What are pet parasites?

You may often hear and see the term parasites and parasite protection when it comes to your furry family member. The term refers to the pesky critters than can infest your pet if their treatment is not up to date. Get to know the parasites that your pet is at risk from and learn how to properly protect them.

What are pet parasites?

Worms and fleas and ticks, oh my!

In Australia, there are four main types of parasites to protect your pet from; worms, fleas, ticks and heartworm - which is only found in dogs.


Worms are a tricky parasite as your pet may not show any symptoms of infestation at all. Some worms are transferred via prey like mice or rats, fleas can carry tape worm eggs, and others can be transferred in high-risk areas where there is lots of animal traffic such as dog parks.

Worms are potentially harmful to both animals and humans and can cause severe health issues.

Symptoms of worms in pets

Although infestation is often not obvious, in some cases your pet may show the following symptoms:

  • Diarrhoea or vomiting
  • Weight loss
  • Abnormally swollen stomach
  • Worms in their faeces


Fleas are parasites that live externally on the skin of an infected animal. A flea bites your pets’ skin in order to feed itself, this can be irritating and painful to animals while also causing damage to their skin. Unlike worms, fleas are visible to the naked eye and move quickly around your pets’ coat.

Symptoms of fleas in pets

Your pet may show no symptoms of having fleas, however, you should look out for:

  • Excessive scratching
  • Redness of skin
  • Bald patches
  • Visible fleas in your pets’ coat
What are pet parasites?


Ticks, although similar to fleas, are a different parasite all together. Ticks will jump from host to host and can quickly infect other animals in close proximity. Ticks are generally stationary on the animal’s skin once they attach themselves.

Ticks can have much more serious outcomes than fleas. Common sites for ticks to attach are around the head, ears, mouth, toes, but they can occur anywhere.

How to recognise a tick bite

Symptoms of tick bites include:

  • Loss of appetite
  • Redness and swelling around the bite
  • Weakness or wobbliness in the back legs
  • Coughing
  • Change in the sound of the bark
  • Change in breathing

Ticks prefer warm, humid climates so tend to be more common in spring and summer.


Heartworm, as mentioned above, is a parasite that infests only dogs. Contraction of heartworm commonly occurs through mosquitoes and is a risk to dogs all across Australia.
Heartworm can cause serious complications such as heart failure, lung disease, organ damage and, in severe cases can be fatal if left untreated.

Symptoms of heartworm in dogs

  • Persistent Cough
  • Reluctance to exercise
  • Fatigue after moderate activity
  • Decreased appetite
  • Weight Loss

Keeping your pet protected from parasites

Treatment of parasite infestations can end up being a costly and lengthy process, not to mention distressing to your pet and in some cases life threatening. This is why prevention is the best way to protect your pet from parasites. There are a wide range of options available to treat all of these parasites from tablets, to oral chews and spot treatments. Depending on the brand and type you’ve chosen, you may find that there is one treatment that covers your pet for all of these parasites at once, others you may have to administer separately.

Regardless of the choice of prevention treatment, pet parents need to be vigilant with administering the treatment at the right time. Each treatment is different, and you should be aware of and follow the instructions for your specific brand and type. This will ensure that your furry family member is properly protected all year round.