Your Guide to Worming, Flea and Tick Treatments for Dogs

Last updated 19 OCTOBER 2021

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

With an ever-growing number of flea and tick prevention products for pets released each year, it's not surprising that Australian pet owners are often left feeling a little confused.

Which products treat which parasites? Does newer mean better? Which flea 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 dog!

Your Guide to Worming, Flea and Tick Treatments for Dogs

1. Parasites of Concern in Australia: Know your enemies!

  • Fleas - Small wingless bloodsucking insects that live on your dog's body and lay eggs in the environment. These guys cause intense itching and dermatitis.
  • Ticks - Another wingless bloodsucking insect, however unlike fleas, 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.
  • 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.
  • Intestinal worms - Worms that live in the gastrointestinal tract including whipworm, hookworm, roundworm and tapeworm.

Learn more about common parasites with our article A Guide To Fleas, Ticks, Worms and Heartworm.

2. What Coverage Do You Actually Need?

Some parasites may not pose a risk to your pet, depending on your area or lifestyle.

Do I need to cover ticks? - Paralysis ticks tend to only live along the eastern coastline of Australia, however some odd cases may occur as far west as Melbourne. Ticks are also seasonal, which means they may not pose as much of a risk from April to August - however this changes year by year. If ticks don't pose a risk for you, your dog may suit a product which covers for 'everything except ticks', (ie, fleas, worms, and heartworm). Products such as Comfortis Plus, Sentinel, Advocate, or Revolution fit in this category and may be perfect for dogs in areas like Perth or Adelaide.

Do I really need to cover for tapeworm? With so many preventatives lacking tapeworm coverage (such as Nexgard Spectra, Comfortis Plus, and Advocate), many pet owners wonder if tapeworm is really that important. The truth is, tapeworm can be transmitted from, lizards, native animals, dead farm animal carcases - particularly in rural areas. Ultimately, we recommend tapeworm prevention for every dog. (You never know if that dog poo at the park contains a few eggs!)

3. Is there an 'All-In-One?

What treatment covers for all parasites?

Now, let's make something clear - there is no true 'all-in-one' single-dose product in existence. (Yet!). The term 'all in one' gets thrown around a lot by manufacturers, but alas, no. There is currently no single-dose product that covers absolutely every significant Australian parasite.

There are, however a couple of products which comes close. Nexgard Spectra was released in 2017 as the first product to cover for fleas, heartworm, intestinal worms - and ticks. (The tick component set it apart from other major competitors). The only major parasite it doesn't kill is tapeworm. Also a hot contender is The Big Five, released mid-2019. This 'combination pack' contains two different products which provide complete coverage when taken together. (See more about this below). Simparica Trio the newest on the market protects against fleas, ticks, heartworm and most intestinal worms.

4. Options for Full Coverage

To help you decide which product might work for you, we've outlined a few combination options below.

Option 1: Monthly Chew, Nexgard Spectra

Nexgard Spectra kills all significant parasites apart from tapeworm. You may combine this with a tapeworm-only tablet from your vet, which usually cost between $3-6.

Nexgard Spectra - a tasty beef flavoured chew that is given monthly for prevention of fleas, ticks, intestinal worms, and heartworm.

Option 2: Monthly Chew Combination, The Big 5

The Big 5 is actually a pack containing two treatments - Credelio (for fleas and ticks) and Interceptor (for worming and heartworm). Due to the complete coverage offered by this combination, it is excellent value.

Credelio- a tasty tablet given every month for prevention of fleas and ticks. Credelio is also sold separately.

Interceptor - a tasty chew every three months which covers all important intestinal worms including tapeworm. Interceptor is also sold individually.

Option 3: Combination of oral treatments every 3 months, Bravecto and Drontal

If you prefer to go for one treatment every 3 months instead of monthly, Bravecto and Drontal are a great combination. However please note that there is no heartworm prevention with this combination. Most people like to team this combination up with the annual heartworm injection from their vet

Bravecto - a tasty chew that is given every three months for prevention of fleas and ticks. Also available as a spot-on treatment, if you prefer topicals.Bravecto Spot On needs to be applied every 3 months to protect against Brown Dog Ticks and every 6 months to protect against Paralysis Ticks and Fleas.

Drontal - a tasty chew also administered every three months to treat all important intestinal worms.

Option 4: Combination of topical treatments, Advocate or Revolution plus Seresto

Prefer using external treatments? Advocate or Revolution spot on treatment and a Seresto flea and tick collar might be the way to go. However please note that there is no tapeworm treatment with this combination. A tapeworm-only tablet is available from your vet, which usually cost between $3-6.

Advocate or Revolution - a monthly spot on that treats fleas, heartworm and intestinal worms except for tapeworm.

Seresto - a flea and tick collar that lasts 8 months for fleas, and 4 months for ticks. It is waterproof and fragrance-free.

Remember that these are just examples. You should consult with your veterinarian before administering different combinations of treatments.

Still confused? See our Flea and Tick Quiz which interactively takes you through relevant steps and picks a combination for you!

5. Comparison Table of Dog Parasite Preventatives

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

6. Other less-common Parasites

In some areas your pets will need protection from other irritating insects. Mites, including skin mite Demodex and ear mite Otodectes, can pose a risk, particularly to puppies. Bravecto, Simparica, and Nexgard all treat mite infestations.

For the first time in May 2020, Ehrlichiosis was detected in dogs in Australia with areas in Western Australia and the Northern Territory, most affected. Previously, Australia was generally considered free of this disease. For further information read our article Everything You Need To Know About Ehrlichiosis to ensure your dog is protected.

Whatever parasite problem you're facing, there is a treatment available to save the day. Always read the label on medications carefully to ensure that your pet will be fully covered against all common parasites.

For example, some medications that appear to treat intestinal worms do not necessarily treat tapeworm, and a separate treatment may be required. If you are unsure as to which treatment path to embark on, it is always best to consult with a professional.

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:

A Guide to Fleas, Ticks, Worms, and Heartworm

How To Get Rid of Fleas Once and For All

Stop the Scratching: Cures for Skin Allergies in Dogs

Premium Pet Food: Is It Worth It?

What are Yeast Infections in Dogs?

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