Fleas can be very destructive and frustrating pests. In many parts of the United States fleas are active all year round creating a constant problem for pet owners.

Although there are over 2000 species of fleas in the world, only a few common types affect domestic animals in the US.

Below is a list of host animals and the most common species of fleas that affect them.

    • Swine – Cat flea (Ctenocephalides felis)

    • Chicken – Sticktight flea (Echidnophaga gallinacean)

    • Ferret – Cat flea (Ctenocephalides felis)

    • Dog – Dog flea (Ctenocephalides canis) or Cat flea (Ctenocephalides felis)

    • Cat – Cat flea (Ctenocephalides felis)

Cat fleas are the most common type of flea found on both cats and dogs in the United States. Reports indicate that 95% of fleas found on both dogs and cats are cat fleas. Very few differences exist between the two species, in fact, they are so similar in appearance and biology that they can be treated as the same pest.

Cat fleas can be very harmful to their hosts. When a heavy infestation of cat fleas occurs on an animal, blood loss may be great and can lead to negative health effects and even death (especially in young animals).

Flea bites are very irritating and itchy, causing the animal to scratch and adding to the irritation. Sometimes continuous scratching can create open wounds that are susceptible to infection. Many dogs and cats develop flea bite dermatitis, an allergic condition that can be brought on by a single flea bite. When extreme infestations occur, animals may develop “hot spots” or “acute moist dermatitis”. These “hot spots” are highly inflamed areas that the animal is continually scratching, creating conditions for bacterial infection.

Sticktight fleas most commonly affect chickens and other birds however they can also occasionally infest dogs and cats as well, especially those which have come in contact with barnyard fowl. On poultry, these fleas will sometimes be found in clusters around the eyes, comb, wattles, and other bare spots. On dogs and cats they will commonly be found around the outer ear or between the toe pads. Both horses and humans have also reported being affected by sticktight fleas.

Sticktight fleas are dark-brown in color, have their heads embedded in the host’s flesh and cannot be brushed off.

The attachment of these fleas can lead to secondary infection and irritation produced by feeding. Infection from the fleas along with the large number that may be present can cause the host’s eyes to swell shut and may even cause the animal to starve to death. Young animals, especially, can develop anemia produced by the fleas’ feeding.

For more information on the lifecycle of fleas and how to exterminate an infestation, please see: Fleas: What You Need to Know to Eliminate & Prevent an Infestation

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