If you've been hoping the weather could help solve your flea and tick problems, there's disappointing news. It takes more than a passing freeze or heatwave to knock these sneaky blood feeders down. But how do weather changes affect the flea and tick population? Read on to learn more:
Fleas and ticks are surprisingly resistant to cold weather
Fleas and ticks have been around for a long time, so it's no surprise they've developed a few tricks to survive the cold. Those tricks differ for each pest though.
Fleas survive the winter in the warm protection of wildlife dens — and on the bodies of raccoons, possums, and other wild animals. It's similar for pets — except the den is now your home. While fleas are enjoying your dog or cat's warm body, they are also scattering eggs into carpets, bedding, and furniture. The warm, mild climate of your home provides ideal conditions for these eggs to develop into new adult fleas. Exposure to severe cold will kill fleas, but they have lots of opportunities to find warmth and shelter.
Ticks are just tough. It typically takes a long, extremely cold, hard winter to have an effect on ticks. A cold snap isn't enough; they'll just wait it out. Like fleas, ticks can find shelter, but for them it could mean under the snow where the air around them is warm enough to act as insulation.
Fleas and ticks love the rain
Spring is growth season — and not just for pretty flowers. Fleas and ticks thrive in the warm, humid weather, too, and they benefit from mice, raccoons, deer, and other wildlife that have become active, breeding, and providing free rides to fleas and ticks. Animals shelter from the sun in cool, damp places.
Spring rain is no deterrent, either; fleas and ticks thrive in the wet. Fleas love the moisture and shelter of growing rain-fed grass and plants, while ticks use the abundant growth as a ladder to your pet's body. People are more active come springtime, too. The more time we spend outdoors with our pets, the more opportunities there are to pick up fleas and ticks.
Fleas and ticks and hot weather
Long stretches of hot, dry weather are bad for fleas. They won't survive on your sun-baked patio, but even during a heat wave, odds are that they'll survive if located in a shaded or damp place. Those are the same places your pet seeks refuge from the sun. Ticks are different. They aren't affected by the heat as much, so pet owners should be vigilant regardless of how hot it is.
Adoptable animals being relocated might already carry fleas or ticks
Extreme weather events hit shelters hard. Natural disasters often create situations where many pets are forced to be abandoned or end up lost. A shelter's capacity to care for and adopt out this influx of animals is often overwhelmed, resulting in the animals being relocated to shelters in other parts of the country that are unaffected by the natural disaster. But an animal's change of address might mean that your new family member might be carrying extra, unwanted guests.
There are some ways to address your flea and tick issues
While the weather does affect the flea and tick population outside, you can help control the population on your pet and in your home. Here are a few steps you can take:
- Vacuum frequently, especially in areas where your pet spends the most time.
- Launder your pet's bedding often.
- If you're spending a lot of time outdoors, check your pet after every trip for ticks and remove them carefully.
- Talk with your vet. There are lots of preventive options for both fleas and ticks; ask your vet which ones are best for your pet. If you're not already using a preventive, topical treatments like shampoos or sprays can kill fleas and ticks currently on your pet. Then, start a preventive treatment so you're in front of the problem in the future.
Fleas and ticks are a nuisance, but they're manageable and preventable — just don't rely on the weather to solve the problem for you.