Local veterinarians are worried that a mild winter and early spring could put dogs at greater risk of diseases such as heartworm and Lyme disease.
A recent spike in the number of Lyme-positive dogs likely means ticks in the area are carrying the disease, and that means humans also risk getting it.
Local veterinary clinics have seen 11 dogs in the Ottawa area test positive for the disease in recent weeks.
Dogs infected with the disease don't always show symptoms, but people generally do. The symptoms in humans range from rashes to flu-like symptoms, and can lead to severe neurological problems.
Gets dogs prepared for spring early, vets warn
Dr. Kevin McIntosh said people should be checking themselves and their dogs for ticks after a hike, and that it's best to keep pets on cleared trails and out of long grass, if possible.
McIntosh said he and other veterinarians in the area are encouraging dog owners to get their heartworm medication now — a full month ahead of schedule — due to fears of an early mosquito season. Mosquitoes spread heartworm.
He also said some new collars and and topical ointments are effective at repelling ticks and mosquitoes.
Resident Wendy Miller told CBC she prepares every year.
"If I do happen to be out in tall grass I try to tuck my pants into boots. But for the dog, he gets flea and tick protection every spring along with his heartworm," Miller said.