A frequently asked question here at Heartwood Animal Hospital is: Does my cat or dog need monthly flea and tick preventative during the winter months?

The answer to this question is: Yes.

To help this answer make sense, I am going to give you a couple quick and simple facts about how fleas and ticks survive in the winter.

The flea life cycle starts as an egg. The egg then hatches into a larval stage, then forms into a pupa, and finally forms into an adult flea. The adult flea is the form that you will see feeding on your dog or cat. Because of the life stages and the movements of the adult fleas, only 5% of the total flea population will be on your pet(s) at one time. An adult flea can live several days in the environment (when it is not on your cat or dog) as long as the temperature is above 33 degrees Fahrenheit. An adult flea can live for several months in almost any temperature outside if it is on a stray cat or dog. The pupa of a flea can also survive for several weeks in temperatures just above freezing, and if they are in sheltered areas around the house like the porch may can lengthen this time to several months.

When it comes to ticks, they can survive in almost any conditions in the environment. As proof, very cold states like Pennsylvania and Minnesota have some of the highest rates of Lyme’s disease in the country, which is a tick-borne disease. Ticks will stay dormant during sub freezing temperatures, but will become active and start jumping onto pets once it is 40 degrees or warmer.

Looking at the month of January this year, the average temperature in Raleigh was 39 degrees. The high was a vibrant 70 degrees with a low of 18. There were only 4 days of the month where the temperature did not exceed 32. It does not take a degree in veterinary medicine or atmospheric science to see that there are several days where your pet would be susceptible to providing a loving home to a flea or contracting a serious tick borne illness during this month. It is also very important to remember that if your pet brings in one flea to the house, this flea will lay 50 eggs per day in the luxurious room temperature of 70 degrees in your house and create a serious infestation. Is your fur child less likely to acquire fleas during January when compared to July? absolutely correct. But when it comes to answering the more important question of CAN your fur baby acquire fleas or ticks in January, the answer for North Carolina will always be a YES. Trying to save a few dollars during the winter with flea prevention is a gamble. Losing that gamble can cause your pet serious health issues and your wallet some serious holes as treating a flea infestation or tick disease can become very tedious and expensive. Please remember to give that prevention at the first of every month, as your fur baby is counting on you!