Consider new options for flea and tick protection

Last reviewed: August 2011

The big news on the flea and tick front is that the patent has expired on fipronil, one of the active ingredients in Frontline Plus, a leading brand, opening up the market to competitors. In May we found two that were new to the market, Sentry FiproGuard Plus at Petco and PetArmor Plus at Walmart. The savings can be sizable. PetArmor Plus was the best deal we saw: A three-month supply cost $28, compared with $50 for FiproGuard Plus and $62 for Frontline Plus at Petco.

When you choose a flea treatment, keep in mind the importance of killing not just adult fleas but also the eggs or larvae, suggests Mike Merchant, Ph.D., a professor and entomologist at the Texas AgriLife Research & Extension Service at Dallas. Insecticides containing S-methoprene, for example, cause fleas to lay sterile eggs and disrupt the larval flea's ability to develop properly. S-methoprene is found in Frontline Plus as well as FiproGuard Plus and PetArmor Plus.

Advantage II, a leading brand with different active ingredients, is also effective, Merchant says. In May we saw it selling for about $52 for a four-month supply at Petco.

We found other brands for as little as $9, but be careful. Some inexpensive products might not be as effective and might require you to spray or treat more often, Merchant notes. "The more insecticide you find yourself using, the greater the health and safety risks to you and your pet," he says.

Other money savers

  • Shop online (mostly). We found cheaper prices at 1-800-PetMeds, Drs. Foster & Smith, and PetCareRx than at Petco or PetSmart. For example, Frontline Plus cost about 30 percent less at those sites, on average, though Costco was cheaper still. But the Internet sellers didn't carry PetArmor Plus, and only two of the three carried FiproGuard Plus when we checked in early June.
  • Spring for multiple doses. If you have a dog that spends time in the yard or an indoor-outdoor cat, you'll need to treat your pet throughout the flea season, so buy packages with six or 12 doses, which we found had lower prices per dose.