Pet Parasites You Should Know

Parasites and your pet

What are parasites?

Parasites are organisms that live and feed off other creatures. For our pets, these are things like fleas, ticks, mosquitoes and intestinal parasites, who spend their lives crawling beneath the surface of our pets and causing serious health problems if left undetected.

What are the most common parasites?


Heartworm is a parasitic worm that can infect your pet through a mosquito bite. An infected mosquito injects a larval stage of the worm under your pet’s skin. These larvae mature in the pet’s organs for five to six months, traveling through the body to the heart and blood vessels of the lungs. The presence of these long thin worms in the major vessels and heart can cause serious and life-threatening blockages.  These adult worms  breed to produce microfilaria (baby heartworm) in the bloodstream, which are then drawn up by a mosquito when it feeds on the pet, continuing the cycle once again.

Mosquitoes are hard to keep out of both the yard and the house, so even your indoor-only pets are at risk.

Paralysis ticks

Paralysis Ticks are small, round, eight-legged parasites that burrow into your pet’s skin to feed. While doing so, the paralysis tick releases a neurotoxin, which is absorbed into the pet’s bloodstream.  This toxin then gradually diffuses into the nervous system, causing progressive flaccid paralysis of all muscles. The ticks that attach to your pet are initially so tiny that they are very difficult to find. It is usually not until the clinical signs develop that the tick is large enough to be seen or felt.


Fleas are small, brown, parasitic insects that infest the coat and skin of your pet. Many people think fleas are just an irritation but, if left untreated, they can be fatal to your pet as a large infestation can lead to a severe anaemia, especially in young animals. They can also cause very itchy skin disease, and they spread tapeworm infection

Intestinal worms

Dogs and cats can become infected with a range of  intestinal worms  including; hookworms, roundworms, whipworm, and tapeworm. Some of these intestinal worms from our pets can be transferred to other family members. Children, the elderly, and people who are immunocompromised are at a higher risk. Intestinal worms can cause ill-thrift, diarrhoea, and in some cases severe and life-threatening anaemia or intestinal blockages.

Treatment and prevention

Treatments can include:

  • annual injections
  • topical applications
  • shampoos and sprays
  • tablets and chews
  • collars

Your local Greencross Vets team are your partners in protecting your pets from parasites.

Together, we can help determine the most suitable product and prevention program that is tailored to your pet’s needs, lifestyle and environment.

Remember that prevention is always the best medicine. Keep your pet happy and healthy all year round by sticking to a good preventative treatment plan. They’ll thank you for it!

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