Flea and Tick Treatments
With an ever-growing number of flea and tick prevention products for pets released each year, it's not surprising that many Australian pet owners don't know where to start.
Which products treat which parasites? Does newer mean better? Which flea treatment is actually the most effective, and most importantly - which is the safest?
The truth is, the best flea and tick treatment for your pet depends on a number of important factors. We've broken it down for you into 4 different points, so you can make the right decision for your pet!
Best Flea and Tick Treatments
A monthly chew which protects against fleas, ticks, intestinal worms and heartworm. Sister product to Nexgard, which is a flea and tick treatment only.
Protects against fleas and ticks. Available as a topical spot-on which lasts for 6 months, or chewable which lasts for 3 months. Spot-on version available for cats.
A monthly chewable tablet that protects against fleas, ticks, heartworm, and intestinal worms. Sister product to Credelio, which is a flea and tick treatment only.
Monthly protection for your cat against fleas, ticks, heartworm, intestinal worms and ear mites in one easy spot on treatment.
The first thing to consider is which parasites are actually a risk in your area. While fleas are generally considered to be Australia-wide, paralysis ticks tend to have geographical hot spots.
Where are ticks found in Australia? Generally, paralysis ticks are mostly found along the East Coast of Australia. However, vet clinics as far west as Melbourne have reported paralysis tick cases in recent years.
Infographic of known geographic distribution of ticks in Australia. From Barker & Barker 2021 (in press). "Ticks of Australasia". Magnolia Press.
While the Brown Dog Tick and the Cattle Tick can spread diseases, such as Ehrlichiosis, only the Paralysis Tick causes deadly paralysis. Most tick prevention products cover all species of ticks.
Many people in temperate parts of the country get by without tick protection and tend to just use flea protection. However, while maps are helpful, we recommend checking with your local vet clinic as they will know whether ticks are a problem in your area.
So which is better, topical or oral treatments? In general, most vets in high-risk tick areas believe that oral treatments are the most effective form of flea and tick prevention in dogs. This is partly due to the fact that at the moment, oral treatments tend to contain newer drugs, which seem to have less resistance. An exception to this is the recently released Bravecto spot-on which is available for cats and dogs.
Another reason why vets tend to prefer oral treatments is that there is less room for human error. With oral treatments, efficacy is generally guaranteed so long as your dog swallows the chew (or tablet) and doesn't vomit soon after. Topical treatments, on the other hand, require a little more skill with application, and won't work if your dog gets wet up to 48 hours afterwards, or if you apply to the wrong part of the fur. Because many topicals need to be absorbed through the skin in order to work, the pet owner needs to ensure the liquid is applied onto the skin - just splatting it onto the outer layer of fur won't work.
Do topical flea treatments get absorbed through the skin? This is a common question and unfortunately the answer differs depending on the product. While most topical treatments need to get absorbed through the skin in order to work (which is why you need to part the fur so well!), some products work by dispersing along the outside of the coat, in the fatty lipid layer of your pet's natural skin oils. For more detail about a particular product, we recommend checking with the manufacturer.
To summarise, here are the pro's and cons of each:
There are now flea and tick prevention products to suit a whole range of schedules. Some brands only need to be given every 3, 4 or 6 months. This is extremely convenient if you are also giving a 3-monthly wormer.
However, there are still plenty of people who prefer to give a monthly treatment, as they might find it easier to remember, or perhaps they are already giving monthly heart worm tablets and it lines up well with this. Simparica is a good example of a monthly flea and tick treatment.
Fortnightly application is generally considered less convenient, but there may be reasons you wish to choose a fortnightly application.
See the table at the bottom of this article to find out how long each product lasts for.
Which is best - a flea and tick only product, or a combination product which takes care of worming too? The truth is, it all depends on your personal preference. Many of the different products use similar drugs, so you don't need to worry about a 'combination' product being less effective than a 'flea and tick only' product.
Giving a flea and tick treatment separate to worming can have its benefits - for example, some people might only wish to give flea treatment in the warmer times of the year, but need to continue worming all year round. But for other people, combining everything they need into one treatment is very convenient indeed.
Now, we should just make something clear - there is no true 'all-in-one' product in existence (yet!). The term 'all in one' gets thrown around by manufacturers a lot, but alas no - there is currently no single product that covers absolutely every significant Australian parasite.
There are, however a few products which come close:
There are plenty of products on the market which cover for fleas, worms, and heart worm, but don't have tick coverage. These products include Comfortis Plus, Sentinel, Advocate, and Revolution. These products might be perfect for pets in areas that are unaffected by paralysis ticks, such as Perth or Adelaide.
The easiest way to know which parasite prevention you need is actually quite simple - start by looking at your heartworm regime. (Note: the below advice applies for dogs only, as the heartworm injection is not available for cats.)
Ask yourself: Do I want to get a yearly heartworm injection at the vet?
If you do choose to get the yearly heartworm injection, you'll still need to give an intestinal wormer every 3 months. It might then be most convenient to give your flea and tick prevention every 3 months, too, so they line up together. The best flea and tick option for you, therefore, would be the 3 monthly Bravecto chew.
If you do not choose to get a heart worm injection, you'll need to give heartworm prevention every month. It might then be most convenient to give your flea and tick prevention every month too, so they line up together. Therefore, the best preventative for you might be a combination product like Nexgard Spectra, or you can use a separate flea and tick product like Simparica with a wormer that covers for heart worm and intestinal worms such as Interceptor.
After an educated review of flea and tick products? We asked our in-house vets what they think, and what they personally prefer...
Dr Carla - I am from Queensland, where ticks are particularly prevalent. For dogs, I always recommend one of the newer oral chews such as Simparica Trio or Credelio Plus as they work so effectively against paralysis ticks. For cats, I recommend the new Bravecto Plus spot-on tubes.
Dr Kes - For dogs, I personally recommend Nexgard Spectra. It's a monthly chewable that covers the four major parasites - paralysis ticks, fleas, heartworm and intestinal worms. For cats, I recommend a combination topical treatment such as Revolution Plus.
Dr Teagan - For dogs I highly recommend using one of the new generation combined flea and tick treatments such as Bravecto, Nexgard or Simparica for reliable, year round protection from ticks and fleas. For cats, I use and recommend Revolution as it includes protection against heartworm and intestinal worms in addition to fleas. For cats in tick paralysis areas I find the safest tick preventative is to keep them indoors! If they must go outside then I recommend using Bravecto spot-on for tick prevention.
Dr Elise - In Melbourne I was very happy recommending Advocate monthly for flea, intestinal worm and heartworm prevention for my dog and my client's pets. However on relocating back to Queensland and living in a tick prone zone I have had to switch to a product that includes reliable tick preventation like the 3-monthly chewable Bravecto or monthly Nexgard Spectra. For indoor cats I still recommend Advocate however if they head outside when ticks are around I recommend adding in Frontline spray every 3 weeks.
Want some advice on which product is best for your pet? Visit our Vet Pet Plan page.
Here we have it - the million dollar question. Which is the cheapest flea treatment? As you may have realised, it's difficult to directly compare the cost and value of different flea and tick treatments, as they differ in how frequently they need to be given. So we've taken the hard work out for you and done a bit of a comparison table based on their value per month.
For the purpose of this comparison, we've provided the cost for three different sized dogs - 5kg (small breed), 20kg (medium breed), and 40kg (large breed). We've also focused on products that protect against both fleas and ticks, at their recommended dosage for both parasites.
Note - for a comparison of which parasites each product covers, see our table at the bottom of this article.
|Product Name||Frequency||Pack Size||Cost Per Pack||Cost Per Month|
|Every 3 months*||1 chew||
5kg dog: $47.99
20kg dog: $47.99
40kg dog: $47.99
5kg dog: $16
20kg dog: $16
40kg dog: $16
|Every 6 months||1 topical tube||
5kg dog: $81.77
20kg dog: $81.77
40kg dog: $81.77
5kg dog: $13.62
20kg dog: $13.62
40kg dog: $13.62
|Every month||6 chews||
5kg dog: $70.75
20kg dog: $75.43
40kg dog: $80.37
5kg dog: $11.79
20kg dog: $12.57
40kg dog: $13.40
|Every 4 months**||1 collar||
5kg dog: $44.99
20kg dog: $44.99
40kg dog: $44.99
5kg dog: $11.25
20kg dog: $11.25
40kg dog: $11.25
|Every month||6 chews||
5kg dog: $69.99
20kg dog: $73.59
40kg dog: $80.99
5kg dog: $11.67
20kg dog: $12.27
40kg dog: $13.50
|Every 2 weeks||6 pipettes||
5kg dog: $67.21
20kg dog: $71.13
40kg dog: $72.79
5kg dog: $22.40
20kg dog: $23.71
40kg dog: $24.26
*For ticks alone, Bravecto chew only needs to be given every 4 months.
**For fleas alone, Seresto has 8 months coverage.
Note: The prices above were accurate at time of publication. Prices may fluctuate; please consult links above to see current prices of any specific products.
See a complete breakdown of all available flea and tick products below. These tables provide an unbiased comparison of all products, what parasites they each cover, and for how long.
Want to read more? Check out our other articles: