5 min read
Should I Keep Giving My Dog Flea and Tick Medication During the Winter?
By Kim Rain
Published: 12/22/2021, edited: 12/22/2021
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Our dogs love being outside, but there can be some hidden dangers lurking in the tall grass. Fleas and ticks lie in wait for a warm body, and when they sense it, they jump onto your dog. From there, they can bite your furry pal, possibly infect them with a deadly disease, and infest your home, other pets and you!
Oral and topical medications are simple and easy methods to prevent fleas and ticks from infesting your dog and home in the first place. For many pet parents, these products work wonderfully to keep their dogs parasite free throughout the warm and hot months of a typical flea and tick season. But once the temperature cools and the tall grass is dampened down by rain and snow in the winter, it may seem that your dog is in the clear.
Is it necessary to give flea and tick preventative medications to dogs during winter? Is your dog safe from infestation without them? Let’s explore when fleas and ticks are active, what happens to them when the weather turns cold, and why you should always keep giving your dog preventative medications to keep them safe all winter long, no matter where you live.
When is flea and tick season?
Flea and tick season can vary in different parts of the country. In most of the U.S., it starts in March, April or May and stretches to November and December, when northern states are already getting snow. Arkansas sees their season start as early as February, and Alaska’s season runs from May to October. But along the West Coast, and most southern coastal states, flea and tick season is year-round.
For the West Coast, Southwest and southern states, it makes sense that the season is so much longer as these areas stay warmer throughout the year, making conditions perfect for these parasites to thrive. But in areas that see temperatures drop to freezing with sleet, snow and icy conditions, your dog can still be at risk from fleas and ticks. You see, ‘flea and tick season’ simply means that fleas and ticks are most active during those months, but they don’t completely disappear outside of that time.
Can dogs get fleas and ticks in the winter?
Yes, they certainly can! Many areas of the U.S. don’t get cold enough to actually kill these parasites in the winter, and those in wintery climates can survive some cold temperatures by finding warm places to hide until just the right warm body walks by. Cue your dog who is finding a good spot to relieve themselves, sniffing out a scent trail, taking a refreshing winter walk with you, or just having a blast playing in the snow. Before they know it, suddenly, they’ve got a flea or tick who hangs on until they find the blissful warmth of your home.
Check out these facts about fleas and ticks to see why your dog is still at risk, no matter how cold it gets outside.
- Outdoors, fleas can survive in temperatures down to 30 degrees F for up to five days
- Flea eggs can hatch in the winter, often due to being laid in warmer areas
- Fleas can find shelter in barns, porches, crawl spaces and garages
- Fleas can survive on animals, and in animal nests too!
- Fleas can hitch a ride on mice and rodents into garages and homes
- Fleas inside a home aren’t affected by the cold temperatures outside, and continue their normal breeding cycles
- Fleas can go dormant in a deep frost, re-emerging on a warmer day
- Ticks are still active in temperatures as low as 32 degrees F
- Temperatures must be below 10 degrees F for several days to actually kill ticks
- Ticks feast on deer, moose, birds and rodents which continue to move about in winter through woodlands, wetlands, grasslands, mountains, and even backyards
- Ticks thrive in the woods, tall grasses, shrubs, brush and undergrowth between hosts
- The winter tick hatches in late summer and remains active in cooler months, and can live on a host through the entire winter season
- The blacklegged tick that spreads Lyme disease begins their prime feeding around the first freeze, and will attach to dogs or humans if there aren’t any deer nearby
- Ticks can go dormant under brush and leaf litter through winter, activating when they sense a warm temperature- which could just be a warmer winter day
All it takes is a moment for your dog to meet a flea or tick, as these creatures are still outside waiting for a host to come along. But there are other factors that can keep fleas and ticks a problem for dogs in the winter.
- Changes in temperature and humidity can create warmer conditions than normal, meaning fleas and ticks can remain active.
- Global warming and climatic changes are affecting the seasons, making many winters warmer overall.
- Visits to kennels, boarders, dog parks, groomers and daycares can expose your dog to other flea or tick infested canines, as both parasites can live indefinitely on a host no matter how cold it gets.
So, while your dog’s chances of attracting fleas or ticks can be lower in the winter, they still can become infested in colder conditions.
Why are fleas and ticks so bad, anyway?
Now that we’ve dispelled the myth that fleas and ticks die in the winter, you may be wondering why they are such a threat to your four-legged pal?
Here are a few terrifying reasons you want to protect your dog from these pests:
- Fleas lay 50 eggs a day, meaning that one flea can lay 2,000 eggs in their lifetime. Eggs hatch in 2 to 7 days, and mate and lay another 2,000 eggs within a week to 10 days- meaning an infestation of dog, home and humans happens quickly.
- A flea bite can trigger flea bite hypersensitivity in dogs, resulting in itchiness, excessive self-grooming, skin infections and hair loss.
- Ticks can carry bacteria that causes deadly diseases in dogs and humans, including Lyme disease, Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, Bartonellosis, Ehrlichiosis and Anaplasmosis.
- Ticks can serve as a host themselves to several protozoal populations, and can transmit Babesiosis and Hepatozoonosis.
While tick and flea prevention often begins by keeping the grass in the yard short, cleaning up debris, and keeping an eye on your dog for signs of the critters, once monthly flea and tick preventative medications like Nexgard or Advantage II are the best solutions to keeping these pesky parasites from jumping on your dog at all.
And if you think these medications cost too much, just consider the cost of treating a flea bite hypersensitivity which can be as much as $600, or a tick-transmitted disease, such as Lyme disease or Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever which can skyrocket at $6, 000 to $8,000!
Should you keep giving your dog flea and tick medication through the winter, no matter how cold it is? The answer is a resounding YES!
Is your dog at risk of flea or tick bites? Compare Wag! Wellness plans and choose the pawfect add-on that covers flea, tick and heartworm medications to keep your dog protected and stop those parasites in their tracks!
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