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Many insects overwinter or hibernate during the cooler months of the year. For the most part, they seemingly disappear until spring. That can lead many pet parents to believe that their pets aren’t at risk for fleas during the winter, meaning some pet parents might slack on giving their dogs flea preventatives.
Can dogs get fleas in the winter? The temperatures may be colder, but that doesn’t mean the pests stop becoming a problem until the weather warms up again. The truth is that a flea infestation can occur at any time of year, regardless of the outdoor temperatures.
Do fleas go away in the winter? Unlike other pests, fleas don’t hibernate. While their activity levels may slow during the colder months, they don’t simply disappear.
Adult fleas are hardy. They can survive in temperatures as low as the 40s. So, while they may remain more active outdoors in areas that experience mild winters, that doesn’t mean pet parents in regions that experience cold temperatures don’t need to worry about them.
While adults may start to die off outdoors once temperatures dip below 46° F, the flea lifecycle helps the pests to survive. Female fleas can begin laying eggs within 24 to 48 hours after biting a dog. A single female can lay upwards of 50 eggs a day. Some of those eggs may fall off indoors. She may also lay eggs in insulated areas outdoors, such as sheds, dog houses, and crawl spaces.
Flea eggs can survive unhatched in carpet fibers or on other surfaces for up to six months, waiting for the ideal environment to hatch. Indoors, a dog’s body heat is enough to activate them, creating a rapidly growing flea population despite freezing temperatures outside. For this reason, there is no true flea season. The risk of getting fleas outdoors might decrease in some parts of the country, but they’re a year-round problem everywhere.
There are plenty of things a pet parent can do to protect their dog and their home from fleas in winter. One of the easiest ways to do this is to continue using a flea preventative on their pet, no matter how cold it gets outside or how safe they think their dog may be.
Maintaining a clean home helps prevent flea infestations indoors. Pet parents should sweep and vacuum regularly. Along with their carpets, they may also want to run their vacuum over their sofa and chair cushions. They’ll want to empty the vacuum canister after each session, tie the garbage bag tightly, and take it out immediately. They should also wash all pet and human bedding in warm soapy water at least every two weeks.
Along with routine cleaning, pet parents can keep their home (and their dog) safe with an indoor flea treatment like MyCodex Plus Environmental Control. The aerosol spray works quickly to eliminate all four stages of fleas, effectively breaking their life cycle and providing long-lasting protection.
Pet parents shouldn’t forget about the area around their home, especially if they live in a milder climate. They should keep their yard free of debris, take steps to deter rodents and other wild animals, and consider using an outdoor flea treatment.
Finding one or more fleas on a dog is the most obvious sign of a flea problem. However, in the early stages of a flea infestation, pet parents may not notice them. There may be a few other signs, though, including:
Frequent scratching: Flea bites can trigger skin allergies in many dogs, which can lead to extreme itchiness.
Chewing/biting: Some dogs may chew itchy parts of their bodies that they can’t reach with their feet.
Skin redness: Excessive scratching can leave skin red and irritated. Dogs may break the skin, leading to sores and scabbing.
Hair loss: Scratching, biting, and licking can result in patches of missing fur.
Flea dirt: A pet parent may find black specks resembling pepper (flea dirt or excrement) in their dog’s fur or bedding.
Pet parents should consider investing in a flea comb. If they suspect their dog may have fleas, they can run it through their fur to check for adult fleas and flea dirt. They may also want to use the comb periodically even if their dog isn’t exhibiting any signs. It can help them detect a potential problem before it gets out of hand.
There are many ways to treat and prevent fleas:
Oral medications like Capstar can help stop a flea infestation by killing active adult fleas in as little as 30 minutes after the first dose. It achieves more than 90% effectiveness within four hours.
The downside to oral medications is that this medication only remains in a dog’s system for up to 48 hours. They’re also only effective against adult fleas, not eggs or larvae. For longer term prevention or treatment prescription flea medication for dogs can deliver full-month or multi-month coverage, though only some states allow online vet prescriptions to be written for this category of medication.
To help eliminate fleas at more than just the adult stage, pet parents can also use topical treatments or flea shampoos. Whichever one they choose, they should take care to avoid getting the product into their dog’s eyes because it can irritate them.
Prevention is the best treatment against a surprise flea infestation at any time of year, including winter. Pet parents have a few options here:
Monthly oral flea preventatives
Monthly topical flea prevention
While these flea products repel unwanted pests, they can’t stop them from jumping onto a dog. They kill adult fleas before they have a chance to start laying eggs. Oral medications offer a mess-free solution and are great for dogs who spend a lot of time in the water. However, they can cause stomach upset. It can also be a struggle to get some canines to take them. Topical options may be easier to apply but may cause skin irritation in some dogs.
Pet parents should speak with their primary vet or an online vet to determine the best prevention method.
So, are fleas active in winter? Absolutely. While their outdoor activity may slow as the temperatures drop, they can still hop on dogs to use them as a food source. No matter where they live, pet parents should take measures to prevent a potential flea problem in their homes.
The best defense against fleas is prevention. Keeping the house clean, applying an indoor flea treatment, and providing regular preventative medication can help protect a dog (and the home) from a potential flea infestation.
As Fuzzy members, pet parents can get their pet’s flea prevention delivered right to their door for less. They’re also eligible for discounts on a wide range of vet-approved products and have access to Fuzzy’s team of professional online vets 24/7. Together, pet parents and Fuzzy can help keep dogs safe from fleas and other health issues all year round.