Good day, humans! With Fall blustering in and temperatures dropping, you might think it’s ok to stop giving your cats and dogs their Flea & Tick and Heartworm medications. But it’s not! If anything, Fall is one of the worst times for fleas and ticks as cooler weather doesn’t kill fleas and ticks! For example, the cat flea – the most common flea of dogs and cats – hits peak infestation in late summer and fall. And deer ticks are at their peak during the fall and spring. Fleas can carry tapeworms and other disease-causing organisms, and ticks can transmit diseases such as Lyme, Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, and Ehrlichiosis! Mosquitoes, of course, are carriers of the heartworm parasite, a life threatening nematode that can cause severe disease and even death. Even in areas where residents do not have to worry about mosquitoes during the winter, their return in the spring and summer months can catch you off guard. It is best to be pre-prepared.
Here are a few facts that are worth remembering:
Fleas can live outdoors in temperatures as low as 33 degrees for up to five days (long enough to latch onto your dog, come into your home, and relish in the warmth of your living room).
Flea eggs can live year round in protected areas such as crawl spaces or porches.
Ticks are certainly more active in the late summer and early fall. However, even in the winter, if the temperature exceeds 32-40 degrees ticks will become active again.
So, how do you make sure your pet is protected against fleas/ticks and mosquitoes during the colder months? The same as with the warmer months: apply Flea & Tick medication to your pet! There are several brands out there that we recommend and offer at our hospital: Frontline Tritak, Vectra, Bravecto, Revolution, Heartgard, Interceptor, Seresto collars, and Certifect. Another great product to use is Advantix. We have had great success with these products and use them on our own pets (including myself!) (You can see a product comparison chart here and here.)
Now, we know what you might be thinking – “I don’t want to put chemicals on my pet!” That’s fine! Bravecto is a wonderful product that is a chewable tablet and prevents fleas/ticks for 3 months per pill. Our own veterinarians use it on their pets and it works very well! You may also be thinking, “I want to try a natural approach/product to flea and tick control.” Sadly, there really aren’t any. Over the years, we’ve spent some time looking into the more natural or holistic approaches and as yet there are none that are actually effective. You can try tea tree oils, peppermint, lavender, garlic, citronella, etc, but they just will not prevent fleas and ticks from attaching and feeding off your pet. The brewer’s yeast? All the research shows none of that works. The ultrasonic devices? The data shows they don’t work. Also, just because something is “natural” or “organic” that doesn’t mean it’s safe. Some of the citric extracts used in these “natural” products can be fairly toxic to cats.
There are also ways to protect your home from becoming a hangout for these parasites. To eliminate fleas and their nesting places outdoors, keep the area surrounding your home clear of debris. Remove leaf or mulch piles, tall grasses, and brush around the home and at lawn edges. Separate lawn from surrounding wooded areas with a band of gravel or wood chips to limit tick migration. Keep the lawn mowed. Apply pesticides around bushes and shaded areas, as well as near doors and windows. Keep the areas outside your home dry and free of standing water, which can be a breeding ground for mosquitoes.
Remember that while fleas, ticks and mosquitoes may seem to be merely nuisance pests, they are actually capable of causing severe health problems, from the above mentioned heartworm infection, to skin disorders and infections, to anemia and life-threatening diseases. These diseases are definitely better off being stopped before they start with a little bit of diligence and preventive products. Remember to use these medications once every month, year round (unless otherwise specified by your veterinarian)! As the old saying goes: It is better to be safe than sorry.