Fall is only days away, and as the weather turns colder and the days grow shorter, we at Woodland Veterinary Hospital tend to hear a common question from our clients: “I don’t need to apply flea prevention during the fall/winter, right? Fleas can’t survive the cold.” Unfortunately, this is just not true!
Myth: Fleas and ticks are a warm-weather problem
There is a common belief that fleas and ticks are only a seasonal concern: they come out in warmer weather and die off in colder seasons. We look forward to those first frosts that seem to send the little pests packing and give us a few months respite before the darn things reappear. Unfortunately, even in cold weather, fleas can survive in many places, including underground in burrows, in sheds and outbuildings, under decks and around foundations – where the temperatures, food supply, and overall conditions are sufficient to maintain a population of reproducing fleas. Ticks are also capable of surviving surprisingly cold temperatures.
The reality is that these critters possess an incredible ability to survive, and when conditions in the environment become more ideal, the population can explode. Cold weather may reduce – but doesn’t eliminate – flea and tick infestations. Our doctors at WVH strongly encourage the use of flea prevention year-round for this very reason. It’s very difficult to eradicate a flea problem, and it only takes one flea to lay hundreds of eggs and start an infestation in your home. Prevention is the safest and most cost-effective way to combat this problem
In addition to regular monthly flea prevention, here is a helpful list of potential problem areas around your home that might put your pet at risk. Many of them can be combated with regular yard maintenance and care:
The autumn season is probably best known for the beautiful changes it brings to the colors of leaves just before they begin to fall to the ground. Though they may be a pretty sight and a blast for kids (or pets) to play in, leaf piles can also be a haven for fleas, which prefer to congregate in humid areas away from bright sunlight.
Solution: Rake up fallen leaves regularly and immediately bag and dispose of them in a secure trash receptacle.
Ticks love to climb up tall grasses so that they can grab onto a passing animal or human.
Solution: Mow your lawn regularly and trim back branches so they don’t jut out towards walking areas.
Outdoor Feeding/Sleeping Areas
Does your pet frequently sleep outdoors or do you leave out food and water bowls for them? Fleas and ticks recognize these high traffic areas – whether they are trafficked by your pet or a wild animal like a raccoon or possum – and lie in wait until they can latch onto a host.
Solution: Regularly clean out sleeping areas, especially if there are pillows inside. Also, if possible, remove food and water bowls after your pet uses them and/or before nighttime. Raccoons and possums are opportunistic feeders and will eat or drink anything left out. They also are frequently teeming with ticks and fleas.
What if My Pet Doesn’t Go Outdoors Much?
Even if your dog stays close to home, fleas and ticks are canny creatures, and they have ways of making it into your home and onto your pets, even with preventions in place. All it takes is a few fleas or ticks to get established in your yard before you have a full-scale infestation on your hands.
Visit your veterinarian for advice on the best preventive medications and the safest way to use them. Your doctor will be able to show you the proper way to apply these medications and recommend just the right dose for your pet’s age and weight. Some people also choose flea and tick preventatives based on their personal preferences or the lifestyles of their pets.