Fleas, ticks and mites

Fleas, ticks and mites are part of a group of parasites called ectoparasites.

Prevention is best achieved by monthly use of anti-parasitic products, many of which are included if you are a member of the Adelaide Pet Care Plan.

It is important to keep your pet treated for fleas and ticks on a regular basis.


Fleas are the single most common cause of skin disease in dogs and cats and can also transmit tapeworms.

Fortunately they should be a rare visitor to your house with regular use of modern treatments. They also commonly affect rabbits.

Dogs and cats get infested with fleas through contact with other animals or contact with fleas in the environment. The flea's strong back legs enable it to jump from host to host or from the environment onto the host.

Flea bites cause itching, and for a sensitive or flea-allergic animal, this itching can be quite severe and lead to hair-loss, inflammation and secondary skin infections. Some pets, allergic to the flea's saliva, will itch all over from the bite of even a single flea!

These small dark brown insects breed when the environment is warm. They are therefore just as happy to breed in a warm house in winter as they are in the summer.

Generally, fleas will be hard to see on your pets skin unless there are lots of them. Dark copper coloured and about the size of the head of a pin, fleas dislike light so looking for them within furry areas and on the pet's belly and inner thighs will provide your best chances of spotting them.

Flea faeces looks like dark specks of coal dust scattered on the skin surface and may be easier to find than the fleas. In some animals, especially those that are itching and grooming lots, even this will be impossible to find as your pet will be removing it by licking and scratching.

If you suspect fleas, pick some of dirt off your pet and place it on a wet paper towel. If after a few minutes the tiny specks spread out like a small blood stain, your pet has fleas.

There are a number of safe and effective prescription products available containing modern insecticides which are used both as a treatment and prevention.

There are many non-prescription products available for flea treatment from pet shops and supermarkets. They may be less effective than prescription products as many fleas are resistant to the active ingredients. These non-prescription flea products include flea shampoos, powders, sprays, mousses, dips, collars and spot-on products.

Care must be taken not to treat cats with dog flea products as these can be very toxic to cats.

With any flea treatment it is necessary to treat all of the animals in the home in order to achieve complete success.


Ticks are blood sucking parasites that can cause local infections and transmit serious diseases including Lyme disease to your pet and to yourself.

They tend to be more active in late spring and autumn but can be found throughout the year.

Ticks and Lyme disease seem to be becoming more prevalent – two of our staff have contracted Lyme disease from outside sources in recent years.

They can vary in shape, colour and size, but generally when unfed they are oval, flat and small, the size of a sesame seed. They can have either six or eight legs, depending on the life cycle stage.

Once they are completely engorged with blood they are coffee-bean-shaped.

If you are worried your pet has a tick, seek advice from us about how to remove it safely. Removing a tick needs to be done very carefully to decrease the risk of releasing infected saliva into your pet’s blood stream and also to make sure the mouthparts are completely removed.

Special tick removal tools are the best way to safely remove them or you can make an appointment with a nurse or a vet and we will do it for you.

Ear mites

Ear mites live in the ear canal of dogs, cats and rabbits and feed on ear debris. They cause severe irritation of the ear and secondary bacterial infection is common.

They are very contagious so easily spread from pet to pet.

Treatment or prevention is generally straight forward. Please contact us for advice.

Fox mange

Sarcoptic mange is a relatively common skin disease of dogs and other species in the UK. It can affect animals of all ages and can also transfer to humans.

Transmission of the disease is by contact with other infected pets and foxes.

Infection causes intense itching and skin disease. Diagnosis can be difficult but a blood test for antibodies can be helpful. Sometimes trial treatments are required.

Harvest mites

Harvest mites are active from July to October. They are found in grass and other foliage and hop on to bite any animal or human that passes.

Some animals are particularly sensitive to the bites and become extremely itchy, especially on the ears and paws. You may be able to see the mites on your cat or dog if you look closely. They are tiny and bright orange and are often found in small clusters between the toes and in the folds of the ears.

Worms and worming

There are three classes of worm that we are worried about in our pets: lungworm, roundworm and tapeworm.

Lungworm, in particular, can fatal in dogs and is not killed by many standard wormers.

Regular worm treatment is critical to any pets continued health.


The lungworm is a parasite that can cause serious health problems in dogs and can even be fatal if not diagnosed and treated.

Slugs and snails carry the lungworm larvae, and dogs can become infected when they eat these common garden pests.

Some of the symptoms of lungworm infection can include:

  • Breathing problems

  • Poor blood clotting that can lead to uncontrolled bleeding

  • Weight loss

  • Poor appetite

  • Seizures

Treatment is available and can result in full recovery, but as this parasite can be fatal it is important to consider prevention.

Please ask us for advice on which product to use as many worming products don’t kill lungworm.


Most puppies and kittens are born with roundworms or are infected within the first few days of life via the mother’s milk.

Round worm eggs are passed in dogs faeces and can survive on the grass and in soil for several years. Dogs and cats are infected by ingesting these eggs.

Roundworm eggs are invisible to the naked eye and the adult worms stay inside your pet, so you are unlikely to know that they are infected unless the infection is particularly severe.

Worming of puppies and kittens should be started at two weeks old to protect your pet and family and should be repeated every few weeks until 12 weeks old and then monthly until three months old.

After three months old pets should be wormed at least every three months.


Once your pet starts to go out and about they may pick up tapeworms.

They are commonly transmitted from fleas, or from eating small rodents or raw meat.

If your pet has tapeworms you may see segments of the worm around the anus and in their faeces. These look like flattened rice grains.

If your pet becomes infected with tapeworms it is important to also treat for fleas as these are the most common source of infection.