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Name: Fleas

Size: 1/8 inch

Color: Dark reddish brown

Where found: Pets, pet bedding, carpet

Potential treatment: Interior

Fleas are about 1/8 of an inch long, dark reddish-brown in color, with hard bodies and no wings. They tend to be narrow, or appear flattened from side to side, which allows them to move more easily between fur, hair or feathers. They have strong legs and can easily jump from ground to host or to another host. Their bodies are covered with spines, which makes them difficult to remove.

Most pet owners are familiar with fleas. This parasitic pest is a problem for both dogs and cats, and, if not treated, an infestation can become a problem for humans in the home, too.

Fleas have piercing mouthparts that they use to bite, consuming 15 times their body weight in blood daily from their host. Larvae eat organic debris, usually the feces left by adult fleas.

Female fleas lay 15 to 20 eggs per day, often on the host, but they do not stay there. The eggs fall off, often in the pet’s bedding, or in carpet or upholstery. Eggs hatch in about two weeks and the larvae eventually form cocoons. A flea’s lifecycle can vary from two weeks to eight months, depending on the conditions, food availability and the species of flea.

Fleas choose a wide variety of animals as host. On humans and animals, their bite can cause irritation, burning, itching and a rash. In some cases, they can cause flea allergy dermatitis and secondary skin infections, and they have been known to transmit tapeworms.

Although fleas are thought by many pet owners to be a summer problem, they can survive cold temperatures, especially with an available host. Veterinarians encourage continuing your pet’s flea treatment throughout the year to avoid infestations.

Name: Ticks

Size: 1/8 inch

Color: Varies

Where found: Wooded areas, pets

Potential treatment: Interior

The most common ticks in Ohio are the American dog tick, brown dog tick, deer tick and lone star tick. Their coloring varies, depending upon their species, but adults are usually about 1/8 of an inch long, growing to 5/8 of an inch when engorged with blood. Young ticks may be as small as 1/16 of an inch.

Ticks feed on blood at all stages of their lifecycle. They will take blood from mammals, birds or reptiles. They usually are prevalent in wooded areas or areas with significant vegetation.

Adults ticks engorge on a host before mating. Male ticks die soon after mating, while female ticks find a protected ground level location to lay thousands of eggs. Females usually die soon after laying eggs. The eggs can remain dormant for several weeks to several months.

Ticks evolve through three stages after hatching from the egg. Each stage involves molting and attaching to a new host for a blood meal. They can’t jump, but will climb vegetation to get to the level of a potential host.

A tick bite can be uncomfortable for a human or animal host, but it also can be dangerous. Diseases they may pick up from a host can pass through each stage of a tick’s life and infect another host. The most serious diseases associated with ticks are Lyme disease and rocky mountain spotted fever.