Can Plague Fleas Live on Dogs?

Plague-carrying fleas could infest Fido, so keep him protected with topical flea medications.
Comstock/Comstock/Getty Images

The flea species that most commonly carries the bacteria Yersinia pestis, which causes the deadly bubonic plague, is Xenopsylla cheopis. This flea, commonly referred to as the rat flea, prefers to live on rodents but can live on your pooch, too, if the flea's usual rodent hosts aren't around.

Fleas and Your Dog

The type of fleas that most commonly infest cats are Ctenocephalides felis. The flea common to dogs is Ctenocephalides canis. Fortunately, while fleas such as the cat flea can carry plague-causing bacteria, they are less effective than Xenopsylla cheopis in the transmission of these deadly microorganisms, according to June 2008 issue of "The American Journal of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene." All fleas have certain host preferences, but they are opportunistic and will affect other animals in a pinch. This is why Xenopsylla cheopis can affect dogs, cats and people, along with their preferred hosts, rats, according to

Preventing Pestilence

Use monthly topical flea-preventative medication on your pup to prevent any fleas from infesting him, especially in areas where rat fleas are prevalent, such as the southwestern United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Seal any openings to your home and keep your yard clean of debris to prevent rodents from nesting in the area, bringing their fleas with them, which could affect your pup.