As spring approaches with warmer weather, we enjoy spending more time outdoors with family and pets. Parasites also appreciate the milder temperatures and increased host activity, emerging from their winter resting places to feast on your furry pal. However, your pet is still susceptible to parasitic diseases in the winter. Although the temperatures outside may seem inhospitable, the conditions inside your home are ideal for insects to hide out and occasionally feast on your pet. Protect your family—two- and four-legged members—from fleas, ticks, mosquitoes, and intestinal parasites with the following six tips.   

#1: Understand that winter does not kill off parasites harmful to your pet

While vaccinations as an annual or triennial injection conveniently protect against disease, parasite prevention requires more frequent administration, but is vitally important in keeping your pet disease-free. Although parasites thrive in warmer, more humid temperatures, your furry pal can be exposed to parasite-borne disease any time of year, since your home provides an ideal climate. Not all bugs die off in the winter—deer ticks, for example, have a two-year life cycle and do not perish during typical frost patterns. Fleas are also hardy pests, hibernating inside impenetrable cocoons until environmental conditions are ideal for them to emerge and make a meal of your pet. Intestinal parasite eggs can live for years in the soil outside your home, despite harsh weather. The best protection from these hardy pests is year-round parasite prevention for your pet.

#2: Test your pet annually for parasites

As part of your pet’s wellness visit, diagnostic testing is equally important as vaccinations and a physical exam. In addition to baseline blood work, we recommend annual heartworm and tick-borne illness testing. We are located in the center of Lyme disease country, but pets can also develop anaplasmosis and ehrlichiosis through tick bites, and can fall victim to heartworm disease through mosquito bites. We also check for intestinal parasites by examining a fresh fecal sample for parasite eggs that can be transmitted to other pets in your home, or your human family members. By knowing the parasites your pet has, or has been exposed to, we can create the proper prevention plan designed to keep your entire family safe. 

#3: Clean up your pet’s waste promptly

While you don’t have to worry about fleas, ticks, and mosquitoes lingering in your pet’s waste, intestinal parasites, which are transmitted through feces, can be a real problem. The longer your dog’s stool lingers in the environment, the more parasite eggs are deposited into the soil to later infect your pet, other pets, or your family. Clean up your pet’s waste promptly to prevent soil contamination, and avoid areas where poor hygiene is practiced, such as unclean dog parks or trails. Although your pet will be protected from intestinal parasites with regular deworming, you can pick up many of these parasites.

#4: Keep in mind that indoor-only pets are also at risk for parasites

Many pet owners mistakenly believe their indoor-only cat or dog who uses potty pads is safe from parasites. But, how often have you caught a mosquito buzzing around your ear inside your home, or discovered a moth flitting by your light? Insects can sneak in through tiny tears in window screens, or open doors, or hitch a ride on your clothing. Although you may think your furry pal is safe inside your four walls, fleas, ticks, and mosquitoes can still infect your pet with diseases without a parasite-prevention shield.

#5: Check your pet for parasites after coming indoors

Flea combs are a great tool for helping remove fleas and unattached ticks from your pet immediately after coming indoors, but parasite checks alone are insufficient to protect your four-legged friend from infection. Adult deer ticks are about the size of a sesame seed, making detection of these blood-suckers in your pet’s thick fur difficult, while fleas are much smaller. Check your dog thoroughly around the collar, head, and groin area for parasites, destroying any pest you find, while relying on your parasite prevention to take care of the rest. 

#6: Stock up on year-round parasite preventives for your pet

While each of these tips can help battle parasite infestations in your pet, nothing is more effective than year-round prevention. Fortunately, parasite prevention for pets is now safer than ever. Keep your dog or cat safe from parasites by simply giving your pet safe, effective FDA-approved parasite prevention prescribed by our veterinarians, all year long. This is especially important in New England, where our weather is unpredictable during winter months. Parasites are highly opportunistic, and can spring up as soon as temperatures rise above freezing, ready to make a meal out of your pet. With year-round parasite prevention, those pesky bugs never get the chance.

During your pet’s next wellness visit, discuss the best options for parasite prevention with Dr. Bassler, or stop in and see our friendly staff to stock up on preventive medicine.