Fleas in the Winter: Is it Possible?
Fleas are present in every corner of the globe, accounting for over 2,000 insect species. They are parasites that feed on the blood of animals, dogs and cats being the two you're probably most familiar with. Flea bites cause animals to itch incessantly often leaving them susceptible to a secondary infection. Although we see relief from most insects in the winter, fleas can survive on pets and in warm houses even through the winter months.
How to Identify a Flea Infestation
In case you're unfamiliar with recognizing flea infestations, here are a few things to remember: The most obvious giveaway of a flea infestation is not the fleas themselves but their feces. Fleas are incredibly tiny and often cannot be seen without a magnifying glass. Plus, they are bouncy little buggers who frequently jump to lay their eggs on the ground or to find a better feeding spot. But unlike humans, fleas don't have a designated waste area, and defecate wherever they like. Flea feces look a lot like dirt or pepper, and can be found in animal hair and places where animals sleep or relax, like rugs and furniture. To determine whether this dirt is really dirt, sprinkle some onto a wet paper towel. Flea feces contain animal blood and turn red upon getting wet.
A single flea is capable of feeding 350 times a day, resulting in considerable blood lost in a flea infestation. One of the risks of having fleas, therefore, is anemia or a low red blood cell count. Red blood cells are needed to transport oxygen throughout the body. While most animals will itch themselves when they have fleas, some are not allergic to flea saliva (responsible for itchiness), while others itch themselves more subtly (cats often lick themselves to sooth itching). Common symptoms of pet anemia are pale gums and lethargic behavior. Tapeworms are another risk associated with fleas. Tapeworms can live in the flea gut, eating the animal blood which passes through. These tapeworms shed eggs in flea feces and can be transmitted to pets if digested (from licking or biting). Tapeworms can cause weight loss or inability to gain weight in infected pets.
Preventing a Winter Flea Infestation
A winter flea infestation is most likely the result of a continuing summer or fall infestation. Fleas usually cannot survive the colder outdoor temperatures during the winter, but they can survive on bedding frequented by a pet. Be sure to wash bedding thoroughly at least every two weeks. When bathing a pet, alternate weekly between flea shampoo and regular pet shampoo. If you do find evidence of fleas, remember that both the pet and where the pet rests need to be treated. A combination of flea shampooing and topical treatments should be applied to an infected pet every 10 days for approximately one month. Fleas can be eliminated from homes with sprays and foggers designed to kill fleas and their eggs. Remember to treat both the pet and the house at the same time to minimize the chances of a recurrence. Use natural flea killing products like Defendex whenever possible to minimize the hazard to your family and pet's health.