Difference Between Human Fleas and Dog Fleas and Cat Fleas

Human Fleas vs Dog Fleas vs Cat Fleas

Fleas are small black to brownish coloured insects without wings as a result of their evolution as external parasites. They have stout and spiny legs adapted for leaping, and their piercing and sucking mouthparts are used in sucking blood from the host. Their body is divided into three tagma; head, thorax, and abdomen. The last pair of legs out of three is greatly enlarged to help them for leaping. Body is laterally flattened and size is slightly smaller than a sesame seed. With this introduction, the similarities and differences among human flea, cat flea and dog flea are discussed in this article.

Human Fleas

The human flea Pulex irritans is a cosmopolitan species which was originated in South America. The human fleas are dark brown in colour, and the size is little larger than cat and dog fleas. Their mouthparts are useful to suck blood from humans. Human flea measures between 1.5 and 4 millimetres in length. Adults have a rounded head but, the body lacks genal and pronotal combs. Mostly, human fleas are found in the forms of eggs or larvae, only 5% are adults. The flea bites could cause severe itchiness which usually occurs as an allergic reaction to the saliva of flea. Due to fleas, humans loose blood and additionally, could be infected with several pathogens. Human fleas have been recorded in pigs for numerous occasions and many other species of birds and mammals (e.g. canids, felids, birdss, Black rats, rodents, and bats). People who work with pigs are more susceptible to be infested with fleas. However, the incidences of human fleas are not common among people nowadays.

Cat Fleas

Cat flea, Ctenocephalides felis, is a very common and in fact the most important ectoparasite of cats. Body is oval shaped measuring only about 0.5 millimetres. Their reddish brown body have both genal and pronotal combs, which are important features of cat fleas. Moreover, the presence of spermatheca in females and the chaetotaxy of tibia on the third pair of legs make them more unique. Cat fleas have a wide spectrum of hosts including humans as well. However humans are not infected with diseases but, cat fleas are vectors of many pathogens viz. tapeworms, Murine typus, Bartonella, Mycoplasma haemominutum, Yersinia pestis…etc. Some cats show flea bite allergic dermatitis as a result of the infestation. Annually, cat fleas cost more than six billion US dollars for controlling and treatments.

Dog Fleas

The dog flea, Ctenocephalides canis lives amongst dog’s fur. They are reddish brown in colour and the head is sharply curved. The tibia of the third leg bears short stout setae between apical and postmedian long setae, which are quite unique to them. The body is almost 2 millimetres in length. Apart from dogs, Ctenocephalides canis could be found in cats and humans also. Allergic irritations are common due to dog fleas, and their saliva contains bacteria of more than 15 species causing different problems on dogs. Sometimes as a result of severe scratching, the dog could get bald, and develop skin infections with bad odour. Additionally, heavily infested dogs show anaemic conditions as well.

Comparison Between Human Fleas, Dog Fleas and Cat Fleas
Human FleaDog FleaCat Flea
Comparativelylarge bodiedMedium body sizeSmall bodied
Largest host spectrumSmaller host spectrumLarger host spectrum than dog flea, but smaller than human flea
No combs presentStout setae on the hind tibiaBoth genal and pronotal combs present
Round head with light brown to mahogany in body colourReddish brown body with a sharply curved headReddish brown body with a shallowly curved head
Not very severe irritations due to bites, but pathogenic plaques are transmittedMost severe form of dermatitisNot very severe irritation from bites, but serious pathogens are transmitted