Ticks are some of the most annoying parasites that cat and dog owners have to deal with. Many pet owners avoid using tick medicine for flea and tick control in the cooler months and rightfully so since most of us do not want to expose our pets and kids to harmful chemicals. That said; vets are of a different opinion. Majority of veterinary doctors recommend the use of medicines for fleas and ticks in winter months too and many state using tick control all year round. In today’s guide, we will study if this is necessary and ways to prevent ticks all year round.
Flea and tick map
Take a look at the flea and tick map below. It shows the activity of major parasites all year round. As can be seen, most pet owners will feel that they need not worry too much about ticks in winter months since most tick species seem to prefer warmer months. However, one should not rely too much on this flea and tick map. I will explain the reasons why I say so in subsequent paragraphs below.
When is tick and flea season?
This is a question many of my readers ask me. The answer, unfortunately, is not that simple. In the past, we definitely used to have a well-demarcated flea and tick season but all that has changed since ticks and fleas have started developing resistance to common pesticides and insect growth regulators. Also, thanks to climate changes and global warming, the weather is getting warmer than usual. Another factor we must not overlook is central heating. Our houses are always warm in winter which means that ticks are likely to survive indoors even if they are not too active outdoors. Ticks may not be as active in winter months as they are in spring and summer, but they can remain dormant and continue feeding and reproducing in your homes while waiting for warmer weather to arrive. And that is why, when someone asks me “does my dog need flea/tick medicine?” I always tell them yes. You definitely need to continue using dog flea and tick medication for your puppies and adult dogs all year round.
Does my dog need Flea and Tick prevention in winters?
As stated above, yes. I would definitely recommend that pet owners continue monitoring their pets for signs of tick infestation. These would include itchiness, scratching and anxiety. Regular grooming is very important too. Each night, inspect your pet for ticks and fleas. Tell-tale signs would be bite marks, redness and even hair loss. You might even see flea debris near the tail or other hairy areas.
Does your dog spend a lot of time outdoors?
If your dog spends a lot of time outdoors and especially in heavily wooded or grassy areas with ticks, then you must inspect its body every day. If you find a tick embedded in the skin, gently use a pair of tweezers to pull it out. Bag the tick if possible and take it for identification. Your vet can take a look and tell you if you need to be concerned about tick bite fever or Lyme disease etc. Believe it: vets know best if there is an outbreak of these diseases in your area. This way, you can be forewarned and can take the precautions to prevent complications. Lyme disease is no joking matter and can produce debilitating symptoms in animals and humans.
When to start flea/tick treatment for puppies?
As soon as your puppy is 3 months of age, it is time to discuss with your vet as to the right flea and tick medicine to use. Tick collars, sprays, spot treatment, shampoos and powders are available for this purpose and most products are safe for use on young dogs as well. If you are concerned about their toxicity, talk to your vet about natural alternatives. However, you need to use natural products daily and also need to be proactive and use multiple hit strategies to avoid ticks and fleas.
Products for tick control in winters
Fipronil based medicines are some of the most popular chemicals that can prevent and kill ticks in all stages. They are available in the form of shampoos, collars, sprays, oral formulations, tablets, and spot medicines. Some of these products repel ticks, while some of them need to come in contact with the tick eggs/larvae to work. If you have a serious infestation, you might have to get prescription medicine from your vet. As stated above, ticks are extremely challenging to eliminate completely as they remain dormant through the winter months. As a pet owner, you should remain alert and keep checking and removing them regularly.
Tick activity through the year
Here is a season-wise tick activity:
- Spring– Any leftover ticks and fleas in the house quickly thrive as warmer weather arrives. Pets and homes can quickly get infested with ticks and fleas.
- Summer– Warm summer months hasten the development of flea and tick larvae in the house. Ticks can develop in as little as 2 weeks and female adults are capable of laying 100s of eggs a day. If pets ingest infected ticks while chewing, they might develop tapeworm or other infectious diseases.
- Autumn– Ticks have a second peak of activity in autumn so you need to be vigilant during this time of the year. Pet owners will continue seeing fleas and ticks as central heating is turned on. So, even though these parasites are dormant outside, they may be active inside your home.
- Winters– Many medicines are used for treating ticks, fleas and other dog parasites. So if you plan on discontinuing flea treatment in winter, make sure you at least do not stop control/treatment for other parasites.
Plan for the year ahead!
There is no definite answer these days to “when does flea/tick season start?” I would recommend using medicine for ticks in winter months as well. If you are not comfortable with harsh chemicals for tick control, do browse through my product page on this website for safer and gentler alternatives for tick control.