It’s summertime!  The fleas and ticks are celebrating this time of year and are out in abundance.  Being a small animal veterinarian in South Florida, we see these pesky parasites all year long, but more so during the summer.  So commonly we have pet parents bringing their beloved pets into the animal hospital in a panic when they see fleas or ticks on their pets.  Even more commonly, my pet parents get fleas and ticks confused and are not sure which parasite they are seeing on their pet.  So today, I would like to take a moment to discuss the differences between ticks and fleas, how they bite your pets differently, and what we can do to protect your pets from these parasites.

Although fleas and ticks are completely different species of insects, they do have some similarities, and very commonly get confused.  Both are parasites, which mean they are an organism that live in or on another organism, a host, and benefit from deriving nutrients at the expense of their host’s blood.  Now perhaps you can understand why so many people come to me in a panic that they see fleas or ticks on their beloved pet?!  Despite both fleas and ticks using your pet as their meals for survival, they bite and feed in very different ways.  In addition, they appear very different to the naked eye.  Many monthly preventatives treat for both fleas and ticks and are grouped into the same preventative, further confusing people between their differences.  So, what are the main differences between fleas and ticks and how can you help to keep your pets safe from these pesky parasites?

Fleas.  To the naked eye, adult fleas are visible, about the size of a pinpoint needle, and enjoy living and feeding on their dog and cat hosts.  A flea’s lifespan is about 100 days, and if possible they will spend their adult life on your pet, feeding, reproducing, and laying eggs.   They are wingless insects, black in color, and can jump very high.  To determine if your pet is infested with fleas, it is important to be able to identify whether what you are seeing is truly a flea.  Adult fleas tend to move very quickly, and can even jump when seeing them on your pet.  In the early stages of infestation, you may not be able to find one, but may see “flea dirt” which is the common name for flea feces.  If small black speckled “dirt like” material is obvious on the skin of your pet, this is usually a sign that fleas are present.  Flea dirt can be easily detected on light colored pets, by parting the fur and looking at the skin, but it may be more difficult to find on pets that have darker pigmentation.  Fleas combs, small fine toothed combs designed to trap flea dirt and fleas, are a great way to see if your pet is infested. Most flea bites produce a localized redness with possible swelling, similar to other insect bites. Always contact your veterinarian when fleas are seen on your pet and make sure your pet is treated property and placed on a monthly preventative.  There are many ways to treat for fleas on your pet and at home. I highly recommend Richard’s Organics Flea and Tick Shampoo to treat your pets at home for parasite infestation.

Ticks.  Ticks are a close cousin to spiders and are in the arachnid family.  They have eight legs, which may be difficult to see with the naked eye, and are bigger than fleas.  There are many different species and sizes of ticks.  Unlike fleas, ticks will live their adult lives on multiple hosts, and are not tied down to one.  There are many different sizes and species of ticks and they can have a lifespan of anywhere between 3 weeks to 3 years.  When found on your pet, ticks are generally stationary and feeding, unlike fleas.  Ticks feed by burrowing or embedding their entire heads into the skin of your pet, where they become attached, and then take a blood meal.  Ticks can be a bit more daunting for my pet parents than fleas.  In addition to their scary appearance, they can cause some very serious diseases.  Sometimes tick bites can develop a bullseye-like appearance and more than likely will develop a scab or raised lesion, unlike flea bites.  I always inform my pet parents to take caution when removing a tick from your pet.  I recommend wearing gloves, and applying rubbing alcohol to the exposed body of the tick.  Using steady pressure, pull the tick out with tweezers using a straight motion, making sure not to twist or jerk.  Do not squeeze or crush the tick while removing the tick from your pet. After removing the tick, make sure the head and mouth parts were removed.  If not, take your pet to the veterinarian to remove what is left in your pet’s skin. If multiple ticks are noted on your pet, speak with your veterinarian regarding a tick dip to try and remove multiple ticks.  Always contact your veterinarian when ticks are seen on your pet, and make sure your pet is treated property and placed on a monthly preventative.

I hope this helps to clear up some of the confusion between fleas and ticks.  Both are pesky parasites that not only feed on your pet and cause irritation, but also can transmit different diseases.  Making sure your pets are free of parasites and on the proper preventatives are imperative to their health and wellbeing.  If you see any fleas or ticks on your pet, contact your veterinarian immediately.  They are your best resource to ensure the health and well-being of your pets!

I commonly recommend:

Veterinary Formula Flea & Tick Shampoo – This shampoo kills and controls fleas & ticks on contact. What I love about this anti-parasitic shampoo is that it is paraben free, dye free, pH balanced, and soap-free which is less harsh and damaging to your pet’s skin. Most importantly this shampoo is safe for your pet promoting their overall well-being and health. .

Veterinary Formula Flea & Tick Spray– This topical spray provides dogs with up to 14 weeks of protection against fleas and ticks – the longest lasting results available on the market today. Also prevents re-infestation and the development of flea larvae and eggs.  Like the organic shampoo, this spray uses the natural insecticide, pyrethrum to kill fleas and ticks on contact. It also includes Nylar® to prevent the development of flea larvae and eggs and permethrin to give long-lasting protection against adult fleas to prevent re-infestation.

Richard’s Organics natural flea and tick shampooSo many of my clients do not want to use harsh chemicals and insecticides on their beloved pets, and understandably so.  I love recommending Richard’s organics line for flea and tick treatment and prevention for this very reason. It is safe and effective without exposing your pet to harsh chemicals found in traditional flea shampoos.  Richard’s Organics Flea & Tick Shampoo is a 100% all-natural actives flea & tick treatment for dogs and puppies over 12 weeks of age and it also repels mosquitoes.  It contains cinnamon oil (environmentally-friendly and nice-smelling insecticide & pesticide), clove oil( natural insecticide is also known to provide anti-microbial & anti-fungal properties), cedarwood oil (helps to treat seborrhea as well as bacterial and fungal infections. Also used as an astringent and insect repellant), peppermint oil (carries a high concentration of natural pesticides as well as a high menthol content and limonene) and rosemary oil (natural medicinal herb is used topically for a variety of purposes; as an insect repellant, to prevent and treat baldness, help with circulation problems, and may also aid in treating eczema).  What I love about this anti-parasitic shampoo is that it is paraben free, dye free, pH balanced, and soap-free which is less harsh and damaging to your pet’s skin.

Richard’s Organics natural flea and tick spray is a naturally gentle & safe way to kill pesky & dangerous fleas and ticks, while also repelling mosquitos. A natural treatment that is sulfate and paraben free as well as pyrethrin and permethrin free benefits the dog without exposing you or your pet to harsh chemicals. It contains cinnamon oil (environmentally-friendly and nice-smelling insecticide & pesticide), clove oil( natural insecticide is also known to provide anti-microbial & anti-fungal properties, and cedarwood oil (helps to treat seborrhea as well as bacterial and fungal infections. It is also used as an astringent and insect repellant), peppermint oil (carries a high concentration of natural pesticides as well as a high menthol content and limonene) and rosemary oil (natural medicinal herb is used topically for a variety of purposes; as an insect repellant, to prevent and treat baldness, help with circulation problems, and may also aid in treating eczema).

Richard’s Organics Premise Treatment and Pet Bedding Spray- When treating and oncontrolling ticks and fleas on your pet it is imperative to treat he environment in addition to your pet. I love Richard’s Organics Premise Treatment and Pet Bedding Spray and recommend this spray to my clients. It is safe and contains all natural ingredients. It contains cinnamon oil (environmentally-friendly and nice-smelling insecticide & pesticide), rosemary oil(natural medicinal herb is used topically for a variety of purposes; as an insect repellant, to prevent and treat baldness, help with circulation problems, and may also aid in treating eczema) clove oil( natural insecticide is also known to provide anti-microbial & anti-fungal properties, cedarwood oil (helps to treat seborrhea as well as bacterial and fungal infections. Also used as an astringent and insect repellant), peppermint oil (carries a high concentration of natural pesticides as well as a high menthol content and limonene), peppermint oil (carries a high concentration of natural pesticides as well as a high menthol content and limonene), and eugenol (oily liquid extracted from essential oils such as: clove, nutmeg, cinnamon, basil and bay leaf. It is normally used as a local anti-septic and anesthetic.)

About Dr. Alison Birken

My name is Dr. Alison Birken and I am a small animal veterinarian, wife, mother of three, and a sister to my three siblings. I graduated veterinary school from The University of Florida College of Veterinary Medicine in 2006, and completed a year internship in small animal medicine at Florida Veterinary Specialist in Tampa, Florida. I have been practicing small animal medicine for 11 years and over the past 6 years have dedicated my life to building and operating an animal hospital in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, accomplishing a lifelong goal of mine. In addition, along with my sisters (Katie, a pediatrician and Carrie, a fashion stylist), I am a co-founder of Forever Freckled (www.foreverfreckled.com), a website dedicated to helping people with pets, children, and everyday lifestyle. It has been an incredible journey turning my passion for animals into a career and nothing brings me more joy than to help pets and their parents with wellness and healthy living. For wellness and health tips for pets, and other lifestyle advice, please follow our journey on www.foreverfreckled.com.

You May Also Like

X