vampire dog

Beware of the Bloodsuckers!

This week’s focus is on some of our bloodsucking parasites: fleas and ticks!



There are four life stages: eggs, larvae, pupae, and adults. The adult fleas are the ones that feed on pets and humans alike.

Flea Diseases

Fleas can cause problems like itchiness, and severe infestations can even lead to anemia (low blood volume) due to extreme blood loss. Fleas can also carry other disease causing agents like bacteria or protozoan organisms that can cause a variety of problems – both to pets and people! 

Some common examples include: 

  • the bacteria Bartonella henselae which causes cat scratch disease
  • the bacteria Yersinia pestis which causes the black plague
  • the larval stage of Dipylidium caninum (tapeworms)
  • and many others!


There are many different species of ticks. The most common ones in the West Michigan area include:

  • Ixodes scapularis (Black-legged tick AKA Deer tick)
  • Dermacentor variabilis (American Dog tick)
  • Rhipicephalus sanguineus (Brown Dog tick)

Most of these ticks have four life stages: egg, larvae, nymph, and adult. Each stage (beside the egg) requires a different host to feed on. 

Ticks tend to prefer wooded areas or long grasses. They also like moist environments. 

Ticks can only crawl – they do not fly or jump.

Tick Diseases

Ticks can carry many different diseases. The most important one in this area is lyme disease which is caused by the bacteria, Borrelia burgdorferi, and carried by the deer tick. Lyme disease can cause severe illness and even death in dogs, so it is extremely important to prevent lyme disease in the first place.

Environmental Management

In addition to using year-round prevention for ticks, there are some things you can do at home to make your environment less favorable for ticks:

  • keep grass mowed
  • remove leaf litter, brush, and weeds at the edge of the lawn
  • discourage rodent activity (they act as hosts for ticks)
  • check you and your pets thoroughly after walking through the woods or tall grasses

Flea and Tick Prevention

There are many types of flea and tick prevention products, but they may serve different purposes. Most of the oral preventions (like Credelio or Nexgard) act by killing the fleas and ticks once they have attached and bitten the pet. Most of the topical preventions (like Vectra or some types of Bravecto) act by repelling fleas and ticks and also killing them if they get on the fur – no bites necessary.

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Revolution Plus


  • Fleas and ticks can carry a variety of diseases that affect both pets and people. 
  • Prevention is important year-round to prevent house infestations. 
  • There are ways to manage the environment to reduce the risk of ticks. 
  • Make sure to check you and your pets after walking through the woods or tall grasses.
  • Ticks can become active in the winter in temperatures just above freezing.

Now It’s Your Turn!

Don’t forget to use the information in this post to fill out your Parasite Bingo card.