Fleas are external parasites that attach themselves to the skin of their hosts and derive nourishment from them. Flea infestation is a common problem in dogs and cats, especially those whose hygiene has gone for a toss. More importantly, the fleas that infest your pets don't just restrict themselves to them, but also attack you. Interestingly, the most common flea found on dogs and cats is the cat flea. What does that mean? Aren't cat fleas different from dog fleas? How can cat fleas affect dogs?
Difference between Cat Fleas and Dog Fleas
Cat fleas (Ctenocephalides felis) and dog fleas (Ctenocephalides canis) are almost similar in appearance and biology, and both can live on cats as well as dogs. These parasites are at their best in summer, which is the most favorable season for their growth. Females in both the species are about 2.5-mm long. Males, on the other hand, are slightly smaller.
As for the difference between the two, it is very minute. In both dog fleas and cat fleas, the genal comb and pronotal comb consist of 8 pairs of spines. A microscopic examination makes it clear that the first 2 anterior spines of the genal comb of cat fleas are almost equal in length, while the first spine is distinctly shorter in dog fleas.
While considering the difference between the two, it is necessary to know that the larvae of both species are nearly twice as long as the adults. Particles of dry blood, excrement, and various organic substances collected in the infested premises provide sufficient food for fast growth of these larvae. In case of very heavy infestation, large number of grayish larvae and white eggs give the site a 'salt-and-pepper' appearance that helps identify the infestation. You can remove adult fleas from dogs and cats, but their eggs will remain there. The eggs hatch in about 14 days, depending on the humidity. A flea is alive for less than two months, but that period is enough for them to play havoc, considering that a single female flea has the tendency to lay 2000 eggs.
While cat flea infestations are common in North America, dog fleas are common in Europe. Dog fleas do appear in North America, but such occurrences are rare. Yet another threat associated with flea infestation, is that of secondary infections. A veterinarian can help you decide upon flea bite treatment for your pet. As the eggs can drop from the host and can infest carpets, bedding, and furniture, you may have to avail the services of some pest control agency after taking care of your pet.
Cleanliness is extremely essential if you want to keep flea infestation at bay. Pet owners need to inspect their pets for fleas regularly. A medicated bath, regular use of flea preventive, proper combing, use of prescribed antihistamine or injections, and prescription drugs can help control fleas.