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While in some of the more northern climates, concerns about fleas and worms tend to drop off over winter months because of the cold, frozen conditions outside, parasites can and will easily continue to live within your house. Since dog owners may stop topical or oral treatments for fleas and worms over the winter, this can often been the first stepping stone to these parasites reaching problematic levels by the spring when owners start to treat again.In some areas, especially those that are in the far south, fleas and parasites may become more problematic as the winter season approaches since the humidity increases from the very dry summer conditions.
In the vast majority of areas, especially those in the mid to southern regions of most countries, vets strongly recommend year round treatment for fleas, heartworm and intestinal worms. This is because the eggs, larvae and juvenile stages of these parasites can still be present in the environment. Some types of worms can live for years in the egg stage, safely protected from both insecticides and pesticides within their hard, almost rubberized shells. They can survive winter freezes, spring thaws and even long term exposure to cold and wet conditions within the soil.
In Home HazardsPerhaps ironically, the very inventions and devices we use to help keep our houses well heated and comfortable in the winter months are the very things that are also helping fleas and other parasites stay healthy and happy year round. Furnaces provide constant heat that allows fleas to stay active and reproduce over the winter, something they simply wouldn't be able to do if they were outside. In addition humidifiers that keep our dog's skin and hair soft and shiny over the winter also work to provide just the perfect conditions for fleas, worm eggs and larvae and the many other types of mites and parasites that our dog may bring in with them in the autumn. These minute eggs and larvae can easily find a safe, warm and ideal spot to lie dormant in between the cushions on the couch, in the deep pile of the carpet or even in the dirt around your favorite floor plant. Dog bedding is also another favorite spot for these pesky visitors to spend the winter.
The other thing to keep in mind is that every dog, cat or mammal in the house can be a good living environment for fleas, most types of worms as well as some of the other more problematic parasites and protozoa. This means that your cats, rabbits, ferrets, guinea pigs or other smaller pets may also be harboring fleas and other parasites. When treating your house in the winter months don't forget to treat these animals as recommended, plus also clean their bedding and cage areas to decrease the chance of fleas being passed back and forth between household pets.
Ongoing TreatmentIt is absolutely critical to controlling flea problems to treat year round. There is little if any cost saving in not treating for three or four months if you have to spend literally hundreds of dollars in insecticides and pesticides to treat your carpet and furniture in the spring. Remember that many of the fleas will lay eggs that simply fall off the dog and remain dormant until they hatch and become adult fleas in a few months. While in the egg stage there is little that can be done to kill these pests other than to vacuum and routinely wash bedding and carpets.
By treating the dog all year round for fleas, adult fleas on the dog are limited. This means that when their numbers are limited there will be fewer eggs that are produced, meaning fewer fleas in the spring to continue on with the cycle.
WormsWorming needs to be ongoing since worms have the nasty habit of being able to remain dormant in the dog for long periods of time. Worming medications are designed to actually anesthetize the worms, causing them to let go of the intestinal lining and be flushed out of the dog with the body waste. Anthelmintics don't actually kill the worms; if they did actually poison the worms they would also be somewhat toxic to dogs. Even so, some dogs are highly sensitive to different types of worming medications so always check with your vet before using any medications.
Since the medications don't actually kill the adults, they don't circulate through the dog's body and kill the larvae that are migrating. Most worms, including the heartworm, move throughout the body in their lifecycle. Worming medications only deal with the worms in the intestinal area, except in the case of heartworm, where this specialized medication can actually remove the worms from the heart and respiratory areas. Regular worming throughout the year prevents any possible recurrence either from larvae that matures and returns to the intestinal area from other parts of the body or from re-infection from eating larvae or eggs.
In the winter dogs are very likely more engaged in cleaning types of behaviors such as licking. Licking the feet is a common self-grooming practice of many dogs, but is also the way that many types of intestinal worm eggs end up getting into your dog's stomach. Routine cleaning, vacuuming and washing of bedding will help keep these eggs out of the environment. Since some worms can be transferred from dogs to humans, often with mild to serious health concerns, routine worming is something every dog owner needs to consider.
The cost of routine worming and flea treatments, especially with the new generations of topicals that treat many different parasites at once, is really relatively small. If you compare the monthly cost of a simply once a month application to expensive vet bills to rid your dog of severe infestations it is really very worth the small cost. It will also give you the peace of mind that you are helping your dog's overall health all year round and keeping pesky parasites out of your home on a year round basis.
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