Difference between Fleas and Lice, Fleas vs Lice

Difference Between | Descriptive Analysis and Comparisons

Key difference: Fleas are tiny, wingless, parasitic insects that live and feed on blood from humans, dog, cats, and other animals. Head lice are tiny, wingless, parasitic insects that live and feed on blood from your scalp. There are other types of lice, including body lice, which affects the body and pubic lice, which affects the pubic area.

Both fleas and lice are parasitic infestation that can often trouble humans: adults and children, as well as animals.

Fleas are tiny, wingless, parasitic insects that live and feed on blood from humans, dog, cats, and other animals. They are agile, usually dark colored with tube-like mouth-parts adapted to feeding on the blood of their hosts. Their legs are long, the hind pair well adapted for jumping: a flea can jump vertically up to 7 inches (18 cm) and horizontally up to 13 inches (33 cm).

Fleas commonly affect dogs and cats, but may also be found on humans and other available animals, especially if there is no easy excess to the dogs or cats or the cats and dogs have been moved out of the house.

Head lice are tiny, wingless, parasitic insects that live and feed on blood from your scalp. There are other types of lice, including body lice, which affects the body and pubic lice, which affects the pubic area. The head lice are the most common form of infestation that most humans face.

They commonly affect preschool and elementary school-aged children, who unknowingly infect each other and others close to them, such as family members. However, getting a head lice infestation is not a sign of bad personal hygiene or an unclean living environment. It is an itchy infestation commonly spread through close personal contact and by sharing personal belongings.

While, both are parasitic infections, there are certain differences between the two. The main difference is that the lice mainly affects humans, but may also affect pets. Comparatively, fleas mainly affect pets but may also affect humans.

Also, the shape of the body differs between the two. Fleas generally have a reddish brown flat body shape as compared to the dark grey oval body shape of a louse. The flea also has longer hind legs and is capable of jumping higher and faster than the lice. The louse, on the other hand, scuttles very fast, like a crab, as oppose to jumping. The louse had has pincers at the end of the legs, similar to crabs, which allow them to hold on the hair. Hence, lice are harder to find and dislodge from the hair.

They also differ in the manner in which they feed. A flea mainly survives on the blood of the host, whereas the lice can survive on blood, dead skin particles, among other things.

Also, the fleas leave a series of bites when they feed. The bites generally result in the formation of a slightly raised, swollen itching spot with a single puncture point at the center, which is similar to a mosquito bite. The bites often appear in clusters or lines of two bites, and can remain itchy and inflamed for up to several weeks. Lice, on the other hand, do not usually leave bite marks in the skin. They just cause itchiness in the scalp. Some types of lice may leave small, red bumps on the scalp, neck, and shoulders, which may become crusty and ooze. However, these rarely appear.

Furthermore, lice spend their entire lives linked to human beings, usually a single human. Fleas, on the other hand, move from one host to another, whether they are humans or animals. Hence, fleas are capable of spreading diseases from one host to another. Fleas on rats are in fact credited with spreading the bubonic plague. In contrast, lice cannot carry and spread diseases.

A detailed comparison between fleas and lice:


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How to Identify Fleas & Lice

Although flea and lice infestations may seem similar in nature, both infestations have fundamental differences. While fleas target animals, feeding on their blood, lice feed on human blood, laying eggs in the hair closest to the scalp. When you have a flea or lice infestation in your home, careful eradication and cleaning is important to rid your home, your family and your pets of these tiny parasites. Identify fleas and lice as the first step to removing them.


Look at your pet’s skin through the hair to see if you find skin irritations or allergic reactions to the fleas. Often a pet’s skin may appear red, irritated and broken from itching the areas where the fleas congregate. Fleas usually choose the neck area, ear area and hindquarters to infest. You may also find tiny black flea feces in your pet’s fur.

Examine your pet for the fleas themselves. Fleas are generally between 1 and 2 mm long and they appear red or brown.

Watch the behavior of the fleas. Fleas do not fly, but instead they jump very quickly to move around.

Examine the scalp, looking for evidence of lice 1. Adult lice are 1/10-inch to 1/8-inch long and immature lice are smaller. Lice are light gray or tan in color. The most prevalent spots for lice to congregate are behind the ears and at the nape of the neck. Use the fine comb to work through the hair carefully, looking for evidence of lice.

Watch the behavior of the lice. Lice do not fly or jump, but instead they crawl fast along the scalp and through the hair.

Look for oval eggs attached to the hair shafts near the scalp. The lice eggs are white while they are very young and then as they mature, they gradually turn brown.

Check for lice feces along with the lice. Lice feces are black and you will find them on the scalp.

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Although flea and lice infestations may seem similar in nature, both infestations have fundamental differences. Often a pet’s skin may appear red, irritated and broken from itching the areas where the fleas congregate. Watch the behavior of the fleas. Examine the scalp, looking for evidence of lice. The lice eggs are white while they are very young and then as they mature, they gradually turn brown.


Lice vs Flees
Lice and flees are both wingless insects but they are truly different in every aspect.

While fleas belong to the order Siphonaptera, Lice come in the order Phthiraptera. The fleas are true parasites that live on the blood of mammals and birds. Whereas some lice species like fleas are parasites sucking blood or feeding on living skin. There are also other lice species that are symbiotic scavengers, which thrive on dead tissues.

When talking of movement, both the Fleas and the Lice move about like a grasshopper. But the difference in their movement is that Lice do not move around as much as Fleas.

The Fleas have laterally compressed body that helps its movement fast through the hairs of the host. They have very long legs, especially the hind pair is well adapted for jumping fast like a grass hopper. It is believed that a flea will jump 130 times its own height. Fleas are commonly associated with pets. The Fleas are known to live in very specific places on the animal body like under the armpits and behind the ears where it is warm.

The lice have a body that is adapted to living in the host for its whole life. They have very stout legs and claws, which help them to cling to the host’s hair and feather.

While the fleas have a flat shape, the lice come in small and oval shape. The two ‘“ fleas and lice also have different colours. The Lice comes in Dark grey and the fleas have normally dark, reddish brown colours. Lice are not known to carry diseases whereas fleas are known to spread disease.

The body of fleas is polished, hard with hairs and short spines directed backwards. The flea body is tough and can withstand any great pressure. Fleas may also bite human beings and it is around the ankles the fleas normally attack.

Though the eggs of both the fleas and lice are oval shaped, the fleas lay white eggs and the Lice lay tan to coffee coloured eggs. But the lice eggs turn white after hatching.

Unlike the fleas, Lice are known to exhibit a remarkable level of host specificity. This means that most of the individual lice will spend their whole life in a single host. When fleas are most commonly found in the pets, Lice are associated with human beings. The most common lice found in human beings are the Head lice.

1. Fleas belong to the order Siphonaptera. Lice come in the order Phthiraptera.
2. Lice do not move around as much as Fleas.
3. While the fleas have a flat shape, the lice come in small and oval shape.



Lice is the common name for the Phthiraptera species, which consists of 5000 insects. These are parasites which live on warm blooded hosts, while serving as carriers for diseases such as typhus. Humans host three species of lice namely;

  1. Head louse: as the name says, these lice are found mainly in hair, at the nape of the neck, and posterior to the ears
  2. Body louse: colonize in clothing seams, move to the body only when feeding
  3. Pubic louse[i]: commonly known as crabs, colonize in areas of thick hair growth especially in pubic area, as well as facial hair, armpits, and chest hair. They are least likely to be found on the scalp area.

Lice infestation on the human host is known as pediculosis. All lice on the human body survive by feeding on human blood. They are unable to fly or jump, or walk well on flat surfaces. Thus, are spread by close contact amongst individuals. Luckily the head louse and pubic louse are not vectors for human diseases / pathogens, like the body louse. Which, transmits Epidemic Typhus, Relapsing fever, and Trench fever. The diseases caused by lice remain a major public health concern, in poverty stricken populations where hygiene is poor, resulting in a favourable environment for the prevalence of lice.


Lice have plagued humanity throughout history and were most present / widely distributed in the middle ages. Soldiers fighting in the First World War suffered immensely due to lice and the diseases they carried, as did German soldiers in the Second World War.

Physical attributes

Adult head lice are light grey in colour, dorso-ventrally flattened, with a length of 2.1 mm to 3.3 mm. They have 6 legs and attach their eggs to the base of the hair shaft.

Body lice are between 2.3 mm to 3.6 mm in length, and appear as yellow to white in colour. They also have 6 legs like that of head lice. However, body lice bear two antenna from the head. In contrast to head lice, live and lay eggs on items of clothing, linen, towels etc.

Pubic lice are light brown and much smaller in comparison, with a length of 1.1 mm to 1.8 mm. Adult pubic lice are crab like in appearance, hence the common name “crabs”. Similar to head and body lice, the pubic lice have 6 legs, with a round body. Where the two front legs are larger than the latter 4. Adults lay eggs on the hair shaft, close to the skin[ii].

Life cycle

The female louse lays approximately 300 eggs / nits in her lifetime, on hair follicles, clothing seams, and base of pubic hair shaft. Eggs hatch into nymphs after 6 to 10 days. Nymphs mature into adults after 10 days, and live up to 30 days. These lice feed on blood up to 5 times per day. Adult head lice die in less than 24 hours of separation from host, while adult body lice can survive between 3 to 5 days after host separation. While pubic lice survive between 24 to 48 hours after separated from host[iii].

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Causes of infestations

Infestation of head lice occurs through close bodily contact, and brushes. Interestingly, the most common lice infestation is that of the head louse, amongst children between the ages of 3 to 11 years. Additionally it is seen more commonly in populations of low socio-economic status, where there are 4 or more children per family, as well as clustering of students in school contexts. With an infestation rate of 37%[iv].

On the other hand, body lice is transmitted through contact with clothing and linen (i.e. clothes are inefficiently washed, cleaned, and changed, or lack thereof). Such conditions are prevalent in crowded and unhygienic environments like homeless shelters, orphanages, refugee camps, etc. Body lice are a major public health concern, due to the carrier diseases mentioned before. With a developed countries infestation rate being 11% to 22% under normal conditions. While, infestation rates escalate to 80% in poverty stricken and unhygienic conditions.

Pubic lice infestation is also transmitted through close body to body contact i.e. sexual contact and are more commonly found in adults. These lice are not vectors for disease. However, secondary infection can transpire due to excoriated skin from scratching. Studies are insufficient regarding infestation rates of pubic lice, with an average rate of 2%.


Clinical manifestation includes pruritus (intense itching) and a rash. Head lice also cause a tickling sensation, irritability, and sleeplessness. Repeated body lice infestation can cause thickened skin over abdomen due to excessive scratching causing a darker, thicker band of skin known as “vagabond’s disease”. Pubic lice also causes pruritus, irritability, fatigue, and mild fever in patients. Infected individuals should additionally be evaluated for sexually transmitted diseases.


However diagnosis is comparable across all three human host parasites. That is diagnosis is confirmed by identifying live nymph or adult louse.


Head lice are treated using pediculicides (kill lice) and ovicides (kill eggs) combined with routine retreatments. Pediculicides are also used to treat body lice. However, improving personal hygiene will treat body lice. Such as regular change of clean the clothes, bedding, and towels used by infected person. These items should be washed in hot water and tumble dried using the hot cycle.

Pubic lice are treated using over the counter drugstore ointments containing permethrin, or pyrethrins and piperonyl butoxide. Lindane shampoo and malathion lotion are prescription medications also used to treat pubic lice.

Prevention and Control

  • Avoid head to head contact
  • Do not share clothing, towels, brushes, etc.
  • Avoid lying on beds, couches, chairs etc., that the infected individual has used
  • Machine wash and dry fabric items in hot water (130° F)
  • Regular bathing, regular change of clothing
  • Regular cleaning and washing of clothing, linen, towels, etc.
  • Do not share clothing items with infected persons, nor linen, towels, etc.
  • Fumigate if necessary
  • Sexual partners or contacts of infected individual need to be assessed for lice and treated accordingly
  • Sexual contact should be avoided until persistent reinfection is ruled out
  • Do not use clothing, linen, towels etc. of infected individual
  • Machine wash fabric items with hot water (130° F)[v]


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Know the enemy – we’ve got intel on what makes fleas and ticks tick.

Spring is here… and that also means that fleas and ticks are making their way to your dog. They think of your dog as their summer home and they plan to take up residence for generations unless you evict them. And it’s not just that these parasites are pesky and nasty. There is also a risk of your pet contracting various diseases and developing certain health issues because of the bloodsucking tenants in his coat. That’s why it’s important to prevent infestation with fleas and ticks and if one occurs- to react on time and eliminate the parasite once and for all. But before you get to action, it’s important to know what exactly you are dealing with- because fleas and ticks might both be little pains in the butt, but there are many differences between the two.

Even though both fleas and ticks are parasites that feed on your pet’s blood, that’s where their similarities end. If you are hoping to eliminate either fleas or ticks (or if your pooch is unlucky- both), you have to know thy enemy. So read on and get all the information you need to rid your pet of these tedious bloodsuckers.


Even though this insect is wingless, it can jump like any NBA player. From another dog to yours, from your dog to your carpet, from the carpet to your cat… When a meal presents itself, fleas have no problem finding a way to attach themselves. In fact, they won’t mind feeding off of you, either- in cases where infestations with fleas spread all over the home, these bloodsucekrs are known to jump and bite the unsuspecting pawrent’s legs.

Despite their busy jumping schedules, fleas can be tough to spot – they measure in at 1/16 to 1/8-inches long. And that’s just the adult, well-fed (not to say chonky) fleas we’re talking about, not young specimens. But just because you don’t always see them, it doesn’t mean they are not there. With a lifespan of about 100 days, fleas like to settle in and stay on one dog. That means once it jumps on your dog, the flea will stay there until it dies. And why would it go anywhere else? Your dog has everything it needs to live comfortably – it feeds off your dog (yum!) and starts having babies as it finishes eating. Yes, when fleas make a home out of your pet’s fur, they make it a multigenerational one.For several weeks, they will lay about 20 to 40 eggs a day. And these eggs will go wherever the dog goes, so shedded hair that contains eggs can land anywhere. And we mean ANYWHERE. Fleas can infest carpets, hardwood floors, your furniture, etc- which is why it’s important to treat both the flea-infested pet and their environment when dealing with fleas.

Happier in a mild climate, fleas prefer heat to cold, so they would rather spend their time indoors where it’s toasty warm. So your pet’s coat kind of makes the perfect habitat: there’s all you can eat buffet, the temperature is just right, and hey, the pooch lives indoors so no worries about the cold or the elements ruining their fun. To make matters worse, fleas don’t come to their new home without a housewarming present. These annoying creatures can carry bartonellosis and tapeworm to pass along to your dog. Like the fact that their constant biting causes incessant scratching and allergies wasn’t enough on its own!

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A close cousin to spiders, the tick is considered to be an arachnid (thanks to their eight legs). Unfortunately, when one bites, you don’t get to be a superhero. Ticks are bigger than the flea, measuring in at ¼ to 1/8-inches long. While they are not blessed with the same super-jumping abilities like fleas are, ticks also have no problem attaching themselves to a suitable host. For worse or for the better, they don’t mind moving from animal to animal – they aren’t too picky where they set up house. In fact, ticks can be found on snakes, lizards and humans. Their life cycle can last anywhere from three weeks to three years. You wouldn’t think that these little blood suckers would be picky, but they are. They will wait until they find the right home, and then leave to find another host to sponge off of. They just can’t spend too long on one dog. Even so, ticks can cause problems even if they feed for minutes- they don’t need long to wreak havoc on your pet’s immune system. As larvae, nymphs and adults, they will go from host to host through each life stage.

And let’s talk about eggs. After feeding off the dog, the female tick will fall from its host and lay thousands of eggs at one time (yikes!). Once it has finished with this task, the tick will die, leaving behind a new generation to carry on its dirty work. Happiest in cold temperatures, the tick doesn’t mind the winter climates. As for diseases, the tick carries around plenty of potential deadly diseases, including Lyme disease and Rocky Mountain spotted fever.

Not all ticks are the same, though, and there hundreds of unique tick species in the world. As for those that like to feed on dogs, the most common species include deer ticks (also known as black-legged ticks), Lone Star ticks, American Dog ticks, Brown Dog tick, Rocky Mountain Wood ticks, etc. There are differences in both the appearance of the ticks and the damage they can make when they bite- it’s important to know what types of ticks are common for your area so you can be prepared for the right prevention and treatment.

Treat Your Pet All Year Long to Protect Against Ticks and Fleas

Fleas and ticks aren’t just gross, they also carry a variety of harmful diseases that can take their toll on your pet—as well as on your health if you are ever bitten! So the best thing that you can do is protect your pet by taking preventative steps all year long.

First off, there are a lot of flea and tick products specifically designed for use on cats and dogs, and you can talk to your veterinarian about which product would be the safest and most effective for your unique companion. Then, apply the product according to its dosing schedule so that your pet is consistently protected against these external parasites. Note: only use cat products on cats, and only use dog products on dogs (never use a dog product on a cat, and vice versa). Be sure to stick with the highest quality, most trusted flea and tick products in order to avoid dangerous side effects. Again, speaking with your vet can give you the guidance that you need to pick the product that’s right for your furry friend.

Also, keep in mind that tick bites and flea bites can cause symptoms of illness. So if your pet starts experiencing any new symptoms, such as hair loss, skin inflammation, itching, fatigue, weakness, pale gums, fever, swollen joints, poor appetite, lameness, painful muscles or joints, bleeding problems, depression, or signs of a tapeworm infection, be sure to consult with your vet right away. And if you take your pet to the vet for regular checkups, you can also ask him or her to examine your pet for any signs that fleas or ticks are a problem.

In addition to using medications that have been proven to repel and kill ticks and fleas, you can also take other steps to prevent infestations and bites. For example, whenever you go into the great outdoors, take a few minutes to check yourself and your pet for any bugs that might’ve crawled onto you. This is especially important when you are hoping to prevent ticks from taking hold and potentially spreading disease to you or your companion. Remove any ticks that you find crawling around, and if you notice that one has bitten your dog or cat, it’s a great idea to see your vet for a checkup. If you’re ever bitten, consult with your doctor too.

Keeping your own yard free of pests is also wise. You can use pesticides in your yard, or you can take precautions like keeping your lawn short, removing debris like leaf litter, and maintaining a clean outdoor space that will be less likely to provide a good home to fleas and ticks.

Finally, grooming your pet on a regular basis isn’t just a good way to keep her coat looking lovely, it’s also a smart way to check for parasites that might be making their home in your animla’s fur. Plus, when you groom your companion, it’s a great opportunity to bond with your dog or cat and show her how much you care.

Have your ever found fleas and ticks on your dog? What do you do to prevent these pests from choosing your pooch as a host? We’d love to hear from you – post your experiences, remedies and questions in the comment section below.


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