Cat Fleas VS Dog Fleas, According to an Expert

Did you know that cat fleas and dog fleas are different?

Cat fleas, or Ctenocephalides felis, are one of the most common types of fleas found on pets. They’re small, dark brown insects that feed on the blood of their host, which can be either a cat or a dog.

Dog fleas, on the other hand, are not as common but can still be found on our furry friends. Dog fleas, or Ctenocephalides canis, are slightly larger than cat fleas and are also dark brown in color. They feed on the blood of dogs and can cause irritation and discomfort for them. These fleas can also bite humans, but they’re not as likely to do so as to cat fleas.

In fact, a 2019 study conducted by the University of Bristol in UK found that more than 90% of the fleas on both cats and dogs were cat fleas.


Let’s take a closer look at these tiny pests, and discuss the best ways to protect your pet from them.

What Are Dog Fleas?

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Dog fleas are known as Ctenocephalides canis and are a specific type of flea that are known to prefer attacking dogs. However, they also feed from any other available animal including cats, racoons, and even human beings. Their bite causes irritation through the saliva and are commonly implicated in flea allergic dermatitis.

It is difficult to see the difference between a dog flea (Ctenocephalides canis) and a cat flea (Ctenocephalides felis) without a microscope. The main difference between the two is that dog fleas have a more rounded head which can be seen in a profile view. Another way to tell them apart is by counting the notches on the hind legs; dog fleas have 8 while cat fleas have 6.

Dog fleas are common in some parts of the world but not in others. In parts of Europe and Africa, they are common in both dogs and cats. But in North America, they are only found on dogs that have been brought in from other countries.

Dog fleas can transmit diseases when they bite. The most common one is the dog tapeworm, which is also called Dipylidium caninum.

What Are Cat Fleas?

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Cat fleas are known as Ctenocephalides felis. They typically feed on cats, but they have been known to attack other animals, like opossums, raccoons, or foxes. They can also live on humans and dogs if they are close to where the cat fleas hatched from their cocoons in their pupae stage.

The physical appearance of cat fleas is very similar to other types of fleas. They have a flattened body, long legs, and a clear to brown body. However, on a microscopic level, they have a more elongated head and sharper curve than dog fleas. Additionally, their hind legs have 6 notches instead of 8 like dog fleas.

They are most commonly found in North America. In fact, most dogs in this part of the world that have flea infestations carry this species of flea, not the dog flea. They are also found in other continents, including Europe, but not in as many numbers as dog fleas.

Cat fleas are different from dog fleas because they can spread diseases. Dog fleas only carry tapeworms, but cat fleas can spread a variety of parasites and bacteria, including Murine typhus, Rickettsia felis, Dipetalonema reconditum, Acanthocheilonemal reconditum, and the bacteria responsible for Lyme disease.

They also stand out in that they are rarely transferred so you can pet a cat with fleas. This is because although they can live on cat for 1 to 3 months, they die within days to two weeks of being off the host.

Can Vacuuming Get Rid Of Fleas?

Fleas have a habit of hiding in warm, dark, and moist places. They do this to protect themselves and also to mate and hide their eggs and cocoons. This means that no matter how much effort you put into eradicating the bugs, if you do not take care of their reserve cohorts, then your dog will keep getting fleas.

What is probably one of the most effective ways of completely getting rid of fleas in your home is through vacuuming. This sucks up not only the adult fleas but different life stages, including eggs and larval forms. For this, however, you need to invest in a powerful vacuum that will get even the sticky bugs off surfaces like your carpets and upholstery.

In this case, we recommend the Dyson V11 Torque Drive Cordless Vacuum Cleaner. It stands out on the market as a cordless option that does not compromise on power. In fact, it is two times more suction than most cordless vacuums out there. With one full charge, you will enjoy up to 60 minutes of run time which is more than enough to get rid of bugs in a large home. It also has a fantastic filtration system that is ideal for trapping tiny bugs.

You could also try steaming to help completely get rid of the bugs. This is particularly useful when getting rid of eggs stuck on fabrics. The hot steam not only kills them but also makes it easy to remove them from the strands with a lot more ease. Try the PurSteam Worldโ€™s Best Steamers for this. In addition to being light and easily portable, it heats up in 3 to 5 minutes for fast and convenient work.

How Do I Get Rid Of Fleas In My House Fast?

In addition to vacuuming and steam cleaning, there is a lot more than you can do to get rid of the fleas hiding out in different nooks in your home, from carpeting to corners and even your dogโ€™s bed. Here are a few tips to help you get rid of fleas in your house.

Essential Oil Aromatherapy

Fleas do not like essential oil scents and this is one of your best weapons against them. Lavender and peppermint are particularly effective, especially when used in aromatherapy preparations.

Machine Wash Dog Bedding And Accessories

Whether your dog sleeps on your bed or alone, it is important to regularly launder their sheets. Fleas love to lay their eggs there so when they hatch they have their host easily accessible. Machine washing with warm water not only kills the bugs and their eggs but also removes them from the surfaces.

Spray Flea Repellants On Upholstery

For this, you could use essential oils or commercial chemical preparations with insecticide and pesticide effects. You could also improvise using household items like apple cider vinegar or lemon.

Baking Soda Trick

You could sprinkle some baking soda onto your carpet, under-seat cushions, or corners in your home. This dries out the eggs and larva which minimizes the load of fleas in your home. With time, they will completely die out with no new generations to replace them.

Flea Traps

These could be homemade or commercial although the latter work better and are less messy. A fantastic example here is that of the Victor Ultimate Flea Trap. It uses light and heat to attract from as far as 30 feet and uses glue discs to trap them.

What Else Kills Fleas On Cats And Dogs Instantly?

A lot of methods we have discussed so far simply repel fleas or get rid of them from surfaces. In addition to instant flea killers like steam and insecticides, here are four other highly effective ways to get rid of fleas on dogs and cats.

Diatomaceous Earth

Diatomaceous earth is known as one of the most powerful yet non-toxic ways to kill fleas on cats and dogs. It works by drying fleas in all stages of life and therefore killing them. It also destroys the exoskeleton of adults, which exposes them to the elements resulting in their death. Despite being so powerful, diatomaceous earth is actually very safe for animals, so you do not have to worry about your pet ingesting it.


Clove extracts are highly potent and very effective for use in dealing with fleas on cats and dogs. The strong scent is very effective at repelling them. It also has a burning effect on eggs and larvae and can be used to kill them whether you spray or rub the essential oil extract on your pet. Just make sure to dilute it as it can be a little irritating for the dog or cat.


Cedarwood is easily the most effective essential oil when it comes to killing fleas instantly and not just repelling them. It can be a little harsh alone, which is why it is best used in blends, as is the case with Isabellaโ€™s Clearly Dogs Tips And Fleas Repellent. This powerful repellant contains cedarwood, peppermint, lavender, and lemongrass.

Flea Shampoos

One of the best, in this case, is the Smiling Paws Pets Antibacterial & Antifungal Shampoo. It contains Chlorhexidine 2% and Ketoconazole 1%, among many other flea-repellent ingredients. In addition to killing the bugs in different stages, the chemicals prevent infection and promote the healing of irritated skin.

Do Fleas Prefer Cats Or Dogs? 

It depends on the specific type of flea. Cat fleas typically prefer to feed on cats, while dog fleas predictably go for dogs. However, this does not mean that they cannot feed from any source. In fact, both types of fleas have been known to attack other mammals they get into contact with, whether it is human beings or wild animals in the outdoors.

How Do You Tell If Fleas Are Dying? 

One way to tell is that you will notice their dead bodies on the floor and on surfaces like furniture. This is the case mainly if the infestation is heavy. They are tiny, brown, and hard and feel like coarse dirt to the touch. You may also notice that your dog suffers from less irritation and itchiness.

Do Fleas Eventually Die Off?

Fleas can live for 1 to 3 months and will eventually die off on their own. The problem is that they lay thousands of eggs in their lifetime. So even though they die, your dog and your home, in general, will not be free of the nightmare until you get rid of the eggs and larvae hidden all over the house.

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Pete Decker