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You may ask yourself the question, "Do I really need to have my pet on prevention during the fall and winter?"

The answer is, "Yes! Yes! And in case you didn’t read the first two, YES!"

Believe it or not, our BTVH family sees a greater incidence and prevalence in fleas and ticks during the fall and winter time than we do in the summer months. Why? Because pet parents believe it isn’t necessary to continue with year round prevention.

Let me share some information as to why it is recommended you continue your prevention all year.

Fleas

It only takes one flea.

One flea can be brought into your home on you or your pet.

I have had pet parents say, “Well, I only found 1 flea on my dog and removed it so he’s good to go."

Wrong! That one flea can cause a flea infestation down the road and, ultimately, severe flea allergy dermatitis. Fleas can survive outdoors in temperatures as low as 33 degrees for as long as five days! This is plenty of time for them to come into your home and get nice and warm. Flea eggs can live year round in protected areas such as garages, crawl spaces, and porches. Fleas are the culprit to feline bartonella (cat scratch fever) in cats, a zoonotic condition where pet parents can also get this disease. Moreoever, fleas are responsible for tapeworms in both dogs and cats.

Ticks

It is proven that ticks are more active or highly active in the late summer and early fall. Some consider spring and summer as tick season and don’t realize how active ticks are in the fall. Ticks can be active in temperatures ranging from 40 degrees and as low as 32 degrees. During the winter when we have a warm or mild day, we take our pets out to enjoy it, and this exposes them to ticks in the environment.

Your pets can be exposed to fleas and ticks in social settings as well. Doggie parks, grooming facilities, kennels, and daycares are risks, too. These facilities jump through hoops to ensure no fleas are present, but it can be an ongoing battle.

It only takes one animal carrying one flea or tick to spread exposure. Ticks are responsible for the transmission of multiple infectious diseases including lyme, ehrlichiosis, and anaplasmosis.

What About Mosquitos?

Mosquitoes are cold-blooded creatures. They are responsible for the transmission of heartworm disease in both dogs and cats. Mosquitos cannot regulate their own internal temperatures. Therefore, whatever the temperature is outside, this is the temperature a mosquito will be. Because of this, mosquitoes typically thrive in hot weather. You can find these flying insects virtually everywhere, but in countries and regions with a warm, humid climate, mosquitoes fare particularly well.

The cold weather may kill certain types of mosquitoes, but others have fully adapted to live in cooler climates! Mosquitoes are even found in arctic locations, such as Alaska. These species of mosquito can withstand both ice and snow. The eggs can also survive the freezing cold and will hatch as soon as spring comes.

Other species are not as well-suited to extreme temperatures. Most mosquitoes that are found in warmer places can’t live in very cold temperatures, and they will die if the temperature drops much below 50 degrees Fahrenheit.

For flea, tick, AND heartworm prevention, consult with your veterinarian about a safe and effective therapy. Some are once a month oral tablets; other are once every three months oral tablets. Now there is even a heartworm prevention injection that lasts for 12 months! No single product is right for every pet. We strongly suggest to talk to your veterinarian and discuss what they feel is effective and best for your furbaby. Be more proactive than reactive when it comes to flea and tick prevention!

Reasons a Pet Parent May Not Use Preventatives All Year Round:

One factor is cost. While these products can be very effective when used properly, they can be considered expensive. Some pet parents will stop giving preventatives when it gets cold to save money. Anyone that has ever had a flea infestation knows how expensive, difficult, and time-consuming it is to correct the situation.

Another concern is the fear that these products are not safe and can harm their pets. While there are reported reactions and illness related to these preventatives, the serious reactions are almost always a result of user error. The Environmental Protection Agency launched an investigation in 2008 and continues to monitor safety and any adverse reactions. Time and time again they are proven to be safe when used properly. Visit this link for detailed information on being safe about flea and tick prevention products: Safe Use of Flea and Tick Prevention Products

Dr. Adam Christman, DVM, MBA, is the Co-Chief of Staff at Brick Town Veterinary Hospital. He received his Bachelor of Science degree in Animal Science and a minor in Spanish from Cook College, Rutgers University, in 2000, his Doctorate in Veterinary Medicine from Iowa State University College of Veterinary Medicine in 2004, and his Masters in Business Administration (MBA) in 2012 from Aspen University.