Know Your Enemy: Most Common Types of Dog Fleas

PetGuide logo

If you are a pet owner, you probably know at least a little bit about fleas. Even if you are fortunate enough to have never dealt with a flea infestation, you understand how troublesome fleas can be. There are roughly 2,000 different types of fleas in the world and about 200 species can be found in the United States alone. Different fleas attack different animals, and even people! Be prepared this season and bone up on the types of dog fleas that could cause you some irritation.

Overview of Types of Fleas

Though there are hundreds of different types of fleas, not all of them are known to bite animals and only a few are known to bite humans. Here’s an overview of the most common types of dog fleas you’re most likely to encounter in North America:

  • Human Flea (Pulex irritans): This type of flea tends to prefer a human host, though it will feed on dogs, cats, and pigs if it has to. The human flea is closely related to the false human flea and the two can often be found on the same host.

Related: What’s The Difference Between Fleas and Ticks?

  • False Human Flea (Pulex simulans): This flea is similar to the human flea, though it is most commonly found on dogs and cats as well as wild mammals.
  • Rabbit Flea (Spilopsyllus cuniculi): This type of flea is most commonly seen on wild and pet rabbits, though it does affect dogs and cats as well. Rabbit fleas tend to bite the ears of their hosts, causing papules and crust to form around the edges.
  • Sticktight Flea (Echidnophaga gallinacean): Also known as the tropical hen flea, this type of flea is mostly known to affect poultry. In some cases, however, it has been known to bite dogs or cats if they are available.
  • Dog Flea (Ctenocephalides canis): Though this type of flea most commonly bites dogs, it can also be found on cats, humans, and other mammals. Dog fleas are also common on wild raccoons and possums as well as livestock. These fleas are common carriers of the tapeworm parasite.
  • Cat Flea (Ctenocephalides felis): This type of flea primarily affects domestic cats, though it will bite dogs. These fleas are common carriers of the tapeworm parasite.

Related: 8 DIY Natural Flea Remedies for Your Home

Common Signs of Flea Infestations

Even if you treat your dog every month with a topical flea preventive, you should still keep your eye out for the signs of a flea infestation. The most obvious sign of a flea problem is excess scratching in your dog or cat. If you check your dog or cat’s body more closely, you may also notice signs of redness and irritation as well as patches of hair loss – this is especially common on the head and neck areas. If you look very closely, you may actually be able to see the fleas moving along your pet’s skin or you might notice black or red droppings.

If you notice a flea infestation – or if you only see one or two fleas – you need to take immediate action to get the problem under control. Thoroughly vacuum and clean all of the carpets and furniture in your home, including your pet’s bedding. If possible, wash the bedding in hot water to kill any existing fleas. After you vacuum, be sure to throw away the vacuum bag so the fleas don’t crawl back out. You should also call an exterminator or use a DIY flea control product to remove fleas from your pet and from your house.

Dealing with a flea infestation is no easy task so you should do whatever it takes to prevent fleas from becoming a problem in your household. Stay up to date on your dog’s monthly topical flea treatments and keep an eye out for fleas and the signs they leave behind.