Fleas and ticks aren’t just annoying—they can potentially transmit life-threatening illnesses to your pet and even you. But, they’re not just annoying and don’t just carry serious illnesses, they’re also gross. They’re seriously disgusting. But which is more disgusting, the flea or the tick? We examine the nastiness of both of these little monsters and once you’ve gotten a little nauseous, you can start to make up your mind. The revolution of revulsion is here. Which is your side?
While both fleas and ticks are more likely to bite your pets, both have been known to bite humans, and both have the potential to carry pathogens that can make you seriously ill. In terms of developmental feeding, only adult stage fleas
are capable of biting you. However, their appearance in the larval stage and what they are eating instead of fresh blood raises the degree of disgust for fleas.
As larvae, fleas are white, maggot-like, legless and blind, with tiny hairs running along their bodies. They retreat from light and wriggle into the smallest, most reclusive nooks and crevices they can fit into. They feed on the feces of adult fleas. They lay in wait near adult fleas, until the adult fleas defecate. They continue waiting for feces and any bits of dead skin, dust, or dander they can find and eat as much as they can before molting. Gross!
Ticks on the other hand, are capable of biting you in their larval, nymph and adult stages
, and in fact need to feed on fresh blood to successfully progress through each respective stage of development. The notion that ticks are always on the hunt, and that all eight legs travel your body until setting up camp is more menacing than the adult-only bloodsucking fleas. Yet, the actual process that ticks go through when they commit to a bite is far more involved than how fleas bite.
Ticks use their hypostome to puncture the skin and feed. Once the ticks have reached past the skin, sharp teeth on the front of the hypostome start cutting blood vessels. After enough blood vessels have been severed, ticks secrete anticoagulants, preventing clotting and getting access to as much blood as possible. As the blood pools, the tick feeds. The salivary glands of hard ticks secrete a cement-like substance, anchoring them to their host. Barbs on their hypostome lock this needlelike protrusion in place, which they use like a straw to drink blood. Their cement-like secretions dissolve only when they’ve finished feeding. They can also carry a number of diseases.
So, after being exposed to some brief, dirty truths about these parasitic pests, which would be quicker to turn your stomach: a gaggle of fleas or a torrent of ticks? This is just a taste of the nastiness these creeps bring to the world. Arm yourself with knowledge and choose a side (but we recommend protecting your pet from both nasty critters).
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by James Donatelli