Can Humans Catch Fleas From Dogs?

  • Written By Dan Edwards on November 10, 2018
    Last Updated: December 10, 2020

Fleas are every dog owner’s nightmare. The bites from these blood-sucking pests can cause intense discomfort for your furry friend, leading to your poor pooch chewing and scratching like crazy trying to get rid of them.

Simply seeing your pet in flea-bitten distress is enough to make most owners feel a little itchy. But can humans get fleas from their dogs? Let’s find out.

Can Dog Fleas Live on Humans?

It’s common knowledge that our beloved pets can catch fleas, but many pet owners wonder whether or not dog fleas will take up residence on humans too. Flea bites are incredibly itchy, and if you start to scratch alongside your dog, you will understandably worry that you may also have some unwelcome guests.

Dog fleas happily bite and feed upon humans if they get the chance, but they generally don’t choose to stay on people very long. Flea bites look like small red bumps which often appear in groups or clusters on the skin. While flea bites can occur anywhere on the body, the most common place is on the lower body below the knee, or the forearms if you regularly pick up and cuddle your pet.

Flea Bites On Ankle
Flea Bites Around The Ankle

Finding flea bites on your body is pretty unpleasant, but the good news is that we are not at the top of the menu for dog fleas. Our blood is enough to sustain a dog flea and prevent starvation, but humans are not their preferred host. Your pooch is where dog fleas really want to be, as dog flea biology is designed to be supported by a diet of dog blood.

It is partly, for this reason, that dog fleas will not live on humans. They must have a continual supply of dog blood to adequately breed, therefore they will always choose to reside upon a dog or other furry animal should there be one available.

Fleas like to hide among fur which protects them from light and the elements, as well as giving them something to cling on to. Humans simply do not have enough hair to really provide an adequate home for fleas.

How Do Humans Get Fleas From Dogs?

In order to get fleas from your dog, the dog first has to catch fleas. This almost always initially takes place outdoors, whether it is from your yard, or on a walk in the park. Flea eggs usually hide in cool, shaded areas in woodland, under bushes, or beneath yard decking. They remain there before maturing into adult fleas, which wait patiently for your dog to wander past. They then quickly leap aboard and are carried into your home.

Your dog may have directly caught “new” fleas this way, or they may have picked them up from other animals. The wildlife which forages in your yard almost always harbors fleas, which can become dislodged as they go about their search for food. If your dog likes to play with other dogs at the park, this is also a high risk for the transfer of fleas.

Once the fleas are on your dog and have been brought indoors, they will prefer to stay on your pet and feed exclusively on your dog’s blood. However, fleas will start to bite human residents as a last resort if they become dislodged from the dog during grooming and they cannot immediately find their way back to feed.

If you do not have any pets of your own and fleas have been deposited in your home by a friend’s dog, you will be the only source of blood in the home. Therefore, you will be bitten more often, but the fleas will not remain on your body.

How to Prevent Catching Fleas From Your Dog?

In order to prevent catching fleas from your dog, you first either need to treat any existing infestation, or take steps to avoid fleas getting onto your dog in the first place. The most common sign that your dog has fleas is intense scratching and chewing. If you haven’t noticed any bites on your body, you must still check your dog for fleas if they are behaving in this way.

You may not have been bitten yet, but if fleas are on your dog, it’s only a matter of time before you start to itch too!

fleas on leg
Fleas hitching a ride on a sock

The best way to determine if your dog has fleas is to check their fur thoroughly with a flea comb. These combs have very closely spaced teeth, which will catch fleas, flea eggs, and their “dirt” from the fur.

Dog Fleas
Dog fleas on a flea comb

Flea dirt looks very much like ground black pepper. If your pet has light fur and pale skin, you may be able to spot this without using a comb. Flea dirt is found in the areas where fleas like to settle and feed. Common areas are the back of the neck, the base of the tail, and between the shoulder blades.

flea dirt on dog
Flea dirt on a dog’s underbelly

If you find evidence of fleas, you must treat your dog immediately. Flea bites on canines mostly carry the same characteristics as those on humans, see these are something to look out for. 

There are many different flea shampoos and treatments available from your vet or the local pet store. Make sure to choose the right treatment for your breed of dog, as smaller breeds often need a specialized concentration of treatment due to their size. The same applies for puppies, which cannot be treated with products designed for adult dogs. Talk to your vet or a representative at the store for advice on which product to choose.

Treating your dog directly is only one aspect of preventing fleas. Unfortunately, once fleas have been brought into the home, eliminating the population on your dog will not completely solve the problem. In fact, if your dog is now an unsuitable host due to treatment – you may be the only source of a blood meal left!

To completely eradicate fleas, you will need to treat your home too. The worst areas to harbor fleas in the home are carpeted areas, although they also can be found in furniture and hardwood floors too. Flea eggs, larvae, and pupae will hide here while they develop into adult fleas.

Flea Eggs On Carpet
Flea eggs in the carpet – CC Image courtesy of Denni Schnapp
Flea Pupae
Hidden flea cocoons – CC Image courtesy of Sean McCann

The most efficient way to destroy them is by using food grade diatomaceous earth. Shake the earth all over the carpets, hard floors, and any soft textiles like sofas and mattresses.

Use a stiff brush to work the earth deep into the fibers and cracks in the floor, before leaving it there for a couple of days. Then vacuum the entire area very thoroughly, ensuring to go over the area a few times to pick up all the fleas. Empty your vacuum outdoors, just to make sure any surviving fleas or flea eggs don’t fall out back into the home.

You may have to repeat these treatments a few times before you’re completely rid of fleas, but it will definitely be worth it for both you and your dog.


Fleas are not terribly fussy about where they get a blood meal. It’s easy to forget that fleas are blood-sucking insects and we are warm-blooded mammals too, so we are inevitably on the menu.

However, luckily for us, we are not the top choice of food for fleas and we are also not furry enough to provide a suitable home, like your dog. Therefore, while we are targets for a quick meal, fleas cause a much bigger problem for our dogs than for us.

The best way to prevent being bitten by dog fleas is to protect your pet against fleas all year round and to attend to any flea problem as soon as it occurs. This will ensure you, your dog, and your home remain free from these nasty parasites.