Many parasites cause significant health problems for pets, and your pet needs a year-round prevention plan to ensure they aren’t affected. Our team at Heritage Veterinary Clinic wants to debunk common myths concerning parasite prevention in pets, to ensure your pet is protected.

Myth #1: My pet needs parasite prevention only in the spring and summer

Fact: While some parasites are more active in the spring and summer months, many can still cause problems for your pet in the fall and winter. 

  • Fleas — While fleas prefer humid conditions above 70 degrees, they can survive near freezing temperatures, and are not entirely inactive during winter. In addition, they may seek refuge in your home where they can feed on your pet and continue to breed. 
  • Ticks — Ticks don’t die in the winter, and instead seek shelter underneath leaves in wooded areas, emerging to find a meal on a warmer than average day during the colder months. Many tick species stay active as long as the climate remains above freezing and conditions aren’t too wet. They can easily make your pet victim when you are out walking, or hitch a ride on your clothing, and gain entry into your home.
  • Internal parasites — While some intestinal parasite infections (e.g., hookworms) are more prevalent in the late fall and summer months, others (e.g., whipworms, roundworms) peak in the winter. In addition, if your pet encounters fresh infected feces, the worms can be transmitted, regardless of weather conditions.
  • Heartworms — Heartworms are transmitted by mosquitoes, which are typically active in New York from about April to October. However, heartworm preventives retroactively treat heartworm infections transmitted in the previous month. This means that if your pet is bitten by an infected mosquito in October, and you stop heartworm treatment in November, your pet can develop a heartworm infection.

Myth #2: My indoor pet does not need need parasite prevention

Fact: If your pet lives indoors, you may think they are protected from parasites, but this is far from the truth. 

  • Fleas and ticks — Fleas and ticks can easily hitch a ride inside on your clothing or another household pet who is allowed outdoors, gain access to your indoor pet, and take a blood meal and transmit disease. 
  • Intestinal parasites — More than 90% of puppies and kittens are born with intestinal parasites because they are infected in utero or while nursing. This means that a pet who has never stepped foot outside your home since you brought them home as a puppy or kitten could still have a parasite infection.
  • Heartworms — Mosquitoes are extremely adept at finding entryways, such as an open window, a torn screen, or a ventilation duct, to sneak into your home. In addition, many indoor pets are allowed on balconies and protected patios, where they could become a mosquito’s target.  An infected mosquito has to bite your pet only once for heartworm transmission to occur.

Myth #3: Only pets who live in certain areas need parasite prevention

Fact: While certain parasites are more problematic in some states than others, pets in every state are at risk.

  • Fleas — More than 300 flea species exist in the United States, and these parasites can be found in every state. Fleas can transmit diseases such as flea bite dermatitis, bubonic plague, murine typhus, and tularemia. 
  • Ticks — The most common tick species in New York are the deer tick, the American dog tick, and the lone star tick. These parasites transmit diseases including Lyme disease, anaplasmosis, babesiosis, and ehrlichiosis. In addition, saliva from a pregnant tick can cause tick paralysis.
  • Intestinal parasites — Intestinal parasites are prevalent in every state, and parasites, such as hookworms, tapeworms, whipworms, roundworms, giardia, and coccidia, can cause gastrointestinal upset, anemia, and nutritional deficiencies.
  • Heartworms — While heartworms are more prevalent in some states, these parasites have been reported in all 50 U.S. states, and a single mosquito bite can cause infection, and severely damage your pet’s heart and lungs. 

Myth #4: My pet seems healthy and can’t have parasites

Fact: Pets are excellent at hiding illness signs, and some affected pets never exhibit signs. However, they can pass these parasites to other pets and, in some cases, infect you and your family.

  • Fleas — If you haven’t seen a flea on your pet, and they aren’t scratching, this doesn’t mean they don’t have fleas. Many pets groom away the fleas before you can see them. In addition, pets typically scratch because they are allergic to the flea’s saliva, so if your pet isn’t allergic, they may not be itchy.
  • Ticks — Most tick-borne diseases have about an 11-day incubation period, and some don’t exhibit signs until 32 days after infection. In addition, because many signs, such as joint pain or muscle aches, are subtle, you may not realize your pet is affected.
  • Intestinal parasites — Most intestinal parasite infections don’t cause problems for healthy adult pets, but these parasites can be passed to other pets. Many of these parasites can infect humans, as well. 
  • Heartworms — Many pets don’t show disease signs in the early stages, and signs may not be noticeable until your pet’s heart and lungs are significantly damaged.

All pets need year-round parasite prevention to ensure they are protected from these dangerous issues. Our team at Heritage Veterinary Clinic recommends Simparica Trio to provide comprehensive parasite control to your pet. If your pet is due for a fecal check or a heartworm test, contact us, so we can ensure they remain parasite free.