Can Dogs Get Fleas in the Winter?

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Most dog owners dread spring and summer, when fleas seem to run rampant everywhere you take your favorite canine friend. It can seem as though all you do during the warmer months is fight fleas on your dog and in your home. But can your dog get fleas in the winter months when temperatures are significantly cooler?

Can Dogs Get Fleas in the Winter?

YES!

Not only can your dog get fleas all year round, but so can you! Both of you can easily spend hours scratching yourself silly as these pesky little creatures feed on your blood and leave a series of nasty red bites behind.

While people tend to be less susceptible to being attacked by fleas at any time of year, you may still want to keep an eye on your socks and pants when you come into the house. And even when the weather outside is frosty, your dog may still be able to bring home a fresh new family of fleas during the winter months. The cold weather tends to make fleas more dormant-- and the warmth of your home is enough to keep them alive and well. And as we all know healthy fleas reproduce at an incredible rate.

Does My Dog Have Fleas?

The first indication your poor pup may have picked up a few fleas along the way is that he can't seem to stop scratching, no matter how much you tell him to stop. You may also see red spots (bite marks), tiny black spots (flea excrement), and hot spots (skin lesions).

The welts are the result of the flea bites, as they tend to irritate the skin. When a flea bites your dog, its saliva may cause an allergic reaction that leads to the redness and itching. If your dog has an allergy to the saliva, it can also cause him to lose hair around the bite.

There are several ways to tell if your dog has fleas, first there are the red bite marks, then there are live fleas that can be seen with the naked eye crawling all over his body, and of course, there is the constant scratching.

If you would like to learn more about fleas and your dog, our guide to Fleas in Dogs is filled with a wealth of useful information. You may also want to talk to your dog's vet and have him give your itchy, scratchy friend a complete examination.

How Do I Treat My Dog's Fleas?

Treatment

There are many over-the-counter (OTC) flea shampoos, collars, and spot treatments readily available at most department stores and from your local vet.

However, treating your dog for his case of winter fleas is only the beginning. You also have to treat your home. This includes carpets, your dog's bed, and anything he comes into contact with. If you don't, you can all but guarantee a return visit once the eggs hatch.


Recovery

Under normal circumstances, once you have begun treating your dog for fleas, the adult fleas will die, anywhere from immediately to within a few hours. The itching and scratching may take a couple of days to go away depending on the severity of the infestation.

Your dog may develop other conditions that require the attention of your vet, including skin allergies, scabbing, loss of hair, infections, and potentially, flea bite induced anemia, which left untreated may result in death. If you see any signs of these conditions, be sure to contact your veterinarian immediately. For more information regarding your dog and flea bites, be sure to visit our Condition Guide .

How Are Flea Bites Similar in Dogs and Humans?

There are many ways in which flea bites affect both humans and dogs similarly:

  • In both humans and dogs, flea bites leave behind hard red welts

  • In both humans and dogs, flea bites are very itchy

  • Both humans and dogs can carry fleas into the home

  • Both humans and dogs can be allergic to flea bites

How Are Flea Bites Different in Dogs and Humans?

Just as there are several similar ways in which flea bites affect humans and dogs, there are several ways in which they are different.

  • Dogs are more prone to infestation because most humans bathe on a daily basis

  • Dogs can get flea bite anemia, this is extremely rare in humans

  • Fleas bites on dogs can cause tapeworms and several other medical conditions that humans are not vulnerable to

Case Study

Let's set the stage, it’s the middle of winter with 3 feet of snow on the ground and the temperature has been hovering below freezing for days on end. Suddenly, Rover lays down next to the fireplace and starts scratching like a mad dog.

You think to yourself, "It's the middle of winter! There is no way he can have fleas... is there?"

The reality is that Rover can, and most likely does, have fleas. Flea eggs can survive in temperatures below freezing for months. All it takes is for Rover to brush up against something the eggs were hidden in for them to transfer to his body where they will hatch in the warmth of your home.

Although many people discontinue using flea preventative treatments in the winter, this just opens the gateway for a winter infestation. Talk to your vet about continuing flea treatments all year round to keep your four footed best friend safe and happy.