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Ctenocephalides canis


Synonym(s): C. canis, dog flea




  • Class: Insecta.
  • Order: Siphonaptera.

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Clinical Effects



Adult fleas

  • Parasitic: in hair coat of dog, cat or other animal.
  • Non-parasitic: in the absence of a host, fleas can survive for days to a few weeks in a cold, moist environment.
  • Unfed fleas survive a lot better than fed. Fed fleas die within a few days in normal household type environment.
  • Pre-emerged adults in their cocoon: in the absence of stimuli to emerge (pressure, temperature, possibly vibration) adults can remain in the cocoon for several months, particularly in cool temperatures.


  • Laid on the animal but not sticky so that eggs fall off within about 8 hours. Naturally the majority of eggs fall where the host spends most of its time sleeping/resting, ie house/shed, in the bedding, on chairs, on the owner's bed, etc.

Larvae and pupae

  • Larvae hatch where eggs accumulate in the environment and do not move very much. Also, to develop, flea larvae require blood protein found in the feces of fleas. This flea dirt also falls off the host in the areas where it rests. Larvae are negatively geotropic and so larvae and pupae are found at the base of the carpet pile, etc.


  • See lifecycle diagram Lifecycle: Ctenocephalides canis - diagram :
    • Adult.
    • Egg.
    • Larva.
    • Pupa/cocoon.
    • Pre-emergent adult.


  • Probably similar to C. felis, although C. canis seems to require higher humidity and so is more restricted in the areas in which it will breed.

Pathological effects

  • Little is known about the allergens and the host response to C. canis.

Other Host Effects

  • Host specific for canids, but can feed occasionally off cats and other species.


Control via animal

  • Three point strategy to control:
    • Eliminate adult flea population on animal.
    • Protect animal against re-infection.
    • Eliminate environmental reservoir of fleas (see below).


Control beginning in the early spring

  • To prevent build up of flea population.
  • If cat confined, treatment in spring with an insecticide and treatment of the environment to kill overwintered stages.
  • If cat free to roam and can acquire fleas though the year - regular treatment with a residual long-acting product.

Control via chemotherapies

Systemically acting insecticides

  • The flea must bite and ingest blood to be susceptible:

Surface-acting insecticides applied as sprays, spot-ons, shampoos

  • The flea does not have to bite to be killed, but these products do not prevent fleabite:
    • Permethrin (some residual activity).
    • Permethrin spot-on (residual activity).
      Cat may show severe adverse reactions to permethrin if ingested.
    • Fipronil (phenylpyrazole) (residual activity) Fipronil.
    • Imidacloprid (residual activity) Imidacloprid.
    • Carbaryl.
    • Dichlorvos/fenitrothion (some residual activity).
    • Propoxur (some residual activity).

Flea collars

  • Activity is high when the collar is new but declines with time:

Control via environment

  • A strategy that kills adults first is preferred to prevent production of new generations of fleas.
  • Regularly vacuum, particularly where the cat lies and around the edges of carpets and beds (eggs are pushed to the edges) and the base of long curtains.
  • Move furniture and carpets in order to expose all larvae and pupae.
  • To kill or prevent development of environmental stages:
    • Dichlorvos/iodofenphos sprays (kills adults, possibly pupae and larvae if carefully applied).
    • Methoprene/pyrethrin sprays (the permethrin kills adults, possibly pupae and larvae if carefully applied; followed by a long-term kill of eggs or interrupted development of the larvae).
    • Lufenuron oral or injectable treatment (ingested by the flea during blood feed   →   interrupts development of egg and larva - does not kill adults) Lufenuron.
    • Sodium polyborate applied to the environment (clogs the intestine of larval fleas and thus kills them, lasts for 1 year, need some carpeted area).


  • No vaccine is available.
  • Experimental work on a vaccine based on flea gut antigens is underway.

Other countermeasures

  • Routine treatment with a residual long-acting product should be sufficient to prevent build up of household infestation, since egg-laying is prevented.


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Further Reading


Refereed papers

  • Recent references from PubMed and VetMedResource.
  • Fisher M A, Jacobs D E, Hutchinson M J et al (1996) Evaluation of flea control programmes for cats using fenthion and lufenuron. Vet Rec 138 (4), 79-81 PubMed.
  • Baker K P & Elharam S (1992) The biology of Ctenocephalides canis in Ireland. Vet Parasitol​ 45 (1-2), 141-146 PubMed.

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