Can Reptiles Get Fleas? – (Answered By Vet Tech)

can reptiles get fleas

If you are a cat or dog owner, you definitely know what fleas are!  These pesky little parasites are annoying, dirty, and tough to get rid of.  They seem to show up no matter what you do.  We know fleas can inflict all sorts of mammals, but what about reptiles?

Can reptiles get fleas?

Luckily, reptiles can’t host fleas long term.  Because of their tough scaly skin, fleas don’t really have a good place to settle in on a reptile.  However, reptiles still can get flea bites from stray fleas. Plus, reptiles can host a variety of other external parasites.  

In this article, we’ll go over everything you need to know about the relationship between fleas and reptiles!

Why Can’t Reptiles Get Fleas?

So, why can’t reptiles really get fleas?  What makes them different from a cat or a dog as a flea host?

Fleas need a very specific environment to live, eat and reproduce.  Fleas are tiny flightless insects that live off of the blood of mammals and birds.  Fleas get blood by biting the skin of the animals that they’re currently on.  Fleas lay their eggs in fur and feathers.  Without fur or feathers, fleas don’t have a place to live!

Additionally, fleas feed on warm-blooded animals.  Cold-blooded animals like reptiles are much harder to get a good meal from.

So, even though fleas can still bite reptiles in passing, they can’t spend any amount of time on them, because there just isn’t enough shelter on reptile skin!  But, this doesn’t mean that reptiles are 100% safe from fleas.

Can Fleas Bite Reptiles?

Fleas can jump incredible distances.  This is how they travel from host to host and how your indoor animals can get fleas even if they’ve never been outside.

In theory, fleas can definitely jump from you or your pets into your reptile’s enclosure.  Fleas will be able to bite your reptile in certain soft areas like the eyelids, belly, or armpits.  While the flea might not be able to stay long, they still could get a meal from your scaly friend.

Are Fleas A Danger To Reptiles?

Since they can only bite once or twice, are fleas a danger to reptiles?

Fleas aren’t necessarily a large threat to reptiles!  But, fleas do carry other parasites that can be transmitted through a bite.  Fleas often carry the deadly roundworm called heartworm.  After transmission, this parasite breeds and live in the blood of the host, eventually making its way into the chambers of the host’s (your pet’s) heart.

If you can help it, you don’t want to let any fleas get too close to your reptile!  Parasites like fleas can be found indoors or outdoors, and are one of the main reasons why you shouldn’t take a pet like a snake outside.

Let’s talk about some categories of reptiles in specific and see where they might be at risk of a flea bite!

Can Snakes Get Fleas?

Snakes cannot get fleas, but they can be bitten by fleas!

snake scales aren’t always super tough!  Right after a shed, snakes have pretty soft and smooth scales.  The spaces in between these scales might be a spot where a flea would bite your pet.  Overall, snakes are pretty well protected from fleas and have fewer “soft spots” than many other reptiles do.

Can Lizards Get Fleas?

Out of all of the categories of reptiles, lizards are the most at risk for flea bites!

While fleas still aren’t able to stay on a lizard for a very long time, they have more places to bite. Lizards have soft skin areas under their tails, bellies, and in their armpits.  They also have very delicate skin around their eyes and ear holes.   Because of this pets like leopard geckos, bearded dragons, and chameleons are also very susceptible to other external parasites.

Can Turtles Get Fleas?

Turtles are the least likely reptile to suffer a flea bite!

Turtles have sure tough and thick scales all over their bodies.  Plus, many turtles spend a lot of time either submerged in water or living in environments that are too hot and dry for fleas to thrive inside.  Turtles definitely can’t “get” fleas and you won’t see fleas survive for long in any turtle enclosures.

What To Do If You See Fleas In Your Enclosure

If you do see fleas in your reptile’s enclosure, don’t panic!

It’s really easy to clear your reptile’s enclosure of bugs.  You’ll want to move your reptile into another enclosure while you do a deep clean.  You can remove all of the items from your friend’s home and change the substrate if you have any.  It’s hard to get bugs out of substrate so a full replacement is going to be your best bet.

Once you’ve got everything out of the tank, you can clean the inside and let it dry.  When you clean your tank, always use products that are safe for reptiles!  The easiest way to clean your enclosure if with a homemade vinegar solution.

After the tank dries, you can replace everything, including your pet!

If you feel like the fleas keep coming back try to find the source!  You or your other pets might be bringing fleas into the house.  Make sure that you give your cats and dogs the appropriate flea protection and try to keep a clean house.

Are You Sure They’re Fleas?

If you’re still finding “fleas” in your reptile’s enclosure, they might not be fleas!

Fleas are super small thin bugs that jump to move from spot to spot.  But, there are other bugs you could find with your reptile!

Do you feed your pet pinhead crickets?  If so, the bugs you’re seeing could be pinhead cricket babies!  Pinhead crickets are tiny, and the babies are even smaller.  They’re easily mistaken for fleas and other small bugs.  Here is a video to show you how small these crickets can be!

While these bugs aren’t harmful, excessive amounts of them are just icky, and your reptile won’t be able to eat them all in time!

Can Reptiles Get Any Other External Parasites?

Even though reptiles are pretty protected from fleas, there are still other parasites that can get the best of them.  The most common parasite you’ll see on a pet reptile is mites.

What Are Mites?

Mites are basically the fleas of the reptile world!

Reptile mites are small parasitic insects that prey on all sort of reptiles.  Unlkike fleas, mites can attach to reptiles for a long time.  Mite infestations can get really serious and cause you pets to become pretty ill.  Since mites consume blood, they can cause hosts to become anemic, diseased, and more prone to infections.  Mites can make your pet irritable and itchy and are much more of a threat to them than fleas are.

Luckily, mites are pretty easy to diagnose and get rid of.

If you suspect that your scaly friend has mites, the best thing you can do is take them to a veterinarian!  While small amounts of mites can be dealt with at home, large amounts can quickly get out of hand.  Once you clear up the issue, you can keep mites away by keeping your reptile’s enclosure clean, and by giving them regular warm water soaks.

Final Thoughts

Reptiles can’t get fleas!  But, fleas can still injure them and be a nuisance to you and your pets.  If you notice fleas in your reptile’s enclosure, you’ll still want to clear them out ASAP.  Plus, they might be a different kind of bug or pest that you’re seeing. If you’re really not sure what’s going on and you’re worried about your pet, you can always consult your local veterinarian to get a professional opinion on the situation.