Do Ticks Die in The Winter?

MYTH BUST: Ticks do not die in the winter! Instead, they become less active and go into hibernation. When the ground freezes over, it becomes too cold for their little legs to move, but they will become active again as soon as the ground warms up.

Don’t Stop Tick Control for Pets During Colder Months

  • Cooler weather does NOT mean ticks die! Ticks continue to seek warm bodies for a blood meal before the ground completely freezes over. Cats and dogs, even those that stay indoors, can pick up ticks themselves during activities like hunting and digging or from human family members bringing them indoors. Ticks can live for weeks indoors, posing a risk for vector-borne illnesses such as Lyme disease, Ehrlichia, Anaplasma, Babesia, and Bartonella.
  • A best practice for preventing tick-borne illnesses is the use of year-round flea and tick preventives recommended by your veterinarian. Pet owners should check pets for ticks throughout the year, using lint rollers and washing pet bedding on high heat settings. Strategies to monitor and reduce exposure to ticks include regular tick-borne illness screening tests for pets, routine cleaning of outdoor areas, eliminating leaf accumulation and wood piles, and keeping outdoor spaces free of clutter.

Warmer Winters Mean More Ticks

  • Warmer spells during the winter season, attributed to climate change, result in ticks emerging more frequently and posing a threat to both humans and pets. Longer periods of abnormally warm weather lead to an increase in people taking pets for walks, contributing to a rise in Lyme disease cases in winter. Emergency room visits for tick bites have increased, particularly in the Northeastern United States, where winters are becoming milder.
  • Rafal Tokarz, an epidemiologist, notes that winters used to be consistently cold, but now there are stretches of abnormally warm weather, leading to ticks emerging more frequently. The National Climate Assessment report predicts warmer temperatures in most of the U.S., elevating the risk of adult ticks finding hosts in winter. Climate change allows ticks carrying Lyme disease to last through winter and become more active during March and April. Other tick-borne diseases, such as Rocky Mountain spotted fever from lone star ticks and dog ticks, are also a concern.
  • Ticks can survive and remain active during cooler months by staying under leaf litter, emphasizing the need for year-round caution. Tick resilience and their ability to survive freezing and drying conditions, complicates prevention efforts. While Lyme cases are commonly reported in spring and summer, there are reports every month, emphasizing the need for year-round awareness and precautions.

Tick Safety for Hunting Season

  • While hunting season is underway, avoid bringing home a tick with you! As a pre-hunt precaution, you should treat your gear, clothing, and shoes with Permethrin, a product that kills ticks and remains effective through multiple washings. If you planning on bringing your dog hunting, make sure beforehand that they are up-to-date on the tick prevention medication recommended by your veterinarian. While hunting, tuck your pants into your boots or socks and tuck your shirt into your pants to prevent ticks from crawling inside clothing. Walk in the center of trails and paths to avoid brushing against ticks. Be cautious during the transportation or dressing of animals you have hunted, as ticks may drop off and seek new hosts on you or your dog.
  • Shower immediately upon returning from your outdoors hunt to help remove unattached ticks. Perform a full body check on yourself for ticks, and check dogs for ticks in locations they are often found such as ears, armpits, groin, and between toes. Remove attached ticks promptly using tweezers and following the steps listed in the “Proper Tick Removal” section.
  • Watch for symptoms like rash, flu-like symptoms, fever, headaches, or joint pain in the weeks following outdoor activity. See a doctor immediately if symptoms arise and mention any history of tick exposure or outdoor activities where tick exposure may have occurred. Regularly monitor pets for symptoms and mention any tick exposure to a veterinarian. Early diagnosis and treatment of Lyme disease are crucial to preventing long-term health problems for both humans and pets.

How to Properly Remove a Tick

  • If you find an attached tick, the important thing to do is remove it as soon as possible. The longer a tick is attached, the more likely it is to spread a disease to its host.
  • Use clean, fine-tipped tweezers to grasp the tick as close to the skin’s surface as possible. Pull upward with steady, even pressure. Don’t twist or jerk the tick; this can cause the mouth-parts to break off and remain in the skin. If this happens, remove the mouth-parts with tweezers. If you cannot remove the mouth easily with tweezers, leave it alone and let the skin heal. After removing the tick, thoroughly clean the bite area and your hands with rubbing alcohol or soap and water.
  • Never crush a tick with your fingers. Dispose of a live tick by putting it in alcohol, placing it in a sealed bag/container, wrapping it tightly in tape, or flushing it down the toilet.
  • If you develop a rash or fever within several weeks of removing a tick, see your doctor as soon as possible. Tell the doctor about your recent tick bite, when the bite occurred, and where you most likely acquired the tick.


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