Here in Naples, Florida, we don’t experience the same typical winter conditions of our neighbors to the north. But, our year-round warm temperatures provide the perfect breeding conditions for parasites, such as mosquitoes, fleas, ticks, and intestinal parasites, which means pets are continuously exposed to serious illnesses. Discover the importance of year-round parasite prevention for your four-legged friend by learning about the many diseases parasites can cause. 

The heartbreaking truth of year-round heartworm infections in pets

Heartworm disease is caused by blood-thirsty mosquitoes who never miss the opportunity for a warm meal, particularly during the winter months. Pets who reside in our balmy Naples temperatures—and much cooler climates—can contract heartworm disease during winter months if their prevention is suspended.

Heartworm prevention works a bit differently than flea and tick prevention. Instead of preventing parasites from infecting your pet for the upcoming month, a dose of heartworm preventive kills off the already present immature heartworms, known as microfilariae. These heartworm larvae make their way into your pet via mosquito bite, mature as they pass through the bloodstream to vital organs, and cause permanent blood vessel, heart, and lung scarring. Microfilariae are the only heartworm stage that can be prevented, so preventive must be administered monthly to kill off the larvae before they reach adulthood. Once the microfilariae reach adulthood, they are much more difficult and costly to kill, and your pet has suffered significantly more damage. Additionally, no heartworm treatment is available for adult heartworms in cats, and the first sign can be sudden death, making a year-round prevention protocol even more imperative.

The terrible tale of year-round tick-borne illnesses in pets

Many tick-borne illnesses have been diagnosed in pets in our area. Some of the more common ones include Lyme disease, ehrlichiosis, and Rocky Mountain spotted fever. Ticks generally enjoy the milder spring and fall temperatures in the northern states, but are active year round here in Florida. If an infected tick bites your pet, they can contract a lifelong illness that can flare up after initial treatment.

While tick-borne illnesses in pets each cause their own host of signs, some signs can pop up in all tick-borne diseases. If your pet has contracted a tick-borne disease, you may notice:

  • Lethargy
  • Fever
  • Shifting-leg lameness
  • Swollen lymph nodes
  • Decreased appetite
  • Weakness
  • Weight loss

Other signs specific to the disease-causing pathogen include coughing, bleeding and breathing issues, neurological signs, vomiting, diarrhea, and eye changes. Signs may not appear for weeks or months after the initial tick bite, so keeping your pet on year-round tick prevention is the best way to ensure they remain healthy.

The unpleasant facts of year-round flea infestations in pets

Once they infiltrate your environment, fleas are exceptionally difficult to eradicate. The flea life cycle can take months, and during inopportune times, they lie in wait in their protective cocoons, springing forth when your pet walks by to feast on their next meal, which can make an allergic pet incredibly uncomfortable. Skipping a month or two of flea prevention during the winter can leave your pet exposed to this insidious parasite. Your pet may also develop a tapeworm infection if they groom off the fleas. Young and small pets can become anemic if enough fleas jump on board, so prevention is more important for them. 

The irritating issues with year-round intestinal parasites in pets

The intestinal parasite category includes many worms that can cause serious illness in your furry pal. Left exposed by parasite prevention gaps, your pet can contract infections caused by roundworms, hookworms, whipworms, or tapeworms. Intestinal parasites are known for causing a wide range of issues, including:

  • Soft stool, or diarrhea that may be bloody
  • Weight loss
  • Lethargy
  • Abdominal discomfort
  • Decreased appetite
  • Poor hair coat
  • Vomiting
  • Anemia

And that’s not all! Your pet can pass on their intestinal parasite infection to you and your family, particularly to young children or immunocompromised family members. Parasite eggs can linger in the environment for years before moving to the next life stage, so preventing infection is important to break their life cycle. Good hygiene and year-round parasite prevention also will help protect not only your pet but also your entire family from illness. 

Protect your pet from a multitude of unpleasant and potentially devastating parasitic diseases by keeping them on prevention all year long. Stop by Animal Medical Hospital of Naples to stock up on flea, tick, and heartworm preventives for your furry pal.