Flea, Tick and Worm Prevention for Cats


This article is written by Pet Circle veterinarian, Dr Belinda Stancombe

One of the most important responsibilities of pet ownership is parasite prevention. Fleas, ticks, heartworm and intestinal worms can cause very serious illnesses and, in some cases, even death. Thankfully they are completely preventable!

Our Vet Squad, have put together a guide to help you identify these nasty pests, recognise the symptoms, and see which preventatives are best suited to your cat. In the case of parasites, prevention is always better than the cure!


Ticks on Cats

There are three main tick species that affect cats in Australia: The Brown Tick, Bush Tick and Paralysis Tick. Ticks can occur in many areas of Australia, but are more prevalent along the east coast. Ticks seek out a host and once attached begin to feed on off the animals blood.

Bush Ticks are usually not life threatening but may irritate your cat where they latch on to feed. The Brown Tick, while not harmful itself, can transmit tick-borne diseases, but this is more an issue in dogs. Paralysis Ticks however, are the major concern in Australia as they can be deadly.

Source: Virbac Australia

Paralysis Ticks

Paralysis Ticks are of concern year-round but are more prevalent in the warmer months of Spring and Summer. Once attached to a host, the Paralysis Tick secretes a deadly toxin that causes an ascending paralysis in dogs, cats and other animal species.

If a tick is found on your cat, it is important to remove it as soon as possible. A Tick Twister Tool can make removing a tick at home a lot easier but if you are not confident, then leave it to the veterinarian or veterinary nurse to remove.

Identification of the species of tick is important to know if your cat is at risk. Ensure that any ticks removed from your pet are identified by a veterinarian to know if it is a paralysis tick. Even after a paralysis tick has been removed, a cat's symptoms may worsen and develop further because the toxin is still present in their system. Paralysis ticks can be deadly so if your cat is showing signs of tick paralysis then immediate veterinary treatment is required.

Signs of Tick Paralysis:

  • Weakness or Loss of Coordination in Back Legs
  • Change in sound of Bark or Voice
  • Loss of Appetite
  • Drooling
  • Trouble Breathing
  • Coughing
  • Vomiting, Retching and Regurgitation

When it comes to ticks, prevention is better than cure. Ensuring your cat is covered with tick prevention year-round is the best way to protect your fur baby from deadly tick paralysis.

Products that kill or repel ticks: Bravecto, NexGard Spectra, Seresto, Revolution Plus and Frontline Spray.

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Fleas on Cats

Fleas are small, wingless, bloodsucking insects that live on your cat's body and lay eggs in the surrounding environment. There are four life stages of a flea: egg, larvae, pupae and adult. Of all these phases, only the adult phase occurs on the host (your cat!). Eggs are laid in the environment - particularly in soft warm fabric such as carpets, pet beds, and blankets. That is why it is so hard to get rid of fleas: a new wave of juvenile fleas can emerge after you've killed the initial population with a flea treatment.

Despite your best efforts, your cat may become infested with fleas through contact with other animals, or fleas that are roaming around in the environment. It's not always easy to spot fleas in your cat's fur, as they are swift and expert hiders! The best places to spot live fleas are usually on the belly and under the chin in cats. You may never actually see live fleas - instead, something to look for is flea dirt. Flea dirt is actually flea faeces, or digested blood (Yuck!).

Products that kill fleas include: NexGard Spectra, Bravecto Plus, Bravecto, Advocate, Advantage, Revolution, Revolution Plus, Evicto and Neovet.

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Heartworm in Cats

Heartworm is a blood parasite transmitted via mosquitoes. When an infected mosquito bites a cat, it injects baby heartworm larvae, known as microfilaria into the blood.

For a long time, it was believed that heartworm infection in cats was so rare and asymptomatic, that cat owners didn't really need to worry about heartworm prevention. Recently, advances in diagnostic tests and research suggest that there may be more heartworm-positive cats than once realised. This is partly due to heartworm disease being almost identical to feline asthma (and therefore often misdiagnosed), and partly due to how difficult it is to test in cats.

While cats aren't the natural host of heartworm, they can still be infected by a mosquito which has recently fed off an infected dog. Once an immature larva is in a cat's blood, it will try to find the heart, but because the larvae is designed to navigate inside dog vessels, it can get 'lost' and end up in other places - such as the cat's lungs. The highly reactive feline immune system then attacks these immature worms. This immune reaction ensures that the worm doesn't reach maturity, but can cause significant damage to the surrounding tissue, especially the lungs.

Products that prevent heartworm: Bravecto Plus, NexGard Spectra, Milbemax, Advocate, Evicto and Revolution.

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Intestinal Worms in Cats

Intestinal worms range from small, microscopic strongyles to foot-long, squirmy tapeworms. Your cat may contract worms by coming into contact with other infected animals, drinking contaminated water or eating food that contains a worm parasite.

How To Tell If Your Cat Has Worms:

  • Diarrhoea (sometimes with blood)
  • Worms visible in stool or around anus
  • Weight loss
  • Distended (pot-bellied) Tummy
  • Vomiting
  • Weakness
  • Anaemia

Products that treat intestinal worms include: NexGard Spectra, Milbemax, Milpro, Drontal, and Profender.

*It is important to be aware that some worming products do not kill hydatid tapeworm. Tapeworm is large and more difficult to kill than smaller worm species, requiring a specific medication called Praziquantal. The selected products kill all important worm species, including tapeworm.

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Cat Mites

The most common mite seen in cats in Australia is Otodectes or the ear mite. Ear mites most commonly occur in kittens or immunocompromised adult cats. Ear Mites cause intense itchiness in the ears, and may lead to a brown discharge. Your veterinarian can make a diagnosis of ear mites by looking in the ears with an otoscope or performing an ear swab. In some cases prescription medication is required to eradicate these pests.

Products that control mites include: Bravecto, Bravecto Plus, Advocate, NexGard Spectra and Revolution.

Comparison Table of Parasite Preventatives for Cats

There is no doubt that with so many preventative products on the market, it can be hard to know exactly what each product protects against and which is the best pick for your cat.

The tables below outlines some of the top selling preventative products for cats including what parasite each product protects against and how long it lasts.

Product Ticks Fleas Heartworm Intestinal Worms Tapeworm Type
Advantage 1 month Topical
Advocate 1 month 1 month 1 month Topical
Aristopet Spot On 1 month 1 month 1 month Topical
Aristopet All Wormer 1 month* 1 month* Tablet
Bravecto 3 months 3 months
  • Topical
Bravecto Plus 10 weeks 3 months 3 months 2 months
  • Topical
  • * give every 2 months to cover all parasites
Capstar 24 hours Tablet
Drontal 1 month* 1 month*
  • Tablet
Evicto 1 month 1 month 1 month Topical
Frontline Spot On 1 month Topical
Frontline Spray 3 weeks 8 weeks Spray
Milbemax 1 month 1 month* 1 month* Tablet
Milpro 1 month 1 month* 1 month* Tablet
Neovela 1 month 1 month 1 month Topical
Neoveon Plus 1 month Topical
Neovet 1 month 1 month 1 month Topical
NexGard Spectra 1 month 1 month 1 month 1 month 1 month Topical
Paragard 1 month* 1 month* Tablet
Profender 1 month* 1 month* Topical
Revolution 1 month 1 month 1 month Topical
Revolution Plus 1 month 1 month 1 month 1 month Topical
Seresto 8 months 8 months Collar
Talentcare 1 month 1 month 1 month Topical
* Please Note: The worming recommendation of 3 months is based on an adult cat. Kittens require worming more often. For a worming guide for kittens, see our veterinary written article New Kitten Guide.

If you are still not sure what preventative is best for your cat or you have any pet questions at all, reach out to our Pet Circle Vet Squad, we are here to help! Our Vets are available on chat or you may want to request a customised Vet Pet Plan for your dog. All are completely free! We provide general advice on pet nutrition and healthcare, as well as a range of common issues such as skin allergies, anxiety, weight management and more.

Further Reading

How To Introduce A New Food To Your Pet

Pet Obesity Facts

Dental Care For Cats

Games You Can Play With Your Cat

Reduce Anxiety In Cats

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