Is flea and tick prevention needed in winter?

19 Aug 2019

There’s a secret to protecting your pet against ticks and fleas and it involves keeping on top of prevention all year round. Winter is the best time to ensure your pet is up to date with tick and flea prevention so that when the days start to get longer and the weather begins to heats up, you know your pet is safe and protected.

When are fleas active?

Fleas prefer warmer conditions but they can be active year-round so that’s why using prevention throughout the year is essential. Flea eggs may lie dormant in the cold weather but as soon as there are a few warmer days (or the heater is turned on) these eggs hatch. This leads to an emergence of fleas and lots of itchy pets.

It is essential to use flea prevention in winter to prevent these little pesky little creatures from bothering your pet. The saliva from their bites can set off a nasty reaction in your pet's skin leading to flea allergy dermatitis which can last for weeks after the bite. This often requires antibiotics and medication to break the itch cycle. Flea allergy dermatitis can lead to your pet becoming very uncomfortable and prevention is much easier than the treatment.

The good news is there are plenty of excellent flea products available for your pet and your veterinarian will be able to recommend the most suitable and effective treatment.

Is there a tick season?

The official Australian tick season doesn’t usually start until September however with changing weather patterns and as the climate warms, it is now more likely that ticks will remain active during winter. This is why is it so important to keep on top of tick prevention during the colder weather to ensure your pet remains safe.

Where does the paralysis tick live?

The paralysis tick is prevalent along the east coast of Australia in dense bush areas but they have been known to expand their habitat into new areas, and because these little critters can also 'catch a ride', a number of paralysis ticks and have been found in metropolitan areas around Sydney and Melbourne.

Once the tick attaches to a host (such as your pet) it engorges itself with blood and injects a toxin. As the tick slowly grows in size, it continues to inject the toxin over days to weeks so symptoms can be gradual in onset.

It is therefore important that no matter where you live or what time of the year it is, you are aware of what to look out for.

Signs of tick paralysis:

  • A change in voice; the meow or bark becomes softer
  • Weakness in the back legs; walking along then sitting down suddenly is a common early sign.
  • Vomiting, especially if it happens several times in a day
  • A moist cough and difficulties breathing

As the poisoning progresses:

  • Your pet might be unable to stand
  • Breathing becomes exaggerated and more difficult
  • If the tick is not removed and an anti-serum administered to your pet, death may occur

There are lots of tick preventatives on the market and it is best to discuss the most appropriate type of prevention with your veterinarian. It is important to realise that not one product can claim to be 100% effective so knowing the early signs and performing a daily tick check on your pet is also essential.

Ask your veterinarian how to keep your pet safe from winter ticks and winter fleas.

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