Nexgard vs Frontline in [2021]

To weigh up NexGard and Frontline, let’s indulge in a spot of time travel.

Go back a couple of decades and your choices for getting rid of fleas and ticks were extremely limited.

The dogs your parents owned were most likely sprayed with organo-phosphate chemicals from an aerosol can.

This had so many downsides, such as the spray only lasted a week then reapplication was necessary, and the dog increasingly hated the sound of the aerosol so application became more and more difficult.

In addition, organo-phosphates are toxic to dogs as well as fleas – it’s just a matter of dose, so you stood a chance of killing not just the parasites.

All of this means that dogs and dog owners alike breathed a huge sigh of relief when Merial developed Frontline, and it first came on the market.

Originally Frontline was available as a pump spray but, thank goodness, it only needed application every couple of months. Then later on, better still.

Merial brought out a spot-on version that had everything: ease of application, safety, and effectiveness.

However, times change and science moves on.

In the ever-present battle against fleas and ticks, the latest raft of products are applied to the dog at all, but swallowed…as a palatable tablet.

Enter the next generation and… NexGard.

Weighing up NexGard for dogs vs Frontline, has the latter had its day, or is there still a place for this once revolutionary product?

Let’s compare the two products and find out. (And for those who can’t stand the suspense, yes, Frontline does still have a place.)

1. Why Frontline still Counts

When comparing Frontline vs NexGard is tempting to compare Frontline to a push-bike and NexGard a motorbike.

This is because they both do similar jobs but NexGard is more sophisticated and has different pros and cons.

Whether a push-bike or motorbike is best suited to you best depends on your needs.

For example, let’s say your dog has fleas and you need the problem sorted fast.

You can’t get to the vets (to get a prescription for NexGard) and you’re scratching around for an effective solution.

Well, Frontline could be the answer.

As well as efficiently killing fleas and ticks, Frontline is non-prescription.

This means you can buy it through certain pharmacies and pet superstores without needing a script from your vet.

These outlets have staff that has been on a special course which enables them to sell the product.

Sure, the vendor will quiz you to ensure it’s the right (and safe) product for you, but then that’s it.

Hand over the cash and walk out with the Frontline. [NB. Frontline Plus is a subtly different product which includes a wormer, and this does require a prescription]

Contrast this with NexGard, which is a prescription-only product.

This means a visit to the vet for a checkup prior to prescribing the product.

Actually, this isn’t as expensive as it sounds because most vets offer free checks, prior to supplying the product.

And if you don’t want to pay clinic prices, then the vet will charge you to write a script for it.

Another great thing that means Frontline is still relevant is its spectrum of activity.

Comparing Frontline vs NexGard, the former kill a wider range of external parasites including:

  • Fleas
  • Lice: Felicola and Trichodectes species
  • Ticks: Ixodes and Rhipicephalus species
  • Cheyletiella (the walking dandruff mite.)

NexGard kills fleas and ticks BUT (and this is where it starts to get even more confusing) it is effective against different tick species to Frontline.

This matters because NexGard (but not Frontline) is effective against Dermacentor (the American dog tick) which carries Rocky Mountain spotted fever.

Thus there is a clear winner between NexGard or Frontline if the pet parent concerned about Rocky Mountain spotted fever prevention, means NexGard is the better option.

Some of the other advantages of Frontline are that it comes in both a spray (so you can have one product and use it for several dogs of different sizes) or a spot on (super easy to use.)
Indeed, the spray is also useful because once treated, the dog is protected against fleas for three months – instead of the 30 days offered by NexGard.

More subtle still is that Frontline stays on the outside of the dog.

The active ingredient, Fipronil, sits in the hair follicles and is released slowly over time.

This contrasts with Nexgard which is a systemic product, meaning that it enters the bloodstream.

In turn, this produces the arguable advantage that whereas a flea and tick needs to bite to take in NexGard’s active ingredient, this is not the case with Frontline.

A flea or tick merely has to come in contact with the coat in order to die.

This last point is important if you have a pet that suffers the itchy scabs and discomfort of flea allergic dermatitis.

The allergic reaction is caused by the flea injecting their saliva into the dog’s skin.

Thus, in an ideal world, the flea doesn’t need to bite in order to die (as for NexGard).

And last but certainly not least, Frontline is slightly faster at killing parasites.

Why does this matter?

Let’s look at this in more detail in the next section.

2. Concerns about Tick Control

Ticks have a small fan club.

Hardly anyone likes ticks.

They are creepy-looking, feed on blood, and transmit disease.

Indeed, they carry some pretty horrible diseases such as Rocky Mountain spotted fever, Lyme’s disease, Ehlirichia, and Babesiosis to name but a few.

To pass on disease an infected tick must bite the host and feed.

The tick’s infected saliva is passed into the dog’s bloodstream and infection established.

However, there is a chink of light in this gloom because a tick needs to be attached for 24 hours before it transmits the disease.

The implication of this is that the faster the tick dies the better.

On the plus side, NexGard kills the Deer ticks linked to serious illness BUT the bad news is that it takes 48 hours to do it.

Talk about locking the stable door after the horse has bolted! In contrast, Frontline takes 24 – 48 hours to kill ticks, so these unpleasant parasites do die faster.

Actually, the take-home message with regards to killing ticks is not necessarily that one product is superior to the other, but more it’s important to realize you should not rely 100% on anti-tick products.

The concerned pet parent should use both a tick-killing product AND perform daily tick checks on their pet.

Since neither products repel ticks (discourages them from jumping on board), they rely on killing the tick once it is attached, meaning they have a chance to transfer disease.

If tick death takes too long to prevent disease transmission, then you need to remove the tick yourself to fully protect the pet.

The good news is that when you use either NexGard or Frontline, the tick’s grip is much weaker as he starts to feel unwell, sickens, and eventually dies.

Thus it’s a whole lot easier to get the tick off cleanly with NexGard or Frontline, than with neither.

In short, check your dog over daily for ticks and equip yourself with a tick hook to flick off those pesky critters before they cause a problem.

3. Why NexGard is Promising

Given what we’ve just said about tick death, you could be forgiven for wondering why NexGard has generated such a buzz.

On the surface, it’s pretty similar to Frontline, except it’s a tablet.

Actually, as it turns out, doing what it does, and being in a tablet form is a big deal.

There are lots of reasons why a pet parent might prefer to use the simplicity of a treat-like tablet that their dog gobbles down, over applying a spot-on product.

For a start, not all dogs are fans of spot-on products.

Some plain don’t like having something sticky put on the back of their neck, whilst for others, a thick coat makes it difficult to get the liquid in contact with the skin.

Then there’s the issue of having wet fur that needs to be allowed to dry.

This means using a spot on (or spray for that matter) on a much-loved dog when kids are around can be tricky.

You have to pick your moment so that the Frontline can dry in before the kids hug the dog.

The great advantage with a tablet such as NexGard is that it’s a tasty treat.

The dog wolfs it down – end of the problem.

The pill is on the inside and no need to worry about wiping or washing the product away.

And in case you’re wondering since NexGard only treats external parasites (as does Frontline) so where does heartworm fit in.

The answer is that NexGard is safe to give alongside most heartworm preventatives, so that’s another aspect you don’t need to worry about.

As for the downsides of NexGard…well, it is a systemic product, meaning it’s absorbed into the bloodstream.

The product is perfectly safe and has been through extensive testing to prove it’s safe, but not everyone likes the idea of putting chemicals into their dog’s body.

What this also means is, as we mentioned earlier, the flea or tick needs to bite and suck blood in order to take in the active ingredient, afoxolaner.

This is such great news if your dog suffers flea allergic dermatitis as the harm (injecting flea saliva) has already been done.

4. Which should you use: NexGard vs Frontline?

Remember the dark, itchy days of organophosphate flea sprays?

We don’t want to go back those times when fleas were rife because controlling them was such hard work (and dangerous for the dog.)

Modern products such as the two discussed here give us great options.

Yes, there are pros and cons, but the overall story is hugely positive.

Which product to use may seem confusing, but know that you won’t go very far wrong whichever you choose.

To decide which is the best option for your dog think about factors such as:

  • Do I need a non-prescription product?
  • Is my dog likely to get wet soon after the application?
  • Will my kids insist on hugging the dog straight away?
  • How significant is the risk of tick-borne diseases in my region?
  • Is my dog easy to give treats to?
  • How does the dog react to spot-on treatments?
  • Do you have several dogs of different sizes?
  • Is your dog near naked flames?

Let’s look at a couple of scenarios and the options open to you.

If you’re on a limited budget and own several dogs, then Frontline spray is a good option.

This enables you to use the one spray on all the dogs, as long as you follow the recommended dosing advice.

Similarly, if you have a small child who uses your Golden retriever as a walking frame and clambers all over them, you may want to consider NexGard.

The advantage of there being no product to rub off or transfer to human skin makes it an attractive proposition.

On the negative side, a dramatic downside of Frontline is that it’s flammable.

If you were thinking of dosing your dog near a campfire, then drop the idea as its’ not a good one.

Last but certainly not least when thinking about NexGard for dogs vs Frontline, is the cost.

Frontline, specifically Frontline spray, works out considerably cheaper (and don’t forget there is no prescription fee involved from the vet).

The cost of a 3 month supply of NexGard for a 10lb dog, costs around the same as a whooping 500ml Frontline spray bottle.

The latter will last a considerable amount of time and treat several dogs, so cost-wise you know it makes sense to choose the Frontline.

So which will you go for?

The new kid on the block (NexGard tablets) or an established, does what it says on the label product, Frontline.

NexGard or Frontline?

You decide.

Read our comprehensive guide on Dog Medication here. 

Dr Sarah Robinson attended veterinary school at Oklahoma State University receiving a D.V.M. in 2008. Sarah’s longtime interest is to help people to better communicate with their pet companions, and in doing so, to help them to strengthen their relationships with their dogs and cats. Sarah has published numerous articles on canine feeding in pet related magazines, veterinary journals and leading natural health web sites.

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