Like all other species of fleas, dog fleas (Ctenocephalides canis), are parasitic insects that feed on the blood of their host. They are primarily found in the fur of canines. You can find them on the fur of many wild canines such as wolves or foxes and also the common house dog. However, they can also be found in the fur of many wild and domestic felines like bobcats or a domestic house cat. They are not only limited to just cats and dogs but can be found on almost any mammal species or even birds.
Many people may confuse the two species of cat fleas and dog fleas. The major differences in the two species are the location of the flea and their preferences in the host. Although fleas are common in temperate regions all over the world, dog fleas are commonly found in Europe, Africa, and also Asia. They are rarely found in the North American continent. In the United States, if you are seeing that your cat or dog is infested with fleas, it is probably an infestation of cat fleas. In Europe however, dog flea infestations are more common than not. Just like their names, cat fleas primarily host on cats and dog fleas on dogs. Other biological differences like the difference in the sizes of their heads or the difference in the lengths of their genal comb (bristles that are found near their mouth) can only be observed through a microscope.
Symptoms and Identification
When a dog is infested with fleas, you will notice that it will start to scratch and bite themselves. Fleas concentrate and host in areas like behind the ears on the head, on the neck, around the tail or on their feet. Dogs and cats that are allergic to the saliva of a flea may obtain an allergic reaction that can be seen on the skin of the host in the form of enflamed spots. Dogs that scratch too much may have bald areas, hot spots on the skin or develop infections on the skin that causes it to smell.
Like most other flea species, the dog flea is flattened on either side of its body. The smooth surface of their body, backward spines on its legs, and the flattened body allows the dog flea to move quickly and efficiently through the dog’s fur. The mouth of a dog flea will be covered with bristle like spines called the genal comb which can also be identified on cat fleas but not on rat fleas.