Your Guide to Worming, Flea and Tick Treatments for Cats

Last Updated 15 MAY 2020

This article is written by Pet Circle Veterinarian, Dr Carla Paszkowski

With an ever-growing number of parasite prevention products for pets released each year, it's not surprising that Australian cat parents are left feeling a little confused.

What parasites are actually relevant in Australia? What parasite prevention does an indoor cat need? Which prevention is actually the most effective, and most importantly - which is the safest?

We've put together a helpful guide to parasites and prevention products, so that you can be sure you're selecting the right product for your kitty cat!

  • 1. Fleas - Small wingless bloodsucking insects that live on your cat's body and lay eggs in the environment. Cause itching and dermatitis.
  • 2. Ticks - Another wingless bloodsucking insect. Paralysis ticks inject a paralysing toxin which can be lethal. There are 3 species in Australia: The Paralysis Tick, The Brown Dog Tick, and the Bush Tick. Only the Paralysis Tick is venomous.
  • 3. Heartworm - blood-dwelling worms transmitted by mosquitos. After transmission, larvae travel to the heart and lungs where they grow to adult form in the chambers of the heart.
  • 4. Intestinal worms - Worms that live in the gastrointestinal tract including hookworm, roundworm and tapeworm.

1. Fleas

These hyperactive bloodsuckers reside on your cat's skin, breeding and biting every chance they get. Infestations are a common cause of flea dermatitis in cats and symptoms include intense itching, sores, crusting and hair loss.

Cat products that kill fleas: Comfortis, Advocate, Revolution, Seresto, and Bravecto.

2. Ticks

Another bloodsucker found on the skin and coat. The paralysis tick (Ixodes Holocyclus) is the most dangerous and without a veterinary administered Tick Antiserum, may cause full body paralysis, pneumonia, pulmonary oedema, heart failure and eventually death. Ticks are mostly found along the Eastern coastline in Australia, however we recommend checking with your local vet clinic to find out whether ticks pose a risk in your area.

Cat products that kill ticks: Bravecto, Seresto, and Revolution Plus.

Symptoms of paralysis tick poisoning include:

  • - Weakness, wobbliness or loss of coordination in back legs
  • - Coughing, grunting or trouble breathing
  • - Change in meow (volume or pitch)
  • - Loss of appetite
  • - Vomiting or gagging
  • - Excessive drooling

3. Heartworm

These parasitic worms are carried by infected mosquitoes and are injected as larvae which travel to the heart and lungs.

Though less common in cats than dogs, there is no direct treatment for heartworm in cats so prevention is imperative. Monthly prevention is available in tablet or topical form.

Cat products that prevent heartworm:: Milbemax, Advocate, and Revolution.

4. Intestinal worms

Hookworm, roundworm and tapeworm are the most common intestinal worms for cats. Tapeworm is more common in cats than dogs and often arises when infected fleas are eaten. However it can also be contracted from consumption of raw meat or hunted prey that contain the parasite.

Wormers for cats are available in both tablet form or topical.

Symptoms of intestinal worms in cats may include diarrhoea, worm segments in the stools or around the anus, weight loss, distended stomach, vomiting, weakness, or anaemia.

Cat products that kill worms: Milbemax, Drontal, Advocate, Revolution, and Profender.

2. Topicals vs Oral Treatments

What is better - topical or oral treatments?

Topical treatments

If you have fussy, grumpy cats that spit out their medication and turn away from wet foods then topical may be the way to go. Applied to the skin on the back of the neck, these treatments either form crystal matrixes along the coat, disperse through the top lipid layer or are absorbed into the bloodstream for full body cover.

Topical treatments may be easier to apply, particularly if your cat does not take too kindly to tablets.

Your cat must be completely dry before applying a topical treatment and must usually avoid getting wet for up to 48 hours after application. Fortunately, most kitties despise water anyway! But keep an eye on the weather forecast in case they get stuck out in the rain.

Oral treatments

Oral treatments, such as the beef-flavoured tablet Comfortis, will not be affected if your cat becomes wet before or after treatment. However, as the treatment is dispersed via the bloodstream, the flea needs to bite to be exposed to the poison.

However, an oral treatment may be a safer option if you have small children in your household. Topical treatments should not be ingested or come into contact with your eyes or nose, so if you are concernced that your little ones might lick your kitty's fur or touch their eyes and nose immediately after cuddles, an oral treatment may be the way to go.

Oral treatments may also be preferable if you have a water loving kitty or are concerned that your kitty's coat will get wet, washing off any topical treatments.

Need guidance? See our video below for tips on how to give your cat a pill:

How To Give Your Cat a Pill. For more helpful vet tip videos, take a look at our Youtube Channel.

3. Options for Indoor Cats

Indoor-only cats are unlikely to be exposed to fleas, ticks, and some intestinal worms. However, it's still possible for your indoor cat to be exposed to fleas if you have dogs or neighbouring wildlife. It's also possible that exposure to worm eggs can occur from dirt on your shoes or clothes. Heartworm is a risk for every indoor cat because it is transmitted via mosquitoes, which can easily access your home.

Therefore, we typically recommend one of the following prouducts for indoor cats:

Shop Advocate

Advocate is perfect for indoor cats as it is an easy to use, monthly spot-on treatment that protects your cat from fleas, heartworm, and intestinal worms for one month.

Shop Revolution

Revolution treats and controls ear mites, fleas, heartworm, and intestinal worms including roundworm and hookworm. It is safe for treatment of kittens from 6 weeks of age.

Looking for advice on what parasite prevention is best for kittens? See our Complete New Kitten Guide, which details parasite prevention regimes, diet, desexing, litter, toys, microchipping, and more!

4. Options for Outdoor Cats

Cats that venture outdoors should have complete parasite coverage, even if they only go outside occasionally. Depending on what part of Australia you live in, outdoor cats should be covered against ticks, fleas, heartworm, and intestinal worms including tapeworm.

Unfortunately, there is currently no 'all-in-one' product available for cats. Therefore, we typically recommend the following combinations to ensure full coverage:

1. Bravecto and Milbemax

This combination is ideal for outdoor cats in a tick area, because it covers all significant parasites. Bravecto kills fleas and ticks for 3 months. Milbemax protects against intestinal worms for 3 months, and heartworm for 1 month (therefore, give monthly if in a high-mosquito area).

2. Revolution Plus

Revolution Plus provides coverage against fleas, ticks, intestinal worms, (apart from tapeworm), and mites. It is an easy monthly topical pipette, and is perfect for outdoor cats in tick areas so long as you can combine with a tapeworm tablet.

5. Comparison Table of all Cat Parasite Preventatives

See our product comparison table below for a look at all cat parasite prevention products in Australia and what they cover:

Still confused? Why not Ask a Pet Circle Vet for some guidance. We're here and happy to help!

Further Reading

Want to read more? Check out our other articles:

How to Get Rid of Fleas on Cats

Common Causes of Itching in Cats

Why Do Some Cats Pee Where They Shouldn't?

Premium Pet Food: Is It Worth It?

Why Do Cats Meow?

Complete Guide to Kitten Care

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