Your guide to fleas, ticks, and worms

Last updated 30 NOVEMBER 2022

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

One of the most important responsibilities of pet ownership is parasite prevention. Fleas, ticks, heartworm and intestinal worms can cause very serious illnesses for your pet; yet thankfully they are completely preventable. Our guide will help you to identify these nasty critters, recognise the symptoms, and see which preventatives are best for each.

Skip to a section:

1. Fleas

2. Ticks

3. Heartworm

4. Intestinal Worms

5. Mites

6. Which Product Do You Need? Comparison Tables of All Parasite Treatments and Their Coverage

7. Further Reading

1. Fleas

Fleas are small, wingless, bloodsucking insects that live on your dog's body and lay eggs in the environment. Despite your best efforts, your cat or dog may become infested with fleas through contact with other animals, or fleas that are roaming around in the 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 pet!). Eggs are laid in the environment - particularly in soft warm fabric such as carpets, pet beds, and blankets. This is why it's 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.

How to tell if your pet has fleas:

It's not always easy to spot fleas in your pet's fur, as they are swift and expert hiders! The best places to spot live fleas are usually over the rump in dogs or under the chin in cats. However, you may never actually see live fleas - instead, something to look for is flea dirt. Flea dirt is actually flea faeces, i.e. digested blood (gross!). You can easily tell the difference between 'regular' dirt and flea dirt by placing it on some white paper and dripping water on it. Flea dirt will leave red blotches on the paper, and regular dirt won't.

Dog products that kill fleas include: Nexgard, Bravecto, Simparica, Comfortis, and Credelio Plus.

Cat products that kill fleas include: Bravecto and Advocate/Advantage and Revolution.

2. Ticks

There are three main types of ticks: brown, bush and paralysis. Brown and bush ticks are usually not life threatening but will irritate your pet where they latch on to feed, and can transmit other diseases such as Ehrlichiosis.

Paralysis ticks, however, are the main concern in Australia. They are venomous and will quickly cause paralysis and even death if left untreated. Paralysis ticks are commonly found on the East coast of Australia.

What to do if you find a tick on your pet: take them to your veterinarian immediately for examination. They may require tick antiserum and supportive care. It's important not to assume that the problem is 'gone' as soon as the tick has been removed. Even after a tick has been removed, your pet's symptoms may worsen and develop further because the venom is still present in their system.

Symptoms of paralysis ticks:

  • Weakness or loss of coordination in back legs
  • Change in sound of bark or voice
  • Loss of appetite
  • Excessive drooling
  • Coughing or trouble breathing
  • Vomiting, retching and regurgitation

Dog products that kill or repel ticks: Nexgard, Bravecto, Simparica, Seresto, and Credelio.

Cat products that kill or repel ticks: Bravecto and Revolution Plus.

Pet Circle recommends daily tick searches regardless of whether you are using a treatment, particularly if you live in a tick prone environment.

3. Heartworm

Heartworm is a blood parasite trasmitted via mosquitoes. When an infected mosquito bites your pet, it injects baby heartworm larvae (known as microfilaria) into the blood. In dogs, these microfilaria make their way to the heart, where they mature and grow. Interestingly, it's a little different in cats - you can read more about this here.

This insect-borne method of spreading is the reason why heartworm is more prevalent in tropical and warmer environments: more mosquitoes equals more heartworm. Unfortunately, this also means that indoor-only animals are still at risk of catching heartworm, as pesky mosquitoes can easily find their way inside!

Symptoms can take months to appear and if left untreated, will result in death. Sadly, even the treatment of heartworm is very difficult and dangerous, and can often result in death of the dog.

If your pet's heartworm is late by 3 months, or if their previous heartworm treatment history is unclear, it may be dangerous to give them heartworm prevention. You will need to have them tested for any infestations previous to administering a preventative.

Symptoms of Heartworm Disease

  • Chronic coughing
  • Gagging or vomiting
  • Exercise intollerance
  • Weakness
  • Collapse

If you are suspicious that your dog has heartworm, take them to the vet. Your vet will be able to perform a quick and easy snap test with a drop of blood.

Dog products that prevent heartworm: Interceptor, Milbemax, Nexgard Spectra, Simparica Trio, Comfortis Plus, Sentinel, Advocate and Credelio Plus. There is also an annual injection available from your local veterinarian for dogs only.

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

4. Intestinal Worms

Intestinal worms range from small, microscopic strongyles to foot-long, squirmy tapeworms. Your dog 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 Dog Has Worms

Contrary to popular belief, an itchy bottom is not a common sign of worm infestation. Scooting or an itchy bottom is more likely caused by anal gland irritation. In fact, symptoms of intestinal worms include:

  • Diarrhoea (sometimes with blood)
  • Worms in stools or around anus
  • Weight loss
  • Distended (pot-bellied) tummy
  • Vomiting
  • Weakness
  • Anemia

Which Wormer Is Best?

It's important to be aware that some worming products do not kill tapeworm. Tapeworm is large and more difficult to kill than smaller worm species, requiring a specific medication called Praziquantel. We have included only products below which kill all important worm species, including tapeworm.

Dog products that treat intestinal worms include: Milbemax, Drontal, Interceptor, Sentinel, Cazitel and Milpro

Cat products that treat intestinal worms include: Milbemax, Milpro, Drontal, and Profender.

5. Mites

Mites are rare and usually only occur in juvenille or immunocompromised pets (ie, dogs with skin allergies). Mites of concern in Australia include the skin mite Demodex and ear mite Otodectes. Sarcoptes (scabies) is another mite that may be found in some parts of Australia, but is comparitively rare.

Demodex causes a patchy hairloss, particularly over the forehead or eyelids. It is mostly seen in warmer areas of Australia. Demodex usually only affects puppies and dogs with hormonal conditions (such as hypothyroidism), or skin allergies. It is particularly common in staffies, due to their predisposition to skin allergies.

Otodectes - aka ear mites - causes intense itchiness in the ears, and may lead to a brown discharge. It is commonly seen in puppies and kittens.

Dog products that kill mites include: Bravecto, Simparica, Advocate, Nexgard / Nexgard Spectra, and Credelio / Credelio Plus.

Cat products that kill mites include: Bravecto, Advocate, and Revolution.

6. Which Product Do You Need?

For a full guide to parasite prevention products on the Australian market and which one YOUR pet needs, see the following guides: Parasite Prevention Guide For DOGS and Parasite Prevention Guide for CATS.

A Comparison Table of all Australian Parasite Preventatives and their Coverage

See our product comparison tables below for an easy guide to flea, tick and worming treatments and their coverage.

(Skip to Table for Cat Products)

DOG Products Comparison Table

Product Ticks Fleas Heartworm Intestinal Worms Tapeworm Type
Advantage 1 month Topical
Advantix 2 weeks 4 weeks Topical
Advocate 1 month 1 month 1 month Topical
Aristopet Fleas, Heartworm & Worms 1 month 1 month 1 month Topical
Aristopet All Wormer 1 month* 1 month* Tablet
Bravecto 4 months Chewable
6 months Topical
3 months Chewable
6 months Topical
  • Chewable
  • Topical
Capstar 24 hours Tablet
Comfortis Plus 1 month 1 month 1 month Chewable
Credelio 1 month 1 month Chewable Tablet
Credelio Plus 1 month 1 month 1 month 1 month Chewable Tablet
Drontal 1 month* 1 month*
  • Chewable
  • Tablet
  • Liquid
Evicto 1 month 1 month 1 month Topical
Frontline Plus 2 weeks 4 weeks Topical
Heartguard Plus 1 month 1 month Chewable
Interceptor 1 month 1 month 1 month Chewable
Kiltix 6 weeks 5 months Collar
Milbemax 1 month 1 month* 1 month* Tablet
Milpro 1 month 1 month* 1 month* Topical
Neovela 1 month 1 month Topical
Neoveon Plus 2 weeks 4 weeks Topical
Neovet 1 month 1 month 1 month Topical
Nexgard 1 month 1 month Chewable
Nexgard Spectra 1 month 1 month 1 month 1 month Chewable
Paragard 1 month* 1 month* Tablet
Revolution for Puppies 1 month 1 month Topical
Sentinel Spectrum 1 month 1 month 1 month 1 month Chewable
Seresto 8 months# 8 months Collar
Simparica 1 month 1 month Chewable
Simparica Trio 1 month 1 month 1 month 1 month Chewable
Valuheart 1 month Tablet
* Please Note: The monthly worming recommendation is based on an adult dog not receiving any additional worming control (such as in an all in one product). For dogs on all in one products, we recommend 3-monthly tapeworming prevention with either a tapeworm tablet (purchasable from your vet) or an all-wormer. For a worming guide for puppies under 12 weeks of age, see our veterinary written article New Puppy Guide. # Seresto controls paralysis ticks for 8 months, however it's repellant action on paralysis ticks lasts 4 months. It also only controls brown dog ticks and bush ticks for 4 months.

CAT Products Comparison Table

Product Paralysis Ticks Fleas Heartworm Intestinal Worms Tapeworm Type
Advocate 1 month 1 month 1 month Topical
Advantage 1 month Topical
Bravecto 3 months 3 months Topical
Bravecto Plus 10 weeks 3 months 3 months 3 months Topical
Capstar 24 hours Chewable Tablet
Drontal 1 month* 1 month* Tablet
Evicto 1 month 1 month 1 month Topical
Frontline Plus 1 month Topical
Frontline Spray 3 weeks
Also controls brown dog ticks
2 months Topical 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
Neovet 1 month 1 month 1 month Topical
Neoveon Plus 1 month Topical
Paragard 1 month* 1 month* Tablet
Profender 1 month* 1 month* Tablet
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
* Please Note: The monthly worming recommendation is based on an adult cat not receiving any additional worming control (such as in an all in one product). For cats on all in one products, who prey or scavenge on rodents, we recommend monthly tapeworming prevention with either a tapeworm tablet (purchasable from your vet) or an all-wormer. For all other cats, we recommend 3-monthly tapeworm protection. For a worming guide for kittens under 12 weeks of age, see our veterinary written article New Kitten Guide. # Seresto repels and controls paralysis ticks for 8 months.

Further Reading

Want to read more? Check out our other articles:

Which Flea or Worming Product Do I Need?

How To Get Rid of Fleas in Dogs

Stop the Scratching: Cures for Skin Allergies in Dogs

How to Get Rid of Fleas in Cats

Complete Guide to Cat Parasite Products in Australia

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