Bravecto In-Depth Review: We asked a vet

Dr. Edele Grey

Is there anything more frustrating than fleas?! If you find one, it’s hard to not feel intensely itchy and worried about your pup at the same time. Trying to choose a product can be difficult, then you have to make sure your pooch gets a full dose and on schedule. Luckily Bravecto exists, produced by the trusted company, Merck Animal Health. 

Licensed by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in 2014, Bravecto revolutionized oral flea and tick preventative medication for pooches. One chewable tablet can protect your fur-baby for up to 12 weeks. Since then, the product has been formulated into a topical spot-on solution.

This Bravecto review examines the active ingredients, efficacy, and everything you need to know to help you decide if Bravecto is the best product for your pup. 

Bravecto: Key takeaways

  1. Bravecto is available as either a topical solution or a chewable tablet.
  2. The active ingredient is fluralaner which is generally well tolerated by pets.
  3. Bravecto is designed to be administered at 12-week intervals.

Bravecto Pros and Cons

So what’s the nitty-gritty on Bravecto? It’s FDA approved and it lasts for 12 weeks, what else do you need to know? Well, let’s find out!

Treatment AND Preventative

  • Bravecto is licensed by the FDA to kill fleas and ticks.
  • The fast-acting oral formulation starts to kill fleas within 2 hours of administration and ticks within 12 hours.
  • The topical formulation kills 100% of fleas and over 90% of ticks within 72 hours of administration.
  • Studies have shown that a single dose of Bravecto is over 99% effective.

Long-lasting action

  • This formulation of fluralaner is fast-acting and long-lasting killing fleas and most ticks for 12 weeks.
  • Bravecto will also kill lone star ticks for 8 weeks after administration.

Choice of administration

Bravecto is available as both a tasty chew and as a topical “spot-on” solution so no matter if your pup is a wriggler with sensitive skin or a fussy-fido about chews they can still benefit from Bravecto.

Adverse effects are possible

  • While adverse effects are rare and the active ingredient, fluralaner is well tolerated by most pets, some animals do suffer from negative side effects. 
  • There have been reports of dogs suffering from neurological signs following their dose including twitches, tremors, and seizures. These tend to be short-lived and non-life-threatening. As a veterinarian, however, I tend to advise against using Bravecto in patients that have a known history of seizures or epilepsy. 
  • Aside from this, the more commonly seen effects are gastrointestinal and short-lived.

Pricey

Prices vary depending on region and retailer, but overall, Bravecto tends to be a little more expensive than most competitors. 

Consulting Your Vet

vet

Bravecto is only available on prescription through your veterinarian so your pet will need to have an examination and your veterinarian will discuss whether Bravecto is the best choice for your pet.

Bravecto Story & Background

Bravecto launched onto the scene in 2014 as a novel parasite treatment and preventative chew. Fleas and ticks are the primary targets of Bravecto, though there has been a study showing that Bravecto was also effective against demodectic mange in dogs.

In 2016, Merck Animal Health released a topical formulation of Bravecto for fussy pups. The trademarked “Twist’n’Use” applicator means less hassle when applying to a wiggly pup. Topical Bravecto is also resistant to multiple baths or swimming episodes between doses, providing effective prevention for the whole 12 weeks.

Bravecto In-depth review 

Bravecto In-depth review

What is Bravecto?

Bravecto is a flea and tick medication with the active ingredient, fluralaner. Its formulation targets fleas and ticks for up to 12 weeks after administration and is available as both an oral and topical treatment.

What does it kill?

Primarily targeting fleas and ticks, Bravecto has also been shown effective against demodectic mange in dogs.

How Does Bravecto work?

Bravecto is available in two formulations, an oral chew or a topical liquid that are absorbed differently.

Oral chews are digested in the stomach and the active ingredient is absorbed through the intestinal lining and into your pet’s bloodstream. From there, it is distributed throughout your pet’s body, where it’s ingested by a feeding parasite, killing them.

Topical Bravecto is applied to the skin on your dog’s back, just between their shoulder blades. The liquid formulation is rapidly absorbed where it reaches tissue fluids and spreads throughout the whole body. Parasites bite your pet and ingest the active ingredient, fluralaner which then kills them.

Fluralaner targets the nervous system, rapidly killing the parasite.

Bravecto active Ingredient:  What’s In It?

Fluralaner is the active ingredient in Bravecto and belongs to the isoxazoline class of drugs. Other drugs in this class include sarolaner (Revolution PLUS) and afoxolaner (NexGard).

Is Bravecto safe for your dog?

Yes, Bravecto is safe for a majority of pets. Before a product can receive FDA approval it must undergo a number of empirical studies to ensure its efficacy and safety. One safety study found that healthy pets could tolerate 5 times the recommended dose of fluralaner. Some collies possess a genetic mutation that means they can’t cope with ivermectin and some other medications, collies with this mutation have been found to tolerate Bravecto well.

Side effects are always possible with any medication and Bravecto is no exception. Gastrointestinal disturbances are the most commonly seen side effect comprising vomiting, diarrhea, loss of appetite, and flatulence but these are rare. Even rarer is the development of seizures but they do occur, so its use in pets that have been diagnosed with epilepsy or seizures is probably best avoided.

There have been reports in recent years about Bravecto’s association with pet deaths. While troubling, these reports are anecdotal and no conclusive links have been proven to date. European regulators have collected details and requested that Merck investigate any link, so we should expect more information as this develops. Of course, FluentWoof will keep you updated

Is Bravecto Safe for Pregnant dogs?

Bravecto Chews and Topical solutions have been approved as safe to use in pregnant and lactating bitches.

Benefits

Whether you select topical or oral Bravecto, your pet will reap the benefits. With Bravecto, you don’t have to remember flea and tick treatment every month, instead, your pup is protected against the lone star tick for up to 8 weeks and against fleas and other ticks for 12 weeks. Fluralaner has also been shown effective in treating demodectic mange in pets.

Types of Bravecto

There are two types of Bravecto available for dogs at the moment.  Tasty oral chews or topical liquid are your options at the moment. In 2020, the FDA approved Bravecto 1-month chews that are suitable for younger pups (over 8 weeks) but these are not yet available. 

Bravecto Chews for dogs

Bravecto Chews are easy-to-administer, tasty treats for pooches that wriggle and squirm too much for topical treatments. Dogs tolerate these chews well and most will gobble them up, even without mixing with other food. Lasting up to 12 weeks, the efficacy of these chews isn’t affected by bathing or swimming.

Application:
Bravecto chews are easily given to your pooch as a tasty treat, with most pups loving the pork flavor. If you need, you can crumble them up and mix with your pet’s favorite food but you must ensure that they eat it all to receive a full and effective dose. You don’t need to give these chews with food to your fur-baby but studies have shown that they are better absorbed with or just after a small meal.

How quickly do Bravecto chews work?
These chews start to work very fast, within 2 hours of ingestion against fleas and against ticks within 12 hours.

How long does it last for?
Pets are protected against fleas and most ticks for 12 weeks while action against the lone star tick lasts for 8 weeks.

How Are the Ingredients in Bravecto chews for dogs delivered?
The active ingredient, fluralaner, is absorbed through the lining of the small intestine after undergoing some digestion within the acidic environment of the stomach.

What we like about it 

  • Easily administered, tasty chew.
  • Provides protection against fleas and most ticks for 12 weeks.
  • Fast-acting, within just 2 hours
  • Suitable for treatment against active infestations
  • Has activity against demodectic mange

What we don’t like about it

  • Seizures are a possible side effect

A Vet’s note: As a veterinarian, I have prescribed Bravecto chews to many of my patients, in fact, I have given it to my own dog who has a sensitive tummy with no ill effects. Having said this, I tend to avoid this product in any patient that has epilepsy or a history of seizure activity to mitigate the risk of any adverse effects. These chews are great for pets with skin disorders or who have sensitive skin.

Bravecto Topical for dogs

Merck recently launched a topical formulation of their chew that’s available with their trademarked “Twist’n’Use” applicator to make administration easier for both you and your fur-baby. The topical formulation has the same benefits of the chews, lasting for 12 weeks and resisting the effects of swimming or bathing.

Application:
Bravecto topical solution is applied to the skin on your pup’s back, between the shoulder blades where it is rapidly absorbed.

How quickly does Bravecto topical work?
Topical Bravecto is almost as efficient as the oral and within 72 hours 100% of fleas and over 90% of ticks will be killed.

How long does it last for?
Just like the oral version, topical Bravecto is active against fleas and most ticks for 12 weeks while action against the lone star tick lasts 8 weeks.

How Are the Ingredients in Bravecto Topical for dogs delivered?

The topical solution is rapidly absorbed through the skin into the body’s tissues where it is distributed throughout the body.

What we like about it

  • Long-lasting for up to 12 weeks
  • Works as both a treatment and preventative medication
  • Kills 100% of fleas within 72 hours
  • Kills over 90% of ticks within 72 hours
  • Effective against demodectic mange

What we don’t like about it 

  • Seizures are possible (though rare) side effects

A Vet’s note: Bravecto Topical is great for pets who are fussy, on strict diets, or prone to tummy upsets. As with chews, I tend to avoid prescribing this product in patients that have a history of neurological problems including seizures or epilepsy.

Bravecto Chews Vs Bravecto Topical

Bravecto Chews and Topical solutions are both very similar in their mechanisms of action with the main difference being how they are administered. The topical, “spot-on” treatment is applied to the skin where it’s absorbed and distributed through the body’s tissues while the chews are digested in the stomach and the active ingredient absorbed through the intestinal lining into the body.

Dosage: How Much Will Your Dog Need?

Dosing with Bravecto is really easy, available in weight-banded doses. Safety studies have shown that dogs can tolerate 5 times the recommended dose without negative effects. 

For small dogs:

Toy dogs weighing between 4.4-9.9lbs should receive one 112.5mg dose every 12 weeks while small dogs between 9.9-22lbs should be given one 250mg dose every 12 weeks. 

For medium dogs:

Pets weighing between 22-44lbs should receive one 500mg dose every three months. 

For Large dogs:

Large breed dogs weighing 44-88lbs should be given one 1000mg chew or pipette while extra-large breeds 88-123lbs should receive one 1400mg dose every 3 months. Dogs larger than 123lbs should be given a combination of chews or pipettes.

Bravecto side effects

Side effects are rare, but it’s best to be prepared.

Vomiting

  • Though rare, vomiting is sometimes seen after taking medication.
  • If your pet was given a chew and vomits you should consult with your veterinarian as they may not have received a therapeutic dose. Don’t just re-dose your pet as overdose is possible.

Hair Loss/Alopecia
This is very rare (1% of cases) and tends to not be associated with any itching.

Diarrhea
Uncommon, diarrhea is usually self-limiting and resolves without intervention, but if your pup is also dull and lethargic then you should seek veterinary advice.

Lethargy
Drowsiness for a short period of time after administration is seen in a small number of pets.

Inappetence
Some pets may not vomit, but still feel nauseated and not want to eat, again this should be short-lived.

Rash
These tend to be mild, dermatitis reactions at the site of application for the liquid product. If your pet is experiencing intense itchiness or it doesn’t resolve rapidly, then you should contact your veterinarian to advise.

Flatulence
This has only been found in pets who have received a chew and doesn’t seem to be associated with the topical product.

Thirst
Some dogs who eat a chew may seem excessively thirsty for a short period afterward, this is nothing to be concerned about unless it persists.

Effectiveness

The majority of studies have been performed by Merck who is the manufacturer of Bravecto and one study found that while feeding isn’t required, more of the ingredient is absorbed through the intestines in pets that have recently eaten. 

A study in 2014 found that Bravecto is very effective against fleas and appears to even have anti-reproductive action against fleas at sub-lethal concentrations. Comparison studies have also been performed between Bravecto and its competitors. There’s more information on this below in the section on alternatives 

Where to buy Bravecto online?

Both topical and oral chews are veterinarian-only products and require a prescription to purchase. Bravecto is available on numerous online stores and pharmacies including Chewy.com.  Wherever you choose to purchase, the seller should require a prescription.

How Much Does Bravecto Cost?

Price varies depending on the size of your pet and whether you purchase a chew or the topical solution. Bravecto does tend to be a little more pricey than competing products averaging at approximately $20/month.

Alternatives

How Does Bravecto Compare to Other Flea & Ticks products?

So that’s the rundown on Bravecto, now, how does it stack up against other products?! Bravecto is the only product on the market targeting fleas and ticks that persists for up to 3 months. With the exception of Seresto collars (7-8 months) and Capstar tablets (24 hours) other products on the market protect pets for 1 month.

Bravecto is versatile as it’s available as either a tasty, pork flavored chew or an easily applied topical “spot-on” treatment. In comparison, other products are available as one formulation, tablet, topical, chew or collar.

Products vary widely in their target species, Bravecto targets fleas and ticks while products like Comfortis and Capstar target fleas alone. Conversely, Advocate targets fleas, ear mites, mange and roundworms but not ticks.

Bravecto Vs. Nexgard 

Bravecto contains fluralaner, a member of the isoxazoline drug family which attacks an insect’s nervous system. NexGard is another FDA-approved product to treat fleas and ticks. The active ingredient is afoxolaner which is in the same drug class as fluralaner and has similar side effects risks including diarrhea, vomiting, and lethargy.

While Bravecto is licensed for use in pregnant and lactating bitches, NexGard is not. Dosage quantities of NexGard are much smaller than those for Bravecto.

Bravecto Vs. Frontline

Bravecto is available as both a chew and a topical treatment to protect your pet against fleas and ticks. Frontline is only available as a topical treatment. Frontline contains fipronil while Bravecto contains fluralaner. One study in 2014 found that Bravecto was just as effective against ticks and even more effective than Frontline at flea-control.

Comfortis vs Bravecto

Comfortis is another chewable tablet similar to Bravecto, however it isn’t active against ticks. Comfortis contains spinosad, which starts to kill fleas within just 30 minutes and persists for 1 month in comparison with the Bravecto chews that target fleas and ticks persisting for 3 months.

Capstar  vs Bravecto

Capstar contains nitenpyram which targets flea infestations on your pooch for 24 hours. Fast-acting within 30 minutes of administration, these tablets can be given daily as they are short-acting. Bravecto on the other hand targets both fleas and ticks for up to 3 months which is a significant difference. Also, Bravecto is available as a topical solution or tasty chew while Capstar is a tablet that needs to be placed directly into the pet’s mouth or hidden in some food. 

F.A.Q

Q: Is Bravecto FDA approved?
A: Yes, both topical and oral formulations of Bravecto have been approved for use in dogs by the FDA.

Q: How long does Bravecto really last?
A: Bravecto continues to protect your pup against fleas and most ticks for 12 weeks after administration. Lone Star ticks are effectively killed for 8 weeks.

Q: How do you apply Bravecto to dogs?
A:Bravecto can be applied topically to your pet’s skin between their shoulder blades or they can be given a tasty medicated chew either as a treat or with some food.

Q: How old does a puppy have to be to take Bravecto?
A: Merck advises that puppies should be at least 6 months of age and weigh over 4.4lbs.

Q: Do fleas have to bite for Bravecto to work?
A: Yes, as the active ingredient is absorbed into the bloodstream and tissues under the skin of pets, the parasite needs to feed in order to ingest the product.

Q: Will Bravecto make my dog sleepy?
A: Lethargy is a known side effect which occurs in a small number of pets. It’s possible that your pooch may feel a little sleepy after receiving Bravecto but this should pass.

Q: Does Bravecto really last 3 months?
A: Yes, Bravecto actively kills fleas and most ticks for 3 months. Lone Star ticks, however, are only killed for 2 months after administration.

Q: Has Bravecto killed dogs? 
A: There have been numerous reports linking Bravecto to deaths of pets following administration, however, none have been conclusively proven. Regulators in Europe have requested that Merck, the parent company of Merck Animal Health investigate further into these concerns and the safety of Bravecto.

Q: Can a dog overdose on Bravecto? 
A: As with all medications, it is possible to overdose on Bravecto but once you have your pet weighed and only give a dose in the appropriate weight band then you minimize any risk of this.

Q: Does Bravecto kill worms in dogs?
A: No, Bravecto only targets external parasites in dogs.

Q: Does Bravecto cause seizures in dogs? 
A: The drug class isoxazoline has been implicated, and fluralaner is a member of this class. Fluralaner is generally safe and effective for most pets, however some may develop seizures after administration. Your veterinarian will discuss your pet’s individual risk with you before prescribing or administering any medication.

Q: Does expired Bravecto still work?
A: You shouldn’t administer expired medications to your pet for safety reasons. The manufacturer only guarantees the safety and efficacy of a product until the expiry date.

Q: Can you cut Bravecto in half for a smaller dog?
A: No, due to manufacturing processes the amount of fluralaner isn’t guaranteed to be evenly distributed throughout the chew, thus if you cut or crumble the chew your pet may not receive a full dose.

Q: Does Bravecto prevent mange?
A: Bravecto has been shown in research to be effective against demodectic mange and can protect your pet from an infestation.

Q: Will Bravecto make my dog itch?
A: Itching is not one of the known side effects of Bravecto, however some pets develop a rash which may be transiently itchy.

Q: How long does Bravecto take to kill Demodex?
A: One study in 2015 found that a single dose of Bravecto eliminated all Demodex mites within 2 months.

Q: Can you buy Bravecto in stores?
A: Bravecto is only available through your veterinarian or on prescription.

Q: Is there an alternative to Bravecto?
A: There are a number of alternatives to Bravecto but none are exact comparisons in duration of action and mode of administration.

Bravecto Rating

Is Bravecto Legit

Bravecto gets 4 out of 5 stars from us. Effective against 100% of fleas and over 90% of ticks within 72 hours of administration, Bravecto is a great choice for existing infestations.

Bravecto also persists in pets for up to 3 months (fleas and most ticks) while protecting against lone star ticks for 8 weeks after administration.

Adverse side effects are thankfully rare and usually mild; however, there have been implications of seizures following administration of Bravecto so this should be avoided with pets who have a history of neurological disorders.

Conclusion: Is Bravecto Legit? (And Probably Worth Trying)

Bravecto is most certainly legit and is completely safe for the vast majority of pets (otherwise I wouldn’t give it to my own fur-baby). Pet pawrents have some valid concerns as you can see from this Bravecto review. When it comes time for your pet’s next flea and tick medication and you have any queries, the best person to talk with is your veterinarian. Your veterinarian will never advise you to give your fur-baby a dangerous product.

References

Walther, F.M., M.J. Allan, R.K.A. Roepke & M.C. Nuernberger (2014). The effect of food on the pharmacokinetics of oral fluralaner in dogs. Parasites & Vectors. 7(84).

Williams, H., D.R. Young, T. Qureshi, H. Zoller & A.R. Heckeroth (2014). Fluralaner, a novel isoxazoline, prevents flea (Ctenocephalides felis) reproduction in vitro and in a simulated home environment. Parasites & Vectors. 7(275).

Rodich, N., R.K.A. Roepke & E. Zschiesche (2014). A randomized, blinded, controlled, and multi-centered field study comparing the efficacy and safety of Bravecto (fluralaner) against Frontline (fipronil) in flea- and tick-infested dogs. Parasites & Vectors 7(83).

Fourie, J.J., J.E. Liebenberg, I.G. Horak, J. Taenzler, A.R. Heckeroth & R. Frénais (2015). Efficacy of orally administered fluralaner (Bravecto) or topically applied imidacloprid/moxidectin (Advocate) against generalized demodicosis in dogs. Parasites & Vectors. 8(187).