#1: Your pet can have a flea or tick problem without you knowing
Fleas and ticks are tiny and can be difficult to see on your pet. Adult fleas can be as small as 1 millimeter long, which is large enough to be seen with the naked eye if you look carefully. Ticks in the nymph stage are about the size of a poppy seed. Fleas and ticks also are hard to see because they burrow under your pet’s fur into their skin.
Check your pet for fleas and ticks by parting the fur in several areas down to the skin. Both fleas and ticks are brown. Fleas can be found anywhere on the body but like to gather around the neck and head area, whereas ticks are often found attached to the ears. Fleas usually move quickly to get away, while ticks move slowly. Ticks attached to your pet swell to several times their regular size and are often mistaken for a small mole or growth. Also, check for telltale flea dirt—actually flea feces—which looks like tiny black flakes (similar to pepper) and indicates recent flea activity.
#2: Fleas can lay up to 50 eggs per day
Adult fleas are fastidious egg-layers and just two adults can quickly lead to a full-blown infestation. For example, if 50 eggs are laid per day, your flea population can grow to 20,000 fleas in two months. Eggs laid by adults drop off your pet into the carpet or cracks in the flooring to develop. After 2 to 5 days, the eggs hatch into worm-like larvae that feed on flea feces and organic debris and in 1 to 2 weeks develop into pupae, which transform inside cocoons to adult fleas. The adult fleas on your pet make up only 5 percent of the total flea population—eggs, larvae, and pupae make up the other 95 percent.
#3: Some pets are allergic to flea bites
Flea bites make all animals itchy, but some are allergic to the bites. After feeding on your pet, a flea leaves behind a tiny amount of saliva that triggers an inflammatory reaction that causes the itching. Animals that have a flea-bite allergy are particularly sensitive to flea saliva, and affected dogs and cats can break out in an intensely itchy rash after just one bite. Although flea control is important for all pets, owners of pets with flea allergy dermatitis (FAD) must be particularly diligent about prevention.
#4: Ticks don’t jump onto your pet
Fleas have powerful back legs that allow them to jump 110 times their length. Ticks, on the other hand, have short legs that only allow them to crawl slowly, and they use a method called questing, where they climb onto a blade of grass or a plant leaf and reach out their legs to latch onto whomever passes by—human or animal. Contrary to popular belief, ticks do not jump or fall out of trees onto you or your pet.
#5: Both fleas and ticks feed on your pet’s blood
Fleas and ticks are parasites because they depend upon another being for survival—both need to consume blood to complete their life cycle. Like fleas, ticks go through several developmental stages. They feed only once at each stage, but must do so to progress to the next stage. Fleas, which must feed on blood before they can lay eggs, frequently feed on small amounts of blood, whereas ticks attach and feed continuously for several days and grow to several times their normal size as they engorge blood.
#6: Fleas and ticks can transmit dangerous diseases
As fleas and ticks feed, they can transmit dangerous diseases to your pet—and to you, if you’re unlucky enough to be bitten. Diseases that can be passed along include:
- Lyme disease
- Cat Scratch disease
- Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever
- Murine typhus
#7: Preventing fleas and ticks can be easy
Preventing flea and tick infestation is an important part of your pet’s medical care. Our veterinary team can recommend safe products to ensure she stays pest-free all year long. Most need to be administered only once a month. Prevention is much less expensive than treating an infestation or, worse, a disease transmitted by a blood-sucking hitch-hiker.
Questions about fleas and ticks? Call us at 615-896-3434.