Can Humans Get Fleas From Dogs And Cats?

Can humans get fleas from dogs and cats and can they really live on humans? Keep reading to find out.

If you are a pet lover, then you have probably inevitably run into fleas issues at some point, especially if you have adopted stray animals.

CDC/Janice Haney Carr, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Fleas are extremely annoying external parasites, which produce a sensation of severe discomfort to their hosts. Additionally, fleas can also transmit various diseases, and cause allergic dermatitis, due to an allergen in their saliva.

These parasites prefer to live on animals with dense fur and feed on their blood. While fleas are very common on dogs and cats, almost any animal that has fur can become their target. But what about humans, can humans get fleas from dogs, cats, or other pets?

Can Humans Get Fleas?

If you have cats or dogs, fleas can easily find a way in your house. Even though most of the time pets are the ones that bring these unwanted parasites into our homes, fleas can also get a free pass inside if they hop on your clothes when you are outside.

Although fleas are found throughout the year, their activity mostly restarts with the arrival of spring. Both humans and pets can catch fleas from the areas covered in grass. In cases of massive flea infestations, you can sometimes notice them jumping on your feet when you walk outside.

So, yes, humans can get fleas from their pets, and not only. But can fleas live on humans just as they do on dogs, cats, and other mammals?

Fleas survive on blood and like to burrow into your dog or cat’s fur. As humans do not have as much hair as animals do, the fleas will not have too many hideouts. Therefore, most of the time, these nasty creatures will hop off you and go back to your pet or seek other spaces in your home to reside, like carpets, blankets, and anything that will provide them a temporary home.

They need blood to stay alive, so they will try to get it from any warm-blooded body nearby, including humans. Even in the absence of a host, fleas can live for an extended period (sometimes even more than three months).

How Do You Know You Got Fleas?

Even if they are very small and can make them unseen in a blink of an eye, probably the clearest sign that you have fleas in the house is the presence of their bites on your body. Flea bites look very similar to the bites of many other insects, so often time is challenging to distinguish them. Their bites are also frequently confused with those produced by mosquitoes but have a few distinctive details.

Flea Bites
Flea Bites by Nzfooty

Flea bites are usually very easy to spot on someone's skin and can easily be located by the itching sensation.

While the human reactions to flea bites might vary from one person to another, these bites are usually small and look like tiny red bumps. In the center of the bite, there is typically a red spot.

The bites may appear in a straight line or in a cluster of 3 or 4 bites. Many times these bites are located near the elastic of underwear, around the ankles, or in the leg area.

When you got fleas, you may additionally feel a slight tickle under your clothes as they move.

If you get bit by a flea, you should wash the area off with warm water and soap. Then you may apply an anti-itch cream. This will prevent you from wanting to scratch the area.

Are Fleas Dangerous To Humans?

Even though in most cases, you will only end up with a series of nasty bites and itching, there are also dangers to which people are exposed when they catch fleas. These can include allergic dermatitis, and the transmission of various diseases.

Fleas are also responsible for spreading one of the diseases that has killed millions of people in the past, bubonic plague. This illness is caused by a bacterium called "Yersinia pestis" and is transmitted by fleas to humans from infected hosts, particularly rats.

Although plague cases are very isolated today and there is a treatment for it, fleas are still its main spreaders.

Do All Fleas Bite Humans?

There are more than 2500 species of fleas across the world. Of all these varieties, only a few attack humans.

Some of the most common species of fleas are:

  • Dog flea
  • Cat flea
  • Human fleas (yes, humans have a flea species, too)
  • Ground squirrel flea
  • Bird flea
  • Rat flea

Amongst these, the most most widely spread are dog flea and cat flea. We can find these species of fleas in almost all countries as they prefer cats and dogs as their hosts.

In the United States, according to CDC, the most common species of fleas are:

  • Cat flea
  • Dog flea
  • Ground squirrel flea
  • Oriental rat flea

While all of these species are capable of transmitting diseases and internal parasites to humans, ground squirrel and rat fleas are the most responsible for spreading plague bacteria.

Despite their names, it's not mandatory to only find cat flea on cats and dog flea on dogs. The most common fleas found on all furry pets in the US are the cat fleas. Besides cats, this particular parasite is also frequently found on dogs and can also bite humans, other pets, and farm animals.

The human flea is mostly found on pigs and sometimes forwarded to humans.

How To Get Rid Of Fleas

Although humans can bring this blood-sucking parasite into the house, the main source of a flea infestation to humans is our pets. 

To prevent a flea problem in the first place, you need to make sure that your pets do not carry this parasite in their coat. This can be easily avoided by taking your pet to the vet regularly for external anti-parasite treatment.

If your cat or dog has clear flea issues before applying the treatment, you will also need to examine its bed, blankets, play areas, etc. These are all places where fleas may hide or lay eggs.

Bathing your pet regularly can also help you avoid flea infestations. Remember to also routinely wash all bedclothes, blankets, carpets, and other items to which your pet has constant access.

Vacuuming and mopping will also help you get rid of the eggs of this parasite.

Dog Scratching Because Of Fleas

Signs Your Pet Has Fleas

There are various signs that your pet may have fleas. These include:

  • Your pet is losing hair from scratching or licking an area
  • There are tiny red spots located on your furniture or the floor (blood)
  • Your cat’s or dog’s skin is red or inflamed
  • The skin on your pet is dry
  • There are red bumps or pimples located on the groin, legs or the base of the tail

Therefore, the first action to get rid of fleas in your home is to first make sure that pets do not carry this parasite.

The second step is to perform a detailed cleanup of the house and places where fleas can hide and laid their eggs.

If even after these operations you do not manage to get rid of fleas completely, then it is necessary to pass this matter to the specialists and therefore, turn to a pest management service.


So, can humans get fleas?

Unfortunately, yes, and it's relatively easy for humans to get fleas. These parasites can directly jump off from our pets on us, or we can simply get them from outside green areas even when we have no pets.

Fleas are very annoying blood-sucking external parasites that attack both animals and humans. Having one or two is disturbing enough, but having a true flea infestation in your house is a real pain.

In addition to the obvious discomfort that fleas offer through their bites, these parasites can spread various diseases from one host to another, as well as some of the most dangerous, such as the plague.

Even though only a few species of fleas bite humans, these are quickly spread throughout pets. Due to fleas' fast-reproductive cycle, they can quickly become a threat to any household.

As cats, dogs, and other pets are the main transmitter of fleas to humans, if you notice that your animals have been infected with these irritating pests, take action as soon as possible. If you do not, the issue will get much worse and harder to control.