Hello out there. This is Dr. Maltby, and I am attempting to write my very first blog!
I often tease people that complain about our winters by saying “you’re a Canadian, winter is one of those things that define who we are.” One reason to like winter is the topic of my blog, Parasites. Sadly, due to climate change, our winters aren’t what they used to be. The warmer temperatures have resulted in a significant rise in prevalence of parasites in our area throughout the winter months. Not long ago, tick season lasted from April to October. Now ticks are a concern all year as they can be active any day the temperature exceeds 4 degrees Celsius. Our pets can contract intestinal parasites virtually any time the grass is visible. Heartworm season is getting longer as we see mosquitoes earlier each summer. Flea problems are starting earlier in the spring and extending further into the fall as well. In short, our milder winters can mean bad news for our pets and their owners.
The good news is that we can protect our pets from these parasites through regular preventative treatments. Those of you who are already on year-round prevention don’t have to worry about intestinal parasites, heartworm or fleas regardless of when their seasons start or finish. The fact that the vast majority of dogs that test positive for heartworm are rescue dogs means that prevention is working.
While heartworm remains a concern, we diagnose a lot more cases of Lyme disease in dogs. Our warmer winters mean that the deer tick (black-legged tick) can overwinter in our area. This is the tick that carries Lyme disease which can infect both dogs and people. The National Collaborating Centre for Infectious diseases states. “Shortly, most Canadians will probably live in regions where the deer tick has spread and Lyme disease will be endemic.” The bad news doesn’t stop there. As our climate gets warmer we welcome parasites from the south. We are already starting to see new tick species and the associated diseases that can be transmitted to dogs and people.
To offer you and your pets the best protection we can, we have various forms flea and tick products and medication to help prevent parasites. It is shown to be effective against fleas and five species of ticks – American dog tick, brown dog tick, Gulf Coast tick, black-legged tick and the Lone star tick (which is notorious for disease transmission).
Unfortunately, no single product will protect our pets from all parasites. Combination therapies are recommended to ensure full protection. The treatment combination we recommend for your pet will vary depending on your specific concerns and preferences. Protection is available for oral or topical application. As always, we are available to answer any questions you may have in picking the right protection for you and your pet.
Written by Dr. Kirk Maltby, DVM