations to develop some degree of ability to withstand the old products. That’s how it looks to me, anyway. Old products that once worked quite reliably no longer seem to have the oomph that we once relied upon. These products are still sold, of course, and they still work, just not with the effectiveness and duration we demand. What did we expect? Resistance was certain to develop eventually. We’ve been using these products for thirty years!

But once in a while something new comes along that represents genuine progress and a real improvement over the old products and old methods. Fluralaner and afoxolaner (and others) are both insecticidal (kills bugs with 6 legs, like fleas) and acaricidal (kills bugs with 8 legs, like ticks and mites) when given orally to dogs. These drugs are remarkably safe and well-tolerated. Fluralaner kills fleas and nearly all types of tick with 100% effectiveness for 90 days after administration. Afoxolaner does the same with a 30 day duration of effect. While not completely studied, these drugs also have powerful miticidal properties, and initial studies are showing them to be extremely valuable for treatment of difficult demodex and scabies mite infections.

This level of effectiveness and duration of effect has been previously unheard off in the parasite control industry. Because these products are taken internally, there is no owner or environmental exposure to the drugs. The products begin killing fleas and ticks within hours of administration and have remarkably few and mild side effects.

In my practice, I prefer fluralaner because the 90 day duration seems preferable to afoxolaner’s 30 day dosage interval. I have administered hundreds of doses to my patients and have not seen a serious side effect. In my own dogs, I found the drug to be well accepted and amazingly effective. For example, after a walk through tick infested grass, I saw numerous ticks on the dogs and rushed home to brush them out, but arrived to find not a single living tick on any of the dogs! Fleas, of course, are nonexistent in our home since we started using fluralaner. 

It does my heart good to see a new drug that really works, particularly when its job is to kill blood sucking parasites. Ask your veterinarian about afoxolaner and fluralaner for your dog. And never give a (blood) sucker an even break!