Some parasites can be very harmful to your pet and prove costly and inconvenient for you and some may lead to death if not prevented o treated early enough. That is why effective treatment and prevention are essential for your pet’s welfare.
There are a host of internal and external parasites that affect your pet’s health. The most common parasites affecting Australian pets are ticks, fleas, ear mites and worms (heartworms, hookworms, tapeworms, whipworms and roundworms). Parasites can also cause giardia, mange, scabies and toxoplasmosis.

Your pet’s health and parasite management – did you know?

  • A female flea can lay up to 50 eggs a day, which can be up to 5,000 in her lifetime.
  • Fleas can cause anaemia in your pet. Because fleas live on the animal and eat blood to survive.
  • Fleas love humidity, when something warm, like your pet, moves by a flea pupae, they unzip their cocoon and jump on the animal. All this happens in 3 seconds and the flea can jump as high as 1.2 metres.
  • Heartworm larvae are transmitted by infected mosquitoes that bite the pet and deposit heartworm larvae on the dog’s skin.
  • Not all worming treatments are the same, some will stop the development of worms, while others will kill them. Your Just For Pets pet expert can help you select the right treatment.
  • Paralysis ticks are external parasites that suck the blood from their host animal. It’s the tick’s salivary glands that produce the toxin, which affects the host’s nervous system.
  • Your pet can pass on some parasites to you – the most common being intestinal worms. Keep your pet up to date with their parasite protection to help prevent potential transfer to you and your kids.

Ticks

Ticks are parasites from the arachnid (eight-legged) family that once attached to your pet, begin to feed by burying their mouthparts under your pet’s skin and sucking blood back into their bodies. Ticks are usually found around the pet’s head and neck areas.
All ticks can have many adverse health effects on dogs and cats including anaemia from blood loss, allergic reactions and skin irritation.
The ticks of greatest concern in Australia are paralysis ticks. You can help your pet avoid tick poisoning and a potentially costly visit to the vet (or death) with daily inspections and regular treatments.
Unfed ticks are tiny and can be various shades of black, brown, red or tan. After attachment and feeding, they swell to the size of a pea and start producing a potent toxin that affects the pet’s central nervous system and causes progressive paralysis and possibly death. Not all ticks cause paralysis (only the paralysis tick)
Signs of a Paralysis tick on your pet may include:

  • Lack of or diminishing movement in the back legs, sometimes moving to the front legs
  • Trembling and lack of coordination
  • Gagging or coughing
  • Variation in tone of bark or meow
  • Groaning noise with breathing
  • Trouble swallowing
  • Vomiting or gagging

If your pet shows any of these signs it’s important to call your vet immediately. If you have removed the tick keep it to show to the vet so they can determine which type it was.

Fleas

Fleas are dark brown, 1mm to 2mm long and the most common external parasites for both cats and dogs.

  • In the right conditions, fleas can live for a few months on pets (also known as the “host”) they require a host to survive.
  • Females lay around 50 eggs every day (and up to 5,000 in their lifetime), which fall to the ground and hatch into tiny larvae that burrow into carpets, hide in upholstery, between floor boards and skirting and often the pet’s bed. The larvae then develop into pupae and remain dormant for many months.
  • Flea bites are itchy for all pets and can lead to flea allergy dermatitis.
  • The typical flea season runs September to April in Australia. However, due to high humidity and temperatures in some areas of Australia fleas can be all year round. Outbreaks can even occur in warmed winter homes.

Signs your cat or dog has fleas

Check your pet regularly for fleas. While infestations are easily treated, it’s best to get on top of fleas early to reduce the costs and inconvenience of de-fleaing your home! Signs include:

  • Intense and persistent scratching or biting of their coat
  • Over-grooming resulting in hair loss
  • Agitation, distress and restlessness
  • Skin legions or scabs
  • Tiny black specks (flea dirt/faeces) on your pet’s fur or the area where they typically sleep
  • Red spots on the fabric where your pet typically sleeps
  • Visibility of fleas crawling on your pet’s skin or coat.

Dangers of fleas

Flea bites not only make your pet uncomfortable and itchy, they bring other problems:

  • Pets can be hypersensitive to flea saliva and suffer an allergic reaction.
  • As fleas feed on blood, young or sick pets can become weak and may even die as a result of blood loss.
  • Flea larvae can contain tapeworm eggs. If your pet eats an infected flea, it can become host to this parasite.
  • If untreated, fleas can infest your whole household and start biting humans too!

Internal parasites – Worms

Worms are parasites in dogs and cats that if left untreated may cause severe illness or even death. Pets of all ages need to be wormed regularly.

The 5 common types of worms in cats and dogs

Heartworm - Heartworm is contracted through the bite of an infected mosquito and is the deadliest of all canine parasites.  Once a dog is bitten by an infected mosquito, it takes about 6 to 7 months for the larvae to mature into adult heartworms that lodge in the heart and lungs. Adult heartworms in dogs can be up to 30cm long and can cause serious disease which can sometimes be fatal.  Your vet can test for the presence of heartworm infection before starting heartworm prevention for the first time, or if heartworm prevention has been missed.

Tapeworm - Tapeworms attach themselves to the small intestine wall.  Infection usually occurs following the ingestion of flea larvae.  As fleas are the intermediate host for this species of tapeworm, treatment for tapeworm infestations must be combined with flea treatment. While tapeworm infestations usually cause few problems in adult dogs, they can slow the growth of puppies and cause poor coat condition and anal irritation.

Roundworm - Virtually every puppy is born with roundworms or can become infected while nursing.  Roundworms live freely in the intestine, feeding off partially digested intestinal contents and their name is derived from their tubular or round shape.  Roundworms may cause diarrhoea and vomiting in young cats and dogs.

Hookworm - Hookworms are intestinal parasites – small, thin worms less than an inch long – that are common in dogs and can also affect humans by migrating through the skin.  All hookworms have hook-like teeth or plates to help them attach to the intestinal wall to feed on blood.  Symptoms include intestinal distress, pale gums, bloody diarrhoea, weight loss and a poorly conditioned coat.  

Whipworm (found in Dogs only)  - This parasite of the large bowel is more likely to occur where multiple dogs live together and have access to faecal material. Whipworms feed on their host’s blood and heavy infestations may lead to anaemia and bloody diarrhoea. Dogs of all ages can be infected by ingesting whipworm eggs, which are highly resistant and survive in the external environment for several years.

Prevention is better than a cure.  Trying to rid your pet of parasites or treat serious ailments such as Paralysis Ticks and Heartworm after they are infected can be time consuming, very costly as well as heartbreaking.  Knowing what to look for and administering regular appropriate treatments will protect your pet and prevent infestations that are painful and irritating to both your pet and your family.

Learn what steps you can take to protect your pet, home and family from parasites. Visit our Just for Pets Pet Health Centre at our Pets Unleashed Morningside store for a free 6 point pet health check today.