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  • Writer's pictureSNOAH

Fleas, Ticks, and Heartworm - Oh My!

Updated: May 2, 2018

In states like Minnesota, some people like to say we have a "season" for fleas, ticks, and mosquitoes. This "season" is roughly from April-November, but it varies wildly depending on the temperature. Due to the variance of this "season," it is highly recommended that you treat your pet year-round with flea, tick, and heartworm preventatives. Dr. Emilee Alms at Shoreview North Oaks Animal Hospital is a knowledgeable resource for offering a personalized preventative solution for your pet based on their environment and lifestyle.

Mosquitoes play an essential role in the life-cycle of a heartworm. Mosquitoes start emerging in temperatures around 50 degrees, which usually falls in April-May, but they thrive when temps reach the 80's. The risk of our pets contracting heartworm is greatest when mosquitoes are active, however, it takes roughly six months for the larvae to become a mature heartworm. Clinics in central and East-Central Minnesota generally see 26-50 cases of heartworm PER CLINIC each year. Click HERE to see a nation-wide map showing the severity of heartworm infections.

According to the American Heartworm Society, the risk factors of heartworm disease are impossible to predict. There are multiple variables {from climate variations, to the presence of wildlife carriers} which cause the rates of infections to vary drastically from year to year. Although indoor pets are at a lesser risk of contracting heartworm disease, they should still be protected because infected mosquitoes can come inside. It is important to note that there is no heartworm treatment available for cats -- preventative medicine is the only means of protecting them from heartworm disease.

The American Heartworm Society recommends that pet owners Think 12:

1. Get your pet tested every 12 months for heartworm

2. Give your pet heartworm preventative 12 months per year.

Follow the links below to learn about heartworm disease treatment options:



Resources for Heartworm Information:

Ticks are vectors (an organism that transmits a pathogen from reservoir to host) for a variety of diseases. This means that an infected tick can transmit the disease(s) they are carrying to our pets as well as to humans. Most of us Minnesotans think of ticks as only being a problem during the summer months, however, some species of ticks are active year-round -- even in the cold, winter months.

The three most common ticks found in Minnesota are from left to right: Brown Dog Tick, Black-Legged Tick (Deer Tick), and American Dog Tick

American Dog Tick: Active April-September. Known to transmit Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, Tuleremia, and possibly Erlichia (anaplasmosis).

Black Legged Tick (Deer Tick): Even in the cold winter months in Minnesota, deer ticks are still active. On warm winter days, they will tunnel up through the snow to find a host. Deer ticks are known to transmit Lyme Disease, Erlichia (anaplasmosis), and Babesia.

Brown Dog Tick: The brown dog tick can complete its entire life-cycle indoors, and can cause infestations similar to what we see with fleas. The brown dog tick is active year-round, and prefers our pets over humans. They can transmit Rocky Mountain spotted fever, erlichia (anaplasmosis), and babesia.

Today's date is April 6, 2018. According to the Companion Animal Parasite Council's map, there have been a total of 1,468 {one in fourteen} reported diagnoses of Lyme Disease in Minnesotan dogs since January 1. Knowing we have year-round ticks means we should be providing our pets with year-round protection. Prevention is the most powerful tool we have to protect our pets.

If you have questions or concerns about year-round prevention, Dr. Emilee Alms at Shoreview North Oaks Animal Hospital will be happy to talk with you.

Resources for Ticks:

Fleas are more than a nuisance. They are a persistent and resilient pest with a complicated life-cycle. They cause distress in our pets, bring stress into our homes {read this family's story about fleas}, and and can cause diseases. By the time we notice a flea on our pet, the flea has already injected salivary proteins, transmitted infectious agents, and laid eggs {fifty eggs per flea, per day}.

Fleas are capable of surviving in outdoor temperatures as low as the upper 30s as long as there is a suitable host. Flea pupae can remain dormant for over one year until the environment has reached the ideal temperature of 65-80 degrees Fahrenheit. Once conditions are ideal {inside or outside}, the pupae will complete their development and emerge from their cocoons -- which results in a surge of flea activity on and off our pets.

Fleas are not too picky about their living conditions. All they need is a warm place to settle and lay their eggs. Many people like to keep their homes at a warm temperature during the winter season, which means an indoor flea population can remain comfortable {and active!} year-round. Treating our pets with flea preventatives during the summer months leaves them {and us} vulnerable for a flea infestation.

Reach out to Dr. Emilee Alms at Shoreview North Oaks Animal Hospital for a personalized preventative care plan based on the needs of your pet.

Resources for Fleas:

With Minnesota's warm summers and cold winters, it is true that our population of fleas, ticks and mosquitoes fluctuate throughout the year. However, it does not mean that our pets have year-round protection. The only way to provide protection from fleas, ticks, and heartworm is to use a preventative all year.

*Information gathered from resources listed above

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