Keeping Fleas and Ticks Away- Even in the Winter
Winter is usually a time when we get a break from the bugs that annoy us and our pets. We look forward to taking a reprieve from all the preventative medications. However, winter doesn’t necessarily mean the end of bug season. Insects and parasites can still survive and transmit disease as weather gets cold.
I THOUGHT FLEAS COULDN’T SURVIVE THE WINTER COLD?
The flea is a very resilient pest with a complicated life cycle. It is capable of surviving in outdoor temperatures as low as the upper 30’s. As long as an adult flea can find a host to feed from (such as wild animals or your pet), it can stay alive through the cold season. Their pupae remain in their cocoons until it is warm enough to hatch- as long as they have been protected from freezing cold (for example, a garage, covered patio, or basement). Flea pupae can remain dormant for over one year until their surroundings have reached ideal temperatures! Once conditions are ideal (inside or outside), the pupae will emerge from their cocoons. A temperature of 65-80 degrees is the ideal temperature range for growth and reproduction of fleas. For the majority of pet owners, your home will be at a consistently warm temperature throughout the winter. This means that a flea population can remain active all year long. Only sustained cold (less than 30 degrees) and low humidity levels will kill outdoor eggs, larvae, and adult fleas.
WHAT ABOUT TICKS?
Ticks are also capable of surviving winter temperatures when they are able to find a host to feed from or a warm location to hide. Adult ticks could still be a threat when temperatures hover around 45 degrees. Wild animals can shed parasites close to home, leaving them dormant and waiting for pets. If your pet spends anytime outdoors in the winter, tick prevention is still a good idea. The past few Chicagoland winters have been really mild and the veterinarians at Loyal Companions have still been seeing ticks on pets during the winter months.
DO I NEED TO WORRY ABOUT HEARTWORM DISEASE?
Most geographical areas do enjoy a break from mosquitoes in the winter. However, dormant mosquito larvae can develop in a few days of 50 degree temps. Even if you think you don’t have to worry about mosquitoes during the winter, their return in the spring can catch you off guard. It’s best to be prepared. Veterinarians suggest using heartworm preventative medications year round. This is a much easier method of prevention since you won’t have to remember when to start. Heartworm preventatives recommended by Loyal Companions also protects against intestinal parasites, which is a year-round problem.
Fleas, ticks, and mosquitoes may just seem like nuisance pests, but they are actually capable of causing health problems. It’s best to keep your pet on preventative medications all year round, especially when temperatures fluctaute from day to day.