When it comes to pests that love to latch on to your pets, there are no two bigger culprits than the flea and the tick. These disgusting parasites love nothing better than to climb onto your furry friend for a free meal. This could be a bad thing for your home depending on which little blood sucker your pet is hosting. Knowing the difference between fleas and ticks is an important part of keeping your home and family safe.

Ticks

Ticks are actually closely related to spiders. They are a small hard, round parasite with six legs. They can have a wide variety of colors and markings. They spend the first part of their lives hanging on to low plants and foliage looking for a warm blooded mammal to become their home and meal. Once they sense the smell, temperature and vibration of an approaching animal, the tick climbs onto its host and begins to feed.

While ticks are dangerous and can carry diseases harmful to humans, such as Rocky Mountain spotted fever and Lyme disease, human habitats do not support tick populations. They require a densely vegetated, humid environment to thrive and reproduce. Your home is safe from all but the occasional stray tick that makes its way in on you or your pet.

Fleas

Fleas are a parasite of a different nature. Like ticks, they seek out a warm blooded host from which to feed. They are an insect with a body smaller than a grain of rice. It is quite easy to distinguish a flea from other insects by the way the leap great distances. A flea has a jumping range of around 13 inches.

Unlike ticks, fleas live together on the host animal in large numbers. One female flea has the ability to lay over 5,000 eggs in her lifetime. Once the female lays her eggs, they can live for up to 100 days until warmth and vibrations cause them to hatch. An adult flea with a regular supply of blood can live as long as one and a half years. This combination of factors makes the flea a difficult pest to eradicate without professional assistance.

Once you discover the presence of these nasty parasites in your home, it is essential to begin a regimen of flea control. If left unchecked a colony of fleas can quickly take over an entire home, leaving you with little red bites all over your feet, ankles and shins. Flea saliva causes dermatitis in dogs, leading to red, flaky skin and bald patches. Fleas can carry a number of dangerous diseases including typhus and spotted fever. In the 12th century, fleas were responsible for killing one-third of Europe by spreading the Bubonic plague.