Don’t forget about parasite control ust because it’s winter… Fleas, worms and even ticks are out there, just waiting for Fido or Fluffy!

By: Emily Burnie

Not only does it not get cold enough, for long enough in Nova Scotia to kill most parasites, but many of them can live indoors in our warm, cozy houses.

Fleas thrive in our mild Nova Scotian winters. Here at the hospital we see as many cases of flea allergy in February as we do in July, and every year is getting worse. All indoor-outdoor pets should be on flea control all year round as a preventative. If fleas do make it inside, be sure to treat all pets in the house (including small pets like hamsters, rabbits and mice) for at least 3 months.

The most common intestinal worm we see in the winter is tapeworm. These are contracted by hunting and eating infected rodents or swallowing infected fleas while grooming, so are therefore not temperature dependent. These worms usually appear as small worm segments stuck to the bum fur of pets that look like a grain of rice. They are not transmissible between pets. One or two doses of de-wormer is all you need to get rid of tapeworm, unless your pet is constantly exposed. So, if there are fleas in the house you need to get rid of the fleas first, and then deal with the tapeworm; and for hunting cats deworming 4 times/year is a good idea.

Ticks are not very common in the winter, but it is still possible to see them. If the temperature is above 7°C for more than 72 hours the ticks will start to “wake up” and be searching for a meal. So, if you’re taking Fido for a walk in the woods during the February thaw, be sure to check him over for ticks when you get back!

Other intestinal parasites like hookworm, roundworm, giardia, coccidia, etc. are less common in the winter than the summer, but they’re still out there and can be affecting our pets. Remember to deworm pets year round and have a fecal exam done at least once/year (once/season is best for indoor/outdoor pets) to help find any parasite problems before they make Fluffy or Fido sick.