Can Dogs Get Fleas in the Winter?
Fleas tend to thrive in high-humidity environments with warm temperatures. Therefore, warm coastal cities often have the worst flea populations. Dogs get fleas from their yards, especially lawns that aren’t mowed often or where ever there’s lots of brush. Dogs can also get fleas from other infected dogs. Once your dog gets fleas, your home becomes a breeding ground for these pesky bugs. They like to hang out in carpets, bedding and furniture.
But if it’s cold out, can your dogs get fleas in the winter? Spoiler alert: your dogs absolutely can get fleas in the winter. Now, let’s talk about how.
How Do Fleas Survive in the Winter?
In general, fleas cannot survive colder weather below about 30 degrees Fahrenheit for more than five days straight. For anyone who lives in temperate regions that experience a change in seasons, you may know that in general, fleas and other warm-weather loving bugs stop showing up after two hard freezes. It’s possible that if your dog brings fleas into the house, they can survive indefinitely.
A female flea can lay upwards of 50 eggs per day over a course of three months. This can cause havoc in your home or other places fleas can thrive over the winter such as a barn, animal den or under your home.
If winters are not very cold, immature fleas can survive and may lead to a larger spring population.
Should You Try to Prevent Fleas in the Winter?
If your dog spends lots of time outdoors, at dog parks or hiking in the woods with you, preventing fleas should be a year-round activity. First, keep your pet’s bedding clean through regular washing and vacuuming. Then, use a medical flea preventative as directed by your vet. You can also prevent fleas by clearing any brush or dead branches from your yard. This is where fleas will attempt to stay when temperatures dip.
How to Tell Your Dog Has Fleas
Not sure if your dog has fleas? Here are some symptoms of fleas in dogs:
- Scratching, licking and biting: Fleas seek out your dog’s blood for food. That means they like to get to places like the groin, armpits, head, neck, tail, etc. Your dog will get irritated from the bites and scratch more than usual.
- Patches of red skin: If your dog is allergic to fleas, they might get a reaction. This is called flea bite hypersensitivity.
- Hair loss: Hair loss is one reaction to flea bites. Dogs and cats might also pull their own hair out in an effort to scratch the area.
- Pale gums: This is caused by anemia due to the fleas consuming the dog’s blood.
If your dog is experiencing one or more of these symptoms, you should see a vet.
Treating Your Dog for Fleas
According to the American Kennel Club (AKC), “The best way to deal with fleas is prevention. Flea and tick preventatives kill fleas that come in contact with your dog, preventing your pup from bringing them home in the first place. There are several options out there, from flea collars to liquid applicants and pills. Talk to your vet about the flea preventative that is right for your dog.”
You may also choose to use flea shampoo or another quick-acting chemical to kill the fleas in a matter of hours. Time is of the essence since fleas will continue to lay eggs and contaminate your home.
Treating Your Home for Fleas in the Winter
Getting rid of the fleas on your dog is just the first step to take in getting rid of the fleas in your home. In some cases, it can take three or four months to completely get rid of fleas in your home because it’s tricky to kill all the eggs. The first thing you need to do is wash all the bedding in your home in hot and soapy water. Second, you need to vacuum all the carpets, floors and any other surface your vacuum can reach. Toss the vacuum bag. If you have a canister vacuum, clean it out with hot, soapy water.
Next, call an exterminator or find your own flea killer from your local hardware store. You may also choose to call an exterminator. Either way works. Fourth, treat your yard with a non-toxic chemical that kills fleas in any point of their lifecycle. Lastly, use a monthly preventative to keep your dog flea-free in the future.