Two of the most common – and very resilient – parasites of man’s best friend are fleas and ticks. While they may look harmless at first, they bring disease-causing microorganisms with them that can significantly undermine your dog’s health. As such it is imperative that you be able to get rid of these pests. Getting rid of them should start with the correct knowledge of what differentiates one from the other. So what is the difference between fleas and ticks on dogs?
Fleas: Mighty Jumpers of the Insect World
In a word, fleas are mighty jumpers. They are wingless insects but are gifted with very large and very powerful hind legs that allow them to kick the surface from underneath their feet and propel their bodies up to 110 times their body length. And this is just the vertical jump; we’re not even talking about a horizontal jump which can reach up to 200 times its body length. Imagine a 7-foot NBA player jumping 770 feet high or a 5-foot tall long distance jumper taking off and landing some 1,000 feet away. Such is the jumping efficiency of fleas and this is actually what makes them very prolific as pests for your pooch. Because of their unparalleled jumping capabilities coupled with razor-sharp, claw-like extensions on their legs, they can easily jump from their hiding places and onto a passing host – your dog – where they will reside for the rest of their lives.
The thing about fleas is that they are extremely ‘loyal’ to their hosts; pun intended. Once they ‘latch’ onto a dog, they will never let go. In fact, they will live the rest of their lives on a single host. Adult fleas will lay eggs on the surface of the dog’s skin. As many as 40 eggs can be produced in a single day by a single adult flea. When your dog starts roaming outdoors or even indoors and starts scratching, it can actually dislodge these eggs from its skin and these eggs fall to the ground where they undergo changes until they mature and become ready to jump onto the next available host that comes along. An adult flea can start laying eggs as soon as it starts feeding off your pooch. By the time it dies, it will already be around 100 days old.
Fleas are happiest when they are in a milder climate, although they seem to have a special preference to warmth rather than cold. As such, you can expect them to be indoors when it’s cold outside. They also love carrying with them tapeworms and bartonella species of bacteria. Fleas also leave behind a characteristic mosquito bite-like bite mark on the skin of your pooch that can remain inflamed and itchy for several weeks. Check out our review on the best flea collars for dogs and also our review of the top flea medicine for dogs to help in prevention.
Ticks: Patient Blood-Sucking Relatives of Spidey
Ticks are the small relatives of spiders, but not necessarily Spiderman. That being said, ticks are very prolific crawlers. They may not have wings and they may not be known as efficient web-slingers, but ticks are highly adept at crawling their way to their hosts. They can live from a couple of weeks to 3 years with the average tick living a very productive 2-year lifespan. Experts say these blood-sucking relatives of spiders can live off at least 3 hosts in a span of 1 year. Unlike fleas, ticks don’t really have a sense of loyalty and fidelity to their hosts. As soon as they realize that a much ‘better’ host is available, they are more than ready to jump ship.
Whereas only adult fleas live off of hosts, entire generations of ticks can dwell within a single host. You’ll have larvae, nymphs, and adult ticks feeding off the host. The beauty of ticks is that they won’t lay on the host. When they fall to the ground, that’s the time they will be laying eggs, and they can be very prolific egg-layers producing as many as 1,000 eggs at a time. There is a good reason why ticks lay such a huge number of eggs at any given time – it’s their one and only chance. Upon laying eggs the adult tick dies.
But don’t underestimate these pesky arachnids because they’re a lot tougher than fleas. They can laugh through near-freezing weather without requiring winter gear. They are also known to transmit a variety of germs that cause Rocky Mountain spotted fever, Lyme disease, Colorado tick fever, ehrlichiosis, tick-borne meningoencephalitis, and many more.
If you’re looking at the main difference between fleas and ticks, it is in the nature of the organisms. Fleas are insects while ticks are relatives of spiders. It cannot get any simpler than that.