The Bugs Don’t Know It’s Time to Stop Being Bugs

itchy dog
It’s fall in Chicago, and the evening cicada blare slowly becomes quiet, the sweaters and hoodies come out for evening dog walks, and our collective thoughts turn to football, hockey, and basketball (and a once-a-millennium Cubs playoff run). As the annual and collective city preparations for the upcoming Midwestern freeze begins, it’s easy to start daydreaming about pumpkins, apple cider, going back to school, and how fast the Bears will disappoint. But as easy as it is to stray, we urge you not to lose focus on taking all the same protective measures you took for your animals during the summer months.

As nice as it would be, turning the calendar page to September doesn’t alert the fleas, ticks, and mosquitoes that it’s time to go home and leave our dogs alone. We commonly hear clients tell us that they stop their flea/tick and heartworm protection once it gets cold and, unfortunately, these are the most common times that our pets become susceptible. This September we’ve already seen the temperatures hit above 90°, and there’s no way to know if there’ll be more of this. Even if your city dog or cat goes out for just moments, she can be exposed to all the same dangers as in the middle of July.

And what are these dangers?

Fleas: All cats and dogs are susceptible to flea infestations. And even if you don’t see fleas on your pets RIGHT NOW, they may still be there waiting to hatch or latch. Fleas not only can cause severe allergic reactions in your animals, but also can just as easily jump onto and irritate human skin as well. All of this can be so easily taken care of by giving your pet monthly flea and tick protection. There are many available, but please check with us if you elect to search for this medication somewhere other than at a veterinary clinic.

Ticks: We hear all the time that owners don’t administer tick protection because they live in the city. We also see ticks all the time on dogs who have never left their block (or even their high-rise home). Ticks not only can cause severe skin issues, but can carry with them some horrible diseases, some of which (such as Lyme disease) can be transmitted to you and your human loved ones. Why take that chance when flea and tick preventative is so easy to give.

Mosquitoes: We primarily worry about mosquitoes carrying heartworm disease, and this one worry is enough reason to not ease up on your heartworm prevention. If a September or November mosquito lands on your dog, and transmits heartworm disease, the result can be expensive, painful, leave longstanding effects, and may be fatal. Cats are less susceptible to getting heartworm disease, but generally have a much greater fatality rate if infected.

The safest thing to do is to keep your pets on flea and tick/heartworm preventatives all year long. We wish it was as easy as saying that as soon as the temperature hits a certain degree, then you can stop, but the unfortunate thing is that we can’t predict whether it will get cold in late September or early November or warm in late February or early March. The chances of getting bit by a mosquito during a January ice storm are pretty low, but the weather’s up-and-down fluxes make predictability impossible.

It is so easy to enjoy fall with your cats and dogs in the city, but hopefully you can avoid having any 6- or 8-legged party crashers there to ruin the atmosphere.

Thank you,

Brett Grossman, DVM
Drew Sullivan, DVM
Medical District Veterinary Clinic at Illinois