How to prevent fleas, ticks, and heartworm in dogs.

dogs without fleas ticks heartworm

Spring is almost here!

So spring is around the corner. And you can’t wait to let your dog out into the backyard to stretch his legs after a long winter! Now is the time to take action to prevent fleas, ticks and heartworm that would bring discomfort and disease to your dog!

It’s early in the season. But on March 5th I already took my dog to my vet to have her heartworm bloodwork done. And I bought the initial 3 months of Nexgard flea and tick prevention treatment. So I gave my dog the flea and tick prevention medication that same day. And I also bought the product to start on June 1st to prevent heartworm.

Why should you prevent fleas, ticks, and heartworm now?

One crucial reason you should get on this now because my vet, Dr. Steve Avery of the Davisville Park Animal Hospital in central Toronto, told me that scientists have studied the behaviour of ticks. And these researchers found that even during the winter, when the temperature rises over 4c, ticks become active. And did you know that ticks carry Lyme Disease? So it is crucial to prevent your dog from getting infected by ticks! This is because ticks can transfer from your dog to you! And Lyme Disease is very difficult to diagnose and causes many debilitating symptoms masquerading as something else. So both you and your dog are at risk of acquiring Lyme Disease from ticks and we need to be proactive to prevent fleas, ticks, and heartworm from infecting your dog!

Climate change

It’s obvious that climate change is having an effect on our winters. We’ve seen extreme deep freezes in 2018 and 2019 . We have also witnessed warmer winters like we are experiencing this winter in 2020 of temperatures rising to 4c and even to +11c. We now know that ticks can be active sporadically throughout the winter months, especially, this year!

And although it may not YET be necessary to treat your dog all winter, it is very important that you check with your vet now. This is because animal doctors know the particular conditions where you live. The time may come when we will need to medicate all year round. But we’re not there yet, in Toronto, according to Dr. Avery.

Medications to prevent fleas, ticks, and heartworm

My veterinarian has thoroughly educated me about the effective prescription products that are available against fleas, ticks and heartworm. So let’s first discuss prevention of fleas and ticks.

My vet sells Nexgard chewable meds (other vets may sell different brands) that you administer once a month. He also sells topical brands such as Revolution. I was worried about my dog ingesting an insecticide. So I asked whether topical products are safer. And Dr. Avery explained that both types of medications are designed to spread through your dog’s bloodstream. So even the topical product travels throughout the dog’s blood stream by way of the skin. And that this is necessary to poison the flea, tick or mosquito that feeds off of your dog’s blood.

What is heartworm?

Heartworm can be transmitted to your dog by mosquitos. Dr. Avery explained it is vital to do bloodwork prior to starting your dog on heartworm prevention medication. This is because it is extremely dangerous to begin prevention treatment if your dog already has the disease. If heartworm is already imbedded in your dog’s heart, these medications can endanger your dog’s safety. So it’s important to wait for the test results from your veterinarian to confirm that your dog does NOT have heartworm BEFORE you proceed on June 1st to give your dog the heartworm prevention medicine. The FDA explains why the blood test for heartworm is required.

What about natural prevention methods?

I have heard about natural products from other dog owners and dog professionals. And it’s up to you if you wish to do that research. I, myself, tried using one product, Diatomaceous Earth powder several years ago on my own dog. You can buy this product at specialty pet supply stores.

You can learn how Diatomaceous Earth works to kill fleas and ticks on dogs. And read about the low health risks with applying Diatmaceous Earth on your dog.

What I learned

This treatment entailed daily application. As well, I had to monitor that the powder was still on my dog’s body and that it didn’t blow off, rub off or wash away in the rain. And that’s just one natural product. Lots of natural products promise to do the job. Many such remedies either fail to properly shield the pet or are somewhat complicated to maintain everyday and need to be actively managed. And they may not actually be any safer than the medicinal products the vets sell. In fact, they could be even more toxic for your pet or less effective.

So for me, I was reassured by the science cited by Dr. Avery about the pharmaceutical products. And I didn’t want to risk inadvertently harming my dog or giving her an ineffective treatment. The other problem I avoid by using well-researched medications is potentially using natural products incorrectly.

So how can you prevent fleas, ticks, and heartworm from harming your dog?

So I recommend that you talk to your vet NOW to help you decide what products to use to prevent fleas, ticks, and heartworm. You can even search for a holistic vet in your area who is both a licensed medical veterinarian and certified as a naturopath veterinarian. A holistic vet should be able to help you navigate pharmaceutical and holistic options. But my main point in this post is to communicate how vital it is for your health and your dog’s health to make an appointment with a vet now!

Be sure to check out my earlier posts

Yours in better dog care, Judy.

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8 thoughts on “How to prevent fleas, ticks, and heartworm in dogs.”

  1. Thanks for sharing Judy. Ticks are a real problem and are only going to get worse as winter temperatures warm. I had a tick on myself in March. Got it off in time, thankfully. My Newf Lily had Lyme disease last year and recovered well, but it is scary to see them struggle to walk. She got the disease despite being on topical prevention.

    1. So scary to find a tick on your own body! From what I understand from my veterinarian, Lyme disease is reasonable to treat in dogs but there is no cure or very difficult to cure in humans. Just wondering, it sounded like in your story about ticks in your area, that Lily is given the topical tick prevention (likely on the back of her neck)? According to my veterinarian, both the topical and chewable treatments don’t repel the ticks (or fleas) but can only kill them when the tick or flea bites the dog and feeds off the blood. So it’s not impossible for ticks or fleas to be found on the dog until it bites. And because it takes a significant amount of time for a tick to imbedded itself into the flesh of the dog, the tick will die before it becomes imbedded and transmit disease. And because your dog is a thick full furry dog, I guess it can be expected that the tick could live in the fur if it never bites Lily. Ugh…one more thing to worry to keep your loving big furry Lily safe!

  2. A good review of options Judy. They basically mirrored what we learned from our vet once we adopted Ray and started talking with them. Sadly, heart-worm is still not taken seriously by many dog owners around here.

    1. Yes Colin, that’s so true! I have had many clients over the years who underestimate the importance of having the blood work done to test for heartworm as they question the cost for to this test and for the prevention meds. I try to spread the word of how our dogs are dependent on us to protect them from this dangerous infection that can be transmitted by mosquitoes. Please share this information to help educate pet parents.

What are your thoughts?

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