Pets and Pests – Protecting Your Animals This Winter

Posted on December 19th, 2012 in Pet Information, Pet Safety, Pet Travel

Mention pets and pests and most animal owners automatically think of the fleas so common during warmer months.

But fleas aren’t the only pests that can cause trouble for your pets.Indeed, the cold months bring a new host of pests to pester you and your pooch!

From overwintering bugs that can sicken your pet, to bed bugs that can hitch a ride on your animal – there are lots of overwintering insects that bug your pet and your entire household. Be vigilant when the winter months come on – prepare your pet and your house for the colder months and you’ll be sure to enjoy plenty of cozy winter nights with your animal.

How Do They Get Inside: Overwintering Pests

You ever wonder where bugs go when it’s no longer warm? Some die off, others migrate and still others look forward to the warmth of your house.  Common overwintering bugs are ants, termites, box elder bugs and even wasps, which lay eggs on things like firewood; once inside, the eggs hatch and you’ve got a buzzing surprise.

Here are a few of the top ways bugs get inside during the winter:

  • Holiday travel: Many of us will travel during the holidays. Unfortunately staying in hotels is an easy way to bring bed bugs home on your luggage or even your clothes.
  • Winter wood: Often left outside on the ground, wood is an ideal place for an insect to hide out and breed. When the wood comes inside, they come out to play.
  • Cracks and openings: Sealing up your windows and patching even the tiniest holes in your home’s exterior not only keeps energy bills low, it cuts a major entry point for bugs.

What Does It Mean For My Pet?

You may wonder how an insect can be a threat to your pet. Though many are harmless, plenty of insects can sicken a pet. Here are a few ways:

  • Poisonous:  Many pet owners see no harm in letting their pets eat bugs.  But without a guide to household spiders and other bugs, it’s difficult to know which ones are toxic. Would you recognize a brown recluse if you saw one? If the answer is no, you shouldn’t be letting your pet eat bugs.
  • Allergic reactions: It’s important to remember that pets have allergies to all kinds of things – including bugs.  As we mentioned above, wasps and bees aren’t just a summer problem. Hatchlings can emerge in winter wood and buzz through your home. One sting and you’re in for a night at the vet.
  • General discomfort: Bed bugs are the top culprit here. While these bloodsuckers prefer to dine on you rather than your pet, a cat or a dog can become an easy substitute. More likely, however, is that your pet will transfer insects from room to room as he or she lays on infested beds.

Protecting Your Pets

You know how pests can get into your home and how they can harm your pet. Now, what can you do about it? There are a few simple and cost-effective ways to keep your home and your pets pest-free this winter.

  • Take your pet for a winter checkup: Let the start of the winter give you the perfect excuse to give your pet a seasonal checkup. Be sure to ask your vet about common pet allergies and if possible, get your animal tested. Knowing what your pet is allergic to is useful if your pet has a bug bite or even if they get caught nosing through holiday leftovers!
  • Be as vigilant about bugs in the winter as you are in the summer:  Pest control is a year-round effort. Clearing debris and trimming bushes and hedges around your yard is one of the easiest ways to keep pests away during the winter.  Here are a few more seasonal DIY pest control tips.
  • Keep your pet clean: Proper grooming of your pet is essential – don’t slack off during the cooler months when your pet may spend more time inside. Regularly washing your pet will let you spot things like bug bites early. Also keep their sleeping, eating and play areas clutter free. Pests love little nooks and crannies. Don’t give them a hiding place.
  • Travel carefully: Many travelers do a cursory check of hotel bedding after check in. Look a little more closely – if you spot small, black speckles that look almost like tiny droppings, change hotels. Bed bugs are extremely easy to transport and not as easy to get rid of.
  • Invest in an essential oil product: There are plenty of pet-friendly products that contain safe levels of these oils known for repelling bugs. Make your own natural bug repellant or buy an all-natural spray. Spritz your pet for an organic layer of pest protection that smells good.
  • Wash pet bedding and soft toys: Bed bugs in particular will die in heat of 120 degrees Fahrenheit. If you suspect bed bugs are on your pet, contact your veterinarian then thoroughly wash bedding and put it in the dryer for up to 20 minutes. For items that can’t be washed, put them in a sealed plastic bag and place them in direct sunlight for a day or two.

Prepare your house, keep a close eye on your animal and pests won’t be in your hair (or your pet’s!) this winter!

Joan Perry is a writer for, an online resource for DIY pest control. Visit PCE for more tips on keeping pests away from your pets and your home.

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