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Is There A Difference Between Cat Fleas And Dog Fleas?

Do you think your pet could be infested with fleas? Are the fleas on a dog the same as those on a cat? Can you treat both pets for fleas the same way using the same products?

Well, if your pet and home are suffering from a flea infestation, then you need to consider how to recognize, prevent, and treat fleas on your dog or cat.

Surely your questions about fleas and your pet abound. Consider the short answers to these questions about fleas.

So, is there a difference between cat fleas and dog fleas? There is a difference between cat fleas and dog fleas – they are separate species of microorganisms (Ctenocephalides felis – cat fleas) and (Ctenocephalides canis – dog fleas). However in most instances, both cats and dogs contract cat fleas which are much more prevalent.

Interestingly, it is estimated that around 95% of dog flea cases in North America are cat flea infestations.

And while dog fleas are more common in Europe, a similar situation appears there.

So if you are here, chances are your cat or dog has cat fleas.

So with this all in mind, what are the differences between them and what does this all mean for treatment options?

Let’s find out!

What Is The Difference Between Cat Fleas and Dog Fleas?

The actual physical difference between a cat flea and a dog flea can only be determined by looking at them through a microscope; where a slight morphological difference can be observed. Other than that they develop, spread and act in very much the same ways.

Regardless of what type of flea, their life and developmental cycles are the same, specifically:

  1. Eggs: The female flea can lay up to 50 eggs a day. Given the right temperature and location, they can mature into larvae within 2 to 12 days. The adult flea deposits its eggs in the hair of the host. These then fall off and land in pet bedding, carpet, or soil, where they hatch into larvae.
  2. Larvae: Resembling small worms, larvae seek dark areas to mature, such as cracks, gaps, under sofa cushions, and in the spaces between carpet fibers. Outside, they burrow their way into organic debris and always avoid direct light. They prefer places, including under outdoor decks, porches, and bushes. Sandy areas are particularly hospitable for larvae development.
  3. Pupae: At this stage, the flea spins itself into a sticky cocoon that remains disguised until an animal passes by. The pupae are found under plants and bushes, in carpets, under furniture, and in pet bedding.
  4. Adult flea: Once the animal passes, the flea bursts out of the pupae onto the animal, and the cycle begins all over again.

Can Cats Catch Dog Fleas?

Simply put, dog fleas can live on cats, but because there are so few of them in the United States, almost all cases of fleas on cats, dogs, and other animals are from the cat flea.

However, it is indistinguishable to the naked eye to determine which type of flea is at the root of an infestation.

One important point is that the results: itching, and the transmission of various issues, such as tapeworms, occur regardless of the type of flea.

Can Dogs Catch Cat Fleas?

Dogs are indeed susceptible to catching cat fleas. Although a dog can pick up fleas any number of ways, one common way is from other dogs, or even the neighborhood/ resident cat.

Fleas are not at all picky as to host selection, and when a furry animal comes by, they jump on for the duration.

Since fleas thrive in warm, humid environments, you are most likely to notice your dog or cat scratching in the late summer months.

The degree to which your pet scratches depends on its sensitivity to the flea bite.

How Do You Tell If Your Cat Or Dog Has Fleas?


The first sign that fleas may be lurking in your pet’s fur is notable and constant scratching.

Gross as it may be, the itching occurs after the flea has bitten the host and then salivated and defecated on the ensuing wound.

This irritates the pet’s skin, and the itching cycle begins. If you look closely at your pet’s skin, you may see some bleeding.

You May See The Fleas!

Another way to detect fleas on your pet is to part the fur and look closely at the skin underneath. If the infestation is severe enough, you will see these small reddish creatures scurrying about.

Since fleas prefer dark areas, you are most likely to spot them in the pet’s furry areas or on the belly.

A flea comb is a simple way to determine if your pet has fleas.

These fine-toothed combs can be purchased at a pet store, and with one, you can comb through the pet’s fur and pick up fleas.

Via Flea Dirt

Another way to spot fleas is to examine the pet’s resting areas for dark specks, called flea dirt.

The source of this flea dirt is flea feces.

How Does Dog Flea Treatment Kill Cat Fleas?

There are a number of ways dog flea treatments can kill cat fleas.

Dealing with a true infestation of fleas is a nightmare, so the best approach is to prevent them altogether.

Your best bet is to discuss the appropriate preventatives for your pet with your vet.

However, if your pet has indeed picked up a collection of fleas, your next step is to eradicate them, and the sooner, the better.

Different products kill at different stages of the flea cycle, so you may need to use several approaches.

Here are some of the proven treatments:

  1. Oral and Topical Control: Some are available over the counter, and some only by prescription. These are relatively easy to administer.
  2. Prescription Flea Medications: The newer products on the market do an excellent job of getting rid of fleas and are effective almost immediately.
  3. Non-prescription Medications: Included in this over-the-counter category are flea shampoos, flea powders, flea sprays, flea collars, and oral and spot treatments. The caveat with the over-the-counter options is that they are mostly less effective than the prescription options.
  4. Dog Flea Shampoos: These can be very effective in killing fleas from your dog. However, it’s a one-time-only treatment that needs to be followed up with ongoing flea eradication methods.

Does Dog Flea Treatment Kill Cat Fleas?

Dog flea treatments kill cat fleas, but it is essential that the treatments used for fleas on dogs never be used on cats.

Not all cats have the same degree of sensitivity to the chemicals used to get rid of fleas on dogs, but some cats have been shown to suffer severe reactions, including seizures and death.

Does Cat Flea Treatment Kill Dog Fleas?

Cat flea treatments do kill dog fleas. Flea products are specially formulated and different for use on cats and dogs. This is especially true for dog-formulated flea products, which can seriously hurt a cat. However, theoretically, cat flea treatments will kill both cat and dog fleas.

Some flea treatment products for cats that will kill both cat and dog fleas are as follows:

  1. Flea collars: These have been around for years but are not very effective. The newer brands provide significant protection against flea infestations.
  2. Topical treatments: Applied the same way on cats as on dogs – rubbed on the skin on the back of the cat’s neck – where the cat can’t lick and ingest the chemicals. Some topicals are available over the counter, while others are prescription only.
  3. Oral medication: Several chewable medications are available today, and these provide safety for any small children in the household who may touch and ingest the chemicals on flea collars and those applied topically.

Can You Use The Same Flea Treatments On Cats And Dogs?

You can’t use the same anti-flea products on both dogs and cats. The process and products used for treating cats and dogs for fleas are different, and in fact, if the treatments for dogs are administered to cats, they could die.

Learn more: Can I Use Cat Flea Spray On My Dog? [You’ll Be Glad You Checked]

What You Can Do

Getting rid of fleas when they have nested in your home requires patience and persistence.

Hopefully, you and your pet never fall victim to a flea party, but if you do, here are some things you can do to rid your pet, and your home of these nasty pests:

  1. Consult a vet: get an appointment with your vet to confirm an infestation and the species. From there a treatment plan can be agreed and implemented.
  2. Vacuum, vacuum, vacuum: Regularly vacuum any and all carpets, upholstery, sofas, and bedding – human and pet. Be sure to get under furniture and into all dark spaces. IMPORTANT – empty the vacuum cleaner outside of your home when you are done.
  3. Flea spray: Use a safe and effective spray on your pet, and in your home, in all the areas where your vacuum can’t reach.
  4. Wash, wash, wash: Wash all human bedding, curtains, blankets, and clothes on hot.


There is a difference between cat fleas and dog fleas.

But chances are, if you reside in North America, your cat or dog has cat fleas.

They’re considerably more abundant there.

If you are reading from Europe, your cat or dog could have dog fleas. But still, it is more than likely going to be the Ctenocephalides felis (cat flea species).

And as flea treatments need to eb accurate and correct, if you can take away only one thing from here today, let it be this.

If you suspect, or even know, your cat or dog has fleas. Get them to a vet.

Let them classify the species of flea they have.

From there, you can both agree on a treatment plan.

One that is safe. And effective.