Like any pet owner, there’s a good chance you’re on high alert for fleas and ticks during the summer months, especially if your pooch likes to spend a significant portion of his time outdoors. While winter comes with an entirely different set of concerns, a common misconception among pet owners is that the cold months indicate a break from those pesky pests.
Unfortunately, many dogs are prone to fleas and ticks year-round; if you’ve put away your dog’s flea and tick medications for the season, you may want to dig them back out to keep your pooch feeling comfortable and pest-free.
Can Dogs Get Ticks and Fleas in the Winter?
Ticks can survive in temperatures as low as 40 degrees Fahrenheit; fleas can still post a problem when temperatures are in the upper 30s—especially when there’s a host or warm spot to hide. While some flea and tick species go dormant in the winter, some areas of the country just don’t get cold enough to truly ward off those parasitic pests.
Even in colder climates when fleas and ticks go dormant, weather fluctuations and one day of mild temperatures can cause them to become active again. All it takes is for one of those pesky fleas to latch onto your pup and get carried inside to the warmth, and suddenly you have a pest problem in your home.
Regardless of the outdoor temperatures, fleas are able to survive in warm areas—including your home. In fact, flea pupae can remain dormant for over a year until their environment warms up… and most homes tend to be fairly warm and cozy during the winter months! As long as there’s a suitable victim…er, host… such as your dog, dog fleas will generally have no trouble surviving and multiplying throughout the colder temperatures.
Additionally, it’s possible for your pet to pick up fleas or ticks if the two of you take a winter trip to an area of the country where those pests are active year-round. Basically, no matter where you live, there’s no strictly defined “flea season.” In other words, it’s best to stay on top of your dog’s flea and tick medications regardless of the season.
Signs of Dog Fleas or Ticks
You know your dog’s typical appearance and behavior best, so you’ll likely be able to tell pretty easily when something is wrong.
If you’ve got a case of winter (or any time of year) dog fleas or ticks, you may notice the following signs:
- Itching, scratching, or biting the skin
- Hair loss, especially around the neck and tail
- Small red bumps on the skin
- “Flea dirt,” which looks like black specks that resemble coffee grounds
- Ticks (yes, they’re typically pretty easy to identify when you look closely)
Because ticks and fleas can transmit diseases, you may also notice other signs of sickness, such as lethargy and appetite loss. Talk to your vet anytime you notice that something seems “off” about your dog so you can rule out and/or address any serious health conditions.
Year-Round Pest Protection for Your Pet
Not only are dog fleas and ticks uncomfortable for your pet, but they can also transmit diseases that can lead to more serious health problems down the road. In order to keep your pet protected all year long, it’s best to keep flea and tick prevention at the top of your mind.
Some tips for keeping your pet pest-free include:
Stay on schedule with your dog’s flea and tick treatments, no matter what the weather looks like outside.
Conduct regular home health checks to inspect your dog’s skin and coat for abnormalities.
Visit the vet for regular checkups.
Vacuum your rugs and carpets (a favorite hiding spot for fleas!) regularly.
Clean debris from your yard, garage, and other areas of your home that be an inadvertent hiding spot for fleas and ticks to stay warm.
- Add supplemental support. For example, coconut oil makes it harder for fleas, ticks, and mites to latch onto your dog’s skin; garlic can also help to make your dog less appealing to pests.
You can also try Pet Honesty’s Flea & Tick Defense Chews, made from a blend of specifically formulated levels of natural ingredients including coconut oil, garlic, and brewer’s yeast to defend your dog from fleas and ticks. Plus, these tasty chews can help to strengthen your pup’s immune, joint, and skin health.
Please note that these chews should be used as a supplement to your dog’s existing flea and tick medications—not as a replacement.