Although pet owners may think their pets don’t need parasite prevention through the winter, we don’t live in an area cold enough to kill off mosquitoes, fleas, and ticks. Since these pests are present year round, keeping your furry pal on prevention is critical. A gap in prevention leaves your pet wide open for a multitude of parasitic infections and diseases, some of which can cause serious, sometimes fatal, illness. 

#1: Heartworm preventives also protect your pet against intestinal parasites

Parasites come in all shapes and sizes, and have different infection routes. For example, mosquitoes transmit heartworms, while an intestinal parasite infection is generally picked up through contaminated fecal contact. So, if your pup is walking where other dogs routinely go, they can easily pick up roundworms, hookworms, or whipworms. But, the good news—your pet’s monthly heartworm preventive also treats these intestinal parasites. By giving your pet a heartworm preventive every month, you can not only keep parasitic infections at bay, but also keep your family safe from intestinal parasite infections.

#2: Fleas can cause your pet to itch and scratch all year long

Fleas are hardy, opportunistic pests that can set up shop inside your warm home all year long, lying in wait to bite your pet. The flea life cycle can vary greatly, depending on environmental conditions. In all the right conditions, fleas can hatch and reach adulthood in a manner of weeks. However, if the temperature is too cold, or no food sources are nearby, fleas can linger in their pupae stage for months. Because of this variable life cycle, year-round flea prevention is critical, to prevent an infestation.

In addition, if your pet is allergic to flea bites and breaks out in an itchy rash from a mere handful of fleas, continuous prevention is a must. If a gap in prevention occurs, your pet and your home will be left wide open for an infestation that is extremely difficult to eradicate. 

#3: Tick bites can lead to lifelong illnesses

Although tiny, ticks can carry serious diseases that can cause you or your pet lifelong illness. A bite from a tick carrying Lyme disease, for example, can lead to chronic kidney issues, or Lyme-related illness flare-ups. While a course of appropriate antibiotics can minimize your pet’s bacterial load, often the infection cannot be completely eliminated, and will recur during times of stress or other illness. 

#4: Heartworm disease is difficult to treat in pets

While killing immature heartworms is simple—your pet’s monthly heartworm preventive will take care of them—eradicating adult heartworms is much more challenging. In dogs, heartworm treatment can require a lengthy recovery period, and cost a substantial amount. Initially, an infected dog will undergo staging tests to determine disease severity, including blood work and chest X-rays, to show the extent of the adult heartworms’ damage. Once a treatment protocol has been determined, the infected dog will receive a series of two or three injections administered deep into the lumbar muscles. These injections consist of an arsenic-based compound, and can make your dog feel nauseous and some discomfort. If your dog needs three injections, they will be spaced a month apart, to minimize complications. During the entire treatment protocol, your dog must be substantially exercise-restricted, to prevent adverse side effects caused by the dying heartworms. This inactive period can last up to two months, which can be especially challenging for active dogs.

For cats, no heartworm treatment has been approved. Clinical signs can be managed until the worms die off, but one of the first heartworm disease signs in cats is sudden death. To avoid this heartbreaking consequence, year-round parasite prevention is strongly recommended for all pets, including indoor-only cats. 

#5: Your pet can carry fleas and ticks into your home

Not only can your pet suffer from diseases and problems associated with fleas and ticks, but also your entire family. People can contract tick-borne illnesses as easily as pets, and they can also be allergic to flea bites and develop itchy rashes. The best way to ensure your pet cannot bring in these unpleasant hitchhikers is to ensure they remain on prevention all year long.

Are you unsure which parasite preventive best suits your pet’s needs? Talk to our Little Animal Hospital team about our parasite preventive options, and stock up to keep your pet safe.