Dogs Flea Prevention

Published on November 13th, 2015 | by Debbie Martin


Flea and Tick Prevention Doesn’t Stop When Summer Does

Dog and catsFleas and ticks are similar sorts of parasite. So much so, in fact, that they are often conflated with one another. This is understandable, as they share many characteristics: They are both tiny insectoid organisms which subsist on the blood of larger ‘host’ mammals. They operate by attaching themselves to the skin of their host and glutting themselves. In doing so, they can cause severe discomfort and they can also act as a carrier of blood-borne disease from one host to another.

If you’re the owner of a dog or a cat, then you’ll probably want to minimise this risk and protect your pride and joy from the attentions of nasty parasites. Crucially, you’ll want to do so all year round, not just at random points in the year.

Fleas and ticks, historically, have a fixed life cycle that hinges greatly upon the changes in temperature. When it’s warm, the ticks are able to feed and reproduce, since they don’t have to expend energy maintaining their body temperature. When it’s cold, they can shelter beneath the surface of the earth and wait for their opportunity the following year.

Urbanisation has interrupted the tick’s life cycle. Urbanised areas offer these parasites the perfect conditions in which to thrive without the need to wait for warmer weather. For a start, there are fewer natural predators for rodents of the sort that ticks and fleas naturally prey upon – leaving the parasites with free reign to spread and multiply on them.

Thanks to the advent of central heating, fleas and ticks have all the warmth they need to survive and reproduce. This means that they pose a threat to our pets not just in summer, but throughout the year.

This danger posed during winter is made all the greater thanks to a widespread belief among pet owners that there is no danger. While you might take special care during the summer months to ensure good hygiene, to use flea-and-tick repellent and any other methods you employ over the summer, but you might not do the same during the winter. Put simply, it’s tempting to let one’s guard down when common belief is that there is nothing to worry about.

The consequences of letting one’s guard down can be disastrous. When the conditions for ticks are just about right – with precisely the right humidity and temperature – their reproductive capacity increases substantially. A single female tick, under such conditions, can lay many thousands of eggs at any one time. This means that from that single tiny tick, thousands of larvae can be unleashed into your home – causing an infestation which can be extremely difficult to eradicate.

Both fleas and ticks can lurk dormant in your home throughout the year. But how do they get there in the first place? They usually do so via another animal, usually one that is not domesticated. If your pet is in the habit of occasionally bringing mice, birds and other wildlife into the house, then they might also be introducing the parasites that come with them. It might also be that such animals find their way into your home of their own accord from gardens and neighbouring houses.

If you’re in the habit of taking your dog for long walks in the country, then there will be all manner of different opportunities for them to pick up parasites to take back to the house. Dogs just love snaffling their way through the filthy undergrowth, jumping into piles of dead leaves and splashing through puddles. Since winter is a time in which many parasites (and not only ticks and fleas) lie dormant and hidden in these kinds of places this behaviour carries with it the risk of them being invaded.

But what can be done about this? Should we simply confine our pets to the house, never to come into contact with harmful parasites again? Of course not! Even if such a strategy were to be effective, it would impose too great a cost – dogs need exercise to stay healthy, to say nothing of the inherent good of allowing them to have fun and exercise outside.

Instead, it’s preferable to take basic precautions against flea infestation. Ensure that your pet is kept clean – a dog will need more help than a cat in this respect, especially after a long walk. If they have a blanket that they like to sleep on, make sure that it is regularly cleaned. This will help to remove any ticks and fleas, loose hair and dead skin, as well as guarding your pet against disease in general.

And of course, you should also administer some medication to make your pet less inviting to the blood sucking insects. Modern flea and tick prevention products are more effective than they have ever been, but they still take a while to come into effect – sometimes as long as three or four months. This means that they should be administered as a preventative measure throughout the year. Since an infestation can quickly spring from just a single tick, it’s far easier to prevent one than to deal with it after the fact.

With just a little extra vigilance in the winter, and making sure the conditions are set to help prevent the spread of ticks and fleas, your dog or cat can enjoy a happy, prosperous, parasite-free life all year round!


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About the Author

Debbie Martin has worked at Beeston Animal Health for over five years, having previously worked as a nurse in equine and small animal practice. Although generally involved with aspects of marketing these days and putting her psychology degree to good use, she still has a great depth of up to date knowledge in all creatures great and small. Debbie lives at home with her partner and two children and spends much of her spare time looking after her horses, dogs and cats or at the home farm with the cows, sheep and turkeys.

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