​Fleas, Ticks, Mosquitos and Diseases – A Crash Course

Fleas, Ticks, Mosquitos and Diseases – A Crash Course

Author Karianne Corwin, August 2018

Fleas, Ticks, and Mosquitos – The Basics

What are Fleas :

Fleas are small, biting bugs. On your dog, full grown fleas look like moving flax seeds. It’s very hard to catch them, because they can jump very far, very fast!

What are Ticks :

Ticks are similar to fleas, but they crawl instead of jump. When a flea bites, it attaches itself to the animal’s skin. Ticks don’t cause pets to scratch a lot like fleas do. They often look like little freckles with legs.

Why worry about Mosquitos?

Mosquitos carry a parasite called “heartworm”. Mosquitos can transfer heartworm larva when they bite your dog. The worms are called “heartworms” because the adult worms will live in your dog’s heart and lungs.

What does flea, tick, and heartworm medicine do?

These medicines treat your dog for fleas, ticks, and heartworm, and prevent them from contracting illnesses. They may either repel these insects, or kill them to prevent infestations. Usually, these treatments are designed to be used once a month. When properly applied, they can protect you, your home, and your pets from diseases. 

Fleas, Ticks, and Mosquitos – The Diseases

Diseases from Fleas

There’s not many diseases you have to worry about in the case of fleas, but infestations of them can cause severe itchiness, hair loss in pets, sleeplessness, irritability, and some people or pets might be allergic to them.

HOWEVER, your pets can get tapeworm by licking flea-infested things (like their own coat). Worms can cause a lot of problems in pets, like diarrhea, lethargy, itchy butt, weight loss, poor hair and skin condition, and irritability (wouldn’t you be irritable too?).

Diseases from Ticks

There’s a lot of diseases that ticks can carry, and many of them are very serious. However, they don’t generally transmit them unless they’ve bitten you badly enough that they’re heads are stuck into your skin, and they’re hard to get out.

Some diseases ticks can carry are Lyme Disease, Babesiosis, Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, and Ehrlichiosis. A lot of the symptoms of these diseases can masquerade as other illnesses and leaving them untreated can be dangerous. You should familiarize yourself with which tick-borne diseases are in your area, and what the symptoms are. You can also get your dog vaccinated for Lyme disease.

Diseases from Mosquitos

There are quite a few diseases transmitted by mosquitos, but they are generally more of a problem in places like Africa and Egypt, where mosquitos have replaced Pharaohs as supreme rulers….

Why are mosquitos a health risk?

Well it’s because the diseases they do transmit are really bad ones, like West Nile Virus, Zika Virus, Yellow Fever, and Malaria.

HOWEVER, if you’re not the paranoid type, you should also know that mosquitos transmit heartworm! So, they put your dog at risk, and it’s really important to use heartworm preventatives.

How to protect your cat or dog from Fleas, Ticks, and Mosquitos

A brief guide on how to protect your dog from pests.

  • If your puppy or kitten is too young for flea and tick treatment, keep them away from the woods or densely populated areas.
  • Apply flea and tick medication every month on the same date.
  • Groom your dog or cat regularly – especially if they have been outdoors for a while or in the woods. Check the base of their ears and their inner thighs for black flea dirt or ticks.
  • Vacuum your home often – especially when the weather is warm, or when your pets have been outside a lot.
  • Don’t leave standing water in your yard – like open buckets that collect rain water. Mosquitos use standing water to lay their eggs.
  • Don’t let your dog drink from puddles if they’re not treated with heartworm.
  • Don’t let your dog lick other animals that might be infested with fleas.
  • Kill any ticks you find by folding a piece of tape over them, which will suffocate them. Ticks have an exoskeleton and they are very hard to kill, but tape always works.
  • If you suspect that your home is infested with fleas, or has been subject to a flea-infested animal, do the following : Vacuum the floors and your upholstery, and anywhere an infested animal might have been. Wash your pets bed and groom them – checking for ticks, fleas, or flea dirt.
  • Lemon juice can kill fleas on contact. Wipe some lemon juice over the top of your dog’s coat if you’re going to a place where fleas might be an issue. Remember though – your pet will still need monthly flea and tick treatment.
  • Protect your dogs and cats by using a method of flea and tick treatment that is appropriate for your lifestyle and household. Topical treatments are sometimes cheaper, but they can be ineffective for dogs that swim a lot or get a lot of baths. They can also be licked off or touched by other pets or kids. So if you have a water loving dog, or a multiple pet/kid household, it’s better to use oral medication.
  • If you want to use an oral medication that includes heartworm, we suggest NexGard Spectra – our customers seem like this medication the best. Our customers say that they save money with NexGard by not having to buy extra heartworm medication, and not having to go to their vet to buy a flea/tick preventative.
  • Never use more than the recommended dose, or apply these medications sooner than the recommended time period. Try NexGard Spectra.


Are ticks arachnids?

Yes. They are part of the “Acari” subclass, along with mites.

Are ticks spiders?

No. Ticks are not spiders – they are closer to mites. The arachnid class refers to a lot of different bugs, not just spiders.

Yes. They are part of the “Acari” subclass, along with mites.

Do ticks live in trees?

Yes. Ticks will sometimes drop from trees.

What is the most common type of flea in the US?

The most common type of flea in the United States is called the “cat flea”. Despite the name, it effects both dogs and cats. 

Are ticks dangerous?

Yes. Ticks carry diseases that can be dangerous, and are often hard to diagnose.

Do ticks transmit Lyme disease?

Yes. They transmit a lot of other diseases too, like Babesiosis.

Are ticks hard to kill?

Yes. Ticks have an exoskeleton – that means their skeleton is on the outside of their body. We recommend putting the tick between two pieces of tape (or you can use one piece of tape folded over the tick). That seals the tick off, and it suffocates. If it bit you, you can show it to a doctor.

Are Fleas arachnids?

No. Fleas are from the order “Siphonaptera”.

Are Fleas visible?


Are Fleas dangerous?

No. They don’t usually carry serious diseases. However, they can cause bad skin reactions and can give your pets worms.

Are mosquitos dangerous?

Yes. Although, the diseases they can infect people with are pretty rare. They’re also really serious diseases, but they’re usually more of a problem in countries like Africa. For your dog though, mosquitos can be a serious problem, because they carry heartworm. Heartworm can be fatal to a dog, if not prevented, or treated really early.

Do mosquitos transmit heartworm?


What is Lyme Disease in dogs?

Lyme disease in dogs is a disease that is transmitted by bacteria that will get into a dog’s blood after it’s bitten by a tick.  If your dog gets Lyme disease, they may be very tired, limp, not want to eat, walk stiffly, and act generally pretty sick. The symptoms get worse as they progress. Some vets may misdiagnose Lyme Disease so if you think your dog may have it, ask your vet to check.

What is Lyme Disease in cats?

Lyme disease in cats is pretty uncommon. Cats that have it may not show a lot of symptoms, but they might not seem as hungry, or they might sleep more. They might appear to be depressed, stiff, or hurt by your touch. If your cat’s behavior changes suddenly for no reason, it’s time to go to the vet. If you have an outdoor cat, you should ask your vet about the risk of tick borne diseases.

What is Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever in dogs?

Rocky Mountain Spotted fever is a disease that dogs can get after being bitten by an infected tick. Dogs that have Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever have fever-like symptoms like being very tired and not feeling hungry. They may also have blood in their urine, or bruises on their gums. Dogs that are infected are likely to be really stiff and achy. They may also have squishy, puffy, swollen areas around their lips, ears. For male dogs, there may also be swelling in the dangly bits – you know, under the tail.

What is Babesiosis in dogs?

Babesiosis is a parasitic disease that’s most commonly caused by tick bites. Dogs that have it may be tired, not want to eat, have a fever, and lose weight. They also might have pale gums, a poofed out tummy, discolored stool (dog poo), or yellowish/orange skin (also known as Jaundice). The symptoms can be hard to diagnose in their earlier stages, so if your dog suddenly starts acting feverish and you think they may have been bitted by a tick, you should ask your vet to check them for tick-borne diseases.

What is Heartworm in dogs?

Heartworm is pretty much just what it sounds like. Basically, it’s a worm that your dog can get by being bit by a mosquito. The worm enters the blood stream, and as it grows it will nestle in your dog’s heart and lungs. When it gets bigger, it can actually be fatal. You can’t prevent your dog from being bitten by mosquitos, but you can give them heartworm prevention. Heartworm prevention is a medication you use once a month, and it will kill the worms before they can grow.

What is Heartworm in cats?

Heartworm is cats is much less serious than in dogs. About a tenth of unprotected cats will get heartworm, as compared to dogs. When they do, it’s usually not serious. The worms are smaller, and there doesn’t end up being a lot of them.