Pests That Affect Your Pets: Fleas vs. Ticks

Outlines of a flea vs. tick
Outlines of a flea vs. tick

Have you ever woken up in the middle of the night to your animal incessantly scratching? Your dog could be scratching because of a common pet pest. The scratching can be from a pest, but is it a flea vs. a tick bothering your pet?

Fleas and ticks are tiny parasitic bugs that can cause people and animals irritation and transmit diseases. Though both fleas and ticks are tiny parasites, irritate, and transmit disease, they have more differences than you would think.  

If your home is teeming with tiny parasites, contact Environmental Pest Management for a successful pest control service.

Pests that Affect Your Pets: Fleas vs. Ticks

Three small dogs itching for fleas vs. ticks.

The most noticeable difference between fleas and ticks is that fleas like to invade. Fleas will infest your pets and invade the inside of your home. 

In contrast, ticks prefer to stay outdoors and will latch on to your pets if a suitable host wanders by. Both of these bugs have differences in characteristics, habitats, behaviors, bites, and how they spread disease.

Let’s dive into the differences!

Characteristics

Fleas

A large closeup shot of a flea to show the difference between flea vs. tick

Fleas are a dark reddish-brown color. They are easy to mistake as dirt in your pet’s coat.

They have tiny backward-pointing hairs that extend from their exoskeleton. They use their extended mouthparts to feed on their host’s blood. 

Although they may appear to be flying, this is not the case. They do not have wings.

Fleas use their strong hind legs to leap up to 13 inches or 200 times their body length.

Ticks

An enlarged photo of a tick on a white background

Depending on the species, ticks are usually larger than fleas. There are more than 850 species of ticks, and 90 of them can be found within the United States. 

Ticks can be a black, brown, reddish-brown, grayish-white, or yellowish color. They are more of a teardrop or oval-shaped bug with a large abdomen used for feeding. 

Adult ticks will have eight legs, while tick larvae will only have six. Ticks have three life stages: Larval, nymph, and adult- all of which are capable of biting. They are a close cousin to spiders. 

Habitats

A shaded area with tall grass is the perfect habitat for fleas and ticks

Fleas prefer to live in shaded areas with lots of tall grass. Since ticks cannot fly or jump, they prefer to live closer to their hosts. 

They will live in wooded or grassy areas close to homes or near rat burrows or bird nests.

What weather can they tolerate? Most of the time, we think of “flea and tick season” as the warmer months. 

While it’s true for fleas, they thrive in warmer environments. On the other hand, while yes, ticks thrive in warmer weather, they can survive the colder months. Some even hide underneath the snow.    

Behaviors

A tick biting human skin.

Fleas usually avoid biting humans unless there are no other suitable hosts nearby. Fleas will find one host, usually a dog or cat, and live there until they die.

On the other hand, ticks are not as particular. 

Ticks will attach themselves to multiple hosts and feast for a few days until they are engorged with blood, then move on to the next. Ticks will feed on pets, deer, opossums, rabbits, rodents, and even humans. 

 Fleas use their powerful hind legs to jump to and from their hosts.

Since ticks can’t fly or jump, many species of ticks wait for their hosts in a position called “questing.” When questing, the tick will hold onto a leaf or grass with its hind legs with its front legs outstretched.

Then once a host wanders by that area, they will quickly climb aboard and search for a place to latch.

Fleas vs. Ticks: The Bites

Flea bites on a leg.

When a flea bites its host, they inject their saliva into their skin. This can cause your pet to experience skin irritation, rash, and itchiness. 

When a tick bites, it is usually painless, and the negative symptoms will not appear until the tick has finished feeding. The symptoms of a tick bite can include pain at the site, swelling, rash, headache, sore muscles, or fever.

How They Spread Disease

A doctor removing a tick from a person's hand.

Fleas

Fleas can spread diseases such as typhus and plague. Fleas become infected when they bite an infected animal such as a rat, opossum, or stray cat. 

When the fleas bite their host, it causes a break in the skin. When the fleas feed, they poop. 

The poop is called “flea dirt.” The flea dirt from the infected flea can get rubbed inside the wounds. 

It is also possible for people to inhale in the infected flea dirt or rub it into their eyes.

Ticks

Ticks can transmit diseases such as Lyme disease, Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, and tularemia through feeding. 

Depending on the species of tick and which life stage it’s in, it can take anywhere from 10 minutes to 2 hours to find a feeding spot on its host’s skin. Once the tick has found its feeding spot, it cuts into the surface of the skin and inserts its feeding tube. 

Many species of ticks have a barbed feeding tube that helps keep them in place while feeding. They can also secrete a sticky substance to help keep themselves attached to their meal.

Before ticks bite, they can secrete a small amount of saliva that contains anesthetic qualities. The host will be unaware of the tick’s attachment.

The tick can go unnoticed in a hard-to-reach or out-of-the-way spot. Then the tick will feast on the blood slowly for a couple of days. 

If the host has any bloodborne pathogens, the tick will ingest them with the blood. Tiny amounts of tick saliva can enter the host during the feeding process. 

The infected saliva from the tick can transmit pathogens to the host during the feast. Once finished feeding, the tick drops off to prepare for its next stage of life. 

Any acquired pathogens or diseases can be transmitted at the next feeding. 

Protect Your Pets    

A pet owner applying flea medicine to a dog that has flea dirt in its fur.     

Preparing yourself for fleas and ticks is the best way to protect you, your home, and your pets from fleas and ticks. When it comes to fleas and ticks, it is best to use prevention methods. 

Keep your yard mowed and landscaped to help keep them from living in your backyard. Do not leave out any pet food that may attract unwanted animals, such as opossums or raccoons.

Talk to your veterinarian about a flea and tick treatment for your pet. And keep your pet’s bedding or carpets and rug clean to prevent flea infestations. 

If you think you have a tick infestation or live near a wooded area where ticks love to hang out, call Environmental Pest Management for help. We will prevent pet pests from infiltrating your home.

Why It’s Essential To Deal With Ticks Before You See One

Birds are chirping, flowers are flourishing, and the days are sparkling with the sun. Spring is almost here! Spring lets us enjoy the outdoors and all that it has to offer.

With the increase in temperature and sunshine, you aren’t the only one that wants to get out and relish in it. Many animals and bugs also look forward to exploring the warmth.

One of these creatures that love crawling in the woods and grass is ticks. These ticks love to latch on to you or your clothing and eventually suck your blood.

Because of their desire for your blood, it can come with certain risks. There are many things to be wary of when dealing with these organisms to ensure your Spring and Summer are safe.

Important things to consider when dealing with ticks are preventing bites, tick removal, and symptoms that come with a bite. Knowing this information will mean you get prepared for it all!

If you have troublesome pests bothering you or your family, it’s wise to meet with experts that can help you. Contact the professionals at Environmental Pest Management for any pest issues, including roaches, rodents, wasps, and more.

 a tick on a grass blade

Preventing Tick Bites

The first step in fighting back against ticks is to prevent them from biting you entirely. While ticks can get found year-round, they are most prevalent during the warmer months.

Knowing where ticks love to crawl around is crucial when trying to avoid them. Ticks live in many grassy or wooded areas. Activities such as camping, gardening, or walking your dog outside will very likely expose you to potential ticks.

If you are choosing to travel in brushy areas, consider treating your clothing beforehand. Applying an insecticide such as permethrin to your clothes will repel any unwanted bugs. Be sure to follow instructions carefully and allow clothes to air out for safety.

When walking in wooded areas, it’s sensible to walk in the middle of trails or walkways. Doing so means your legs won’t scrape grass or brush where ticks love to gather.

Once you come inside, the next step is to check your clothing for any other bugs on you. If you see or suspect there are ticks on your clothing, you can toss them in a dryer on high heat to kill them.

Be sure to wash and dry clothes in a high-temperature setting. Cold or medium temperatures won’t kill them, and they’ll continue to bug you.

In addition to checking your clothes, you’ll want to investigate your gear and your pets, if you brought them. Ticks on your dog will be harder to spot due to their fur, so be thorough.

Last but not least, perform a full body check on yourself for any ticks. It would be best if you used a mirror to help you see your body better.

Some spots that can hide ticks will include around your ears, or in and around your hair. Additionally, examine under your arms and the back of your knees. Any nook or cranny could be a hiding spot for a tick.

Encephalitis tick Ticks on human skin. Ixodes ricinus can transmit both bacterial and viral pathogens such as the causative agents of Lyme disease and tick-borne encephalitis.

Tick Removal

Tick bites are surprisingly common. If you do find a tick secured to your skin, the most important thing to do is to remain calm.

You’ll want to remove the tick immediately. While there are many tick removers on the market, a simple set of fine-tipped tweezers will be useful to use.

With the tweezers ready, grip the tick as close to your skin as possible. From here, you should pull directly upward with even force. If you jolt or yank the tick, the mouth-part likely latched onto you will break off.

If this happens, don’t panic! Use your tweezers and carefully remove the head from your skin.

Once the tick gets removed, the next step is to clean the bite area. The bite can get cleaned with a disinfectant such as rubbing alcohol, or just soap and water.

As soon as the tick gets removed, you’ll want to dispose of it correctly. Placing it into alcohol will ensure it gets killed, and you can put it in a sealed container as an extra measure.

Afterward, keep an eye on the bite area to observe any side effects. Should you develop a rash or fever, contact your doctor immediately.

Dangerous infectious parasite on green stinging plant with defensive hairs. Carrier of encephalitis and Lyme borreliosis infections

Symptoms of Tick Bites

In most cases, a tick bite won’t have any effect on you whatsoever. The tick bite may be painless, and the tick will feed and fall off. Symptoms will come after the bite happens.

Symptoms for a tick bite vary from slightly annoying to severe complications. The most important thing you can do is spot the signs before it becomes dangerous.

Minor symptoms for a tick bite include itching, burning, and redness. These get easily identified as they happen and can let you know that something happened.

In rare cases, an individual may be sensitive or allergic to tick bites. These allergies can lead to a rash, shortness of breath, swelling, numbness, or even temporary paralysis.

More severe symptoms for a tick bite include fever, shortness of breath, headache, or vomiting. If you experience these symptoms, seek medical attention immediately.

Since ticks feed on your blood, they can introduce dangerous pathogens to you. Diseases can get transmitted from the tick feeding.

The most associated disease with tick bites is Lyme disease. This disease will get received from ticks in the northeastern U.S., upper midwestern U.S, and along the Pacific coast.

Another disease transmitted by ticks is the Rocky Mountain spotted fever. Symptoms include a high fever that lasts weeks, muscle aches, vomiting, and fatigue.

A dangerous disease that can be carried by ticks is Tularemia. Luckily, with early treatment, complete recovery is possible. If left unchecked, Tularemia is life-threatening.

As you can see, ticks can range from mildly annoying to potentially threatening. It’s essential to know how to avoid ticks, how to remove them, and signs of symptoms.

Check out our tips for naturally keeping bugs away here.

If you suspect that you have a problem with annoying pests, don’t hesitate to contact Environmental Pest Management. No job is too big or too small!