Frontlne Plus seems ineffective and messy. Any decent alternatives?
September 12, 2013 9:55 PM   Subscribe

I know I'm applying it correctly. Even going above and beyond in application. However, it's still messy and my dog still has fleas.

First off, my dog's fur is the worst. She's a cattle dog mix with thick, coarse fur that doesn't part easily. I use a fine-tooth comb to part her fur and apply FP in two horizontal rows (a vertical line down her back is literally impossible with her even thicker neck "ruff"). This is the only way I can get down to the skin and I do. Then I literally keep her in a down-stay for at least 20 minutes. This last time I kept her in a down-stay (she just falls asleep, no sweat) for the entirety of a Breaking Bad episode. And yet, when she's allowed to go free and lay on her side, it runs off her back onto the carpet or her bed. So that's pretty useless.

About 10 days ago she was itching at a spot like mad so I combed her and found 3 fleas. I gave her a flea bath and deep cleaned my apartment. I've vacuumed almost every day since, today I boraxed the carpet/vac'd the remainder, I applied the aforementioned flea treatment 3 days after her bath as per the instructions, and 2 days ago I sprayed the cat and dog with an all-natural flea spray with great reviews. I've been finding a flea or 2 about every other day on her and the cat. I think I'm handling this minor infestation correctly and I'm sure we'll get through this round without having to bomb the apartment, but I'm dissatisfied with FP--it's been almost a week since application, why are fleas still hatching and biting/not dying on her?

Are there any oral or collar alternatives that come even close to the supposed effectiveness of FP? Should I just bathe her once a week during flea season instead? I should say I've used FP for the lives of previous animals without this much hassle and to great effectiveness--I'm not knocking the product except in her specific case. She's up for shots soon so I may request my vet apply a dose of Revolution to her, but I honestly do not want to afford Revolution in the long run. Will consider it if that's the right move, but that still requires topical application.
posted by rawralphadawg to Pets & Animals (26 answers total) 12 users marked this as a favorite
Ugh, I hate those topical flea treatments. I squirted it in my eye once!

Fleas are a tough bunch, and apparently they eventually get immune to flea meds. Yeay for genetic mutation! A lot of vets don't recommend Frontline anymore because it just doesn't work. My dogs are on an a pill called Trifexis which also prevents heartworms. It's so much easier.

You can also ask your vet for a dose of Capstar. It kills all the fleas currently on the dog. It's meant to be a treatment not a preventative so you'll also need the monthly stuff.

You probably also need to flea bomb the apartment, I hate to say it.
posted by radioamy at 10:03 PM on September 12, 2013

We have also, in my neighborhood, found that Frontline isn't effective anymore. I tried the Costco brand and that was even worse.

For my dog I've used Program, which is a pill and interferes with the ability of fleas to reproduce, so it doesn't kill the adult fleas, but you should be able to take care of them with vacuuming, bathing, etc. The only downside is that it's a little pricey. The next topical I have on deck for my dog, after the ineffective stuff wears off, is Advantage II; I have heard that still works.
posted by cairdeas at 10:08 PM on September 12, 2013

And about Capstar, it supposedly kills 90% of what is on the dog within 24 hours... but after 24 hours doesn't do anything. So... pretty much the same thing as giving him a bath, without putting more chemicals into his system.
posted by cairdeas at 10:09 PM on September 12, 2013 [1 favorite]

Comfortis works pretty well for my dogs. It's a systemic treatment; the active ingredient spinosad is actually approved for use in organic agriculture, for what that is worth.
posted by overleaf at 10:33 PM on September 12, 2013

I had no problems with Advantage on similar fur.
posted by Pomo at 10:56 PM on September 12, 2013

We have encountered unkillable genetically engineered robo-fleas in the summers here. My dog was a mess no matter how diligent I was. My vet's solution was frontline, 2 weeks later give an oral (comfortis and then switched to trifexis), then two weeks later another dose of frontline, 2 weeks later another pill. So alternating topical and oral seemed to do the trick. Once everything calmed down I stopped using frontline and just give the oral pill once a month and haven't had any problems this year. Good luck!
posted by buzzkillington at 11:01 PM on September 12, 2013

I had the same issues, both the too-thick fur and unkillable fleas. I was told by several vets that fleas are increasingly immune to topical treatments like Frontline or Advantage. I use Trifexis, and prior to that, used Comfortis - both oral medication. They cost a fair amount - I pay $20 per dose, and that's every month, but no more fleas or scratching or hot spots.
posted by Ink-stained wretch at 11:12 PM on September 12, 2013

Thanks so much for the suggestions! It seems like this is the first time hearing that Frontline Plus isn't The Magic Solution for all things fleas, but I'm thrilled to find viable oral solutions (my dog also likes to splash and wade, and I always have to wait a week or so before letting her have fun).

For those that use Comfortis or Trifexis, do you think I could skip the winter months? After, of course, clearing up my apartment. I live in Michigan with a solid freeze.
posted by rawralphadawg at 11:22 PM on September 12, 2013

I skip the winter months and space out the doses to 6-7 weeks instead of monthly with.Comfortis, it works great. However my 35-lb. lab mix is sick for a day when taking it and my chihuahua can't keep it down. Very tough on the tummy.
posted by headnsouth at 11:48 PM on September 12, 2013

Nthing Comfortis ordered online for cheap when frontline stopped working for our dog. We don't treat during winter and generally forget till we see fleas.
posted by quercus23 at 1:48 AM on September 13, 2013

I just went to the vet and specifically asked about Trifexis for my dog. She said I could use Trifexis if that's what I preferred, but that Sentinel has the same flea and heartworm prevention for half the price.

So guess which one I got.
posted by phunniemee at 4:26 AM on September 13, 2013 [2 favorites]

We have been using Revolution and our problem has significantly improved.

Until the snow flies, I sometimes use Parastar also. I put on the Revolution, wait a week and use Parastar too.
posted by AuntieRuth at 4:31 AM on September 13, 2013 [2 favorites]

This is good to know. We've been fine with Frontline so far, but our dog has short hair. So if it does stop working, I'm coming back here!
posted by canine epigram at 4:32 AM on September 13, 2013

I work in a veterinary pharmacy, so I know a little bit about this.

Go to your vet tomorrow and get a Capstar for every pet in the house to nip this infestation in the bud. It is pretty cheap, and works instantly, but doesn't provide any lasting protection.

Frontline (fipronil) resistance is a controversial subject. Merial (the manufacturer) claims that it is not possible for fleas to develop resistance to fipronil, but so many owners and vets are seeing reduced (or no) efficacy, even with perfect use, that it is hard to ignore their claims. Even so, Merial guarantees the effectiveness of Frontline, such that they will pay for a replacement product or will even pay for your home to be treated by an exterminator, if you meet their requirements (basically, you bought Frontline at your vet, used it for three months on all pets, and have receipts). Here are the details [pdf].

There are many many alternatives out there. Here is a fairly comprehensive chart [pdf] of the options out there right now, and a good article aimed at vets. As you can see, there are plusses and minuses to most of the products on the market, and there is no one product that is best for all situations. The best option is to talk to your vet about all the products they recommend in your region, talk to them about your priorities and concerns (including cost) and see what they say. I don't mean to sound harsh, but if they are not able to talk to you in some depth about the subject, or if they are unwilling to consider alternatives other than what they regularly stock in the office, it would be a red flag to me that maybe they are not as rigorous about their practice of medicine as I might like them to be.

I'm not an expert on this -- we are primarily a specialty and emergency hospital, so we don't deal with a lot of flea and tick stuff -- but let me know if you have other questions and I'll do what I can to answer them.
posted by Rock Steady at 5:42 AM on September 13, 2013 [8 favorites]

With Comfortis, which I got for my pup yesterday for the first time, the vet repeated several times to give with food to minimize stomach upset.
posted by bookdragoness at 6:14 AM on September 13, 2013

We use trifexis, but unlike headnsouth we cannot even get a full month out of it at the height of flea season; spacing it 6-7 weeks apart is madness to me. We seem to have to space it 4 weeks minus a day or two to keep the fleas from coming back.

I also do some natural remedy stuff to keep my house (which is carpeted) flea free. I salt the carpets (2-3 shakers worth of salt for a 1600sf house) and vacuum at least weekly, leaving the vacuum outside afterwards in case any fleas decide to make their way back out. Also, keeping your grass cut can help; our fleas seem worse when our grass is tall.

We've also in the past gone with a "treat one pet, treat the whole household" model (if you have multiple pets, only one of them needs to be on flea meds) which can keep costs down if you are a multi-pet household. This seems to work better in environments which are a little more hostile to fleas anyway (hardwood floors, pets have less access to grass); when we moved to a carpeted house in the country we needed to start treating everyone. The dog got Trifexis, the cat got Advantage (I guess up until recently there was no oral treatment for cats). If I had been smart, I would have spaced the dosing so the dog got his, then two weeks later the cat got hers, etc. so there was always someone whose flea treatment was pretty recent.

Also; people have mentioned stomach upset, but we saw a different side effect in our elderly dog, who had a day or two of poor motor control (trouble walking, falling down) when he got his treatment.
posted by rabbitrabbit at 7:17 AM on September 13, 2013

Nellie the cat is a flea magnet due to her thick coat and undercoat, and apartment living. My vet has me rotate between Frontline and Advantage to hopefully stave off resistance, with Capstar as needed in between plus the standard overwhelming cleaning regimen. There's an indoor-outdoor cat in the same building, and I wonder if he may be making the problem worse.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 7:23 AM on September 13, 2013

Revolution. Revolution. Revolution.

I did extensive research on this once, and discovered it was also much much safer for our pets than Frontline or Advantage.

It works super great, too. In fact, I only use it ONCE per summer.

I have two indoor/outdoor cats that spend every day in the yard. Have not seen a flea in 8 years!
posted by jbenben at 10:18 AM on September 13, 2013 [2 favorites]

but unlike headnsouth we cannot even get a full month out of it at the height of flea season; spacing it 6-7 weeks apart is madness to me.

Environment is everything. We have hardwoods and apparently no fleas in the yard. Chickens live next door, maybe they eat everything. Anyway we've seen one flea in the three years we've lived here.

We lived in a house once where the basement required a dehumidifier and had a floor with nooks and crannies that you could just not get salt or borax into, it was flea heaven. The vet also told us there was likely an infestation in the half-acre property as well. There was simply no way to rid our dog of the fleas. They were constant the entire time we lived there no matter what we did, and she's *never* had them before or since.

I was not aware of the "treat one animal, treat them all" approach, maybe I don't have to treat the puppy after all.
posted by headnsouth at 10:38 AM on September 13, 2013

Comfortis killed one of my dogs and made my other dog gravely ill. After many days of tears I googled the medication and there were posts all over the web saying "Comfortis killed my dog!" and that Eli Lilly was quietly handing out money to pet owners that complained. A month or so later I went to google again and all those posts had disappeared on on all the websites I had bookmarked.

I can go into more details if needed but it is still pretty hard to talk about.
posted by futz at 11:49 AM on September 13, 2013 [1 favorite]

Frontline does absolutely nothing, and it's messy and expensive. I too would like to try something else. Our vet keeps pushing Frontline to an extent that I think they're getting significant kickback from the manufacturer.
posted by tckma at 1:36 PM on September 13, 2013

Seconding Revolution. Works like a charm -- haven't seen a flea in six years. (Also prevents heartworm infestations, and treats ear mites and scabies.)
posted by trip and a half at 4:02 PM on September 13, 2013 [1 favorite]

I've been very happy with Sentinal (a combination of milbemycin for heartworms and lufenuron for fleas) and before that Program (just lufenuron for fleas - no longer available). One delicious pill a month and no fleas, and at least for my dogs, no side effects at all.

The manufacturer of lufenoron, Novartis, had issues with their US plant for a quite while, and during that time neither product was available. I did use topical Frontline while waiting for Novartis to get their act together, and hated it (Frontline = unpleasant oily stuff on my already kind of oily dog, and more expensive than the oral medication).

Sentinal is readily available again. It does require a prescription from your vet. I got the prescription filled at Foster/Smith last time.
posted by easilyamused at 10:56 PM on September 13, 2013

Huh! That's interesting, I thought it was so hard to get Program lately because everyone here was using it since the topicals stopped working. But, it's still available to get online.
posted by cairdeas at 12:21 AM on September 14, 2013

Program is still available. It was Interceptor that Novartis discontinued suddenly after over a year of telling everyone it would be back on the market any day now.
posted by Rock Steady at 5:40 AM on September 14, 2013

We have had great success with these collars:
posted by corn_bread at 8:34 AM on September 14, 2013

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