Pesky parasites pose a threat to our pets, our kids and even ourselves. While most are tiny and often out of sight, these nasty critters can wreak havoc on your pet’s health and, if left untreated, can cause life-threatening illnesses. Learn the signs to watch out for and how to protect your cat or dog from these critters.

Most common parasites

There are many types of parasites to watch out for in Australia. Here are the most common ones to protect your pet from.

Fleas

If your pet is scratching, it may have fleas! Fleas are tiny insects that cause itching, skin irritation and allergic reactions. Flea treatments should be given every month of the year to prevent and control flea infestations effectively. Ask your vet for the best advice on flea prevention for your pet.

Ticks

Australia has several types of ticks, ranging from the less harmful bush tick to the deadly paralysis tick found along the east coast. Paralysis ticks can cause breathing difficulty, weakness, paralysis of the legs and death.

Tick prevention products include a yearly injection administered by your vet, oral chews, spot-on products (liquid applied directly on the skin), tick collars, sprays, and rinses. Talk to your vet about the most suitable product for tick prevention.

Unfortunately, no treatment is 100% effective, so it’s crucial to check your pet for ticks during tick season (July to December). Run your fingertips over their skin, checking for lumps. Focus on their head, neck, and ears, but don’t forget to check their entire body.

Common ticks found in Australia

Intestinal worms

Another parasite you need to protect your pet from is intestinal worms. Intestinal worms live in the intestines and feed on the nutrients that your pet consumes. The most common intestinal worms in Australia are roundworm, tapeworm, and hookworm. Left untreated, they can cause weight loss, vomiting, diarrhoea, anaemia, and even death. Pets usually become infected with intestinal worms by ingesting the eggs of the parasites, which can be found in contaminated soil, faeces, and other sources.

Regular deworming treatments will protect your pet from intestinal worms.

You should deworm your pet regularly:

  • every 2 weeks until 12 weeks of age
  • then once a month until 6 months of age,
  • And depending on the product, every 3−6 months for the rest of their life.

Vet tip: Intestinal worms can be transmitted from pets to humans, so it’s important to wash your hands after touching your pet and picking up their poo.

Heartworm

Heartworm parasites are transmitted through mosquito bites. These worms can grow in your pet’s heart and lungs, causing serious damage to their health, and often death. Heartworm in cats is less common than in dogs.

Heartworm prevention is the best way to ensure your pet stays healthy and free from these parasites. Protection is recommended in most areas of Australia, although Tasmania is considered low risk. There are various options to protect your pet from heartworm, including monthly chews, spot-on treatments, or a convenient yearly injection for dogs. Ask your vet for a recommendation suitable for your pet.

Signs and symptoms of a parasite infection

Here are some of the key signs your pet might have a parasite infection:

  • Intense scratching, biting, and licking their skin.
  • Patchy hair loss or irritated skin.
  • Visible parasites on their skin, bedding on in their faeces.
  • Vomiting and diarrhoea.
  • Bloating, particularly puppies and kittens.
  • Weight loss.
  • Anal scooting.
  • Sudden paralysis or difficulty breathing. Pets who show these signs need emergency veterinary treatment straight away.

If you notice any of these signs or suspect your pet may have a parasite infection, visit your vet. With regular check-ups, preventive measures, and good hygiene, you can protect your pet from these pesky parasites.