Seasonal medications your pet should be getting

Oct 1, 2013 at 12:00 a.m. ET

Just like humans, pets have a need for medications, especially during certain times of the year. Talk with your veterinarian about whether these medications are right for your pet.

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Fleas, ticks, canine influenza — veterinarians see cases of these rise during certain times of the year and in certain locations. Not sure what protections your pets should be receiving?

Here's a list of seasonal medications recommended by veterinarians, many of which should be given year round to offer the most protection.

Flea and tick preventives

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"It's actually a common misconception that fleas and ticks are summertime threats for cats and dogs," says Dr. Jules Benson, vice president of veterinary services at Petplan pet insurance. "While they are definitely out in abundance at that time of year, many states have year-round activity for fleas and a very wide season for ticks."

If ticks are prevalent in your area, or your dog enjoys the outdoors, ask your vet whether your pet should receive the Lyme disease vaccine as well, Benson advised.


Like fleas and ticks, mosquitoes — which spread heartworm — are year-round nuisances in several areas. Heartworm is a serious and potentially fatal disease in dogs and cats, caused by parasitic worms living in the pulmonary arteries and sometimes the chambers of the heart.

"While mosquitoes seem to be more abundant in warmer, wetter months, they can spread this pet health hazard year round, so it's best to stick to a monthly heartworm preventative," Benson said.

Canine influenza and distemper vaccines

Unlike humans, there is no particular flu season for dogs. However, vets see a rise in both influenza and distemper infections over the winter holidays, Benson said.

"This is because both canine influenza and distemper are very contagious, and increases in grooming appointments and boarding at this time of year gives the diseases opportunity to spread," she said.

There are vaccines for both, but they aren't considered core vaccines. Ask your vet whether your pet should get them.


Any dogs that spend time outdoors are at risk for contracting a bacterial infection called leptospirosis, Benson said.

"The disease is most often contracted from standing water sources or marshy/muddy areas, so many infections occur in the fall season," she said.

An effective vaccine against the most common strains of leptospirosis is available and given annually.

Parvovirus vaccine

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While not strictly seasonal, many vet clinics tend to see cases of parvovirus spike in the spring, when puppy season comes around.

"Puppies naturally have weaker immune systems, placing them at higher risk for infection from this very common virus, so veterinarians recommend it as a core vaccine, or one that all puppies should get," Benson said.


Sometimes we forget pets can get sunburned also — especially those with light-colored skin or short hair.

"Pet-specific sunscreens are available, but children's sunscreen is also appropriate," Benson said. "Use sunscreen on the bridge of the nose, tips of the ears and anywhere that will be exposed where there is sparse hair coverage."

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