If you’re a new pet owner, it can be overwhelming to think about all the potential risks and hazards that could affect your dog or cat. You love your pets and obviously want to keep them safe. But how can you possibly protect them from everything? At the top of the list of risks are two of the most common parasites found on cats and dogs: fleas and ticks.

Fleas and ticks bite host animals—in this case, your cat or dog—and feed from their blood. These bites cause itching and discomfort. But did you know the impact of these parasites goes beyond itchiness? These parasites can carry diseases that have serious impacts on your pet’s health.

It’s important for pet owners to understand the risk posed by fleas and ticks. That’s because you can’t totally protect your pets from these predators if you don’t know where your pet may pick them up and how to avoid them. Keep reading to learn all about fleas and ticks, including which parasite poses a bigger threat to your pet.

About Fleas

If you’ve ever been around dogs or cats, you’re probably a little familiar with fleas already. These parasites feed on your pet’s blood and can reproduce extremely quickly. This makes flea infestations extremely difficult to contain once they start. Even though the flea’s life span only lasts a few months, a single adult female flea can lay up to 50 eggs a day!

Flea bites cause a lot of stress or discomfort—if you’ve ever been bitten by one, you understand the pain! A pet dealing with a flea infestation may present with a lot of biting, scratching, and licking. As you can imagine, this can cause additional skin irritation beyond just the flea bites.

But the dangers of fleas extend far beyond itchiness. Fleas are at fault for many other diseases in household pets, including:

  • Tapeworms
  • Bartonellosis (Cat Scratch Disease)
  • Yersiniosis (Plague)
  • Mycoplasma Infection

In extreme infestations, fleas may even cause your cat or dog to become anemic due to severe blood loss.

About Ticks

Because ticks don’t reproduce as quickly as fleas do, you most likely will never have to worry about a tick infestation in your home. But that doesn’t mean ticks are any less dangerous. With these parasites, it only takes one bite to cause potentially life-threatening damage.

The good thing about tick bites is that they usually don’t itch. Your pet will probably not even notice when a tick latches on. If you’ve ever found a tick on your body after hiking or camping, you probably didn’t feel it either. But unless removed, ticks will remain on the skin for several days or even weeks. The longer the tick is attached, the higher the risk that the tick will transmit a deadly disease.

Many tick species are common across the United States. Some of these include the brown dog tick, American dog tick, black-legged tick, Lone Star tick, and Gulf Coast tick. These ticks spread many diseases, including:

  • Lyme disease (the most common)
  • Anaplasmosis
  • Ehrlichiosis
  • Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever
  • Babesiosis

All of these tick-borne illnesses are very serious and can have devastating impacts on your pet’s health. Symptoms include fever, joint pain, lethargy, anorexia, and even death.

Which Is More Dangerous: Fleas or Ticks?

You probably wouldn’t be happy to find either of these parasites on your pet. Not only do they cause many life-threatening diseases, but they can transmit worms that cause heartworm disease too. You’re still probably wondering, though—which is more dangerous? Fleas or ticks?

Most would agree that ticks pose a greater threat to your cat or dog. This is because of the severity of the diseases they transmit. Flea infestations can be deadly to animals in very severe cases, but death usually isn’t a common outcome when fleas are involved. Ticks, on the other hand, are responsible for far more deaths.

How to Protect Your Pet from Fleas and Ticks

All this talk of deadly diseases can inspire anxiety. But the good news is, there are things you can do to protect your new pet against both fleas and ticks. The first and most important thing you should do as a pet owner is start your pet on monthly flea and tick prevention. Your veterinarian can recommend the best product.

You should also conduct thorough searches of your pet on a regular basis, examining their skin and looking for fleas or ticks. It can also be helpful to educate yourself on the signs of flea- or tick-related illnesses. If you start to notice any heartworm symptoms in dogs or cats, you’ll be able to contact a vet and seek help immediately.

Finally, do all you can to prevent fleas and ticks from getting on your pet in the first place. Avoid any areas where fleas or ticks are prevalent. You can also follow these pest control techniques to keep these parasites out of your home and yard.