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Pet parasites: Fleas, Worms, Mites and Ticks

There are many different parasites which can affect your furry friend!

Need pet advice?

Search our expert pet advice articles.


Fleas, Ticks, Mites and Worms

At Companion Care, we believe in keeping your pets happy and healthy! As part of your preventative healthcare routine for your loved one, we recommend regular parasite protection from your vet.

There are many different types of parasites which can affect your furry friend but to keep it simple we want to give you the basics on the most common ones!


Adult fleas are tiny dark brown, wingless insects which can jump up to 165 times their own length and are easily spread by contact from one animal to another. 

In order to survive and breed, fleas need to feed on the blood of our pets. They cling onto fur with their claws and bite the skin with a needle-like mouth. For young puppies and kittens this blood loss can cause anaemia which is potentially life-threatening. In adult dogs and cats (and humans!) the main problem is the flea bite, which leads to irritation and skin allergy problems. Fleas are also involved in the transmission of tapeworms. 

A single flea can lay up to 2000 eggs but most fall into the environment such as your pet’s bedding or the carpet. These larvae then develop into adults who will jump onto your pet (or even you!) where they will bite, feed and the cycle continues. 

How to stop the itch.

If your pet has a heavy infestation, you may see fleas on close examination of the coat. The best way to check for fleas is to check for "flea dirt" which are brown/black specks seen in the pet’s coat (‘flea dirt’ is really dried specks of blood extracted by the flea). Comb through your pet’s coat onto a wet piece of kitchen roll or paper. If the specks turn red/brown, then you know your pet has fleas. 

Don’t wait for your pet to itch or scratch before thinking about flea treatments. Effective and regular flea control will help make sure your pet and your house stay flea free. At Vets4Pets, our vets can prescribe effective spot-on treatments that, used regularly, will prevent flea infestation


There are several types of mites that can live in your pet's ear, but the most common are Otodectes cynotis - tiny, eight-legged parasites that feed on the wax and oils within the ear canal. They are highly contagious and constant re-infestation can be a problem. Ear mites do not burrow into skin, but live on the surface of the outer ear canal causing irritation. 

Does my pet have Ear Mites?

Cats in particular may carry ear mites without showing any signs however; inflammation, excessive scratching and rubbing of ears, head shaking, a black or brown waxy secretion or a strong smell are indicators that something might be wrong. 

Treatment for ear mites is case dependent however there are medications that our vets will prescribe that can be applied directly in the ear or parasite medications that are applied to the skin. Certain types of bacterial infections can mimic the symptoms of ear mites so it’s best to get your pet checked by the vet if you suspect something is wrong.


Roundworms are large white worms, with cylindrical bodies. The adult roundworm lives in the small intestine and feeds on the gut contents. Gross! 

Dogs and cats of any age can get roundworms but they are most likely to have roundworms when they are very young. Worms are often passed from a mother to her puppies or kittens before birth or shortly after, through her milk. They can also be spread between animals by ingestion of worm eggs from the faeces of an infected animal or by ingesting a host – such as rats or birds. 

Does my pet have Roundworm? 

There are often no visible signs of roundworm however a pot belly, poor growth, diarrhoea or poor coat could be indicators. Regular worming is the best way to protect your pet against roundworm, our vets can prescribe a spot-on treatment.

Biting Lice

Lice are small wingless insects that spend their entire lives on their host. Unlike fleas and ticks, lice do not travel or exist in the environment and are caught through direct contact with a louse infested animal. Sharing grooming tools can however, transport lice from one pet to another. 

Does my pet have Lice? 

The most common sign of a louse infection is a scruffy, dry coat. Lice lay eggs (termed nits) on the hair shafts. The lice themselves may be difficult to find, however nits can be seen with the naked eye. Itching and hair loss is common and in severe infestations, anaemia may occur. 

If you suspect your pet has lice don’t worry - treatment is available! We’ll need to see your pet in order for a vet to take a sample. They will examine it under the microscope so that they can prescribe the correct treatment.


Tapeworms look like long, flat ribbons and can be up to half a metre in length. Adult tapeworms live in the small intestine and once mature release segments containing eggs.

Cats and dogs contract tapeworm by ingesting an infected intermediate host. A flea is the intermediate host for the most common tapeworm of dogs and cats, so even indoor cats can become infected by ingesting fleas.

Has my pet got Tapeworm?

Tapeworm infections are usually diagnosed by finding segments (small white worms that may look like grains of rice or seeds) on the rear end of your pet or in your pet’s faeces. If however, your pet is infected with adult forms of the tapeworm, it may not show any symptoms.

Tapeworm segments in your pet's poo can cause irritation resulting in them licking the area excessively and they may ‘scoot’ across the ground. Symptoms such as vomiting or diarrhoea can also occur.

A variety of products are available to treat and prevent tapeworm. Some animals may need tapeworm treatment more often if they frequently hunt or scavenge. For the best advice on the type of de-worming preparation most suitable for your pet, please speak to your local vet!


Ticks attach themselves to our pets in order to feed, causing irritation and discomfort. They have highly developed mouthparts which allow them to pierce a hole through the skin and feed on blood. 

It is important to check your pet regularly for ticks. Aside from causing discomfort, while they are attached, ticks can also transmit Lyme disease. 


If your pet does have a tick, do not remove it with tweezers as it’s very easy to leave the head behind! Instead, give your local surgery a call and one of our experienced vets can show you the best way to remove them.


Lungworm is a parasite that can cause serious health problems in dogs and can even be fatal if left untreated. As an adult worm, it lives in the heart and blood vessels that supply the lungs in dogs and foxes. 

Dogs catch lungworm through eating slugs and snails which carry the larvae of the parasite. While most dogs do not routinely eat slugs and snails for pleasure, they may do so by accident e.g. when drinking from a puddle, licking grass or generally just having a sniff around. Some dogs on the other hand do enjoy munching on these garden pests and although not every snail or slug carries the worm, if your pet regularly eats snails/slugs then there is a risk of them picking up this worm at some point. 


Symptoms can be varied, but can include; coughing, tiring easily, weight loss, poor appetite, vomiting, diarrhoea, excessive bleeding from minor wounds and seizures. 

What can I do to protect my pet? 

Once diagnosed and treated, most dogs make a full recovery but the key to successful treatment is taking action early. The best way to avoid your pet getting lungworm however is to speak with your vet about preventative solutions. Our vets can prescribe spot-on treatment which is applied to the back of your dog’s neck. By applying this regularly, you can prevent your dog from getting an established lungworm infection. 

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