As pests, ticks and fleas may sometimes be confused with each other. In fact, if you own a cat or dog you might even be familiar with shampoo or other products advertised to help prevent and treat both ticks and fleas. But even though these two pests share similarities and may sometimes be mistaken with each other, there are quite a few differences between the two. Keep reading to learn more about ticks vs fleas.

dog ticks and fleas


First, let’s take a look at the notorious tick. Ticks are ectoparasites, relying on th e blood of their hosts for survival. Ticks are arachnids, meaning they have eight legs as opposed to the six that insects have. How ever, it is worth noting that tick larvae do have six legs, while nymphs and adults have the full eight. Ticks are known to feed on a variety of animal hosts including pets and humans. Ticks are normally attached to the host outside. They are usually about an eighth of an inch in length and have an oval-shaped body that is lacking wings. Their bodies will be flat and tear-dropped when they are unfed, but can grow to be more bulbous after a blood meal. Their color can vary based on the species, though many are a brownish shade.

Unfortunately, ticks are more than just a nuisance. Through feeding, ticks can transmit pathogens that cause certain diseases. The CDC has helpful information on various ticks and what diseases they may be able to spread. Perhaps the most well-known of these diseases, at least in the U.S.. that can be caused by pathogens ticks carry is Lyme disease. Finding a tick on you doesn’t immediately mean you have Lyme disease; generally, a tick needs to feed on you for about 36 hours before Lyme disease could be transmitted. The Mayo Clinic has recommendations and guidelines for tick bite first aid. The Mayo Cl inic’s guide also includes helpful tips on when you should seek out your doctor’s advice or additional medical treatment.


Fleas are ectoparasitic insects that feed on animal s including dogs and cats and, on rare occasions, humans.. The most common flea that people usually encounter indoors is the cat flea, Cte nocephalides felis. Despite the name cat flea, they are the most common flea that infests cats and dogs. Fleas are small, usually only about 1/8 of an inch in length. Their bodies are generally thin, dark brown color, and wingless. A helpful identifying characteristic is the comb-like hairs near the head. Adult fleas can consume up to 15 times their body weight in blood, and will begin feeding as soon as they start to feed onto a new host. Within 24 hours, fleas will begin to mate and lay eggs within an animals’ fur. These eggs can fall of f a pet into furniture, bedding, and carpeting, which can cause an infestation within the home. Contrary to popular belief, fleas rarely jump directly from one pet to another; though, their ability to vertically jump close to 6 inches does make it easier for them to hitch rides on unsuspecting hosts.

Fleas also have the potential to carry diseases, and possess the ability to transmit infections through bacteria and parasites they are carrying. Some diseases that fleas may carry include Typhus, Tularemia, and Bartonellosis (cat scratch disease).

Ticks vs fleas

Now that you know more about each pest, let’s see how they stack up against one another.

The similarities:

  • Both ticks and fleas are ectoparasites
  • Both ticks and fleas can spread pathogens that cause diseases
  • Both ticks and fleas are wingless
  • Both tick and flea eggs do not develop on the host

The differences:

  • Ticks are arachnids, like spiders, scorpions and mites
  • Fleas are insects, like mosquitoes, beetles, and ants
  • Flea infestations tend to be more prolific inside the home than tick infestations; on a pet, hundreds of fleas may make themselves at home, causing intense irritation


The United States Environmental Protection Agency, or EPA, has several helpful recommendations for preventing ticks and fleas, not just for you but for any pets you may have. These recommendations include:

  • Vacuuming everyday
  • Steam cleaning carpet s
  • Wash both pet and family bedding at least every two weeks in hot, soapy water
  • Make modifications to your yard to help k eep ticks at bay
  • Please contact your veterinarian for guidelines for treating your pets to help keep them out of your house.

While it can be difficult to prevent fleas and tic ks from your yard or outdoor areas around you, you’re not alone in your fight against these pests. Terminix offers flea services indoors and tick services outdoors. Contact a Terminix Pest Professiona l today to see if they offer those services in your area.