Warning: this post will make your skin crawl!

Fleas and ticks are tiny, discrete, and GROSS parasites that carry many diseases. Here in Central Texas, we mainly encounter the lone star tick, brown dog tick, American dog tick, and cat flea. These are just the most popular types of fleas and ticks here in Central Texas that are more prone to bite humans.

In this blog, we will discuss the transmittable diseases that these pests spread, their common habitats, and most importantly, how to protect yourself from getting bit.

Fleas

The adult cat flea is approximately 1/8 of an inch long and is darker in color with no wings. They have long legs designed for jumping. Although the adults can jump, they complete most of their traveling on a host. The flea then jumps to another being and remains attached until removed or groomed from that host.

The flea lifecycle is made up of four stages: egg, larvae, pupa, and adult. Typically, you’ll only see adult fleas on the host, not the eggs, larva, or pupae. Without a host, adult fleas will live anywhere from 2 days to 2 weeks. When attached to a short-haired host, the adult will survive for approximately 8 days. However, adult fleas can live longer than this when on a longer-haired host.

You’ve probably noticed an increase in itching during the summer. This is because fleas are more active during the summer months here in Central Texas. The more time you spend outdoors, the higher the risk of encountering fleas! However, fleas cannot survive in temperatures above 97 degrees F, so they mainly live in shaded, moist areas.

The favorite hiding places of a flea include:

  • Fur and hair
  • Carpets and rugs
  • Furniture
  • The soil where animals are present
  • Pet bedding
  • Shrubs, trees, and leaves

A flea bite results in a small, itchy, red bump and typically occurs around the ankles or lower leg area. Allergic reactions include hives or rash-like symptoms. Female fleas require blood to produce eggs, approximately 2 days after the first blood meal.

Your pets will suffer from flea bites as they cause extreme irritation and constant scratching. Your pets may also develop an allergy to fleas which causes serious effects including increased scratching and irritation.

Females can produce 30-50 eggs a day, which fall from the host and collect in random areas. This is how the spread rapidly increases since the fleas hatch in roughly two weeks but can remain dormant for up to five months. A lot of the blood that females consume is converted to feces, which appear as fine, reddish/black dust. These excretions are the main consumption of flea larvae (yuck!).

When fleas have fed on rodents, they may transfer diseases including plague and murine typhus. Thankfully, cat fleas do not carry the plague, but still avoid wild animals including rabbits, squirrels, rats, and prairie dogs which can carry infected fleas.

There is a multitude of ways that fleas can enter your home. One of those ways is through local wildlife. There may be unwelcome house guests living in your attic or crawl spaces! If you notice wildlife traffic near or in your home, be sure to trap or prevent those animals from entering your property. This will decrease the chances of fleas entering your home.

If you do find an unwelcome animal inside your home, discover how they entered so you can prevent intrusions in the future. You’ll want to eliminate wildlife traffic before cleaning and managing fleas in your home.

Here are several ways that you can manage fleas in your home:

  • Thoroughly clean and sanitize your home
  • Wipe down all surfaces
  • Vacuum floors and furniture
  • Remove the vacuum bag and discard it outside your home in a garbage can
  • Wash bedding and furniture covers in hot, soapy water

Unfortunately, your loveable pets can be a big reason that fleas exist in your dwelling since they are carriers. If you notice that your furry friends have fleas, be sure to bathe, brush, and treat them with appropriate products.

Grooming with a flea comb is very effective at removing adult fleas burrowed in fur. Comb paying special attention around the neck, face, and in front of the tail, dipping the comb in soap or an alcohol solution that will kill the fleas. Regular baths are worth the work in preventing the existence of these pests as well.

Treat the areas where your pets spend more time, focusing on sanitizing and washing those spots in and around your home. Be sure to wash your pet’s bedding in hot water as well, just as you would with bedding and furniture coverings.

Before using a flea product on or near your pet, check with your vet to make sure it’s safe. You’ll want to sanitize your pet’s bedding and regular areas the same time you treat and clean your pets, this will limit the spread of fleas dramatically.

There are many products available for flea control that may be used to treat both indoor and outdoor areas. Depending on the extremity of the flea invasion, treatment may take a while to completely resolve the infestation. Second treatments will typically be completed 10-14 days after the first treatment.

Ticks

Ticks are small, parasitic arachnids that attach to a host and suck blood. They can be hard to find and transmit terrible diseases, so it’s important to know how to prevent ticks from feasting on you and your loved ones.

Here in Central Texas, we commonly encounter the lone star tick, the brown dog tick, and the American dog tick.

These ticks transmit rocky mountain spotted fever which can be transmitted to humans by tick bites, crushed ticks, or infected tick feces on fur. That’s why it’s important to handle ticks with gloves, washing your hands thoroughly afterward. The lone star tick and the American dog tick can also carry Tularemia.

To prevent tick bites, you will need to understand the habits of ticks. These parasites emerge during the warmer months and live in grassy, wooded areas and on animals.

Spending more time outdoors puts you at risk for tick bites, but there are some preventative measures you may implement to protect yourself:

  • Treat your clothing and other outdoor gear with a solution containing 0.5% permethrin
  • Use EPA-registered insect repellents
  • Avoid branching off and exploring overgrown areas. Instead, sticking to the middle of trails will protect you from the common areas where ticks live. This applies to your pets as well!

Upon returning to your home after an exciting outdoor adventure, you should check your clothing, gear, pets, and body for ticks. Be sure to thoroughly examine articles of clothing and wash or dry with hot water/high heat – this will kill the ticks.

Shower as soon as you can! This will ensure you have enough time to examine and remove any possible ticks and reduce the risk of disease. Of course, if you find a tick attached to you, remove it with tweezers and go see your doctor immediately if you experience symptoms.

How to remove a tick:

  1. Grab the tick keeping the tweezers as close to the skin as you can.
  2. Pull in an upwards and steady motion without twisting. You want to be sure the tick’s mouthparts aren’t left behind, twisting and jerking when removing will raise the risk of this happening.
  3. If the mouthparts are left attached to the skin, attempt to carefully remove them with tweezers. If you cannot remove it with tweezers, leave it alone and let the skin heal.
  4. Dispose of the tick by immerging in alcohol, placing it in a sealed plastic bag, or flushing it down the toilet.
  5. After removal and disposal, clean the area, your hands, and the tweezers with rubbing alcohol or warm water and soap.

To make your home a safe place, applying a pesticide outside may help reduce the number of ticks in your yard.

Pets commonly become the host to many ticks, so it’s important to check your furry friends frequently to reduce the chances of them spreading ticks or contracting a tick-borne disease. 

Use a tick preventative product on your dog but ask your vet before applying any tick preventative products on cats since they are sensitive to certain chemicals!

If your pet does contract a tick-borne disease, they will start to show signs of infection within 7-12 days. Some signs that your pet may have a disease are changes in appetite or behavior.

If there are symptoms and signs of infection, take your pet to the vet as soon as possible. If you find a tick on your pet, remove it immediately. It’s best to check your pet every day for ticks, especially if they spend a lot of time outdoors!

Want help? You don’t have to fight fleas & ticks alone!

Contact our pest experts now!