Attacking pets and humans alike, fleas are relentless and will inhabit pet fur and infest our homes. Despite how small they might be, fleas continue to be one of the worst plagues to our pets, and there are thousands of different species!
Many of the species of fleas have names that make it sound like they only infest one type of animal, eg dog fleas. However, the truth is that they are far less fussy than this and will feed on almost any domestic creature, including humans!
Dealing with fleas is something you’ll only be able to do effectively if you know exactly what you’re dealing with. In this post, we’ll be helping you understand the different types of fleas and what to be on the lookout for to keep your pets pest-free!
The most common types of fleas
Fleas are the most prevalent parasites in the world and are found in more than 2500 species and subspecies. Here is a look at the most common species and their traits.
Dog fleas aren’t host-specific and can feed on a variety of mammals including dogs, cats, humans, rabbits, foxes, and rats. Most commonly found in Europe, dog fleas are also a big problem in the United States.
Dog fleas look almost exactly like cat fleas and are reddish-brown in colour and measure in at roughly 2mmin length. The only difference between dog and cat fleas is that dog fleas have more rounded heads and more spikes on their legs than cat fleas.
As the most common domestic flea species, the cat flea, just like the dog flea, is not host-specific. Cat fleas are between 1 and 3mm in size and also have a reddish-brown colour like dog fleas. As mentioned before, the only difference between cat and dog fleas are the shapes of their heads and the number of spikes or “teeth” on their legs. Cat fleas have a shorter lifespan than dog fleas but reproduce much faster.
The scientific name for human fleas is Pulex irritans. This species generally parasitises larger mammals, like humans. The bites that these fleas inflict on humans can transmit parasites and medical conditions like typhus and tapeworm. This species is also responsible for the transmission of Yersinia pestis, a deadly plague bacteria. Human fleas are slightly larger than dog and cat fleas, growing up to 4mm in size.
The most common bird flea species is the European chicken flea, and it thrives in high-lying bird nests and chicken coops. Bird flea larva can only survive in the nests of birds as they feed on organic materials found in the nests. Although these flea eggs hatch during autumn, the adult fleas do not leave the bird nests until spring arrives.
Sometimes referred to as the Norway rat flea or tropical rat flea, a rat flea feeds on rodents. These fleas are the primary carriers of bubonic plague and murine typhus, spreading the disease by feeding on infected rats and then biting a human. Rat fleas can also act as hosts for tapeworms, transmitting any disease they carry from one generation to the next through their eggs.
What is the difference between cat and dog fleas?
Feeding off our pets and causing them discomfort and sometimes even pain, fleas are some of the peskiest critters in the world. Generally speaking, there are two main types of fleas that pet owners should know about: Ctenocephalides canis (dog fleas) and Ctenocephalides felis (cat fleas).
But what is the difference between cat and dog fleas?
Are cat fleas and dog fleas the same?
Cat and dog fleas are two different species, but they are not host-specific, so cat fleas can happily live on dogs and vice versa. Did you know that cat fleas are actually less picky than dog fleas? Cat fleas can and will happily live on up to 50 different animal species!
Cat and dog fleas prefer (and were built for) hiding in fur, easily navigating through fur or hair thanks to their laterally flattened bodies. These fleas also have backwards-facing spines, which makes it easy for them to cling to fur when your pets move around.
Can cat fleas live on humans?
Since humans have relatively hairless bodies, we don’t make great hosts for fleas since it’s harder for them to hang onto our skin. While cat fleas can bite you, they won’t live on you. They will always seek out your dog or cat as a preferred host and source of blood.
Can dog fleas live on humans?
Just like cat fleas, dog fleas might bite you in an attempt to get their fix of blood, but they won’t live on you. Since human bodies are harder to hide on, we don’t provide fleas with enough heat in order to survive and thrive. Because we also don’t offer dark, moist environments for fleas to live in, they also can’t breed on humans.
A note on cat and dog fleas on the human body
If you are the only available food source for cat and dog fleas, they won’t be able to complete their lifecycle and multiply. They will, however, stay on your skin and in your clothes, using you as a carrier before jumping to a more suitable host like your cat or your dog. They can also infest your home if their eggs fall off your pet and onto your furniture. These eggs can stay dormant until hatching into larvae and growing into adult fleas.
A final word
Most fleas look the same and telling them apart isn’t something you can do without the help of a microscope. Dog fleas are predominantly found in Europe, and cat fleas are the most prevalent species in the USA.
However, most flea species will happily feed on any domestic animals and humans (if need be), so pretty much any species can infest your home if their eggs make their way onto your carpets or furniture.
- 1 The most common types of fleas
- 2 What is the difference between cat and dog fleas?
- 3 A note on cat and dog fleas on the human body
- 4 A final word