Are cat and dog fleas the same?

Summary

Fleas that infest dogs and cats are the same species. The cat flea, Ctenocephalides felis, is the most prevalent species found on pets. However, the dog flea, Ctenocephalides canis, is more common on dogs in some areas of Europe.

Geographic Prevalence:

United States Latin America Europe Western Asia Africa Eastern Asia Australia New Zealand

Details

Taxonomy: Fleas of Domestic Importance

Cat Flea Taxonomy
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Arthropoda
Class: Insecta
Order: Siphonaptera
Family: Pulicidae
Genus: Ctenocephalides
Species: C. felis

There are over 2000 known species of fleas. In a 2005 The Catalogue of Life survey, 2005 species and 828 subspecies were identified. 95% of them infest mammals, and birds host the other 5%.

Fleas are insects belonging to the order Siphonaptera. Those of domestic importance typically belong to the family Pulicidae. The most common genus found on dogs and cats is Ctenocephalides.

In the United States, only four flea species infest cats and dogs in large enough numbers, and with sufficient regularity, to be considered important. They are Ctenocephalides felis (cat flea), Ctenocephalides canis (dog flea), Pulex irritans (human flea), and Echidnophaga gallinacea (stickfast flea).

Ctenocephalides felis

Ctenocephalides felis felis is the most common species associated with domestic dogs and cats in the USA and most parts of the world. As a result, it’s the most studied. The term “cat flea” is the common name of C. felis and doesn’t refer to all fleas recovered from cats.

Four subspecies of Ctenocephalides felis are recognized throughout the world. They are C. felis felis, C. felis strongylus, C. felis damarensis and C. felis orientis. All these species except orientis parasitize feral and domestic carnivores.

C. felis felis

C. felis felis is the only subspecies that occurs in North America. Therefore, it’s often simply referred to as “C. felis” or “cat flea”. Originating from Africa, this subspecies is now found world-wide, ranging from warm tropical areas to temperate zones with prolonged subfreezing temperatures. C. felis felis was introduced to Europe when domestic cats were imported during the Crusades.

C. felis strongylus & C. felis damarensis

C. felis strongylus and C. felis damarensis are restricted to the northeastern and southwestern portions of East Africa, respectively.

C. felis orientis

C. felis orientis is found from India to Australia. It’s known for infesting cattle, sheep and goats.

Ctenocephalides canis

C. canis, the “dog flea”, is the second-most common species found on pets in the USA. However, the cat flea predominates by a large margin. This may be explained by dog fleas only being able to reproduce on dogs or related canines (e.g. foxes). Like the cat flea, C. canis is found throughout most of the world’s countries.

Pulex irritans

P. irritans, the human flea, is found on all continents except Antarctica. The Pulex genus originated in North America, but easily spread throughout the world as it’s transported by humans. Though P. irritans is called “the human flea” and is often associated with humans, the species is more common on pigs and larger carnivores.

Echidnophaga gallinacea

E. gallinacea is called the “poultry sticktight flea” or the “hen flea”. It mainly parasitizes ground birds, but can also occur on hedgehogs, ground squirrels and larger carnivores. It’s found throughout temperate and semitropical climates worldwide. The cosmopolitan distribution resulted from human activities. E. gallinacea is occasionally found on dogs and cats in warm areas. Infestations on pets are most common in southeastern USA.

Less Common Species

Other flea species are sometimes found on pets, but they’re rare and only temporary residents. Dogs or cats can become accidental hosts of rabbit fleas, rodent fleas and squirrel fleas. When pets attack and kill these small animals, the fleas migrate to the closest warm body. However, these species don’t survive long and can’t reproduce on dogs and cats.

Geographical Prevalence

United States

Cats: Ctenocephalides felis
Dogs: Ctenocephalides felis

In Florida (1987), C. felis was the most common flea of both cats and dogs, with a prevalence of 99.8% and 92.4%, respectively. C. canis wasn’t found during the survey. P. irritans and E. gallinacea were found in small numbers.

In Georgia (2005), a survey of fleas on domestic dogs found C. felis was the most common species, with a prevalence of 61%. C. canis made up 21.2%, P. irritans 12.7% and E. gallinacea 3.7%.

In Wisconsin (1971), fleas on cats were almost exclusively C. felis. Cat fleas also predominated on dogs, though C. canis was present.

In Indiana (1988), 93% of flea-infested dogs had C. felis and 18% had C. canis. In infested cats, C. felis made up 97% of the fleas.

In Virginia (1985), C. felis was the only species of flea recovered from both dogs and cats.

In San Francisco (1960), C. felis was the just about the only species of flea recovered from both dogs and cats in animal shelters. However, a single P. irritans flea was found on a dog.

Latin America

Cats: Ctenocephalides felis
Dogs: Ctenocephalides felis

In Cuernavaca, Mexico (2001), 81.1% of flea-infested dogs had only C. felis and 16.8% had only C. canis. 2% of the dogs had both flea species. On cats, 92.3% of infestations were pure C. felis. The remaining 7.7% were a mix of C. felis and C. canis.

In Aguascalientes, Mexico (2011), flea were recovered from dogs and identified. Out of 629 fleas, 62% were C. canis and 38% were C. felis.

In Chile (2002), flea species found on dogs were 41.8% C. felis, 39.4% C. canis, and 18.8% P. irritans.

In Puerto Rico (1952), C. felis was most prevalent in dogs.

In Argentina (1986), C. felis was most prevalent in dogs.

In Brazil (2006), 161 fleas were collected off of dogs. 70.8% were C. felis and 29.2% were C. canis.

In Uruguay (2006), 66 fleas were identified from dogs and cats. 94% were C. felis and 6% were C. canis.

Europe

Cats: Ctenocephalides felis
Dogs: Ctenocephalides felis & Ctenocephalides canis

In Italy (2007), 960 fleas were recovered from dogs in veterinary clinics. 91.8% of the fleas were C. felis and 8.2% were C. canis.

In Southwest England (1995), 93.75% of fleas from infested cats were C. felis and 6.25% were C. canis. Fleas on infested dogs were 78.3% C. felis and 20% C. canis.

In the United Kingdom (2005), flea infestations on cats were 98.83% C. felis, 0.21% C. canis and 0.43% P. irritans. On dogs, 93.15% of fleas were C. felis, 1.49% C. canis, and 1.49% P. irritans.

In Albania (2009), C. canis predominated in dogs, making up 75.7% of infestations. The remaining fleas were 5% C. felis and 8.3% P. irritans. On cats, 100% of recovered fleas were C. felis.

In Greece (1995), 58.9% of flea-infested dogs had pure C. canis and 27.9% had only C. felis. The remaining dogs had mixed infestations, some with P. irritans. C. felis made up 94.7% of fleas found on cats. Only one cat out of 38 had C. canis.

In Spain (2008), C. felis were most abundant on dogs (88.02%), followed by 10.38% C. canis, 1.47% P. irritans and 0.13% E. gallinacea. For cats in Spain (2013), C. felis made up 98.4% of infestations, 1.1% were C. canis, and 0.5% were P. irritans.

In Denmark (1977), C. felis was the most prevalent flea on both dogs and cats.

In Austria (1986), C. felis accounted for 81.4% of fleas on dogs and 96.3% of fleas on cats. However, an older survey (1963) found C. canis to be more prevalent on dogs.

In Hungary (2009), flea infestations on dogs were 53.0% pure C. canis and 36.0% pure C. felis. The remaining dogs had mixed infestations, some with P. irritans. On cats, 94.3% of infestations were pure C. felis. The remaining were C. canis or mixed species.

In London (1981), fleas from infestations on dogs were 84.6% C. felis and 12.8% C. canis. On cats, 100% of the fleas were C. felis.

In Ireland (1997), 90% of fleas recovered from cats were C. felis and only 0.01% were C. canis. 7.8% were rabbits fleas (S. cuniculi). On dogs, 75.7% of the fleas were C. canis and 17.4% were C. felis. The remaining species did not occur in significant numbers.

In Leicester City, UK (1999), fleas were recovered from 257 dogs and 126 cats. Out of 138 fleas, 96.4% were C. felis and 3.6% were C. canis.

In Germany (2006), flea infestations on dogs were 73.2% C. felis, 17.6% C. canis, 4.3% A. erinacaei and 3.5% P. irritans. Fleas on cats were broken down into 89.8% C. felis, 7.3% C. canis and 1.1% A. erinacaei. An older German survey (2001) had similar results, with C. felis being the predominant species of both dogs and cats.

Western Asia

Cats: Ctenocephalides felis
Dogs: Ctenocephalides felis & Ctenocephalides canis

In Iran (2012), dogs were examined for fleas. The most prevalent species was C. canis, followed by P. irritans. No C. felis fleas were found. Another survey (2010) had conflicting results, as fleas recovered from Iranian dogs were 67.5% C. felis, 12.1% C. canis and 8.4% P. irritans. For cats (2011), C. felis was the only species of flea recovered.

Africa

Cats: Ctenocephalides felis
Dogs: Ctenocephalides felis

In Egypt (1966), 84.3% of fleas found on dogs were C. felis, followed by 10.2% P. irritans and 5.1% C. canis.

In Tanzania (1980), C. felis was the most abundant species found on both dogs and cats.

In Ethiopia (2011), 82.9% of randomly examined dogs had C. felis, 73.8% had C. canis and 2.5% had P. irritans. 67% of examined cats had C. felis, 18% had C. canis and 6% had P. irritans.

In South Africa (1986), C. felis was the most common flea species found on dogs.

In Uganda’s West Nile region (2013), C. felis is the most common flea found around human habitations.

Eastern Asia

Cats: Ctenocephalides felis
Dogs: Ctenocephalides felis & Ctenocephalides canis

In Khon Kaen, Thailand (2005), a survey of fleas on dogs found only C. canis.

In Gwangju, South Korea (2008), C. canis was the sole species of flea recovered from dogs.

In Taipei, Taiwan (1993), 80% of stray cats and 60% of stray dogs were infested with C. felis.

Australia

Cats: Ctenocephalides felis
Dogs: Ctenocephalides felis

In Australian veterinary clinics (2011), the cat flea (C. felis) was the most frequent flea species found (98.8%) on dogs and cats. The only other species identified was E. gallinacea, all from Western Australia.

In Queensland, Australia (1991), fleas were recovered from sheep dogs. C. felis was the most common species, accounting for 78% of all fleas. E. gallinacea made up 21% and C. canis was only identified once.

New Zealand

Cats: Ctenocephalides felis
Dogs:Ctenocephalides canis

In Wellington, New Zealand (1984), out of 357 fleas recovered dogs, 74.51% were C. canis, 21.29% were C. felis and 4.2% were P. irritans. Of 1578 flea collected from cats, 99.24% were C. felis and 0.76% were C. canis.

References

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Discussion

  • Vanessa October 28, 2015, 12:55 pm

    Can you please make a diagram showing the distribution of the cat flea all around the world. I have searched all over the internet but I have found none. I really need this for my research topic. Thank you!

    • Adam Retzer October 28, 2015, 8:55 pm

      Hey Vanessa, I will work on creating a distribution map. However, it may not get done for a while, as I have other tasks that need to be done.

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