Fleas and ticks are two common pests that bug your pet, and they become more bloodthirsty as temperatures rise. By understanding how these parasites advance through their life cycles, feed on your pet, and transmit disease, you’ll be better prepared to prevent your furry pal from becoming their victim. Brush up on your flea facts and tick trivia with the following list of tidbits about these bloodsucking parasites.
Flea fact: Fleas have an incredibly flexible life cycle.
Fleas have four life cycle stages—eggs, larvae, pupae, and adults. During each stage, certain environmental conditions are required before the flea can advance to the next stage. Under ideal conditions, the entire life cycle can be completed in 21 days, but the cycle may take well over a year while the pupae stay secure in their cocoons, waiting to emerge when conditions are perfect. Cool, dry environments are best for warding off flea infestations, as this parasite prefers warm, moist conditions.
In addition to their flexible life cycle, fleas are exceptionally hardy and resistant to pesticides during certain life stages, which makes treating an infestation a long-term battle. Adults are most susceptible to chemicals, while the pupae cocoon are practically impervious to harm. This trait also means that adult fleas can pop out at any time from your carpet or furniture, ready to make a meal out of your unprotected pet.
Tick trivia: All tick life cycles must feed on a host before maturing to the next stage.
Ticks have four life cycle stages—eggs, larvae, nymphs, and adults—with all stages except the egg needing to feed on a host to stay alive. Many tick species prefer to feed on different hosts at different life stages, but some, like the brown dog tick, may stick with one host species throughout their entire life cycle. At each stage, most ticks die before they find a host. Without an adequate host nearby, a tick can take up to three years to mature to the adult stage and reproduce. Help reduce the tick population in your area by ensuring your pet is on year-round tick prevention.
Flea fact: A female flea can lay up to 50 eggs per day.
A female flea will usually lay close to 20 eggs per day, but can lay up to 50. This means that a single female flea can create a major infestation in only a couple of months. Multiply those 50 eggs per day by a 21-day life cycle, and you can see how quickly you can have a serious problem on your hands.
Tick trivia: Ticks can transmit multiple diseases through a single bite.
Ticks feed on an infected host to acquire diseases, which they then pass along to other animals during subsequent feedings. Typically, most diseases take a substantial amount of time to be transmitted while feeding. For example, the bacteria responsible for Lyme disease requires a black-legged tick to be attached for about 48 hours before the disease is transmitted. Most tick preventives take advantage of this time lapse between bite and transmission, and kill the tick before it can transmit diseases. However, an attached tick that is not killed by a preventive can transmit a multitude of diseases with a single bite. Pets routinely have coinfections of some combination of Lyme disease, anaplasmosis, and ehrlichiosis, depending on the type of tick bite.
Flea fact: Fleas can transmit parasites and diseases that can affect pets and people.
Like ticks, fleas carry all sorts of bacteria that can cause diseases in pets and people. In fact, fleas are responsible for the bubonic plague. One of the most common bacteria that fleas carry is Bartonella henselae, which causes cat scratch disease in people. Fleas can also carry parasites, which they can then transmit to their hosts, and tapeworms, which can be transmitted to pets. Pets can ingest fleas when they groom themselves and if they eat a flea infected with a tapeworm, the worm is released in the pet’s gastrointestinal tract.
Tick trivia: Ticks don’t fall from trees.
Since ticks often appear after a hike through the woods, many people believe ticks fall from trees. Instead, ticks have a unique way of searching for their hosts, called “questing.” A tick that is questing will wait on top of a tall weed, grass, or bush and stretch out its legs to brush against its next meal. Pets walk by at the perfect height for a tick to grab on tight and begin feasting.
Flea fact: Your pet can develop allergies to flea bites.
Some pets are hyper-sensitive to flea saliva, and a handful of bites can turn them into an itchy, hot mess. Pets who are allergic to flea bites must be on year-round flea prevention to be comfortable, or they can suffer from a hairless hind end, itchy skin, and skin infections.
As temperatures rise with the arrival of spring, so do flea and tick populations. Ensure your furry pal is protected year-round from the threat of parasitic diseases. Give our LaGrange Veterinary Hospital team a call to discuss the best flea and tick prevention products for your pet.