Can cat fleas live on dogs?

Fleas are never pleasant. These parasitic organisms feed off our pets, causing them a huge amount of discomfort and even pain. Not only are fleas associated with itchiness, they are also part of the tapeworm lifecycle. There are two main types of flea, Ctenocephalides canis, the dog flea and Ctenocephalides felis, the cat flea, but can cat fleas live on dogs? Petplan investigates…

Fleas are insects which bite our pets in order to feed. Flea saliva is an irritant and causes an unpleasant itching sensation, which causes your pet to scratch, lick and bite itself. Inflammation and hair loss is common. For these reasons it’s important to know how fleas live and operate.

Flea types

Although cat fleas and dog fleas are two different species, neither is specific to any one kind of host, meaning that cat fleas can infect dogs and vice versa. In fact, cat fleas are actually more versatile than dog fleas and have been known to infect at least another 50 types of animal species. Both kinds can infest humans, which is another reason to ensure your cat or dog is well taken care of when it comes to fleas.

While fleas often lay their eggs on animals, they don’t usually hatch whilst on your pet. As many as 70% of flea eggs will have fallen off your pet within the first 8 hours though a female flea can lay up to 4000 eggs in just a few weeks.

These flea eggs hatch with the right temperature and humidity. The hatched eggs produce larvae which feed on debris in the environment. This is the same as the caterpillar stage of the butterfly lifecycle. When the larvae are large enough, they turn into a pupa, just like a caterpillar becomes a chrysalis. Inside the pupa, the larva transforms itself into a legged-insect, the flea. The pupa hatches and immediately sets about finding a host to acquire a blood meal.

What to do

If you feel that your pet has fleas you need to do two things; treat your pet to stop them from getting bitten by the adult fleas, and treat the environment to control the level of eggs, larvae, and pupa that are producing more adult fleas.

You will see the fleas on your pet’s coat by either inspecting your dog’s skin and look for mobile brown insects. You may also see ‘flea-dirt’ which is digested blood. This looks like black sugar grains. Even if you don’t see an actual flea, evidence of flea dirt means that the fleas are in your environment.

There is a wide array of products that claim to treat fleas, many of which are ineffective and act as mere repellents as opposed to parasiticides. Ask your vet to recommend a safe, simple but reliable product that not only kills any fleas present but also prevents any further infestations on your pet.

You will also need to kill the remaining 95% of the infestation using an environmental spray. Many sprays will last for up to a year though some sprays only kill adults , whilst others will kill the larvae and even stop the pupal development. Once again, ask your vet to recommend which spray is most effective.

How to prevent

Of course, the best way to deal with fleas is prevention. If you want to curtail your chances of a flea infestation in your home, then you should integrate flea control into your regular pet care routine.

Carpets and soft furnishings are a hotbed for flea eggs as they contain enough debris for them to survive. Vacuuming regularly, as well as washing your dog’s bedding periodically, will help reduce the burden of eggs from developing and becoming a threat to your pet. Similarly, take note of where your dog likes to relax outside as the areas that are best for your dog will be best for the fleas too.

Do you have any tips for dealing with fleas in your home? Let us know in the comments below.