Flea and tick preventatives are extremely important, especially when the weather gets warmer, we will see more fleas and ticks coming out due to the change in weather.

Bravecto is the flea and tick preventative that St. Francis Hospital for Animals recommends for all dogs and cats over 6 months of age. The chemical known as fluralaner is the parasite killer in this preventative. When given consistently, it is extremely effective and helps to keep your pets and your home flea and tick-free. This covers the common external parasites that we see in dogs and cats. Next month, I will discuss the common internal parasites that we diagnose, such as heartworms, and intestinal worms and the preventatives used to treat and prevent them.

It is labeled for dogs and cats 6 months or older, and protects against several types of ticks and fleas. One of the great things about Bravecto is the duration of time it lasts. It is effective for 12 weeks, except for one species of tick (the Lone Star Tick), which it is effective for 8 weeks. This reduces the number of times you would have to give your pet medication, which less forgetting when to give the medication. Also, we recommend giving this medication all year long. This is because fleas can get inside a home and cause an infestation, even in the winter! It comes in two forms: a chewable tablet and a topical solution. The chewable tablet is available for dogs, and the topical version is available for cats and dogs. It is a veterinary prescription medication.

Update: There is now Bravecto Plus for cats; it is a mix of moxidectin (another effective parasite killer) and fluralaner. This combination prevents and kills heartworm larvae, fleas, ticks, and intestinal worms. This makes it an almost all-in-one preventative, making it more convenient for the owner, and keeping the kitties parasite-free. Unfortunately, we do not have an all-in-one preventative for dogs as of yet.

Recently, a chewable version of Bravecto has been produced for puppies younger than 6 months of age, starting at 8 weeks old. This is a monthly version of Fluralaner; it is formulated for monthly use because of the rapid growth that occurs in most puppies at that time in their lives. The problem with the 3-month version in younger dogs is that due to their rapid growth, the pup may outgrow the efficacy of that dose because the medication is dosed for weight. When the puppies reach 6 months of age, most of them will not likely outgrow the dose in 3 months, and we would start them on the regular Bravecto formula.

Bravecto does have an off-label use as well. Off-label means using the medication for a purpose other than what is indicated on the package. It has been found to kill and prevents mites which can be a problem in cats and dogs. The Demodex and Sarcoptes mites, which cause the general problem called “mange”, are effectively killed by fluralaner. Mange can cause itchiness, hair loss, and skin infections. This means less treatment at the vet if the pet if the problem can be prevented. If a dog is found to have these mites on its skin, it can be treated effectively with a fluralaner. Because this medication is working for 3 months, other types of treatments like weekly injections or daily pills would be reduced or not needed.

It is an extremely safe medication. In one study, it was found to have no effective changes within the animals that were given this medication after 6 months of the administration. Potential side effects are uncommon but can occur with some pets. Vomiting after a dog is given the oral medication or a skin reaction to the topical form of the medication may be seen. In my experience, I have rarely heard from an owner about vomiting and have not experienced the aftermath of a skin reaction due to topical placement. The only relatively common problem I have experienced is that some dogs do not like the taste of the chewable tablet and refuse to eat it. In that case, we recommend the use of the topical solution for that animal instead of having to force the tablet down its throat, which can cause potential future aversion to medication treatments.

Another reason to prevent fleas and ticks is to prevent the potential disease that these parasites can cause. Some dogs and cats are allergic to the bites of fleas, causing inflammation, itchiness, and skin infections. With a severe flea infestation, pets can have anemia (a low red blood cell count), which causes lethargy, or general malaise. The most common problem we see with fleas is a tapeworm infestation inside an animal. The pet ingests the flea by licking itself and because the tapeworm larvae live inside the flea, the worms develop inside the intestine after ingestion. This may not be apparent for months even after the fleas are treated and killed. Gross!! Ticks are known to carry diseases such as Lyme, Anaplasma, Ehrlichia, and Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, all of these are known to affect humans as well. You cannot directly get infected by your dog with these diseases, but using Bravecto consistently on your pet will keep the ticks that carry these potential illnesses out of your home.

We at St. Francis Hospital for Animals feel that Bravecto is the safest and most effective flea and tick preventative for your pets. The most important thing is that this medication prevents potential disease, keeping your cat or dog healthy. Prevention is the goal because treatment of some of these diseases can be time-consuming, and expensive, and of course, the potentially harmful effects of the disease can be avoided. If you have any questions about this medication, contact us, or please ask the next time you are in for an appointment.

Dr. Jaime Kozelka
St. Francis Hospital for Animals