Simparica: Why a Holistic Route is Preferable

By Chelsea Hunt-Rivera / December 4, 2018

We’ve all seen it. The ritual “scratch dance” that accompanies a visit from an uninvited summer guest residing on your dog. That’s right: fleas. You may think fleas and ticks are an annual part of being a pet owner. However, there are a number of ways you can treat and prevent flea infestations on your beloved family dog. A quick trip to the vet will likely leave you with a prescription for Simparica. But is this really good for your dog? Will this prescription medication cause more harm than good? In this article, we will discuss everything you need to know about Simparica for dogs. Better yet, we will present a thorough guide on how to prevent fleas from even becoming a problem.


What is Simparica for Dogs?

Simparica is a once-monthly oral canine prescription for flea and tick treatment. A relatively new drug, Simparica was introduced in March of 2016. Simparica is made with chemicals and insecticides that when ingested by your dog circulate through the bloodstream. When a flea or tick bites your dog, they ingest the chemicals and die.

Specifically, Simparica works best with the lone star tick, the gulf coast tick, the American dog tick, the black-legged tick, and the brown dog tick. These ticks range in frequency depending on your geographical location. Furthermore, Simparica can kill fleas as soon as three hours after administration. In the case of ticks, Simparica can start to kill them around eight hours after ingestion. One dose lasts up to 35 days.

diatomaceous earth for Dogs pest control

What is Saralaner?

Saralaner is not only the generic medical name for Simparica but also the main active ingredient. Correspondingly, Saralaner inhibits the functionality of GABA receptors. When this happens, electrical impulses flood the neuron bridges and often cause violent seizures, and ultimately death. While this effect is intended for the fleas and ticks, there have been reported cases of such incidents in the dogs themselves. More on that now…

Simparica Side Effects

Since Simparica is such a young drug, research is still surfacing with the real-life effects of Simparica in dogs. While some dogs seem fine at first, others start showing adverse reactions after the first year of consistent use. Possible side-effects include:

  • Diarrhea
  • Vomiting
  • Tremors and muscle twitches
  • Seizures
  • Ataxia (loss of body control)
  • Weakness
  • Lack of appetite and energy
  • Death

Sadly, you did read that last bullet point correctly. There has been an alarming number of reports that Simparica played a part in their dog’s sudden descent into death. You may be convinced by now, Simparica is not for you and your precious dog. So what are the alternatives?

Other Prescription Flea Pills for Dogs

Considering fleas are one of the most common issues pet parents deal with, there are several medicinal choices on how to treat it. However, the diligent dog owner should be wary about any and all prescription medications. Always provide your vet with your pet’s thorough medical and drug history, so they can best assess your dog’s unique needs. Below are some other common flea prescriptions for dogs.

Nexgard for Dogs

Similar to Simparica, Nexgard is a once-a-month oral prescription for flea and tick treatment in canines. Nexgard was first approved and introduced in late 2013. Dosage is prescribed based on your dog’s weight. Nexgard kills fleas and several types of ticks including the black-legged tick, the American dog tick, and the Lone Star tick. Not only does the help relieve your dog of these pesky parasites, but it helps reduce the risk of flea and tick-transmitted diseases.

Nexgard Side Effects

Unfortunately, Nexgard has a slew of adverse side-effects like it’s “sister” drug, Simparica. Reactions have included vomiting, diarrhea, irritation, drowsiness, and lethargy. To make matters worse, side-effects have yet to even be researched in female dogs that are breeding or lactating. Furthermore, like Simparica, an unnerving amount of cases involving seizures and even death have been reporting after using Nexgard. There are dozens of heartbreaking stories out there of dog death by Nexgard shared by grieving pet owners hoping to warn others.

Bravecto for Dogs

Like Simparica and Nexgard, Bravecto is a “treat-like” chewy pill that is dosed by weight and prescribed by vets to treat fleas and ticks in dogs. However, unlike its aforementioned prescription cousins, Bravecto is only given once every three months. Bravecto begins to kill fleas within two hours of administration. Furthermore, Bravecto kills four different types of disease-carrying ticks. For example, Bravecto eliminates the deer tick (aka black-legged tick), the brown dog tick, the American dog tick, and the lone star tick.

Bravecto Side Effects

Sadly, Bravecto is in the same family of side-effects as Nexgaurd and Simparica. Commonly, dogs experience a range of stomach issues after taking Bravecto. Additionally, Bravecto has been known to cause:

  • Weakness and lack of energy
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Decreased Appetite
  • Kidney Damage
  • Liver Damage
  • Seizures (even in dogs with no history of seizures)
  • Death

There it is again: death. The worse of all possible side-effects. Seizures, neurological damage, and death are too common of an occurrence with these prescription flea meds.

Death: The Unacceptable Side-Effect

To explain, the ingredient used to kill the fleas and ticks in these medicines is, in fact, a pesticide. Now, we all go out of our ways to conceal spoiled food, household cleaners, and other possible toxins from our dogs. So why are so many vets recommending we actually feed our dogs these prescription poisons? Well, the pesticide occurs in small doses, small enough to affect the pesky bugs but not the host animal. However, most of these medications are designed to be given over a long period of time, even every month for year-round protection. This creates a build-up of toxins that slowly begins to poison your dog’s bloodstream. With this in mind, this build-up explains why so many dogs don’t begin to show an adverse reaction until they have been on the medication for a year or more.

Canine Flea Prescription Allergies

It is important to note that on top of the unsavory side-effects that can come with these medications, some dogs can actually have allergic reactions to them as well. It is important to only give your dog one new food, medicine, or supplement at a time so you can easily determine the cause of any sudden adverse reaction. Your dog may be having an allergic reaction to their flea medicine if they are displaying any of the following symptoms:

  • Dry and flaky skin
  • Excessive itching in focused areas
  • Loss of appetite
  • Diarrhea
  • Vomiting
  • Lethargy


If you suspect your dog is experiencing an allergic reaction to their flea medication, be sure to seek medical advice immediately. While the symptoms are relatively mild, it is imperative to treat reactions quickly and find a suitable alternative to prescription medication. Fortunately, you have several alternative forms of flea and tick prevention and treatment.

Flea and Tick Medication: The People Speak Up

With shutter-inducing side-effects like seizures and death, it is no surprise that pet owners everywhere are speaking up. First of all, there is a petition with over 8,100 signatures to have Simparica recalled from the market. Furthermore, that is just one of the many petitions people have signed urging a closer look at the effects of prescription flea control. The comments on these petitions are so sad. Dozens of pet owners are sharing the sad truth about their respective dog’s passing after taking these pills. Additionally, countless facebook support groups have popped up. Pages upon pages filled with tear-jerking stories of dog loss after using prescription oral flea medication.

Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Announcement

Fortunately, the thousands of voices protesting oral flea meds and their vicious side-effects have been heard. As of September 20th, 2018, the FDA issued a statement warning pet owners of the possible adverse neurological side-effects of Simparica, Bravecto, and Nexgard. While all of these medications have been FDA approved, more and more evidence is surfacing regarding adverse side-effects.

Sadly, these medications are still to remain on the market.  The FDA considers them to be “safe and effective for the majority of animals”. They are not calling for a change in formula, simply a change in packaging. The FDA is working with the manufacturers to ensure they add a warning to the labels. That’s it. So there you have it, on a government-backed level, Simparica has been proven to cause permanent neurological damage in dogs. So what is the better alternative to these harsh chemical flea treatments? The answers lie below.

Over the Counter Flea Treatment for Dogs

Now that we have ruled out most of the top prescription flea options, you may be thinking of turning to some over-the-counter methods. However, many of these options bring their own dangers. Let’s discuss, shall we?

Topical Treatments

Before the introduction of the aforementioned prescriptions in 2013, topical flea treatments were the national standard. Brands like Frontline and K9 Advantix were among the most commonly used. Treatment is quick and easy, you simply dispense the liquid directly onto the dog’s coat, typically between the shoulders. However, did you know these treatments can be incredibly toxic to not only your dog but you and your family as well? While many veterinarians have opposing opinions on the safety of topical products like Frontline, we feel the possible dangers to not outweigh the pros. Common side effects include:

  • Hair loss
  • Excessive itching
  • Skin redness
  • Neurological issues

Boom. There it is again, “neurological issues”. Anything that adversely affects your dog’s cognitive function is simply not worth the risk.

Flea and Tick Medicine Poisoning

Furthermore, dogs that accidentally ingest the topical treatment have been known to contract flea and tick medicine poisoning. Symptoms can vary in severity and can include:

  • Mild reactions: Over-active saliva production, ear twitching, diarrhea, vomiting, and lethargy
  • Allergic reactions: Congestion, excessive itching, hives, trouble breathing normally, death (rare, but possible)
  • Moderate to severe reactions: Stomach upset including vomiting and diarrhea for an excess of 48-hours, mild ataxia (loss of coordination/bodily control), uncontrollable muscle tremors

That is to say, on top of the side-effects from simply applying topical treatments, your dog can possibly get poisoned by his own medicine. After all, these treatments are in fact poison used to kill parasites like fleas and ticks.

Flea Collars

As with topical flea medicines, flea collars can cause a number of health issues in your precious pup. If the medicine on the collar is ingested, the very poison intended to eradicate your dog’s unwelcome guest can, in fact, harm your dog instead. It is important to note, medicine from flea collars can and will stay on the fur for several weeks after the collar’s initial use. Side-effects of flea collars can include:

  • Diarrhea and Vomiting
  • Lethargy and/or depression
  • Ataxia (loss of bodily control)
  • Unusually high or low body temperature
  • Incontinence
  • Low blood pressure
  • Excessive salivation
  • Paralysis of intestines leading to a number of gastrointestinal issues
  • Dilation of pupils
  • Respiratory issues (such as trouble breathing)
  • Heart palpitations or increased heart rate
  • Seizures

flea collar for dogs

At the end of the day, dogs are dogs and they naturally bite and lick themselves. Naturally, that makes it tricky to avoid ingestion of these poisonous chemicals. Therefore, it is best to avoid using any sort of chemical medication on or in your dog to treat fleas.

How to Prevent Fleas on Dogs

First and foremost, prevention is hands down the best way to treat any flea problem. You can typically easily avoid the problem before it even starts! You would be surprised how many vets or pet parents start using harsh chemical flea treatments before their dog even has fleas. Interestingly enough, chemical flea and tick treatments are not preventative at all. In fact, they are only “useful” when fleas are present and already biting your precious pup. So, let’s find out how to stop the flea problem before it even begins.

Keep a Clean House

Carpet and rugs are breeding grounds for unwelcomed parasites like fleas and ticks. Be sure to always shampoo and vacuum all carpeted areas regularly. Steam clean carpet once or twice a year, and vacuum weekly to maximize results. Better yet, reduce the amount of carpet or rugs in your home or stick to Berber carpets.

Apple Cider Vinegar

Rich in natural vitamins, nutrients, minerals, and potassium, apple cider vinegar can be a powerful tool for flea prevention. Simply add half a teaspoon of apple cider vinegar daily to your dog’s food per twenty-five pounds of your dog’s weight. This will naturally balance your dog’s pH internally, which creates an acidic environment on the coat which repels fleas. Furthermore, you can spray ACV directly onto your dog’s coat as an additional preventative measure.

apple cider vinegar for dogs

All Natural Flea Spray

In addition to a clean home and supplements, you can easily whip up an all-natural flea deterrent spray. Simply mix citronella oil, rosemary oil, peppermint oil, tea tree oil, and eucalyptus oil with one cup of water. You only need five drops of each oil. Shake well and use a spray bottle to dispense daily onto your dog to deter fleas. You can use this spray all year, but be sure to have several bottles ready during hotter, more flea-prone seasons. Not only will your dog enjoy a flea-free coat, but they will smell great as well!

How to Kill Fleas on Dogs: A Holistic Approach

Here at SimpleWag, we always encourage a natural, holistic approach to pet wellness. With that being said, we are pleased to present you with some poison-free options for flea treatment and prevention.

Diatomaceous Earth (DE)

Diatoms are teeny tiny creatures that are crushed up to make diatomaceous earth (aka “DE”). These ground-up diatoms produce a powerful powder that works wonders on treating fleas and other parasites. The powder draws water out of adult flea’s and larvae when the powder fragments scratch the parasite’s surface. This process causes the pests to dry out and die, in an all-natural chemical-free way. Better still, fleas cannot build up a resistance to this process, making it effective any time you have an infestation.

While DE is actually safe for humans and dogs to digest orally, it can irritate the lungs when inhaled. Be sure to wear a mask or cover your nose and mouth when applying DE. Once the dust settles, it is completely safe!

diatomaceous earth for Dogs

Uses and Application of DE

DE can safely and effectively be used on a wide range of animals, plants, and even a lice-ridden human head! Furthermore, diatomaceous earth is a proven all-natural killer of:

  • Fleas
  • Ticks
  • Mites
  • Hookworms
  • Tapeworms
  • Roundworms

…and that is just in dogs! DE can also naturally kill flies, ants, lice, cockroaches, caterpillars, spiders, snails, termites, silverfish, centipedes, earwigs, aphids, beetles, fruit flies, aphids, and more!

Since DE is chemical-free, it is perfectly safe to apply directly to your ailing pet, as well as their bed, surrounding carpet, or any other affected areas in your home. When you apply it around the house, leave it for 2-3 days and then vacuum up. For a full break-down on administering DE for various parasitic ailments, consult this helpful how-to use diatomaceous earth guide.

Natural Flea Bath

Another common go-to flea treatment is the classic flea bath. However, like many of the aforementioned treatments, many flea baths are full of harsh chemicals. Therefore, it is essential to only use all-natural flea shampoos. Additionally, be sure to always double check the ingredients for any unknown ingredients or chemicals. Top Dog Tips has curated an excellent list of the safest, most effective flea shampoos on the market.

Homemade Flea Bath

Better yet, you can even make your own all-natural flea shampoo right at home! Citrus is a powerful bug repellant, as demonstrated by citronella products used to repel mosquitos. With only three ingredients, making your own flea bath is easy!

Ingredients and Preparation

  1. Orange or grapefruit peels
  2. Oil such as eucalyptus, rosemary, coconut, lavender, or neem
  3. Warm water

Finely chop and simmer citrus peels in water for approximately fifteen minutes. Mix in the oil and scrub all over your dog with warm water. Concentrate on the top of the head and behind the ears, all the while avoiding the eyes. Once the fleas begin to feel the effects of the shampoo, they will begin to retreat to higher ground. For this reason, it is best to start at the head as previously directed to cut them off. Once fully lathered, leave on for 15 minutes for full effectiveness before rinsing off.

It is important to realize, citrus is incredibly irritating on scratches or healing wounds. Therefore, if your dog has any lingering scabs or scratches this type of bath may not be the best option for your pet.

Homemade Flea Traps

Another way to draw fleas out of your home is by crafting a simple homemade flea trap. Mix warm water and soap and place the mixture near your dog’s bed or anywhere you have experienced fleas. Together with a warm light placed overtop, the fleas will naturally be drawn to the mixture and drown. Fleas gravitate to warm environments, no wonder they like snuggling in the fur of your dog!

Leave the mixture out overnight and repeat as needed. Be sure to keep your pets away from it, so they don’t ingest the soapy, flea-filled water.

Simparica for Dogs: The Bottom Line

Being a dog owner is an amazing and life-enhancing experience. Interestingly enough, pet owners are actually known to live longer than people who never own a pet. However, having a dog or cat can sometimes be a labor of love. Fleas and other parasites are a natural issue amongst pets everywhere. Therefore, dozens of medications and treatments are available. Sadly, too many flea prescriptions, like Simparica, are full of dangerous chemicals and shouldn’t be used. Fortunately, there are more natural remedies for flea treatment and prevention than ever. With the help of this article and your holistic vet’s advice, you are sure to find the perfect wellness plan for your dog’s unique needs.


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About the author

Chelsea Hunt-Rivera

Chelsea Rivera is a Dedicated Pet Parent who loves to create amazing content for pet owners and is helping change pet wellness as the Head of Content for