Winter has arrived in North America! As the air becomes more frigid and your pet starts spending more time inside, you may start thinking that it’s a good time to give your dog a break from their flea and tick medication.
Here are answers to common pet owner questions about winter fleas and ticks that might change your mind:
Does My Dog Still Need Flea and Tick Medication in the Winter?
Yes! Although fleas and ticks become dormant or at least slow down in cold weather, many areas across the United States are no longer reaching consistent temperatures that would typically stop all flea and tick activity. Since fleas and ticks carry diseases that are harmful to your dog, we highly recommend keeping them on regular flea and tick prevention treatment throughout the year.
Are Fleas and Ticks Active in Winter?
Although ticks prefer warm and humid environments, they are becoming more prominent during colder months. Due to factors such as climate change, changing migration patterns of wildlife, and deforestation, the geographic distribution of fleas and ticks has grown wider. However, even when temperatures are near freezing, ticks can stay alive.
For example, the Blacklegged tick, a known carrier of Lyme disease, begins its primary feeding period around the time when the first frost settles. Blacklegged ticks survive off the warm bodies of hosts, such as deer, meaning that if your dog frequents outdoor areas populated by deer, they might just bring home an unwanted hitchhiker. Gulf Coast Ticks, known to transmit tick paralysis, can also remain a wintertime nuisance, since they’re active in temperatures as low as 39 degrees! You never know when weather may let up just enough for ticks to become active, so your best bet is to keep your pet protected year-round.
Fleas can also be a year-round nuisance in mild climates. Even when temperatures begin to drop, fleas often seek refuge by hiding in places like barns, crawlspaces, or even inside your home. They also tend to become active after wet weather events, so if you live in an area prone to hurricanes or rain, it is critical to keep your dog current on flea prevention medication to avoid infestation. Additionally, if you plan to travel during the holidays to an area where the climate tends to be mild, you should ensure that your dog’s flea prevention is up to date to keep them protected against anything harmful that fleas carry.
How Do I Know If My Dog Has a Flea or Tickborne Illness?
The symptoms your dog will display from a tickborne illness depend on the illness contracted. Ehrlichiosis, for example, is an illness transmitted by brown dog ticks that can present symptoms like:
- Depression and/or lack of energy
- Loss of appetite
- Runny eyes and nose/discharge
- Spontaneous nose bleeds
- Bruising on gums and belly
- Lameness/joint pain
- Spontaneous and shifting leg lameness
- Reluctance to move
Depending on the tickborne illness, your dog may show no symptoms or symptoms may take several months to display. Since signs may be subtle or appear like those of other common illnesses, we recommend speaking to your veterinarian to screen for tickborne illness at your dog’s annual exam rather than waiting for symptoms to appear.
How Do You Treat Tickborne Illness?
Treatment measures depend on the illness. For example, tickborne illnesses such as Lyme disease are commonly treated with antibiotics. Unfortunately, the diagnostics and treatment of a parasite (including fleas, ticks, giardia, heartworms, roundworms, and more) are excluded from pet insurance coverage, since they are a preventable condition. For more information on exclusions, check out AKC Pet Insurance’s sample terms and conditions page.
How Can I Protect My Dog from Winter Fleas and Ticks?
There are several ways to protect your dog from tick and fleaborne disease:
- Learn which parasites live in your state
- Check your dog daily for fleas and ticks
- Safely remove ticks as quickly as possible
- Make your yard less attractive to fleas and ticks by clearing out unnecessary brush and tall grass
- Avoid crushing or squeezing a tick to prevent transmission of its bodily fluids to your dog
- Use topical prevention, such as flea and tick collars or shampoos, to deter pests
- If you own multiple dogs, make sure they are treated at the same time
- If your dog has fleas or ticks, treat their environment as well to prevent spread
- Read the label on your dog’s flea and tick preventive medicine to make sure it is meant for dogs
The best way to keep your dog defended against fleas or ticks is by keeping them up to date on year-round flea and tick prevention.
If you’re unsure when your state has its peak flea and tick season, check out this map from the American Kennel Club to learn where and when your dog is most vulnerable. AKC Pet Insurance (underwritten by Independence American Insurance Company) offers wellness coverage that provides reimbursement for routine and preventive care expenses, like your dog’s flea and tick prevention. Wellness coverage is not subject to waiting periods, coinsurance, deductible, or annual limit, and can be added to our base Accident and Illness plans.
If you want to learn more about wellness coverage or get a pet insurance quote, check out our quote tool or give us a call at 866-725-2747!