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Do I Need To Keep Treating My Dog for Fleas and Ticks During Winter?

Updated Mar 10, 2023

Updated Mar 10, 2023

Home > Pet Insurance > Do I Need To Keep Treating My Dog for Fleas and Ticks During Winter?

During the colder months, most bugs will take a break, burrowing into the ground or sneaking their way into homes to avoid the chill. Unfortunately, this doesn’t apply to all pests, and some, like ticks and fleas, can be persistent dangers to your pets year-round. These bothersome parasites can harm your favorite four-legged friends if you don’t actively protect your pet in the winter. This article explains how to keep your pets safe from fleas and ticks this holiday season. 

Can Dogs Get Ticks and Fleas in the Winter? 

snow covered dog
Image Source: Canva

Yes, dogs and cats (if they’re outside cats) can get ticks and fleas even during the colder months. Some regions of the U.S. have winters cold enough to kill off these bugs, but for many states, they stay active well into December. 

Here is a table with the tick and flea seasons for each state. 

StateTick And Flea Season
AlaskaMay through October
Arkansas February through December 
ColoradoApril through November
Connecticut April through December
Delaware March through December
Idaho March through December
IllinoisMarch through December
Indiana March through December
Iowa April through November
KansasMarch through December
KentuckyMarch through December
Louisiana Year-round
MaineApril through November
MarylandMarch through December
MassachusettsApril through December
Michigan April through November
Minnesota April through November
Mississippi Year-round
Missouri March through December
Montana April through November
Nebraska April through November
New Hampshire April through November
New JerseyApril through December
New Mexico March through December
New YorkApril through December
North Carolina Year-round
North Dakota May through November
Ohio March through December
Oklahoma March through December
Oregon Year-round
Pennsylvania March through December
Rhode Island April through December
South Carolina Year-round
South Dakota April through November
Tennessee March through December 
UtahMarch through December 
VermontApril through November
Virginia March through December
West VirginiaMarch through December
WisconsinApril through November
Wyoming May through December

How Do Ticks and Fleas Survive Winter?

Ticks and fleas thrive in balmy, humid climates but can survive in low temperatures. Of the two, fleas are more susceptible to temperature changes, remaining active in environments as cold as 46°F. Ticks are a bit more complicated, as specific species react to the cold differently. On average, ticks can remain active in temperatures as cold as 44°F. 

Fleas and ticks are active in the wild year-round in warmer states like Florida or California. But, even for locations with colder climates, fleas and ticks can still be active throughout the fall and on warmer winter days. 

Both parasites seek locations to hide and remain warm, such as inside brush piles, under the soil, on host animals, or inside homes. In doing so, they can remain active regardless of the time of year, hopping from host to host and spreading. 

Tick Species Found in Wintertime 

The most common time for tick bites on dogs is during fall and winter. Dogs get more bites this time of year due to ticks’ breeding cycle and seasonal activity. Plus, pet owners are often less concerned with tick prevention during the cooler months. Certain tick species lay eggs during the spring and grow to adulthood by early fall. At this point, they’ll begin seeking out larger prey (like you or your pets) and places to settle for the winter. Here’s a quick rundown of all the most common tick species you could encounter in the later seasons. 

Black-legged Ticks 

Also known as the Deer Tick, or by its scientific name, Ixodes scapularis, this is one of the nastiest ticks out there. Western states should be on the lookout for its cousin, the Western Black-legged tick, Ixodes pacificus. This parasite can survive freezing temperatures in the coldest climates in the U.S. and Canada. The species prey on mice, deer, dogs, cats, lizards, and even humans (although these bites are much rarer). Black-legged ticks are major vectors for multiple dangerous tick-borne pathogens like Lyme disease, babesiosis, and the Powassan virus. 

deer tick on hay
Image Source: Canva

Brown Dog Ticks

Brown dog ticks, or Rhipicephalus sanguineus, are the world’s most widespread tick species. These ticks are known for infesting entire kennels or homes and are the only tick species able to reproduce and live out their entire life cycle indoors. Even worse, this species can migrate to new hosts, like humans, if in close contact for extended periods. These ticks can carry numerous tick-borne diseases, such as canine ehrlichiosis and canine babesiosis for dogs, and Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever (RMSF) for humans.

dog tick on skin
Image Source: Canva

Rocky Mountain Wood Ticks

Known as hard ticks, or by their scientific name Dermacentor andersoni, these ticks are found in the Western portion of the United States. Resistant to the cold, these ticks nest in bushes, shrubs, and tall grass. While only adults can bite people, larvae and nymphs can prey on smaller mammals like mice, rats, and dogs. They’re a vector for Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, Colorado Tick Fever, and tularemia.

wood tick on carpet
Image Source: Canva

Don’t Forget About the Dangers of Fleas

You might consider fleas an annoying pest, but they can be a serious health hazard for your pets. Fleas are carriers of other parasites, like tapeworms and heartworms, as well as vectors for typhus and even the plague. If left untreated, an infestation can become so severe that pets can develop anemia from the amount of blood lost through bites and wounds.

How Do I Protect My Pets From Fleas and Ticks in Winter?

lyme disease flyer, magnifying glass, and tweezers
Image Source: Canva

Tick Protection

Keeping your pet safe from ticks in the wintertime comes down to awareness, prevention, and consistent monitoring. Pet owners should know their state’s tick season and locations where ticks can infest. Ticks congregate in areas with heavy leaf litter, tall grass, low-hanging branches, and bushes; this makes wooded areas and even yards prime locations for ticks. When walking your dog, stick to sidewalks as much as possible, and always keep them on a leash. 

Next, you should invest in year-round flea and tick protection. Some dogs (and most cats) can be sensitive to the medication in tick prevention products, so you should always schedule an appointment with your family vet before buying any. Your vet will likely offer options like collars, shampoos, sprays, oral medications, and even some vaccines.

Even when using tick-prevention products, you should perform a quick tick check on your four-legged friend after every walk through a potentially infested area. If your dog has short hair, you may be able to get by with a visual inspection, but for long-haired pups, you’ll need to check manually. To check your dog for ticks, run your hand over the main areas of its body where ticks are prone to hiding. 

Here are some of the places ticks may hide out on your pet:

  • Between the pads of their feet 
  • Under their armpits 
  • In and around their ears 
  • On their stomach 
  • Around the eyes 
  • Around and under the collar 
  • In the groin area 

Flea Protection

While flea infestations are less common in winter, they can still occur. Fleas often seek out warmer areas come late summer or early fall to avoid the cold weather. As a result, you’ll most likely pick up flea eggs from places like dog groomers or pet daycares.

All it takes is running into a single egg or adult flea while out and about, and your home could quickly become infested. The best way to protect your pet from fleas is with preventative medication.

Prevention is Key for Wintertime Pests

Fleas and ticks are more than just nuisances; they’re vectors for dangerous pathogens that can threaten the well-being of your pets. While the winter months can slow them down, fleas and ticks can survive these frigid temperatures and become a threat on mild days. While time-consuming and occasionally expensive, year-round tick and flea prevention is essential in keeping your favorite furry family members safe and healthy.

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