Beating the Bug: Everything You Need to Know About Common Pet Parasites

Parasites are a common worry for pet owners. We don’t want our animals to suffer, so we must be vigilant and regularly look for the tell-tale signs of parasitic infection so we can act quickly should any problems arise. This post highlights some of the classic signs of infection covering multiple common species and provides key tips on preventing an infestation in the future. 


Fleas are a real nuisance for pet owners and animals alike. As they are so small and efficient at hiding themselves, fleas often populate the home quickly before we even realise they are around. Pets tend to be the first victim as fleas target animals with lots of fur, which makes it easier to hide. Once they’ve developed from their pupal stage, fleas bite into your pet’s skin and suck their blood for nutrition. This is irritating to the animal, often causing them to scratch or bite out their fur in the affected area. This, in itself, can cause bleeding and infection, but the risk of this happening only worsens should your pet be allergic to fleas. It is very common for pets to suffer allergic reactions from flea bites, which take the form of patches of red flaky skin, scabs and hair loss. Sore and inflamed skin can break easily, leading to exposed wounds which can be infected by the surrounding environment and flea droppings. 

Fleas and their eggs thrive in warm, humid environments, but they can survive year-round. To prevent an infestation, try to limit the amount of time your pet spends outdoors, especially in warmer months. They should also avoid stray or wild animals wherever possible, as these are more likely to carry fleas. Remember to bathe and brush your pet regularly, always checking for fleas and eggs as you do so. Vacuum your home often, with extra attention being paid to areas your pet frequents, such as their bed. 

Should you find fleas on your pet, consult with your vet about which products would work best for the kind of animal you keep. Remember to follow up with further treatment some days after the initial application in order to catch new fleas that would have been resistant eggs during the first treatment. 

Intestinal Worms

If your pet is still young, intestinal worms can cause serious long-term problems. In fully grown pets, worms are only occasionally serious, but still cause distress to animals and should always be treated immediately. One of the more serious issues caused by intestinal parasites is Heartworm Disease, which is generally considered to be life-threatening as it causes significant damage to the heart and lungs, which cannot always be remedied. Should you have concerns about your pet’s potential infection, you must always meet with a vet as soon as possible to minimise risk. 

  • Tapeworms cannot be contracted directly from another large pet such as a cat or dog as these worms require an intermediate host, such as a flea or a bird. In adult dogs, tapeworms cause discomfort, but rarely lead to any significant issues. In puppies, tapeworms can result in digestive problems, such as intestinal blockages, which then lead to stunted growth if left untreated. 
  • Whipworms are very small, but they can cause severe irritation in the large intestine if left to multiply. Your pet may experience chronic or bloody diarrhoea and weight loss if infected. 
  • Puppies and kittens can suffer from bloating and stunted growth if infected by roundworms, a free-living parasite transmitted via the faeces of other pets. Excessive gas in infected pets can lead to serious digestive upset, which can affect your pet’s appetite and stop it from maintaining a healthy weight. 
  • Hookworms can cause serious problems in animals. Entering the host through the mouth or irritated skin, hookworms latch onto the lining of the small intestine, sucking blood directly from surrounding capillaries. This leads to severe anaemia, which can cause other serious problems if left untreated. 
  • Heartworms, as alluded to previously, are perhaps the most dangerous parasite a pet can be infected with. The larvae are injected into the bloodstream when mosquitoes feed on a pet. After maturing, the worm will travel into the heart and lungs of its host and grow to a surprising 6-14 inches long. Naturally, something this large should not be living in the blood vessels of a small animal, so pets begin coughing and suffering from fatigue before deteriorating rapidly. It is vital that owners consult a vet if they see any of the signs associated with Heartworm Disease as quickly as possible. 

Medical preventatives are available for all major intestinal parasite infections, so consult with a vet here at Animal Tracks Vet Clinic to see how you can incorporate worming medication into your pet’s regular routine.


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