Flea, Tick and Heartworm Preventative Options

Mychelle Blake
Itchy pup

One of the most important considerations dog owners face is what type of flea, tick and heartworm preventative to use. It is best to discuss any use of medications and preventatives with your veterinarian. Being an informed consumer can help you know what questions to ask.

Flea, Tick and Heartworm Medicine Preventative Charts

Dog owners have several choices for flea, tick and heartworm preventatives. Some provide protection for all three in one product whereas others will only cover one or two parasites. Most require a prescription although a few can be found over the counter. Click the chart to view it larger in pdf format.

Which Medications Are Right for Your Dog?

When deciding on which medications to use to prevent fleas, ticks, and/or heartworms, your best course of action is a discussion with your veterinarian. He or she will look at your dog's history and several items to consider when choosing a preventative.

Environment

Does your dog spend a lot of time outdoors? Does he or she go into areas where there is a higher risk of ticks, such as forests? This may be a good reason to choose a preventative known to prevent ticks.Does he go to the dog park and play with a lot of other strange dogs that may carry fleas and other parasites? You may very well want to use a preventative that works for all three parasites in this case.

Disease Incidence

If you live in a region of the country with a higher incidence of heartworm, choosing a preventative that works against heartworms is a must. Your veterinarian can provide you information on the risk in your area, and the American Heartworm Society also has a map on their website with nationwide data.

Parasitic History

If your dog has struggled with fleas and you've had to routinely treat your house for the pests, you may want to choose a preventative that includes flea-killing ingredients. Likewise many of the preventative medications such as Interceptor, include ingredients that also prevent tapeworms, roundworms, hookworms and whipworms. Some preventatives, like Advantage Multi, even help prevent and treat sarcoptic mange.

Application

Most medications are either given orally or topically once a month. If keeping to this type of schedule may be more difficult for you, the ProHeart 6 injection is a good option. One injection will keep a dog safe for six months. Topical medications may be a better choice for you if you have a dog that will not take the chewable pills.

Tick prevention on a golden retriever

Medical History

If your dog has medical problems that make certain ingredients problematic, your veterinarian may prescribe different preventatives to keep your dog safe. There are a few common medical concerns related to each type of preventative:

  • Dogs with a history of seizures may have difficulty using some preventatives such as Bravecto.
  • Trifexis can cause stomach upset for some dogs, particularly those with a history of digestive issues.
  • Dogs may not be able to take the ProHeart 6 injection as it can cause allergic reactions and it is not a safe option for senior dogs.
  • Herding breeds like Border Collies, Australian Shepherds and Corgis are known to be sensitive to ivermectin and your veterinarian may advise you not to use preventatives with that ingredient.
  • Some dogs can have an allergic reaction to topical medications and you may have to switch to a chewable if your dog's skin becomes irritated with their use.

Price

If you're on a budget, or have several dogs to treat, your veterinarian may advise you to choose a preventative that is more price conscious than others. Tri-Heart Plus for example, is very similar to HeartGard Plus but costs about 20% less. Bravecto works for 12 weeks instead of one month so it also may be a better choice for your annual budget. ProHeart 6 on the other hand is expensive since it's an injection that requires an office visit, but since it is only given every six months, you may find it to be a more economical choice.

Holistic Flea and Tick Control

Bathing your dog on a regular basis and manually removing fleas and ticks will aid in keeping them from infesting your home and yard. Bathing your dog in mild dish soap can be useful as the detergent dries out fleas and ticks. Follow baths with a flea comb and tick remover to rid him of any surviving bugs.

Housekeeping

Vacuuming your house several times per week will remove most fleas and ticks from carpeting and furniture. Vacuum your dog's bed and sleeping areas thoroughly and wash loose bedding in the washer.

Plants

Controlling flea and tick populations on your dog can often be done by addressing these parasites in his environment. Planting insect repelling herbs around the edge of your yard can reduce the number of fleas and ticks by making your yard unattractive to them. Lavender, lemon grass, mint, sage, and basil will repel these unwanted pests. Adding cedar chips to areas of your yard will also help.

Nematodes

A very safe, natural, and biological method of ridding your yard of fleas is to introduce nematodes to the area. Nematodes are very tiny members of the roundworm family. Entomopathogenic nematodes are safe for people and animals. These tiny predators feed on flea eggs and larvae. Nematodes come in dry form; just sprinkle on the lawn, add water, and let the flea destruction begin!

Safer Than Pesticides

Food grade diatomaceous earth and silica gels can be used on your lawn, dog bedding, and carpeting. These are dusts that dry out the bodies of fleas and ticks which will eventually cause them to die. Be sure to wear a mask and goggles when applying these dusts as they can irritate the eyes and respiratory system. Insect growth regulators stop flea growth and cause cessation of the mating cycle. They are not pesticides, but they do control parasite populations.

Veterinarians talking with dog owner

Natural Heartworm Prevention

If you want to go the natural route to prevent heartworm, be advised that there is no known "natural" preventative that has been shown to work. It's understandable to want to avoid the use of possibly harsh chemicals with your dog but heartworm can be a seriously debilitating condition. The risk of using preventatives may far outweigh the costs to prevent your dog from becoming infected with this insidious parasite.

Holistic Heartworm Preventatives

Although these options have not been rigorously tested in clinical studies, they are available for use by dog owners. Natural Pet HW Protect Herbal Formula which prevents mosquito bites with herbal ingredients such as black walnut, ginger and wormwood. The manufacturer notes that it should be used as part of a comprehensive program to prevent mosquitos and not on its own.

English Bulldog Puppy Scratching Fleas

Environmental Heartworm Prevention

One of the best ways to reduce the transmission of heartworm is to take measures to discourage mosquito populations. Keep your lawn trimmed short, do not allow standing water to collect, and introduce plants which repel pests into your garden. If you live in an area with a high population of mosquitos, you may want to consider having a professional pest control company spray your lawn. You can also use collars for your dog with mosquito repelling ingredients as well as mosquito repelling blankets for outdoor beds and citronella products for your deck and patios.

Choosing the Right Flea, Tick and Heartworm Preventative Products

Dealing with parasites like fleas, ticks and worms may seem like a minor issue but allowing them to infect your dog unchecked can lead to serious illness and even an early death for your dog if not treated. The best way to keep your dog safe is to prevent them from taking hold in the first place. Dog owners may struggle with which preventative to choose, particularly if their dog has other medical issues. Other dog owners hate the idea of using strong chemical substances on their dog. Research all the available options and spend some time with your vet discussing what's best for your dog based on his or her needs and medical history.

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Flea, Tick and Heartworm Preventative Options