guide on dog fleas vs. ticks – what’s the difference

Dog Fleas Vs. Ticks – What’s the Difference?

There are two short words, related to two very small insects, that can make any loving dog owner shiver in their boots. Fleas and ticks – the two tiny but many fear enemies of anyone sharing their homes with a dog. It is something you try to avoid at all costs, especially during the summer months with lots of outdoor play and tall grass, but in many places, they are active and present all year around – much to a dog owner’s disgrace.

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What’s The Difference Between Fleas And Ticks?

Not everybody knows what the difference between a tick and flea is; what they look like, what they do and the dangers that come with them, and that is something you will want to be aware of as a responsible pup parent. Not only is it helpful when identifying them, but it is also key information when knowing what to do if you find them and how to eliminate them (hopefully) once and for all. Let’s have a quick look at what ticks and fleas are:


The dog flea belongs to the Ctenocephalides genus and the Pulicidae family, and they are a species of flies that affect domestic dogs, cats, and other mammals. It is similar to the so-called Cat flea, which is able to feed off of a larger group of animals, and if your poor pup has ended up with fleas – it is usually one of these two bad boy species.

Fleas feed by sucking the blood out of their host, but they can live for several weeks without eating, which makes them difficult to get rid of! The female, however, cannot produce eggs unless she feeds first, which means they will not multiply unless having access to a dog, cat or even a human. This can temporarily halt the spreading of the flea, but as soon as a suitable host is re-introduced – the cycle starts right back up again.

A female flea will lay around 50 eggs per day (!), which is a scary number when trying to control an infestation. It explains how come fleas can multiply so incredibly fast and why it can sometimes take days or weeks to get rid of them unless handled right. The flea goes through four different life stages; embryo, larva, pupa and adult, it has 6-8 legs depending on species and it is very small and either elongated or completely round. Ticks have the ability to jump about 150 times their own length and can jump over to your dog from an infected animal or from pretty much anywhere.

The flea can cause itching, scabs, rashes, overall skin irritation and redness, and it spreads both bacteria and – unfortunately – worms. A dog with fleas can get tapeworm, which needs to be treated separately.


There are several different types of ticks, but they are all similar in physique and overall look, and easy to recognize. One tick species is the Dog tick, the Dermacentor variabilis – part of the Ixodidae family. This little fella is known to carry diseases such as what can cause Lyme Disease and Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, and they are usually found in areas with grass and tall vegetation. A way to reduce the tick population in your own backyard is, for example, to keep the grass short, as ticks don’t tend to like the low-humidity environment it creates.

Ticks like warm weather and tend to be more active during the summer months, but this depends entirely on where you are located, as some areas struggle with tick infestations all year around. A tick has 6 legs and swells up to many times its original size while it feeds, which is how you can tell if it just a bit or if it has been sitting there for a while. The longer it sits, the bigger the risk for diseases to transmit, but sometimes a few seconds is all it takes. Not every tick carries disease, however, and many are completely harmless. For this reason, there is no need to panic at the sight of one, but caution should be taken at all times.

When removing a tick, it is important to get the whole head, since they tend to dig into the skin a bit. The last thing you want to do is to squeeze it since you could be squeezing harmful bacteria into the dog’s bloodstream, so try to use tweezers or a tick remover tool (can be purchased in pet stores and pharmacies) since removing them with your hands can be difficult. After removal, you will want to keep an eye out for red rings forming around the bite, or for any other signs of complications, and always consult a veterinarian if unsure.

Fleas vs. Ticks

The tick also lays eggs and multiplies and can cause an infestation inside the home, but it happens at a somewhat slower pace than the flea. Fleas, as mention above, can produce 50 new eggs per day and jump impressive lengths, while the tick has no jumping abilities and crawls upon its host.

Fleas and Ticks

The flea is generally smaller than the tick and less physically resistant, and they don’t tend to sit as firmly as a tick. Ticks can bite down incredibly hard and require a bit of patience before they can be pulled out safely, while a flea tends to release right away or put up very little resistance. If your pet has a lot of small crawling bugs all over their body, they’re almost always fleas. Ticks, on the other hand, can also sit in groups, but they tend to choose areas like the ears, armpits or other areas where they can easily access skin. Fleas crawl around, while ticks are usually bigger and tend to bite down and sit still for what can be several days.

Both fleas and ticks need to be taken care of as soon as they are discovered, to avoid complications or them spreading more than necessary. Take action if you discover any types of insects on your dog, to spare him or her the agony and the itching that is sure to come.

Related: Flea Spray

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