A Case for Winter Parasite Prevention

Dog and winter sunBaby, it’s cold outside. We don’t want to venture outdoors in Michigan’s January weather, and we assume that other critters are just as hesitant to as well. Parasites, however, don’t take a winter break. Believe it or not, parasite prevention for your pet is just as important in January as it was in July… but why?

Heartworms and the Need for Winter Parasite Prevention

If you know anything about heartworms, you probably realize that they are transmitted by the mosquito. Winter in this part of the country and mosquitos don’t typically go together, and many pet owners are tempted to stop administering heartworm preventatives in the colder months of the year. Beware, however, as heartworm disease can affect pets at any time of the year. Continuing winter parasite prevention for heartworms is important for a few reasons:

  • The incubation period for a heartworm infection is six months. If you stop the preventative, and incubating infection could still develop into the disease with nothing to stop it.
  • Winter isn’t always cold. It just takes a few days above freezing for mosquitoes to hatch.
  • Mosquitoes can live in your home for a long time after it cools down outdoors.
  • Pets travel. Your winter Florida getaway can increase your pet’s risk of contracting heartworms.
  • You aren’t psychic. It is impossible to predict when it will be cold enough to safely stop preventative and warm enough to need to restart.
  • Like it or not, you are a creature of habit. If you give your pet preventatives every month, year round, you are less likely to forget.

Intestinal Parasites and the Cold

Intestinal parasites, like heartworms, don’t pack up and head south for the winter. It is important to protect your pets from these unwanted hitchhikers, especially as many are considered zoonotic, or transmissible to people.

Most intestinal parasites are contracted through fecal-oral exposure. That means that your pet needs to ingest microscopic (or in some cases not so microscopic) amounts of infected feces to contract a parasite. This is not as hard as it might sound. Pets might pick up an intestinal parasite by:

  • Raiding the litter box
  • Eating animal feces outside
  • Chewing on a toy or treat that has been in contaminated soil
  • At the dog park, boarding kennel, or doggy daycare

Most heartworm preventatives provide protection against the major offenders. It is not worth the risk to stop parasite prevention in the winter, especially if it means risking the health of your family.  

Fleas in the Snow

It’s true that fleas aren’t snow bunnies. They tend to go dormant in the winter months, and one might think that they would not be a concern for pets during this chilly season. One would be wrong, though.

We often fail to remember that while it may be below freezing outside, it is not inside our homes. In fact, many of us keep the thermostat set around 70 degrees, the optimal temperature for flea development. We go out of our way to create the perfect little flea environment.

Effective flea control means year round combat with safe and proven effective flea preventatives. By the time you actually see a flea, you already have an infestation. The adult fleas you see only account for about 5% of the actual flea life stages present, just the tip of the iceberg. Your best defense is a good offense.

Winter pet parasite prevention is a vital part of caring for your pet. Waiting until your pet has a problem before you do something is risky business. A good preventative program can save you money and keep your pet healthier.  

There are many good parasite prevention options available for all budgets, lifestyles, and needs. Please let us know if you would like to discuss which of these is right for you and your pet.