Most pet owners believe that ticks and fleas are summer pests but that’s not true. Ticks can survive temperatures as low as 7 deg C. Fleas will stay active throughout winter unless temperatures fall below 1 deg C and stay there for a sustained period. Heaters, air conditioners and winter rainfall in coastal areas further encourage tick and flea infestations during cold weather.
The flea is a very persistent and resilient pest with a very complicated life cycle. As long as an adult flea can find a suitable host to feed from, it can stay warm and healthy throughout the cold season. Their pupae remain settled in their cocoons until it is warm enough to come out — as long as they have been placed in a location where they are protected from freezing cold (a garage, covered patio, or basement).
Flea pupae can remain dormant for over a year. Once conditions are ideal (either inside or outside), the pupae will complete their development and emerge from their cocoons en masse, resulting in a surge of activity both on and off your pets.
Fleas and ticks can carry life-threatening diseases: the last place you want them is in your home, and on your dog or cat. However, eliminating infestations can be time and treatment intensive, because their lifecycle is so long.
It can take three months to completely drive fleas out of a household. That’s because, once infested, your pet sheds flea eggs throughout your house which can take 30 days to reach adulthood.
The best time to fight fleas is during the winter, when there is the best chance that they will become less active and fewer in number. Regularly vacuuming the areas where your pet spends time and continuing regular flea treatments throughout the winter season are the best ways to combat them before the next flea season is in full swing.
Tick and flea treatment
• Monthly treatments may not be enough to tackle the problem, leaving gaps in protection that allow reinfestation. The longer the treatment lasts, the easier it will be for you to keep your pet and house protected.
• Fast acting treatment is critical. Look for treatments that get to work quickly. There are new spot-on and chewable options available that start working quickly and reach 100% efficacy within 12 hours.
• It’s essential that your treatment does not interact with other medications your pet may be taking. Check that the treatment option you choose does not have any adverse effects when used concurrently with other medicines. It is always best to discuss your pet’s treatment, whether prescription-only or over-the-counter, with your veterinarian. Your vet is your pet’s health care expert.
• Look for solutions that provide both immediate and persistent control: you need fast-acting, long-lasting protection. There are prescription-only treatments available for cats that can kill over 95% of fleas within 12 hours and over 90% of ticks within 48 hours. For dogs, similar treatments can kill up to 100% of fleas and ticks within a few hours. Ask your vet for advice.
• Not all treatments are suitable for all animals, especially if your dog or cat is breeding, pregnant or lactating. Talk to your vet about what’s right for your pet.
• Flea and tick infestations in young animals can be deadly but treatment must be age-appropriate. Ask your vet for a treatment that is proven safe for puppies and kittens.
• There are chewable and spot-on treatments available. Look for products that can provide you with the flexibility to care for your pet in the way that works for you. If you choose a spot-on treatment choose one that allows your dog to swim or bath without loss of efficacy.