Though it may be tempting, you should think twice before stowing your pet’s parasite preventives away for the winter. According to the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA), all pets should receive year-round preventive medication that is effective against fleas, heartworm, and intestinal parasites. You may think the cooler temps would keep bothersome bugs at bay, but many parasites pose risks to our pets all year long. Here are seven reasons why you should continue prevention medications year-round. 

#1: Fleas and ticks can survive certain winter conditions

You may be thinking that fleas and ticks couldn’t possibly survive harsh Ohio winters, but the fact is, many of these bugs are much more resilient than we realize. Fleas and certain tick species can remain active in the environment, despite temperatures in the mid- to low thirties. Flea pupae (i.e., the flea stage between a larva and an adult) can remain dormant in freezing conditions and regain activity once the weather warms. It takes only one mild day for a flea population to reboot and infect your furry family members. 

#2: Most parasites need a warm body to survive

Although many of the common parasites that affect our pets can survive chilly temperatures, they still need a warm body to complete their life cycle and reproduce. Therefore, these pesky creatures will find your pet’s body heat a welcome respite when the temperature drops. Fleas can also hitch a ride on a mouse or rat seeking a warm shelter, such as your home or garage, and be transferred to your pet. 

#3: Traveling may put your pet at greater risk for parasites

If you travel to different geographical areas with your pet, chances are you will encounter warmer or more humid weather. Most parasites are more active in warmer weather, and many prefer humid conditions, particularly mosquitos, which can spread heartworm disease. 

#4: Pets require heartworm testing before giving preventive medication

Due to the nature of heartworm-prevention medications, these drugs can have serious side effects for a pet with heartworm disease, because of the rapid parasite die-off in the body. Therefore, prior to beginning heartworm prevention, your pet will need a blood test to ensure she is disease-free. You can avoid the need for multiple tests each year by ensuring your pet receives her medication each month. New, long-lasting injectable products make keeping your pet safe much easier. 

#5: You don’t have to remember when to start or stop medications

While fleas and ticks are more active in warmer climates, the concept of a flea and tick “season” can lead many pet owners to wonder when to start or stop prevention medications. Stopping too early or starting too late could lead to a nasty infestation or, worse, a debilitating disease. Eliminate the risk by putting a parasite-prevention reminder on your calendar each month. 

#6: Parasites are more than a nuisance

While no pet or pet owner wishes to deal with a flea, tick, or other parasite problem, the unfortunate reality is that many of these bugs are associated with disease. Fleas often carry tapeworms; ticks can transmit Lyme disease, Ehrlichia, Anaplasma, and other diseases; and mosquitoes can carry heartworms that lodge in susceptible animals’ hearts and lungs. Many of these infections can cause debilitating, chronic disease in our pets. Ignoring parasite prevention is simply not worth the risk.

#7: Prevention is typically less expensive than treatment

Flea, tick, and heartworm prevention may not seem worth the up-front cost, but treating certain parasitic diseases, such as heartworm, can be expensive. You can reduce the financial risk and, more importantly, keep your pet safe and healthy by sticking to a routine parasite-prevention plan. 

What preventive medications should you be giving your pet?

We recommend that all cats and dogs receive routine, year-round preventive medications for the following parasites:

  • Fleas
  • Ticks
  • Heartworm
  • Intestinal parasites such as roundworms and hookworms

Other parasites that may affect pets include ear mites, skin mites, lice, and other intestinal parasites. A number of products, including topical liquids, oral chewables, and long-lasting injectable medications, are available to help keep your pet parasite-free. Your ValuVet veterinarian will help you decide which preventives are best for your individual pet. 

Do you need to stock up on your pet’s parasite preventives, or update her heartworm test? We offer several affordable options, so contact us to get your pet back on track.