When your dog starts itching, you suspect it’s fleas. Now your cat is intensely scratching too. You didn’t even think cats could get fleas, let alone that a dog’s fleas could spread or jump to your cat. Is that what’s happening here? Can my cat get fleas from my dog?
Yes, your dog can transmit fleas to your cat and vice-versa. Fleas in dogs versus cats are two different types, but neither flea is picky about its host. The flea will go from pet to pet, even infecting animals outside of cats and dogs.
Wait, cat fleas and dog fleas aren’t the same? What does that even mean? In today’s article, I’ll tell you just that. Keep reading to learn more about detecting fleas in your four-legged friends and what you should do when you spot fleas on your pets.
The Difference Between Cat Fleas and Dog Fleas
Fleas belong to the Siphonaptera order with more than 2,500 other small insect species. They feast on the blood of everything from birds to mammals.
With such a non-picky diet, it shouldn’t surprise you that the fleas that live on dogs can be different than those that pop up on cats.
Let’s delve deeper into the differences between dog fleas and cat fleas now.
The first of the two flea types, dog fleas, are native to the United States. They have a relatively flat shape, six legs, a brownish body (that’s sometimes black), and antennae.
The color of dog fleas can change if they’ve consumed a lot of blood, in which case their bodies turn reddish. Each flea is about 1/8 inches, which is super teeny-tiny. The equivalent is 2.5 millimeters.
The head of a dog flea is larger than its body, and fortunately, this creature lacks wings. It uses its rear legs to jump around from animal to animal, mostly canines.
The dog flea will find another flea to mate with and then lay eggs. Most of these eggs don’t stick around, as if your dog has a vigorous life, the eggs tend to fall off. Still, females can lay hundreds of eggs in one period, so it’s not such a big deal if a few don’t make it.
The surviving eggs will hatch, in which larvae emerge. When the larvae are mature, they grow to 5.2 millimeters, which is ¼ inches. Before that point, the larvae have undeveloped eyes and legs, and they’re white and long like a worm.
If your dog has an infestation of dog fleas, you’ll notice red bumps across the areas where they’ve been bitten. The most commonly infected areas are a dog’s joints and folds, including those in the ankle, knee, and/or elbow.
Okay, so that’s dog fleas, so now let’s go over cat fleas. These are also found in the US. A cat flea is flat, has six legs, antennae, and looks brown to black unless it’s filled with blood, in which case its body is red.
Wait, didn’t I just say all that, you’re asking? Yes, I did.
I know that dog fleas and cat fleas might not sound like separate insects, but they are.
There are subtle differences between the two, but the differences do exist.
The cat flea’s body resembles a crawfish with a much more elongated body while the dog flea is more.
Okay, so now that we’ve cleared that up, let’s get back to talking about cat fleas.
An adult cat flea grows to sizes of 1/8inches or 2.5 millimeters. When the cat flea lays eggs, those eggs measure about 1/64 inches apiece, which is 0.5 millimeters. The eggs are white and typically circular or oval.
Can My Dog Get Fleas from My Cat?
Yes! And while I mentioned it already, it’s worth mentioning again that both type of fleas travel from one animal to the next without hesitation.
Now that you’re an expert on dog fleas and cat fleas, if you had to guess which of the two was the more prolific species, which would you say it is?
The answer is cat fleas, believe it or not. This domestic flea species, being as common as it is, shows up in canines all the time.
Dogs are far from the only animal to get infected by cat fleas, by the way. As many as 50 other animal species can play host to cat fleas as well. Some of them include mongoose, fox, opossum, and even rats.
You’re probably wondering, why are they called cat fleas if they’ll jump on any host that’s available? Dog fleas aren’t much more discerning, actually.
A tiny flea has no way of identifying which animal it chooses for a home. All it cares about is that its host is alive, healthy, warm, and has fur or hair to burrow deep into.
That’s it. If the closest animal that meets those qualifications happens to be a rat, then so be it. Dog fleas and especially cat fleas don’t care.
If your canine companion has a case of dog fleas and those fleas mature, lay eggs, and the eggs grow, those new fleas need blood. So let’s say you happen to have a cat and dog under the same roof.
Should the dog fleas find your cat and need a fresh host, they’ll happily nosh on your cat. You can also reverse that situation, so if your kitty has cat fleas and your dog makes a good host, the fleas will spread to your pup.
How do the fleas go from one animal to another? Do they jump? They can, but it’s not necessarily always so labor-intensive for the flea.
Remember, not all fleas stay on your pet. If they’ve been shaken off, the fleas can live around your house. They’ll hang out on carpeting, on your pet’s bed, and even in the gaps between your hardwood flooring.
Then it’s just about waiting until the right moment when a host is close by and the flea has found its new home.
Can I Get Fleas from My Pet?
This has been some eye-opening information for certain. You hate knowing that your dog can spread fleas to your cat and vice-versa, but what about you? Surely, given that you’re human, you’re free and clear, correct?
Ah, if only it was that simple, but it isn’t. Both dog fleas and cat fleas will select a human host if that’s what’s easiest for them. After all, blood is blood, and you have plenty of it, even more than your pets.
The fleas can get shaken off your dog or cat then jump onto your feet or ankles. You can also get infected by doing something as basic as cleaning up your pet’s bed if fleas are living there.
If the fleas have gotten into your carpeting or flooring, sitting on the floor or walking across it might be all it takes.
Fleas won’t hesitate to bite you and suck your blood. Most bites will occur on your feet and ankles, which are most accessible to the flea, but not exclusively.
The infected area will be swollen, red, and itchy after the bite occurs, typically 30 minutes afterward. The weal the flea leaves behind is lump-like.
It might not stay a weal in all cases, becoming a wound or blister. If you scratch the weal, you encourage its transformation into a wound. You’re also prone to secondary infection at that point.
In serious cases, such as with a flea or insect allergy, you could have symptoms like chest pain, nausea, dizziness, swollen tongue and/or lips, and breathing troubles. You should seek medical attention immediately if you experience those symptoms, as they could be life-threatening.
Even if you don’t have an allergic reaction, you still don’t want to ignore flea bites. Fleas are known disease carriers, and they could spread flea tapeworm, tungiasis, typhus, bartonellosis, and even the plague or Yersinia pestis. In other words, you don’t want fleas around you or your pets!
How Do You Know if Your Pet Has Fleas?
If you don’t know any better, it’s easy to mistake the side effects of a flea bite in pets with allergies. Here are the symptoms your cat or dog may display after being bitten:
- Ear infections
- Skin infections
- Bacterial and yeast infections
- Bumps across the body, which are flea bites
- Red patches on the skin
- Obsessive licking, biting, itching, or scratching the same area
- Hair loss at the rear legs, tail, and lower back if the bites go unaddressed for a long period
Yes, a lot of those symptoms certainly sound like allergies. One of the easiest ways to tell a flea infestation apart from a pet allergy is to look for flea dirt. What is this?
Flea dirt is feces and blood that fleas leave behind on their hosts. The dirt is practically microscopic but black in color. Looking at the surface of your pet’s coat likely won’t be enough to reveal flea dirt. You’ll need to brush their fur or move sections back with your fingers.
What most pet owners do if they suspect their pet has fleas is bathe their dog or cat (you shouldn’t bathe cats often, but in a case like this, it’s warranted). The water will become discolored, turning brown or red from the dried blood and feces that is the flea dirt.
Pet Flea Treatment Options
Oh no. You did exactly that, bathed your pet, and you think you saw flea dirt in the tub. Now what? You don’t want your beloved pet to suffer nor do you want to risk getting fleas from your dog or cat.
Call your vet and bring your pet in for an appointment. Once your vet confirms a case of fleas, they’ll recommend a treatment such as Fluralaner or Bravecto, Selamectin or Revolution/Stronghold, Imidacloprid or Advantage, or Fipronil or Frontline Plus.
Your vet may also suggest Seresto, a flea collar, as well as Spinosad or Comfortis or Nitenpyram or Capstar, which are edible pills for cats. Each chewable pills is good for 30 days, in which case, your cat would need to ingest another one.
Even once the fleas are gone courtesy of the vet-administered treatment, if you don’t make some lifestyle changes at home, your pets will be reinfected, and you might be too.
Here are some tips for preventing future recurrences of fleas.
Clean Your Home
All surfaces need a thorough cleaning after you’re sure you’ve had fleas in your home. Sweep and mop hard flooring, vacuum carpeting and rugs, wash your pet’s bed, and clean the sofa. When you’re done, make sure you take out the vacuum canister and wash it with soap and water, as you can never be too careful.
Cleaning your home like this will remove flea dirt and any remaining eggs that may be on these surfaces. If a few live fleas happened to be clinging to the carpeting or bedding, they’ll die as well.
Once you give your home a deep-cleaning, make sure that all bedding, including your own, that your pet comes into contact with gets washed weekly.
Brush Your Pet
This is especially recommended if your pet has spent time outside. With a clean brush, comb through your dog or cat’s fur, ensuring you go over their entire body. If they have fleas in their fur, you might be able to spot them. If not, then brushing prevents the fleas from sticking around.
Make sure you disinfect the brush when you’re done!
Tend to Your Yard
Fleas, as well as ticks, prefer long grass and leggy shrubs. Maintain your property by mowing the lawn about once a week and trimming your shrubs so they don’t grow out of control.
You not only reduce the number of hiding spaces for fleas (and ticks too) by doing this, but you discourage wildlife like feral cats, raccoons, and opossums from lingering too long on your property. These animals can spread fleas as well as countless other diseases, so this is a good thing.