Fleas are a big problem for dogs. They make them itchy and uncomfortable and can also make them sick. But some people think that dogs only get fleas in the summer. That’s not true! While fleas are more common in warm weather, they can still threaten your furry friend all year round.
Do Dogs Get Fleas in the Winter?
Dogs can get fleas all year round. Many people think fleas die in the cold, so they only protect their dogs during the warmer months. And while it’s true that they prefer the heat and can’t survive for long in temperatures around freezing (32°F), not all winters get that cold.
Even in those that do, fleas can still survive by hiding in warm places like barns, wildlife dens, and houses. They always lurk somewhere, ready to jump onto your dog’s fur. So we must also protect our dogs from fleas throughout the winter months.
Fleas affect all dog breeds and usually infest a dog’s midsection and back end. They are dangerous because they can sometimes pass on diseases like bartonellosis, tapeworms, and plague. They can also cause infection if your dog scratches too hard.
Signs that Dogs Have Fleas in the Winter
There are a few signs that your furry friend might have fleas. If you notice any of these symptoms, it’s important to take action!
Scratching and Licking
Fleas feed on your dog’s blood by biting into their skin. This can make them very itchy and uncomfortable, causing them to lick and scratch themselves frequently. If you notice your dog doing this, it’s a clear sign that they may have fleas.
Patches of Red Skin
Fleas bite can cause red patches on your dog’s skin. These can be especially sore and uncomfortable and may be a sign of flea allergy dermatitis if your dog is susceptible to the bites. If you notice any red patches, taking action and relieving your dog is vital.
Fleas are tiny dark brown bugs often seen jumping around on your dog’s fur. If your dog has fleas, you might also see small black specks on their skin. These specks are actually flea waste and can look like little specks of pepper. To check for fleas, run a fine-tooth comb through your dog’s fur against its growing direction.
Potential Hair Loss
While less common, hair loss can be a symptom of a severe flea infestation. Dogs who are allergic to flea saliva may experience hair loss in areas where they have been bitten repeatedly. This can be very uncomfortable for your dog and may cause them to pull out their own hair.
Rarely, fleas can cause a serious condition known as flea anemia. This occurs when a severe flea infestation leads to a loss of red blood cells, causing your dog’s gums to pale. This condition can be life-threatening and requires immediate veterinary treatment, medication, and sometimes even blood transfusions. Your vet will take a blood sample to determine if your dog has flea anemia.
If you suspect your dog has fleas, it’s essential to take action quickly to get them the relief they need. With prompt treatment, your furry friend can be happy and healthy again in no time!
How Do I Treat & Prevent My Dog Getting Fleas in the Winter?
The following treatments and products can be bought over the counter from pet stores or online, and often from your local veterinary practice.
Spot-on Flea Treatment & Prevention
Spot-on flea treatments are liquid products applied to the skin on the scruff of the neck that kills fleas and their eggs within 24 hours of application and prevents reinfestation for up to 8 weeks. However, you should avoid touching the area until the liquid dries. It is easier to prevent fleas than to get rid of them because they reproduce quickly, so using a preventative regularly is important.
Chewable flea tablets can kill adult fleas within 24 hours but do not kill eggs or prevent future infestations. Therefore, using them alongside a preventative treatment that also targets eggs is necessary.
Insect Growth Regulators
Insect growth regulators (IGRs) are tablets that disrupt the life-cycle of fleas by releasing growth-regulating chemicals into the dog’s bloodstream. When fleas bite them, they ingest the regulator and pass it on to their eggs, preventing them from hatching. IGRs do not kill adult fleas, so they must be used with another treatment that targets adults. IGRs are considered one of the safest flea treatments for dogs, but they can be expensive.
When used correctly, flea shampoos can kill adult fleas and their eggs, but they only provide short-term relief and do not protect against future infestations. Some pet shampoos contain harmful ingredients, so it’s important to avoid products that contain sulfates, parabens, phosphates, DEA, perfumes, or synthetic dyes. Homemade remedies such as coconut oil or a mix of apple cider vinegar and water can temporarily relieve dogs, but they only target adult fleas and not eggs.
Flea collars release chemicals that kill and repel fleas but can have side effects such as skin inflammation, vomiting, and seizures. Additionally, some dogs may experience a bad smell. Flea collars are effective for preventing new infestations for up to 5-8 months, but they do not provide instant relief and should be used alongside other treatments.
Although flea treatments work quickly, your dog may take a few days to stop scratching and licking as their skin heals from the bites.
In The Home
Fleas can infest your home, so it’s important to regularly wash, vacuum, and steam clean all bedding, carpets, and soft furnishings. It’s also important to wash and vacuum your dog’s bed regularly. If necessary, you can use a chemical treatment containing both an adulticide and an insect growth regulator. However, wearing gloves and a mask is essential and ensuring the chemicals have dried before returning to the house.
Fleas in Wintertime – FAQ
Here are some common questions about dogs getting fleas during wintertime answered concisely.
Fleas can’t survive for long in temperatures around freezing, but not all winters get that cold. Even in ones that do, they can still find warm places such as barns and houses to survive.
Dogs can get fleas all year round. Though it is more common in the warmer months, they still pose a threat when it’s cold. So make sure your dog is always protected!
Dog shampoos kill fleas and their eggs on contact but don’t prevent them from returning. Use a spot-on treatment to ensure every aspect of the fleas is removed within 24 hours and that your dog is protected from future infestations.
Hopefully, now you have all the information you need to keep your dog safe from fleas in the winter.