Does Your Pet Really Need Flea/Tick Medicine All Year Long?



During the summer my scarves, coats and boots are put away in storage, since they do me no good when the thermometer hits 90. In the winter, you won’t see me in my sandals, although I’d like to have the option. We humans have our seasonal habits and rituals based on temperature. It makes sense then that dogs and cats follow suit, particularly in regards to their flea and tick medicine.

Each fall many a pet owner begins to question whether they really need to give their cat or dog flea/tick medicine throughout the winter. In the coldest months birds fly south, bears hibernate, and every living thing that once flourished outdoors is either dead, frozen, or in hiding. Doesn’t that include fleas and ticks?

Why everyone recommends year-round

This article, of course, is all but irrelevant for folks who live in warmer climates. They always need flea and tick medicine. But for those of us who do experience a bitter winter, it should be known that most, if not all, veterinarians suggest year-round flea and tick treatment. But why?

Here are some fun facts for you to munch on:

  • Fleas can live outdoors in temperatures as low as 33 degrees for up to five days (long enough to latch onto your dog, come into your home, and relish in the warmth of your living room).

  • Flea eggs can live year round in protected areas such as crawl spaces or porches.

  • Our best friend, Mr. Tick, is certainly more active in the late summer and early fall. However, even in the winter, if the temperature exceeds 40 degrees – which it can in most places – ticks will become active again (some experts think the threshold is more like 32 degrees). So, on those “balmy” winter days of 32 degrees or higher, when you just have to take your dog out to enjoy the so-called warmth, you’re exposing him to ticks.


Why you might not use medicine all year round

Flea and tick medicines are pretty hefty meds, both financially and chemically. These are the two biggest reasons why people don’t use them all year round.

The cost of these meds can be staggering, and a good way to combat that cost is by taking a few months off. However, there are cost-saving measures you can pursue, including going on Amazon or other online sites that offer a considerable savings on meds, particularly if you buy in bulk.

But many other folks don’t like the idea of constantly pouring “poison” onto their pets, particularly small dogs or cats. The Environmental Protection Agency launched an investigation in 2008 about the ill effects of spot-on treatments after receiving 48,000 reports including 1,300 cases of serious reactions or death.

However, time and time again the reports show that these applications are safe and that most adverse reactions are a result of user error (such as an owner giving the wrong dosage to a pet). If, for example, a person used a dog treatment on a cat, that could cause death. Or, if the owner simply guesses his dog’s weight, his dog could become sick or suffer loss of fur/hair.

A dance with chance

The chances of your dog or cat getting a flea or tick in the wintertime are considerably lower than in the warmer months. That’s for sure. So, you might be willing to play a game of chance. However, if you lose that game, what happens? Your pet could suffer an infestation, which results in your home being infested. Your pet could suffer adverse reactions to the flea or tick that needs to be treated. It could be far more costly and annoying to rid your home and pet of fleas (or ticks) after one infestation, than the cost of paying for medicine all year long.



  1. The back of the Frontline Plus box says Frontline Plus kills adult fleas, flea eggs and larvae FOR UP TO THREE MONTHS and prevents development of all flea stages FOR UP TO THREE MONTHS. The back of the box also says if the dog HAS fleas or if there is a high risk of RE-infestation a once monthly application may be needed.

    Ticks however are different. The Frontline Plus box says it controls ticks FOR AT LEAST ONE MONTH. The box recommends once monthly application “where tick control is needed”.

    Frontline is not medicine – it is poison as shown by the warnings on the SHEET inside the box including do not get it on YOUR skin, call a poison control center immediately if swallowed or in eyes, never put unused product down any drain, certain medications can interact with pesticides, consult a veterinarian for medicated or aged animals.

    I apply Frontline only in the amount needed for the weight of my dogs (I gently shake the vial and split the vial between them). I’ve been using Frontline for years according to the veterinarian’s recommended schedule, but now after ACTUALLY READING the entire box AND paper insert, I am reducing frequency to once every 2 months.

    This is a personal decision based on where you live, where you take your dog, and the age and health condition of your dog.

    • i found Frontline to be completely ineffective on my dogs, time and again. I’d put it on, two days later they’d have ticks. All this money spent, putting chemicals on my sweet pooches, and it doesn’t even work? I think Frontline’s been in production for so long that the little pests we’re trying to avoid have developed an immunity to the stuff and it’s no good any longer.

      • Frontline does not repel ticks…it kills the tick before it has time to transmit disease… (I believe it is 48 hours before it can transmit tick borne diseases…)

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