Types of Dog Fleas and Ticks

We usually talk about fleas as though they are just a single type of insect – but did you know there are several different dog flea types?

They all look pretty much the same to the naked eye (if you can even see them at all) and you don’t generally have to worry about what types of fleas are there when you’re treating or preventing them.

Ticks on the other hand can differ in appearance, effects, risks and complications and you’ll want to have a good idea of the types of ticks that exist where you live – as there are different species in different climatic zones, regions and countries.

There are more than 2500 known species of fleas worldwide in the family of insects that we recognize as fleas on our pets! Needless to say, fleas are just about everywhere. But there’s only a few that are commonly seen on our dogs.

Fleas have simple names that we can easily relate to, as well as their respective scientific names that indicate exactly what species they are.

Fleas are categorized by species just like every other animal and organism on earth. So let’s look at some of the most common fleas we come across when we have dogs (and cats) at home:

Ctenocephalides canis – Dog Flea

Despite being called the Dog Flea, this flea also lives on cats, so you’re felines aren’t going to be immune to it I’m afraid (and as I remind all many times on this website – never use a dog flea product on a cat as they often contain ingredients that are toxic to cats).

But this is the flea that can cause Tapeworm to occur and it’s always recommended that if your dog has fleas, that you not only treat the flea problem, but you also de-worm your cat to remove the threat of tapeworm.

Facts about the Dog Flea:

  • Can live on dogs, cats, other mammals
  • Can bite humans
  • Is able to last months without food (the blood of mammals)
  • Up to 4000 eggs can be laid on the fur of one dog or cat by just one adult female flea
  • Full life cycle from egg to adult lasts 2-3 weeks depending on environmental conditions (generally the warmer it is, the quicker the cycle)

Ctenophalides felis – Cat Flea

As you’ll notice, the first part of the scientific name of the Cat Flea is the same as that of the Dog Flea above.

That means these fleas are closely related in the animal kingdom and unless you’re an insect expert, you’re not likely to notice the difference between the two as they are very similar!

You would have to look under a microscope to see the differences in head shape and structure, and leg structure that separates the two (not something many of us are that keen to do, no doubt).

The Cat Flea is actually the most common type of flea found in North America

Both Cat and Dog fleas have no wings – they are wingless insects. They get around by jumping, not flying.

How Far Can Dog Fleas Jump?

How high can a flea jump?

This is something that might seem very difficult to measure – and it is for most of us.

Fleas are so small that you usually lose sight of one if you even see it jump at all. Fleas have long back legs to aid in their jumping, and it turns out that these legs work out very well.

Some scientists wanted to find out just how high or far a flea can leap, so they undertook controlled lab testing to measure the maximum and average jumping ability of the common dog and cat fleas.

The results are impressive (well, not if you want to stop fleas, because it shows just how well they can get around).

In the study, the furthest jump of a cat flea was measured at a quite astounding 48cm or 18.9 inches.

But the dog fleas jumped even further – with the longest jump measured at 50cm (19.6 inches).

They were the longest recorded jumps – but it’s the average length overall that the fleas jump that are of most interest because that’s the most common distance that fleas will be moving on, off and around our pets and home.

In average measurements, the dog fleas had a much longer average jump than cat fleas (30.4cm vs 19.9cm).

Dog fleas not only jump longer on average than cat fleas, but also higher; with the highest dog flea jump in the study recorded at 25cm (9.8 inches), with the cat fleas recording a maximum jump of 17cm (6.7 inches).

How Long Do Dog Fleas Live?

There are several factors that will determine how long an adult flea will survive: mostly whether it has a host (your dogs and cats) and the climate and temperature in your local environment.

But on average, the lifespan of an adult can be around 2 to 3 months and even if they haven’t had anything to eat (in other words, no blood), they can still live this long!

According to a study in the International Journal of Infectious Diseases, adult fleas make up only about 5% of a flea population – so if you’re seeing a few fleas around, you can quickly imagine that it’s what you’re not seeing (the eggs, larvae and pupae) that’s making up the majority of the problem.

So what’s the best way to 1) get rid of the fleas that are on your dog right now, and 2) stop the coming back?

You’ll find extensive information based on dozens of hours of research here on my site regarding different forms of flea control, like dog flea collars, topical treatments, and tablets.

Sprays are also available to treat the environment – but these should be used with caution (especially if you have cats and other pets) and in many cases, you can often rid the home of flea eggs by washing all bedding and linen – or replacing it if the infestation is particularly severe.

Purdue University Entomology Department
A comparison of jump performances of the dog flea, Ctenocephalides canis (Curtis, 1826) and the cat flea, Ctenocephalides felis felis (Bouché, 1835).
Cadiergues MC1, Joubert C, Franc M.
University of Florida Entomology & Nematology
International Journal of Infectious Diseases Volume 14, Issue 8, August 2010 Fleas and flea-borne diseases
Harris Hill Animal Hospital, Williamsville NY

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