Cat Fleas vs. Dog Fleas – Are they Different or the Same?

Published Categorized as About Fleas

Are cat fleas and dog fleas the same?

Cat fleas vs dog fleas….are they the same type of flea?

In short; no, cat fleas and dog fleas are not the same. But that doesn’t mean that they don’t cause many of the same problems- itching, tapeworms, anaemia and allergic reactions can all be consequences of a pesky flea infestation, whether those fleas are Ctenocephalides felis (cat fleas) or Ctenocephalides canis (dog fleas).

Cat Fleas vs. Dog Fleas - Are they Different or the Same?

What do fleas look like?

All fleas are parasitic insects that feed off of the blood of a living host. The bites that fleas leave behind after feeding are what cause the frustratingly familiar itching redness that many cat and dog owners are all too well-acquainted with. Though they may be difficult to spot at first glance, fleas are visible to the naked eye; both cat and dog fleas are 1-2mm long and reddish-brown in colour. Their only distinguishable features are the shape of their head and the anatomy of their hind legs.

Both types of fleas are known for their ability to jump long distances (sometimes up to 200 times their own body length) and this is how they spread so effectively and so quickly, making flea infestations a very common occurrence for pet owners.

Additionally, once a flea infestation has begun, it is notoriously difficult to get rid of. Adult female fleas of all species can lay up to 50 eggs in one day and have a life cycle that can range from anywhere between a month and a year, if left untreated. Female fleas that are carrying eggs can also appear slightly different in their colouring. Sometimes they can seem to have lighter stripes where, in fact, they are preparing to lay their eggs. Furthermore, if left to continue laying eggs, flea infestations can cause both you and your pets to suffer unnecessarily.

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Dangers of fleas

The tapeworm parasite spread by fleas can infect dogs, cats, and even children who come into close contact with, or accidentally swallow, a flea. You might also find that you and/or your pets are sufferers of ‘flea allergy dermatitis’. This simply means you are allergic to flea saliva. This allergy can cause a more severe reaction to flea bites and increases the severity of the soreness and itchiness that you might feel. In turn, this can cause your pets to scratch and bite themselves in frustration. Flea infestations are one of the top causes of skin problems in dogs. If you find your pet is scratching at its own skin and/or attempting to bite at itself, then it could be a sign of fleas. Smaller animals can also suffer from anaemia, if left untreated. This is due to the constant sucking of blood that is caused by fleas.

As many pet owners are aware, fleas can be spread from cats and dogs to humans, as well as around a person’s house, garden or yard, if the conditions are optimal for their survival. This means that your cats and/or dogs can also spread fleas amongst themselves, regardless of the specific species of flea. Yes, your cat can catch dog fleas and your dog can catch cat fleas- and from each other, no less! Because of this, it is important to treat fleas as quickly and effectively as possible, since fleas will continue to live on both cats and dogs if given the chance; their only preference being a warm-blooded host.

Can I use the same treatment on cats and dogs?

The similarities between cat and dog fleas might lead you to wonder, can the same treatment be used for both and can it be used on both cats and dogs? Yes….and no. Most flea treatments will aim to effectively eradicate both cat and dog fleas that are attempting to use your pet as a host. But flea treatments themselves are specific to the type of animal they were created for.

Cat Fleas vs. Dog Fleas - Are they Different or the Same?
Photo by Alec Favale on Unsplash

Cats and dogs metabolize drugs differently, since they are different species of animals. As such, a flea treatment designed for your dog might get rid of any type of fleas living in your dog’s fur. But the same treatment might make your cat seriously ill or even cause them to die. Cats and dogs need different flea treatments that are specially designed for them. Not only this, but they need flea treatment regularly in order to prevent future outbreaks of fleas within your home. It is much easier and far less of a hassle to prevent a flea outbreak than to deal with an existing one.

Flea Treatments

So, what treatments can be used to get rid of cat or dog fleas? To eradicate all fleas that your cat or dog may have picked up, most treatments use an integrated approach which targets fleas in at least two separate life phases; adult and egg. This is because simply killing adult fleas is not enough; if the larvae and/or eggs survive then they will hatch and you will find yourself with a recurring problem. As such, regular use of spot on flea repellent, tablets, powders, collars, shampoos or injections can be used to prevent fleas from making their home in your pets’ fur.

In addition to treating your pets for fleas, if you find yourself suffering from the negative effects of flea bites then you can get anti-itch cream at your local pharmacy. Your vet should also be able to recommend a remedy for your pets if they have lingering bites from fleas. It is just as important to distinguish between pet and human treatments for fleas as it is to distinguish between cat and dog remedies. Flea treatments designed for any type of pet can be hazardous to humans. Also, if you come into contact with a treatment meant for your pet, it is recommended that you wash the affected area thoroughly with soap and water.

It is also crucial not only to treat your pets for fleas, but also your home. Both cat and dog fleas can survive without a host for some time. So making your home uninhabitable to them is important. In addition to specially formulated treatments designed for killing fleas, you can also vacuum regularly. Another tip is to wash all linens in hot water to successfully eradicate fleas.


Can my dog get fleas from my cat?

Yes, and vice versa. Your pets can pick up fleas from numerous other animals

Will my dog flea treatment kill cat fleas?

Potentially- but it is important not to use dog flea treatments on cats as they may harm your cat

Do fleas prefer cats or dogs?

Fleas prefer any warm-blooded host they can survive on

Can fleas live on humans?

Yes! And they can live in your home too!

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