Pet owners commonly misconstrue that parasites disappear when the temperatures drop. While fleas, ticks, and heartworms thrive in warmer climates, they also remain a threat when the weather gets cold. Your pet can pick up fleas or ticks throughout the year because these pests can survive inside your home when the outside temperature becomes too cold for them. Read our Stone Ridge Veterinary Medical Center at Willis team’s guide to learn how parasites affect your pet, and why your furry pal needs year-round parasite prevention to guard against deadly and debilitating diseases.
Fleas and ticks pose problems for pets
A parasite is an organism that lives on or in a host organism from whom the pest gets its nourishment. Your pet provides fleas and ticks food and shelter through their blood and their soft, warm fur, which is the perfect environment for these pests to lay their eggs. These pesky bloodsuckers can cause your pet serious health problems.
Fleas hitch a ride indoors on your pet
Fleas can survive in near-freezing conditions, and when the temperatures dip lower, these pests may seek refuge indoors by hitching a ride on your pet. Once fleas enter your home, you will likely face difficulties evicting them because they multiply quickly. A female flea can lay up to 50 eggs per day, which can infest your home in no time. In addition, flea bites can cause your pet intense itching, irritation, and discomfort, as well as the following health conditions:
- Anemia — Fleas are bloodsucking parasites and can consume 15 times their body weight in blood, causing your pet to develop anemia.
- Flea allergy dermatitis — A protein in flea saliva—transmitted via a bite—can cause some pets to experience a severe allergic reaction, leading to flea allergy dermatitis (FAD). FAD can cause intense itching and painful skin wounds, which—if left untreated—can cause your pet to develop secondary skin infections.
- Tapeworms — If your pet ingests a flea infected with tapeworm larvae, the tapeworms can attach to your furry pal’s gastrointestinal tract.
Ticks are a threat to pets in all temperatures
Ticks are extremely hardy parasites. They can survive in cold temperatures and often seek shelter under fallen leaves. When your pet is walking through tall grass or in wooded areas, a tick can easily latch on. Similar to fleas, ticks multiply quickly, and a female tick can lay hundreds to thousands of eggs at once. Ticks can cause your pet many health conditions, including:
- Lyme disease — Commonly found in forests or in grassy, wooded, marshy areas near rivers or lakes, deer ticks transmit Lyme disease, which can cause arthritis and joint swelling, resulting in painful lameness.
- Anaplasmosis — Anaplasmosis and Lyme disease are commonly found in the same geographic location. Anaplasmosis signs are similar to Lyme disease signs.
- Ehrlichiosis — The brown dog tick is the main ehrlichiosis carrier, although other tick species can transmit the disease. Infected pets may develop anemia, bleeding disorders, lameness, eye problems, neurologic problems, and swollen limbs. Ehrlichiosis can be life-threatening if left untreated.
- Rocky Mountain spotted fever — Through their bite, infected Rocky Mountain wood ticks, American dog ticks, and brown dog ticks can transmit Rocky Mountain spotted fever to your pet. An infected pet may experience a loss of appetite, muscle and joint pain, fever, coughing, abdominal pain, vomiting, diarrhea, and face or leg swelling.
Heartworms can be fatal for pets at any time of year
Mosquitoes transmit heartworms. Although mosquitos are less active during cold weather, some find shelter indoors and re-emerge on mild days, making heartworm disease a year-round threat to your pet’s health. An infected mosquito’s bite transmits immature heartworms (i.e., microfilaria), which enter your pet’s bloodstream through the bite wound, reaching adulthood in six months while traveling to your beloved companion’s heart and lungs. Adult heartworms can grow to a foot in length, and can be fatal if left untreated.
Year-round parasite prevention can protect your pet
Parasites, such as fleas, ticks, and heartworms, can thrive in all climates and conditions. Administering year-round parasite preventives is the best way to ensure your pet has effective, uninterrupted protection. Preventives repel parasites and can kill these pests if they bite your pet.
If you need to update your pet’s parasite prevention plan, contact our Stone Ridge Veterinary Medical Center Willis team to schedule an appointment for heartworm testing and parasite preventive medication.