Many people do not realize that even in a colder climate, fleas and ticks can still be active all year. Many people keep their pets on preventatives from spring until fall (generally April until November or December), but is that enough? We see pets all year round with fleas and ticks on them. This can leave pets vulnerable to itchy flea bites, flea allergies, anemia, as well as Lyme disease and other tick-borne illnesses.
Ticks are active any time that the weather is 4 degrees Celsius or above. Even if it happens to be the middle of winter with snow on the ground. Lyme disease and other tick-borne illnesses can be transmitted all year round. Signs of Lyme disease tend to start to occur around six weeks after a tick has had a blood meal. We saw a lot of cases of Lyme this year where the tick had a blood meal just a few weeks before the pet being started upon a preventative product again. Ticks can and will also attach and take blood meals from humans, and humans can even get Lyme disease. If you find a tick on your pet and are unsure how to remove it, please take it to your veterinarian or call your vet for instructions. The entire tick needs to be removed, including the head. You can also bring the removed tick to your vet clinic for identification on what type of tick it is. The deer tick is the one which can transmit Lyme disease.
Fleas don’t tend to like the cold as ticks do and they tend to die off in an environment colder than around 8 degrees Celsius. Unfortunately, fleas are very good at living in houses and other areas that don’t get that cold. Even indoor-only animals can still get fleas. The flea life cycle lasts for three months, and if left untreated fleas can happily live in a home or other warm area all winter, as they will continue to breed. Fleas can get brought indoors by pets, peoples clothing and shoes, and clothing and bedding that was out hanging on a clothesline. This makes them hard to avoid. If you find fleas in your home or on your pet, you will need to use an appropriate flea treatment for at least three months, to stop the life cycle of the flea. You will also need to wash all bedding and clothes in hot, soapy water.
There are many different types of flea and tick preventatives on the market. It can be hard to decide which one is best for your pet. Talking with your veterinarian or veterinary support staff can help to determine which product is best for your pet. The products we recommend specifically for your pet can be recommended due to your pets’ species, lifestyle, or if they have any allergies. Please keep in mind that there are many products out there made for dog flea and tick prevention that are not at all safe for cats. Always discuss with your vet before giving a medication such as a flea or tick preventatives. If you decide not to keep your pet on a preventative product all year round, please be diligent and check your pets over regularly.
Written by Mikaila Cariou, RVT