Have you fallen for a common flea and tick myth? Let’s find out.
Do city pets need flea prevention? Can fleas survive outside of flea season? Check your knowledge below. (Spoiler: The answer to both is yes.)
Myth: Pests are only a problem during “flea season.”
Is flea season a thing? Yes—but that doesn’t mean your pets are safe the rest of the year.
Fleas thrive in hot and humid conditions, so the warmer months are generally considered “flea season,” says Dr. Jennifer Coates, DVM, of Fort Collins, Colorado. However, she adds, fleas can survive and reproduce outdoors all year long in many climates—and they’re experts at hiding indoors when the outside temperature drops. That means pets are always at risk for a flea infestation, no matter what time of year it is.
In fact, your home may actually be more at risk for fleas in the winter. “Fleas can’t survive a hard freeze, so they move inside with your pet,” says Rebecca Williams, DVM, with Chino Hills Animal Hospital in Chino Hills, California. “They are perfectly happy to set up house in your home, and you will barely notice the eggs and larva. When the adults begin to feed, [then] you will know.”
Fleas will also take up residence in warmer areas of your property during the winter, Dr. Williams says, adding that fleas often hide in straw and sawdust in sheds and barns. The bottom line: You still need to treat your pets in the winter. Talk to your vet about the best products for your dog or cat, and check out the best-selling flea treatments for cats and dogs.
Myth: Only a few fleas aren’t a problem.
Sorry, wishful thinkers, but if you see even one flea on your cat or dog, you’ve got a flea problem.
“Think of one or two as the scouts,” Dr. Williams says. “If you have one or two, you most likely have many. And if you don’t already have an issue, these little guys are warning you of what is to come.”
One way to detect fleas on your pets is by running a flea comb through their fur, Dr. Coates says. The Safari Flea Comb for Cats or for Dogs was designed to remove pests without irritating pets’ skin, and includes a contoured handle to make the task easier on you, too.
Myth: Fleas and ticks don’t bite people.
While fleas and ticks prefer cats, dogs and other mammals with fur, they definitely bite people, too, Dr. Coates says. In homes with a severe flea infestation, people can develop itchy bites, mostly on their legs.
To protect both you and your pet, expand your battle plan to include treatments for your home, Dr. Coates says. She recommends vacuuming to remove flea eggs and larvae from carpets, rugs and other flooring. For severe infestations, a home spray, such as Vet’s Best Flea + Tick Home Spray, can kill and repel the pests too. Use it on furniture, carpet and bedding.
While itchy flea bites can drive you crazy, tick bites can be downright dangerous, Dr. Williams says. Certain tick species, such as deer ticks, carry Lyme disease, which can cause serious illness in humans. And ticks can latch on to humans almost as easily as dogs and cats, she adds.
If you see a tick on your pet, there’s a good chance you have ticks in your yard, Dr. Williams says. Outdoor sprays, like Advantage Yard & Premise Spray, are formulated to kill fleas and ticks, including deer ticks.
Myth: City pets don’t need flea and tick prevention.
Fleas and ticks are everywhere—even in the concrete jungle.
“Fleas are equal-opportunity parasites and can set up anywhere, including urban areas,” Dr. Williams says. “They might even be more of an issue [compared to rural areas], as you and your pet are their only source of a meal.”
Ticks, on the other hand, prefer tall grass, she says. So if your dog brushes up against plants on a walk through the city, they easily can pick up a hitchhiking tick. Basically, you need preventative flea and tick care no matter where you live.
Myth: Fleas only live in carpet.
Your home isn’t immune to fleas just because it has hardwood floors. Although fleas love to burrow into carpet, they don’t require it to set up shop.
When flea eggs fall off your pet, they get caught in wood cracks and pitted areas of tile as well as carpet fibers, Dr. Coates says. And when they hatch, you’ve got a house full of jumping, biting fleas.
No matter what kind of floor you have, you should be treating your pets for fleas and ticks. And you’ve got plenty of options! Pills like NexGard Chewables, topical solutions like K9 Advantix II rank among the most popular for dog parents.
For cats, topical solutions like Frontline Plus Flea & Tick Cat & Kitten Treatment are the favorites, but tablets like Capstar Flea Tablets for Cats also rank among Chewy’s best sellers. Follow our experts’ advice and talk to your vet about the right choice for you and your pet.