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, your dog can get fleas all year round. The pesky little creatures feed on your furry friend's 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 but 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 is that they can't seem to stop scratching, no matter how much you tell them 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 hair loss around the bite. Live fleas may be seen with the naked eye crawling all over your furry friend's 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 them give your itchy, scratchy friend a complete examination.
How Do I Treat My Dog's Fleas?
There are many over-the-counter (OTC) flea shampoos, collars, and spot treatments readily available at most pet care stores and from your local vet.
However, treating your dog for a case of winter fleas is only the beginning. You also have to treat your home. This includes carpets, your dog's bed, and anything they come into contact with. If you don't, you can all but guarantee a return visit once the eggs hatch.
Under normal circumstances, once you begin 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 flea-related 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, can result in death. If you see any sign of these conditions, be sure to contact your veterinarian immediately.
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
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, your pooch lays down next to the fireplace and starts scratching incessantly.
You think to yourself, "It's the middle of winter! There is no way he can have fleas... is there?"
The reality is that your pup can, and most likely does, have fleas. Flea eggs can survive in temperatures below freezing for months. All it takes is for your furry companion 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.