For many in the Houston area, warmer temperatures bring sunshine and fun. That means more time spent outdoors hiking, running, or exploring the woods with friends, family, and pets. But not only the residents favor the summer months here.
The milder temperatures and increased humidity in Houston spring and summers provide ideal conditions for survival and increased reproduction rates for both fleas and ticks. And as you and your pets spend more time outside, the likelihood you’ll encounter them and the potential harm they can cause increases.
Even if you remember to wear bug spray and quickly check yourself and your pets, you’re still vulnerable to these sneaky critters. Fortunately, there is a lot known about these creatures and how to spot them and handle them effectively.
What Do Fleas and Ticks Look Like?
Ticks are small insects that are typically three to five millimeters long. They are parasites, belonging to the arachnid class, making them closely related to spiders or mites. There are many different types of ticks, but Texas is home to these four common types:
- Brown dog tick
- American dog tick
- Deer tick
- Lone star tick
All of these types of ticks are hard-shelled and cannot fly or jump. They find their hosts by hanging onto blades or grass or leaves in grassy or wooded areas where humans and animals frequent. They grab onto the host as they’re passing, and find a spot to bite to feed on the host’s blood.
Also read: 8 Facts You Didn’t Know About Ticks
Fleas are also tiny parasitic insects that are closely related to beetles or ants. They’re reddish-brown with flat bodies. Like ticks, they can’t fly, but they can jump. In fact, they have an eight-inch jumping ability, making it easy for them to ambush you or your pets.
They survive by sucking on the blood of their host. Between 24-48 hours after finding a host and feeding on them, female fleas will lay their eggs – up to 50 a day. The eggs and “flea dirt” (partially digested blood) fall off you or your pet, starting a new lifecycle of fleas.
What Threat Do They Pose to You and Your Pets?
Ticks are known as “vectors” for disease transmission, meaning they carry micro-organisms that cause disease in both you and your pet, from animal to animal. So, if a tick bites an infected animal, then bites you or your pet – you’re at risk for the same disease. Diseases ticks are known to pass:
- Lyme disease. This inflammatory disorder can be transmitted to humans or dogs and cats. The most obvious signs in dogs are a “bullseye” lesion around the bite, fever, inflamed nodes, and lethargy. Infected humans will show flu-like symptoms including tiredness, muscle pain, poor sleep, and stomach issues. You’ll also notice a “bullseye” shaped lesion around the bite area on humans as well.
- Anemia. If a tick sucks enough blood from you or your pet, you may develop anemia – a lack of red blood cells. Anemia causes extreme fatigue, lightheadedness, and dizziness.
- Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever (RMSF). More common in humans, signs of symptoms of RMSF include an abrupt onset of fever, malaise, headache, muscle aches, loss of appetite, nausea, vomiting, and a rash.
- Cytauxzoonosis. This tick-borne disease is only seen in cats and can cause difficulty breathing, fever, loss of appetite, jaundice, coma, and death in untreated.
Similar to ticks, fleas can pose various threats to you and your pets. It can be as simple as irritated skin or allergies, or more severe, like:
- Anemia. Because fleas also feed on blood, they can cause low red blood cells or anemia.
- Tapeworms. Fleas can transfer tapeworms to animals and humans. Tapeworms are small and may not cause symptoms in some people or pets, but tiredness, abdominal pain, weight loss, and diarrhea can occur.
- Typhus. While uncommon, fleas can transmit typhus to humans. Typhus is an infectious disease that causes fever, headaches, and rashes and can quickly spread if not contained.
How Do I Prevent Them?
If the idea of ticks and fleas and the potential disease they cause alarms you, don’t worry. There are several methods to remain vigilant against these little pests. To keep them at bay, you should:
- Check you and your pet daily. As mentioned, these bugs are small, so you may not notice them on a whim. Do a thorough exam if you spend a lot of time outside.
- Mow your lawns regularly. Keeping your grass short with less brush gives ticks and fleas fewer places to hide.
- Use repellents and wear longer-sleeved clothing if you’re going to be outside for an extended time.
- Remove any brush from your yard as this is also a hiding spot for these bugs.
- Frequently vacuum areas where your pets sit or sleep.
- Launder all your bedding, blankets, and pillows (indoors and outdoors if you have patio furniture).
- Consult with your pet’s vet for proper prevention medication.
- Contact a pest control expert like Cypress Creek to do a flea or tick extermination visit.
Arming yourself with knowledge surrounding fleas and tick and how to control them is critical for this time of year. To further protect yourself for these insects, contact us at Cypress Creek. As experts in extermination, we can use the right products to reduce your probability of dealing with ticks and fleas.