What Attracts Fleas & Ticks to Animals?

A trip outside could bring back more than you bargained for.
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Every time Fluffy or Spot ventures outside, your furry friend could bring a little blood-sucking hitchhiker back in. Fleas and ticks, the parasitic bane of pet owners, thrive outdoors and are always looking for their next meal. How they find their walking smorgasbord differs, but it doesn't change the end result.

Movement Detected

Fleas are the more mobile of the two pests, and take the initiative to seek out lunch. Two short antennae on their head act as scanners to detect vibration, heat and traces of carbon dioxide nearby, which would indicate a possible meal is close. Their strong hind legs enable them to jump from 10 to 30 centimeters, and tiny bristles on their bodies act like little hooks to latch onto a new host, according to the department of medical entomology at the University of Sydney. From there they move along the animal, find a nice spot and chow down.

Going My Way?

Ticks are more patient in their meal search -- they are also attracted to carbon dioxide, but can't jump or move very fast to seek out hosts. So they take the "eventually something will come along" approach. They climb to a higher vantage point, typically tall grass or other vegetation, stretch their little legs out and wait for an animal to pass by. When they sense a large object and detect carbon dioxide, they'll grab on and find a cool, dark spot on the animal to dig in and feed.

Once Bitten

Their tiny little bites are not the main problem fleas and ticks pose; it's the diseases and problems that come when these buggers set up camp on your pet. Fleas can carry tapeworm eggs, causing an additional parasitic infestation in your dog or cat. A high population of fleas can actually become lethal if their appetite exceeds the rate at which the animal can replace blood. Skin infections are also a risk, as some animals are allergic to flea bites. Ticks carry various bacteria and diseases, such as Lyme disease, Rocky Mountain spotted fever and babesiosis. Some diseases can spread to humans should an infected tick decide on a bipedal snack.

Send Them Packing

Although one obvious solution to preventing flea and tick infestations is through pesticide use, that's not the only way to get rid of the little blood-suckers. Since fleas and ticks need a certain type of outdoor habitat to thrive, remove these conditions to evict them. Clear your property of yard waste and keep your lawn and landscaping neatly mowed and trimmed. Both bugs love dark areas, so encourage as much sunlight as possible into these parasite havens, according to the PetMD website.

Always check with your veterinarian before changing your pet’s diet, medication, or physical activity routines. This information is not a substitute for a vet’s opinion.

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