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Mild weather means more pests for your dog


The mild winter we experienced this year means the early arrival of spring flowers and along with those are the pesky bugs. They will flourish this year because more of them survived the winter than usual. Fleas, ticks and mosquitoes will be prevalent this year, and you should take some precautions to protect your dog.

Mosquitoes spread heartworm disease. Adult heartworms are 10- to 12-inch-long worms that live in the heart of an infected dog. Microfilaria, or baby heartworms, are circulating throughout the dog's bloodstream and when a mosquito bites an infected dog it picks up some of those microfilaria along with its meal. When it moves on and bites another dog, it deposits some of those microfilia into the new host.

These worms can live for five or more years, producing more heartworms that will also live in the heart. Over time the worm load will damage the heart, shortening the dog's life.

The threat to your dog's health is easily prevented by giving your dog a once-a-month heartworm preventative that you get from your veterinarian. Discuss with your veterinarian whether it is necessary to give your dog the prevention all year long or if it safe to stop during the winter months in your climate.

If you do stop giving your dog the prevention, start it back up again as soon as it is warm enough for mosquitoes to be out. The medication works by killing off any microfilaria circulating in the bloodstream before they can develop into adults. When you give your dog a pill on April 1, any microfilaria that may have been deposited into your dog during the month of March are eliminated.

Ticks thrive in the cool, damp early spring weather. They live in tall grasses so where you live and walk your dog will determine whether or not he is at risk. While not as deadly has heartworm disease, ticks do carry Lyme and other diseases that your dog could contract. A topical application of a tick control is the best way to keep your dog from getting a tick invasion. These products are not a repellant but when the tick latches on to get a blood meal from the dog, he will get a dose of the medication and will fall off and die.

Fleas flourish in the hot dry weather of late summer. It is easier and cheaper to prevent a flea problem than to get rid of them once they have taken over your home. So start your dog on a flea preventative before you see any fleas on your dog.

Many tick control products also manage fleas. Read the labels carefully to make sure that you are using the proper size based on your dogs weight and never put a product designed for dogs on a cat. Cats are very different than dogs and they can have a severe reaction if a dog application is put on a cat.

Combination products that control heartworms, fleas and ticks are available from your veterinarian and there are many to choose from. The staff at your veterinary office should be well-educated about the different products that are available. If you feel unsure of what you should use, talk with one of them. They will be able to help you decide which product or combination of products would be best for you and your dog.

Tip of the week: If your dog has not been on heartworm prevention you should have your veterinarian run a blood test to make sure he is heartworm-free before starting him on a heartworm medication. Bark questions to: Canine Companion, 11652 North - 825 West, Huntington, IN 46750 or email

Canine Companion conducts dog training classes in Fort Wayne, Huntington and surrounding communities and behavior consulting nationwide. Along with their combined 30 years experience and endorsement by national organizations, the lead trainers are graduates of Purdue University's DOGS! Program and have earned the title of Certified Pet Dog Trainer through the Association of Pet Dog Trainers.