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 got 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 with their bodies. They retreat
from the 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
needle-like 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
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).
Fleas and Lice: What's the Difference?
Both fleas and lice are small, wingless, parasitic insects,
capable of living on your pet (or on you). Fleas and lice cause
great discomfort to their hosts—mainly in the form of itchy
skin, irritated skin—but beyond these basic similarities, the
two parasites do not have much in common. Where fleas are
capable of jumping many inches in the air, lice are slow-moving
and sedentary. Of the two insects, lice are easier to
eradicate; dealing with fleas is a much more intensive and
frustrating experience. That is why preventative medications
like Vectra 3D are so
Can You Catch Fleas and Lice from Your Pet?
Fleas bite any warm-blooded mammal, including humans as well as
cats and dogs. If your pet has fleas, you may find bites on
yourself as well. In contrast, lice are species-specific.
Children cannot pass lice to pets, and similarly, cats or dogs
with lice cannot pass them along to people.
Lice and Your Pet
Unlike humans, who catch and spread lice easily in social
places like schools, cats and dogs who contract lice generally
have bad nutrition and poor health and hygiene. Elderly pets,
as well as puppies and kittens, are also more vulnerable. In
particular, cats at kitty mills are prone to lice.
Dogs can be afflicted by two varieties of lice: biting lice and
sucking lice. A different variety of biting lice use cats as a
host. Cats with lice will be itchy, and their skin may get
scabs and lesions from scratching. Dogs will experience similar
symptoms and skin irritations as a result of lice.
Lice are relatively easy to treat; cat- or dog-specific
shampoos and powders with pyrethrin, an insecticide, can be
applied. Note that human treatments for lice should not be used
on pets--they won’t help, and can potentially cause harm. Lice
can also be treated with Frontline or similar prescriptions
from your veterinarian. Ask your vet before treatment. After
topical treatments, preventative medications can help remove
any eggs on your pet.
Run your pet’s bedding through the laundry, and wash any areas
where your pet typically sits or rests. Remember, your pet’s
lice are not contagious to you, so if your pet isn’t allowed on
your couch or bed, you can skip cleaning those areas. Do
sterilize any grooming tools that you use on your pet.
Fleas and Your Pet
Catching fleas is a matter of circumstance, contact, and bad
luck—since fleas thrive in warm, humid environments, be
particularly watchful for fleas during the summertime. Even
indoor cats can get fleas when you, or other pets, track them
inside the house.
Compared to lice, eradicating fleas is a challenge. You’ll need
to rid your pets and home of the parasite. You can treat fleas
on cats or dogs with shampoos, spot treatments, or oral
medications. If fleas have spread throughout your house, you’ll
need to carefully clean rugs and anything made from fabric, and
Prevention Is Key
Even lice, which are relatively easy to remove from your pet,
are a pain to deal with, and both lice and fleas make your pet
extremely uncomfortable. The best way to avoid these parasites
is to use preventative treatments, like Frontline Plus k9
Advantix II or Advantage II.
More Flea and Tick Control Advice
25 Startling Flea and Tick
What if My Dog Eats a
Flea or Tick?