Cat Fleas vs Dog Fleas: What’s the Difference?

Written by

Amy Sawy

Veterinarian. DVM


Joseph M. Plummer

Veterinarian, DVM, MVZ

cat fleas vs dog fleas

Experts have found out that there are about 2,200 species of fleas globally. The most common of these species are cat and dog fleas.

But did you know that cats and dogs have different fleas?

The differences are only recognizable under the microscope. So, it is not surprising that not many people are aware of this fact.

In this article, we’ll differentiate between cat fleas vs dog fleas. This way, you can develop the proper treatment plan for your infested furry friend.

Differences Between Cat and Dog Fleas


If you look at the pictures of cat and dog fleas, you may say that they look exactly the same. While you can only tell the differences under a microscope, the subtle physical characteristics are not the only things that differentiate them.

1. Characteristics of cat fleas


Cat fleas or Ctenocephalides felis are the most common type of flea. They are common throughout the United States and some other parts of the world.

While cat fleas are common in felines, they are not particular with their hosts. Cat fleas live in dogs and other furry animals, such as rabbits, squirrels, and livestock.

Cat fleas are so widespread in the US to the point that they are the major cause of flea problems in North America.

2. Dog fleas and their characteristics


Ctenophalides canis, or dog fleas, mostly infect canines in Europe and are uncommon in the US. However, they have also reached some parts of North America.

Unlike cat fleas, dog fleas are more particular about their hosts. Apart from dogs, they also infest wild canines and rodents.

Dog fleas may also bite humans, which can cause red, itchy rashes on the skin.

3. Difference between cat fleas and dog fleas


The primary physical difference between cat and dog fleas is the size of their spine. Under the microscope, the first general spine of cat fleas is shorter than the second.

In dog fleas, the first and second spines are of the same size. Sometimes, the second spine is shorter than the first, but the difference is barely noticeable.

Cat fleas are smaller than dog fleas. The length of a dog flea’s head is one and a half times longer than its width, meaning it is almost round.

On the other hand, the head of a cat flea is twice as long as its width, making it almost oval in shape.

Moreover, both cat and dog fleas have six legs. However, the tibia on each leg of a cat flea has four to five teeth.

Meanwhile, dog fleas have seven to eight teeth on all of their tibias.

It is worth noting that these teeth are not actual bone teeth. Instead, they are sharp and tiny spikes, which fleas use to help them jump.

Life Cycle of a Flea


Despite the differences, cat fleas and dog fleas have the same life cycle.

  • Egg – Fleas begin as eggs that adults lay on the skin and fur of your pets. These eggs are tiny, white, and oval and may fall off the fur of the host animal.
  • Larvae – Flea eggs hatch within two to seven days and then turn into larvae. The larvae feed on organic matter to survive and produce pupae.
  • Pupa – Pupae are sticky cocoons that use debris from their environment to form a protective barrier. The larvae develop inside the pupae and emerge as fleas after ten days to 12 months, depending on the environmental condition.
  • Adult Fleas – Adult fleas are the parasites that you see on the skin and fur of pets. They can lay eggs after a day or two of feeding off their host.

What Happens if My Pet Gets Fleas?


When fleas bite their hosts, they inject saliva into their bloodstream to prevent the blood from coagulating. This way, they can easily suck the blood out as food.

Flea saliva is an irritant, so it causes itchy hives on the skin of your pet.

The effect of fleas on your pets depends on the severity of the infestation. Pets with mild flea infestation may develop redness and irritation.

In more severe infestations, your pet can get bald spots as a result of many flea bites. As these pests suck on the blood of their host, your cat or dog may even become anemic.

Fleas need medical attention in some cases. If your pet is lethargic or overgrooming itself to the point that its skin swells and bleeds, you need to bring it to a veterinarian for treatment.

Tips to Get Rid of Fleas


Regardless of the type of fleas on dogs and cats, they require the same treatment.

  • Frequent baths – If your pet has a mild infestation, lukewarm water and dish soap will help get rid of the fleas.

You may also use special flea shampoos, but use one that a veterinarian prescribed.

  • Use apple cider and vinegar solution – Mix one part ACV with two parts water and use it as a home remedy for fleas. While ACV cannot kill fleas, you can use it as a repellent, as fleas hate its smell and taste.
  • Use a fine-tooth comb – Combing your pet’s hair with a fine-tooth comb will remove the fleas from its hair. Ensure to kill the fleas you get so that they cannot infest your pet and its environment again.

Frequently Asked Questions


Can cat fleas live in dogs?

Cat fleas live in dogs. If you are treating a type of flea on dogs, chances are you are treating for Ctenocephalides felis.

As dogs can get fleas from cats, you should separate your pets from each other if one has flea bites.

Do fleas stay in humans?

Dog and cat fleas bite humans. However, it is unlikely that they will stay on a human host.

Unlike cats and dogs, humans have no furs that fleas can use to cover and protect themselves.

Can I use dog flea treatments to kill cat fleas?

You should never use cat and dog flea medicines interchangeably. Some dog flea treatments contain permethrin, an ingredient that is extremely toxic to cats.

After treating your pet for fleas, using natural cat flea prevention is crucial. You can also use apple cider vinegar, lavender, coconut oil, oregano oil, cedar chips, and rosemary to prevent fleas.

How do I get rid of cat fleas on dogs?

Cat fleas are worse than dog fleas as they can infest any suitable host. If your dog is suffering from a cat flea infestation, you can use a vet-prescribed flea killer to get rid of the adult fleas quickly.

As mentioned, you can also use a fine-tooth comb. The comb will remove the dead fleas and eggs from your pet’s fur.

What are the natural flea killers for cats?

You can use the following methods as natural remedies if your cats ever have flea bites:

  • Washing with dawn dish soap
  • Brushing your cats with a flea comb
  • Vaccum your floor to kill fleas


Cat fleas vs dog fleas – unlike the common misconception, the fleas that infect felines and dogs are different species. Regardless of the type of flea your pet has, treating it early on is crucial.

Start by using home remedies to kill your fleas. After dealing with the infestation on your pet, make sure to clean and vacuum your home, as fleas may also be living within your pet’s environment.

Failure to get rid of the fleas around your home may result in re-infestation.

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