Protect Your Pet From Mosquitoes—Yes, Even In the Winter
It’s winter. So you can finally take a break from parasite prevention. No need to worry about those warm weather bugs that plague your pet during the spring and summer months, right?
Southern climates, while colder during winter months, still harbor an element of surprise. If you’ve lived in Greenville, SC for long, you know that a warm, rainy day can often follow a week-long cold snap. Unfortunately, that 60-degree day in the middle of freezing or near-freezing weather could be just enough to allow fleas, ticks, and especially mosquitoes to begin hatching once again.
Mosquitoes, like many other insects, hibernate during the winter, laying eggs just before it gets cold so they are ready to hatch in the spring with the warm temperatures. However, many species’ eggs can hatch in temperatures of just 50-degrees or higher.
Why Mosquitoes are so Dangerous for your Pets
Mosquitoes carry many diseases that are painful, or even life-threatening, for our pets. While West Nile Virus, various forms of encephalitis, and other diseases are all a concern, contracting heartworms is, by far, the greatest risk that mosquitoes pose for your pets.
Heartworms are present in 49 out of our 50 states (Alaska, you’re lucky) —but are more common in the southeast where mosquitoes are much more prevalent. Just one bite from an infected mosquito is enough to give your dog heartworms, which is a condition that is easy to prevent but both difficult and costly to cure. Cats can also contract heartworms from infected mosquitoes, but they are more resistant to the disease; for every 100 dogs who contract heartworms you will find about 10 infected cats. Left untreated, heartworms are always fatal to dogs and often fatal to cats.
How You can Protect Your Pet From Mosquitoes in the Winter
There are several ways to keep your pet protected from mosquitoes and other pests and parasites year-round.
Keep up preventative medications
The best thing you can do to protect your pet is to keep up preventative meds. Even in colder weather, make sure you continue to give your pets their monthly heartworm treatment, since a primary concern of mosquitoes around pets is heartworm infestation. Fortunately, these medications aren’t expensive—and can save you hundreds or thousands in the long-run compared to heartworm treatments. Not only that, but of course the life of your pet is priceless.
Keep in mind that you’ll want to maintain your pet’s monthly flea and tick medications, too, especially since many of these medications also protect them from mosquitoes. Keeping up the regimen also ensures that you won’t forget to administer medication when spring returns since you’ll have a strict medication schedule already in place.
Don’t use human repellents
You should never assume that what works for you will work equally well for your pet. Like many other medications and treatments, DEET isn’t nearly as effective for animals as it is for people. In fact, DEET can even cause your pet to experience seizures, skin allergies, and vomiting, so it’s best to steer clear.
Clean up standing water around your house
As in the summer, standing water is a breeding ground for mosquitos, and cleaning it up can go a long way toward reducing the mosquito population. Check around the house, the basement, and in your yard for places that might have caught standing water at the turn of the season, making sure to include any outdoor water dishes your pet uses, too. Fill any puddles you find with dirt or sand and remember to empty your pet’s outdoor water dish at the end of each day, refreshing it in the morning. Don’t forget about flowers pots, and bird baths. If you are able, putting in a french drain around your house can direct water away from your foundation and keep water from pooling in your yard as well.