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Keeping tiny pests away from pets is a year-round challenge

For pets, bug bites — and worse — are a year-round threat. (Getty Images/iStockphoto/adogslifephoto)

WASHINGTON — A winter chill in the air generally heralds a glorious couple of months when bugs probably won’t bite us.

For pets, however, bug bites — and worse — are a year-round threat.

While mosquitoes go dormant when temperatures drop into the 50s, ticks can survive until temperatures drop into the 40s, and fleas can survive into the upper 30s, said Dr. Katy Nelson.

“[Fleas’] pupa can remain dormant for over a year as long as they’re not frozen,” she said, “so if you have a garage or a covered porch or something along those lines, they can get under there where they can survive the hard freeze and then pop out just when the conditions become ideal.”

That’s why pet owners should never let their guard down when it comes to preventing fleas, ticks and heartworms.

“Because you never know in D.C. weather: It can be 30 degrees one day, and 75 the next — and that 75 is perfect timing for these larva to pop out and go ahead and infect your pet,” the veterinarian told WTOP’s Mark Lewis and Debra Feinstein.

And indoor pets are just as vulnerable: It only takes a tear in a screen for an infected mosquito to get into the house and spread heartworms through a bite.

For those who weren’t already aware, heartworm disease can be fatal — especially for cats, who don’t have the treatment options that dogs do.

Fortunately, keeping that treatment going year-round isn’t expensive, she said, and there are several ways that treatment can be administered: injectables, topicals and even flavored chews. A vet, she said, can help you pick the right option.

“It’s going to depend a lot on your lifestyle,” Nelson said. “That indoor-only cat is going to have much different needs than a dog that people go hiking out in Shenandoah with.”


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