Being one of the most common issues seen in veterinary clinics, parasitic diseases should be treated as soon as possible in dogs and cats to prevent discomfort and ongoing health issues.
In this guide, we will cover the different types of parasites found in Australia, the symptoms to look out for if you think your pet might be affected, and the veterinary recommendations for cures and preventative measures.
Types of Parasites, Common Symptoms & Treatment
A common type of parasite found in pets are external parasites.
Common external parasites include fleas, ticks and mites (otodectes & mange mites), which can become extremely irritating to your dog or cat’s skin, and lead to skin conditions and diseases.
This external parasite is common in dogs and cats; surviving by feeding off the blood of animals and humans. You can identify a flea on your pet as they are around the size of a small seed and are brown or red in colour. A telltale sign that your pet has fleas is if you notice them itching more than usual, so we recommend investigating further if your pet is itching excessively.
Your pet may be more prone to having a flea infestation if you live in a humid environment as they prefer shady and moist areas. Whilst found Australia-wide, fleas are the most active in autumn months. Pets that roam the outdoors are also more likely to get fleas as researchers have determined that fleas are harder to prevent outdoors. As they are common in Australia year-round, it is important to practise proper prevention methods.
If your pet becomes infested with fleas, you need to remove them immediately. You can treat a flea infestation through medication, spot treatments and medicated shampoos & rinses. You should also be sure to clean your home thoroughly to remove all fleas, as well as larvae from any surfaces and furniture.
There are many types of this external parasite in Australia, so it is prevalent that you keep a lookout! Ticks can affect both dogs and cats, and can cause ongoing issues and diseases if not treated promptly.
Ticks are small and survive through feeding off the blood of your pet after implanting themselves within the skin. Ticks can become difficult to identify as they can vary on species and also appear differently before and after they are fed. However, before being fed, they are small brown,red or grey insects, and after feeding, they more resemble swollen black specks.
There are different types of ticks, but it is essential that you know the appearance of a paralysis tick, as they will inject your pet with a potentially lethal neurotoxin that is a large point of concern.
Here's what the common ticks in Australia look like.
Ticks are more prevalent in Australia during the spring and summer periods, and are often more likely to gravitate toward shading and moist areas such as tall grass and vegetation. In Australia, ticks are commonly found on the east coast in coastal and bushland climates, but have been found in Melbourne due to recent climate changes.
If you identify a tick on your pet, keep them steady, put on gloves and remove the tick slowly with tick remover tweezers (or regular tweezers if you don’t have these on hand). Place the tick in a jar and clean the wound area and your hands. We recommend taking both the tick and your pet to a trusted veterinarian as soon as possible for further assessment.
Intestinal Worms: This type of internal parasite has many different forms, but all intestinal worms can infect your pet’s intestines and feed off their blood and ingested food. Common types of intestinal worms in Australia include:
Hookworms - infection commonly occurs when your pet has come into contact with larvae-infested soil, food or water and can be identified through decreased appetite and vomiting.
Tapeworms - commonly contracted through fleas and can often be identified through segments of tapeworm being found in your pet’s waste or vomit.
Roundworms - infection commonly occurs when infected waste is ingested and can often be identified through poor coat condition and a pot-bellied appearance.
Whipworms - commonly contracted through the contact with infected dog waste, and can be identified through diarrhoea and lethargy.
Your pets can also be infected with worms through eating bugs, such as moths, that fly into your home, or by eating unsuitable raw meat (i.e. is passed its use by date). Be sure to keep a close eye on the food your pet eats to help prevent intestinal worms.
Tapeworms are the most common type of intestinal worm found in Australia, and are often found in a moist environment as they are associated with fleas. This is because the main transmission method of a tapeworm is through the ingestion of an infected flea by your dog or cat. We recommend prevention as the best way to treat worms in your pets such as worming tablets and veterinary recommended medication.
Vet Recommended Wormers
Profender Allwormer for Cats 5-8kg (20 Tubes)
Profender® breaks the life cycle by killing larvae, immature adult and adult intestinal worms and lungworm before they have a chance to cause serious damage or spread. Tableting a cat can be difficult — Profender® eliminates this step by providing a pre-measured, spot-on applicator to make treating your cat a breeze. Simply apply Profender® to the skin at the back of your cat’s head to be sure they’re getting thea required dose.
Use Profender® at the start of every season (or every three months) to keep nasty worms at bay. With a fuss-free application, you can’t go wrong with Profender® Cat Allwormer for Cats to keep your cat healthy and happy.
- Kills all infective stages of intestinal worms
- Works quickly to treat intestinal worms, including roundworm, hookworm and tapeworm, as well as lungworm
- Suitable for cats and kittens from eight weeks old
- Easy spot-on treatment – just apply Profender to the back of your cat’s neck every three months
Heartworm: This type of internal parasite can be potentially fatal to your pet; living in the heart and lungs of your dog or cat. Transmitted through mosquitoes, they can often be hard to detect as symptoms gradually appear over time.
As heartworm is contracted through mosquitoes, pets living in warmer environments are more susceptible to this parasite. However, indoor pets are still susceptible to heartworm as mosquitoes always seem to find their way through the cracks. That is why we recommend preventative measures for heartworm year-round in Australia to help prevent this nasty parasite impacting your pet.
Common symptoms of heartworm include lethargy and coughing, and since these can arise slowly, we recommend speaking with your veterinarian as soon as these symptoms arise to ensure your pet is treated accordingly.
How Pet Owners Can Protect Against Parasites
Preventative Parasite Medication
The most effective way to protect your pet from parasites in prevention! With veterinary technology today, you can give your pet deworming medication, spot-on treatments or chews for flea, tick, and tapeworm prevention.
We typically recommend giving your pet preventative medication every three months compared to monthly treatments for long-term control of parasites. Less worming medication for your dog or cat is healthier for them, and still provides them the protection they need.
Browse our Parasite Treatments for Pets
Dog Parasiticides - Flea, Tick & Worming Treatments
Cat Parasiticides - Flea, Tick & Worming Treatments
Horse Parasite Prevention - Equine Parasiticides
Pet Health & Wellbeing
Monitor Sick & Weak Pets
Similar to humans, our pets are more susceptible to illness if they are older, weak, or otherwise unwell. If your dog or cat is under the weather (for example, with a stomach bug) or are more vulnerable, be sure to closely monitor them for symptoms and the presence of external & internal parasites.
Healthy & Balanced Diet
To help prevent parasite prevention in your pet, and overall keep them happy and healthy, be sure to feed them parasite-friendly foods. This includes cooked and prepared foods, as some raw foods are more likely to carry internal parasites that could greatly affect your pet.
Likewise, it is important that your pet has access to clean drinking water, as parasites who thrive in a moist environment (i.e. fleas, ticks & intestinal worms) can creep in. Making sure your pet is only drinking clean water also spans outside the home, with pets drinking unclean water (e.g. rivers, creeks, etc.) being at risk of parasites.
It is extremely important to monitor your pet for any unusual behaviour, such as loss of appetite, lack of water consumption and lethargy, as identifying the signs of a parasite early could save your pet from discomfort and even save their life.
If you notice unusual behaviour in your pet, we recommend taking them to a trusted veterinarian to check for parasites, and be advised on further steps.
Regular Vet Visits
We always recommend regular vet visits to make sure your pet is happy and healthy, but this is also important for identifying parasites early. For some parasites, such as heartworm, you may not notice symptoms right away, and even the best pet-parents can’t catch everything! Likewise, your veterinarian will be able to check hard-to-reach areas that external parasites could be hiding - catching them before things get worse.
Along with identifying the parasite early on, your veterinarian will also ensure that your dog or cat is up to date with all preventative treatments for parasites so that they are protected against all the nasty bugs.
Frequently grooming your pet can be very useful when identifying external parasites early. Washing and brushing your pet regularly, and even examining their fur on a daily basis can help with early detection and intervention for external parasites such as fleas and ticks.
Consistent grooming likewise helps with general cleanliness of your pet, and is always recommended by us.