My childhood dog was a Lhasa Apso named Taffy. For the first 8 months of life on the East Coast, she was an adorable ragamuffin of flopsy adorableness. Then- we moved to California.
In the warm Southern California climate, flea season is year round. And over the next few months, Taffy became Scrappy. Her long lustrous fur fell out, to be replaced with that hyperlichenified elephant skin indicative of massive irritation. Her skin was one raw welt.
The only way to keep her comfortable was to shave her short like a rat, dose her up on steroids like a Mr. Olympia wannabe, and routinely smoke out the house with nasty-smelling flea bombs probably just as bad for us as they were for the fleas.
Then Advantage came out.
Oh, Advantage came out, and the clouds parted and the sun shone down on us and everyone else battling with massive flea problems like a fairy flea-mother of mercy. For pets with severe flea allergies, it really was a lifesaver. The last few years of Taffy’s life were spent in blessed relief, with a full body of fur and normal-looking skin.
As a parasiticide, Advantage and the slew of competitors that came after it were regulated by the EPA, not the FDA. It is not, and never has been, a prescription item. Bayer, the manufacturer of Advantage, made an agreement with veterinarians that the only people they would sell it to were veterinarians. It was a nice business arrangement- Advantage quickly became the leader in the market, vets got to be the sole distributors, and pets got to live flea-free. Everybody wins.
Over time, Advantage began to pop up in places it wasn’t supposed to be- retail outlets, online stores, pet shops. Sometimes it was counterfeit product. Much of the time it was “grey market”- authentic product obtained in a manner not entirely within the original agreement. It was not illegal for those places to sell it, though they weren’t technically supposed to have it. The writing was on the wall for vets, as each year it became easier and easier to obtain. Other, newer products were more easily accessible to owners who didn’t want to make a trip to the doc just for flea products.
Bayer, along with Merial (makers of Frontline) finally capitulated to the undeniable allure of big-market distribution and ended their agreement to distribute their products solely through veterinarians. As of this month, Advantage will be available in our local PetSmart, Costco, Target, and whoever else wants to sell it. I just saw some on OVERSTOCK, for goodness sake.
Many vets were incensed. Flea products were very profitable, very useful, and a great way to start a dialogue with owners about flea allergies and skin disease. They’ve spent the last 12 + years building up these brands, only to have the manufacturers take away their ability to be the sole distributor once that partnership bore fruit.
I don’t own the practice I work in, and our clinic’s Advantage sales do not affect me directly so I admittedly have less of a stake in this issue than many. I’m sure it’s harder to be philosophical when it’s your small business taking a hit, but to me, I’m just happy a good product is becoming even more accessible.
Several times a month, I see a pet with the classic signs of pyrethrin toxicity associated with inappropriate use of over-the-counter spot on treatments. In addition to just not working very well, these product reactions can be severe and life threatening. If these sorts of events can be prevented by having a superior product right there on the store shelf at a competitive price, I’m all for it.
Besides which, we just started carrying Comfortis. It’s all good. 🙂
See, I get why vets would be incensed but I also would rather products like Frontline and Advantage be available versus, I don’t know, certain brands that vets shake their heads when you mention the product name because they are known to injure way too easily.
Dr. V says
Hopefully the commercial availability will help eliminate the counterfeit products. But I’m glad to see that you gave Comfortis a smiley face… My Emmett has a terrible skin reaction to Advantage, so I’ve been looking for alternatives to try!
Dr. V says
You definitely need to try the Comfortis- it’s a wonderful product, especially if your pet can’t tolerate topicals!
Awesome, thanks for the tip! I will definitely give it a try.
My puppy has a family history of sensitivity to Ivermectin, so I give him Interceptor for heartworm control. Can you tell me if Comfortis has any link to Ivermectin? I looked at the product advice but not being a biochemist I couldn’t decipher it. I would prefer giving my dog Comfortis and not worrying about the topical stuff.
Dr. V says
My understanding – this from the rep- that Comfortis is OK for ivermectin sensitive breeds. I’d double check with your vet, but I think it should be ok.
Dr. V says
Oh, and to answer your actual question, spinosad is not chemically related to ivermectin. 🙂
Karen Bennett says
We are lucky and only have to give flea medicine in the summer here. I am glad to not have to go to the vet to get it but I have been getting it on Amazon for the last year so there goes that theory. I am glad it is out there because I had a friend give their dog one of the other brands and had their cat die because it is toxic to cats. All the cat did was ingest a very small amout that did not get absorbed right away. I do want to look into comfortis though. Our dogs are always in the pool in the summer and it is hard to keep them out after they have their frontline. This would be a good alternative to the icky medicine once a month.
Dr. V says
So many pets have problems with those OTC spot-ons! It’s very scary what can happen to cats (and some dogs too).
I can understand why vets would be frustrated… But, from a consumer stand point, it is a lot easier to buy those products at the store. It takes us way too long just to pick up our cat’s prescription diet. Our vet is great and fast, but far away.
It would be nice for everyone if these companies set up online stores for the vets.. You type in your vet’s name, they get a portion of the profit, and it’s shipped right to your door. That would be nice!
Dr. V says
I don’t mind that it’s available over the counter. It is an over the counter product after all. 🙂 If it gets more people using it, that’s OK by me.
Dr. V, I was hoping you could provide a little insight into the world of flea preventatives. I have a chihuahua-poodle mix named Hank, and as a responsible pet owner I began treating him with Advantage as soon as he was old enough. Every month, I would apply it as directed, with the proper dosage for his weight. And every month that spot between his shoulder blades would discolor a little more and get a little stranger looking. Eventually, I mentioned it to my vet who exclaims, “by gosh, I think he’s allergic!” We then spent several months testing out different brands, and all of them had the same result.
Now, back in December we switched to Comfortis and Hank’s skin seemed to look a little better. But then! The 2nd month of Comfortis, about 6 hours after taking the pill, he starting acting really strangely. He was pointing his head straight up towards the ceiling, shaking all over and falling asleep sitting up. It was the strangest thing. I called the emergency vet, took him in, and he was diagnosed with a sore muscle. Next month, exact same thing happened and I made the connection.
My question is – have you seen this type of reaction in any of your patients? My vet said it was a really unique situation he hadn’t encountered before.. and I’m just wondering if you had run into this kind of reaction at all, and if so what alternative is out there? At this point, I have no idea how I should be treating Hank for fleas!
Dr. V says
Wow! He is a really sensitive guy, huh? I haven’t heard of that problem but (look below in the comments) some people have reported weird signs with Comfortis.
Have you tried Capstar?
Haven’t gone the way of Capstar yet.. I’ll look into it for sure. Does it have pretty low occurrence of side effects?
We’ve been carrying Comfortis at your hospital for months- I am still on the fence about it. It is not to be given to epileptics because it can increase seizures… well, we’ve had three dogs at our clinic with no history of seizures who have had one within 2 days of ingesting the product. We have hundreds of other patients on it, but I am iffy about it.
OOPS! I meant we have been carrying Comfortis at OUR hospital for months… sorry if there was confusion…
Dr. V says
That’s so interesting, I haven’t heard that problem- but I’ve been looking it up on VIN with great interest. We’ve had it for such a short time I have no personal data.
Leigh, see my comment above yours.. I’m wondering if Hank’s odd head-pointing and shaking may be a form of seizure?
Rwan Hardesty says
So this doesn’t have any heartworm preventative in it correct? I also see that “vomiting” is a huge side effect. I’m assuming if my dogs already vomit and have upset tummies from the topicals, it shouldn’t be much different than that? I’ve been hoping for an alternative to the topicals, especially since I ALWAYS get it on my hands and the dogs really dislike sitting there while I put it on them, but don’t mind being given a “treat”. Hopefully our vet will carry it.
Dr. V says
No heartworm preventive- yet. I expect that product to be produced at some point.
I talked to someone familiar with the research and they said the vomiting was over-represented in the clinical trials (ie, every pet that vomited for any reason during a one month period was counted as a “vomits on the drug” reaction). I’d definitely try it.
This is amazingly good news. Getting my hands on Advantage was always a hassle because my usual vet’s office has extremely limited hours so it was generally closed when I was able to go out–and then for some reason I always got a lot of guff at other vet offices. This is just so much more convenient, too. I can see why the vets would be distraught over this, but it’s definitely good news for the consumer. Imagine if you could only get floss from your dentist!
Dr. V says
I’m happy more people will have access to it (genuinely!)
I was very happy at this news because I really hope it pushes Really-Bad-Flea-And-Tick-Topical-Stuff-That-Shall-Remain-Nameless off the shelves, or at least lowers their sales a large amount. I just hope the ninja fleas that live in my area don’t become immune to Advantage and Frontline like I have heard has happened in a few places.
Dr. V says
I’m with you. Down with (med that shall remain nameless so lawyers don’t come after me)!
Benjen is on Advantage (or will be once the temperature goes above freezing) and so far it’s the flea medication I like best. We live in the South and last summer had a horrible flea season and the Advantage didn’t keep them all away but I will still use it. We used Comfortis for a while, but after the second dose he started heaving and vomiting terribly, shivering, and all-around feeling sick. It was so sad to see and awful to go through, and to this day if he sees or smells Comfortis he starts to shake.
Dr. V says
Oh, poor kiddo! 🙁 I’m glad the Advantage is working well for you- it’s still a product I like a whole lot.