Should you give your dog flea & tick protection in the winter?

Posted by on Jan 19, 2016 in Dog Health

Winter Flea Tick Protection

Many of our vet clients have the same question around this time of year: Should we be giving our dog flea/tick protection during the winter months? This is a great question, and something we wanted to explore further.

What is Flea/Tick Medication?

The two most common types of flea/tick protection are Nexgard and Frontline Plus. The purpose of these medications is to prevent and kill fleas and ticks and therefore help with the protection against flea- and tick-born illnesses.

Nexgard is a chewable tablet which is dosed by weight and given once per month. Nexgard’s site states that Nexgard “Kills adult fleas before they lay eggs, and kills ticks, too.” The chewable should last for a full 30 days at which time you would administer the next chewable. Dogs generally love the taste making it an easy medication to give.

Frontline Plus is also dosed by weight and is a liquid applied to your dog’s neck by separating the fur and applying directly to the skin. Frontline’s site claims “It doesn’t just kill adult fleas and ticks but also slays the next generation of flea eggs and larvae.” Some people find applying the liquid to be a bit more difficult to administer. However, the liquid is a great alternative to dogs who may be allergic to a chewable.

Why do people choose not to administer flea/tick protection?

In areas like New England, fleas and ticks are not typically prevalent during the winter months, making the medication seem a bit redundant. Flea and tick protection can also be quite expensive, which is why many dog owners decide to hold off the medication in the winter months. Some will choose to discontinue Nexgard or Frontline starting in December and will restart the dosage when the weather begins to warm. This is especially appealing for dogs that spend most of their time indoors, where they are less likely to encounter fleas and ticks.

What are some of the cons of not administering?

Unlike Heartgard Plus, which is a heartworm medication and should be given every month, it is okay to discontinue Nexgard and Frontline Plus and restart the medication after thirty days. Just keep in mind that your dog may not be protected from fleas/ticks during this time. Any time you are changing or discontinuing a medication, you should consult with your veterinarian.

Ticks can carry harmful diseases including lyme, ehrlichoiosis and anaplasmosis. Fleas can cause a tapeworm infestation. If you’re choosing not to administer protection for expense reasons, just keep in mind that treating any disease will be more expensive than administering the monthly medication. Additionally, your dog will likely experience discomfort or pain with any flea- or tick-born illness.

Making the choice to not administer flea/tick protection due to the weather can also be concerning. The infamous New England weather is subject to change all of the time. If your dog is active outdoors (hiking, skiing, sledding), flea/tick can protect your dog against ticks that may have burrowed beneath the snow. We heard from many clients whose dogs were bit by ticks in mid-December due to unseasonable 60 degree weather in the area.

You should always consult your vet before making any changes to your dog’s medication dosage or schedule. Your vet can help you make an informed decision about whether your dog should receive Nexgard or Frontline Plus this winter.

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