Background: The study objective was to examine cat owner ectoparasiticide purchases in the United States and estimate the impact of purchase gaps on timely ectoparasite protection administration. These purchase gaps lead to periods of time when cats are unprotected from ectoparasites.
Methods: Ectoparasiticide purchase transactions for individual cats from 671 U.S. veterinary clinics from January 1, 2017 through June 30, 2019 were evaluated to determine time “gaps” between doses of ectoparasiticides purchased in a defined 12-month period. Ectoparasiticides examined were topically applied products that contained fluralaner, fipronil/(S)-methoprene/pyriproxyfen, imidacloprid/pyriproxyfen or selamectin as active ingredients. The duration of protection following administration of one dose was 8–12 weeks for the fluralaner-containing product and one month for the other products.
Results: Ectoparasiticide purchase records were obtained from 114,853 cat owners and analysis found that most owners bought ≤ 6 months of protection during the year, with 61–75% (depending on the product) purchasing just 1–3 months of protection. The size of the average purchase gap was determined for all dose combinations out to 12 months of protection (5–7 doses for fluralaner and 12 doses for the other three products dosed monthly. The largest gaps occurred between the first and second doses and the second and third doses. Average purchase gaps for the four different products between doses 1 and 2 ranged from 11.2 to 13.9 weeks and between doses 2 and 3 ranged from 7.7 to 12.2 weeks. The fraction of purchases separated by gaps and the average length of the gap tended to decrease with increasing number of doses purchased. Owners purchasing the 8 to 12-week duration product containing fluralaner provided ectoparasite protection (“doses plus gap period”) for a larger proportion of each 2-dose period compared with owners purchasing products administered monthly.
Conclusions: When cat owners purchase flea and tick medication, gaps between subsequent purchases reduces the proportion of time ectoparasite protection can be provided. The duration of the gap between doses has an impact on the effectiveness of flea/tick medication because it inserts a period without flea and tick protection between doses of flea and tick medication. The gaps between purchases were shorter and the period of ectoparasite protection was larger for owners purchasing a 12-week product than for owners purchasing a monthly product.