Telling tails…


Why do I need to perform a tick check on my pet?

Ticks carry infectious diseases and some, like the paralysis tick, can cause direct toxic harm to your pet so this is one topic where prevention is better than treatment. Unfortunately, no tick preventative medication is guaranteed, so if you’re living or travelling in a tick-prone area then you need to physically check your pet for ticks at least once a day and carefully remove any as soon as possible. The sooner that any attached tick is removed then the less effect it will have on your pet.


When it comes to a tick prevention program for your dog, it’s all about the three step approach:

  1. An oral or spot on tick preventative medication (like Nexgard or Bravecto)
  2. A tick repellent product (like the Seresto collar or Advantix spot on)
  3. A daily tick check (twice a day if you’re in a high risk area)


How to perform a tick check:

Ticks are easier to feel than see amongst your pet’s fur, so use your finger tips to feel everywhere along your dog’s skin from the tip of their nose to the tip of their tail. This is called the ‘Finger Walking’ technique. Be systematic and follow the same pattern each time so that you don’t miss any spots. It’ll be awkward at first, but you and your dog will get used to it with practice. You can add a few treats, toys or enrichment distractions (like peanut butter or kibble in a Kong ball) to make it easier for you and a more pleasant experience for your dog. You’re feeling for something that feels like a warty lump that is between 1 and 5mm in size, so they can be tricky to find amongst the fur. Even though ticks have favourite places that they like to hide in, they can be found on any part of your dog’s skin.


The step-by-step tick check:

Start at your dog’s nose, walking your finger tips all over their face. The places where ticks like to hide on the face are under lip folds, so feel in the folds and lift their lips up for a peek, then around and under their ear flaps and around the ear cartilage knobbly bits.

Next, feel under the chin, down the neck and run your fingers across the shoulders. Being sure to run your finger tips all around under their collar, if they are wearing one.

Feel up under their arm pits then down their front legs. The main hiding places for ticks here are between the toes and pads so creep your finger tips into all those little nooks.

Most dogs love a belly rub, so giving a lovely slow massage all over their tummy and back should be the easiest part, carefully checking any skin folds closely and up around their groin area.

The back legs have the same hiding places as the front legs, so feel all the way down the legs and be thorough in the gaps between those toes and pads.

Keep going, you’re nearly there! A lot of dogs are sensitive around their bottom and tail, so a few extra treats or distractions may be needed here. Even if your dog won’t allow you to feel around this area (I don’t want you to get bitten if your dog really doesn’t like it), ticks may be visible if you lift their tail, checking directly under the tail as well as around their bottom and any skin folds. Then walk your fingers all the way to the tip of their tail and you’re done.

Great work!


What do I do if I find a tick on my dog?

Do not squeeze the tick – if it is a paralysis tick then squeezing the body can force more toxin into your dog.

Ticks can bury their mouth parts quite deeply into the skin when they attach, so you need to be sure that you’ve removed the entire tick with it’s mouth parts. Using a tick removal device makes this easier, there are a few different products available so follow the instructions on the label. It is possible to use tweezers but be sure to grab the head, not the body, of the tick to gently twist it out.

If you’re not able or confident in removing the tick, call your local veterinarian for help.

If your pet becomes unwell after you’ve recently removed a tick from them, call your veterinarian immediately as both paralysis tick toxicosis and tick-borne diseases can be deadly. Early treatment leads to better outcomes.

Want to be prepared? The Vet in a Van – Navigator Pet First Aid Kit makes removing ticks easy!


Protect your dog now:

Check out our other blog articles for more information about ticks or Ehrlichiosis then head to and enter the unique code VIAV100R at the top left of the screen for an exclusive discount on tick prevention and other pet supplies.


Would you like to be walked through this Tick Check with Dr Tania?

Grab your dog and click here if you’d like to watch a video version of Dr Tania performing this tick check on our YouTube channel.






*Information provided here is based on information available to us at the time of publishing and not intended as an individual veterinary recommendation for any product or action. You should consult your veterinarian for advice regarding your individual pet and read all product labels and instructions prior to the use of any product.

**By using our discount code, you save money and Vet in a Van receives a small margin on each sale which helps us to keep helping you and your pets.


What is Ehrlichia and can it make my dog sick?

Ehrlichia can make your dog sick. Ehrlichia canis is a bacteria that causes a disease called Ehrlichiosis, which is responsible for making dogs very sick. Ehrlichia is found in many tropical and subtropical regions all over the world and, unfortunately, has spread through northern Australia since it was first detected in the Kimberley region of Western Australia back in May 2020. Ehrlichia is now widespread across the Northern Territory and has also been making dogs sick across the Kimberley, Pilbara, Gascoyne and upper Goldfields regions of Western Australia. Cases have recently been discovered in Queensland and Victoria in dogs travelling from these areas and ticks in northern South Australia have been found to carry the bacteria. In January 2022, a dog in Mt Isa, Queensland, was confirmed to have been infected locally so the disease can now be presumed to be present in northern Queensland. UPDATE: As of December 2022, cases have been confirmed in Townsville.


How is Ehrlichiosis diagnosed and treated?

Diagnosing Ehrlichiosis in dogs can be tricky because the signs vary, but early diagnosis and treatment give the best chance of recovery. Diagnosis is based on the combination of the history of a dog travelling to affected areas, the clinical signs and a blood test. Treatment with a very long course of antibiotics is possible but can be complicated in severe cases as the bacteria can hide within the body and cause severe damage to different internal organs.

If your dog has been in a tick-prone area and shows any of these signs then please seek veterinary advice as soon as possible, even if the illness doesn’t seem too bad or your dog seems to recover temporarily:

  • A high temperature or fever
  • Being lethargic or not moving around much
  • Going off their food
  • Losing weight
  • A runny nose or eyes
  • Any unusual bleeding, bruising or swellings
  • Cloudy eyes


If Ehrlichia is a bacteria, then why do we keep talking about ticks?

Ehrlichia is carried by the Brown Dog Tick and dogs become infected when an infected tick bites them. The Brown Dog Tick is common and widespread across most of Australia so Ehrlichia has the potential to spread this far – which we really don’t want! Ticks are most commonly picked up from grass near other dogs, stock or wildlife.


Are you in or heading to northern Western Australia, the Northern Territory or Queensland with your dog?

Dog movement restrictions currently apply to any dogs leaving northern Western Australia or the Northern Territory. So, even if you’re just popping up north for a quick holiday, this applies to you. Check out this government website for details:

The important points are to:

  • Check the government requirements for the State/Territory you are moving to
  • Treat and check your dog for ticks in the 7 days before moving out of the area
  • And, to tell your vet that you’ve visited the affected regions if your dog becomes sick afterwards


How can I prevent ticks and Ehrlichia from making my dog sick?

This disease IS preventable and we can all contribute to preventing it’s spread into the southern and eastern areas of Australia.

If you are travelling to the northern parts of Australia then please have your dog on an effective tick treatment at all times.

On a practical basis, effective tick prevention means you need to do three things:

1. Treat your dog with an effective medication that kills ticks – these are the regular chews or spot ons that your dog might already be on (like Nexgard or Bravecto).

2. Add a tick repellent product that aims to stop ticks from attaching to your dog – this may be a collar (Seresto) or spot on (Advantix).

3. Unfortunately, no tick preventative is 100% guaranteed, so if you’re in a tick-prone area then you still need to check your dog for ticks at least once a day and carefully remove any. Check out our Tick Check Guide for how to do a thorough tick check on your pet.


Why does my dog need to use both a chew and a repellent collar to prevent Ehrlichia?

The reasoning behind using both a tick preventative AND a repellent is that the usual tick preventatives are in the bloodstream so ticks need to attach to the dog and suck blood before they are killed, which can take about 5-6 hours. The Ehrlichia bacteria can transfer from the tick to the dog in around 1-2 hours, which is faster than these medications can kill the tick.

The repellent products stop up to 95% of ticks from attaching at all by creating a residue in the oils on the skin and coat. I like to call this a dog’s ‘invisibility cloak’ against ticks, with the chew or spot on and a physical tick check as the back up plan just in case one does attach.


Which tick preventatives are the best?

There are a few different chew and spot on tick prevention products available and not every one is suitable for every dog, so chat to either Dr Tania or your usual veterinarian about which ones are best for your dog. These include products like Bravecto, Nexgard or Simparica.

The Seresto collar (for small and large dogs) is the most recommended tick repellent product as it only needs to be replaced every four months, is waterproof and is supported internationally to have more than 90% efficacy in preventing Ehrlichiosis. Another option with proven efficacy against Ehrlichia is the monthly spot on treatment Advantix. The Kiltix collar is another viable option (based on the active ingredients) but is not waterproof and hasn’t been proven against Ehrlichia in any studies. Just be aware that there have been some fake tick repellent collars selling online, so please buy one from a reputable source.


Vet in a Van is committed to protecting your dog and limiting the spread of Ehrlichia in Australia

Follow any of the above links for tick preventatives or head to and enter our unique code VIAV100R at the top left of the screen for an exclusive discount on all tick preventatives and pet supplies.



Keep your chosen parasite preventatives handy by storing them in your Vet in a Van – Navigator Pet First Aid Kit



*Information provided here is based on information available to us at the time of publishing and not intended as an individual veterinary recommendation for any product or action. You should consult your veterinarian for advice regarding your individual pet and read all product labels and instructions prior to the use of any product.

**By using our discount code, you save money and Vet in a Van receives a small margin on each sale which helps us to keep helping you and your pets.


Nothing gives us the imaginary (or real!) itches like knowing that a pet has fleas. These pesky critters can be a bit tricky to eradicate once they take hold so a consistent approach is needed. For every flea that you see on your pet, there may be up to 2000 eggs in the environment, so don’t expect them to go away instantly, it can take some work.


Where does my pet catch fleas from?

Fleas are species specific, there are cat fleas, dog fleas, rabbit fleas, and many more. That said, individual fleas may jump to a different species pet in the same household and bite them but they are unlikely to survive and breed unless they return to their host species. This is why it is important to treat all pets in the family at the same time to avoid fleas ‘hiding out’ on untreated pets.

Fleas can be transferred in the environment from other pets and wildlife. So, if your pet ventures outside they may pick up an unwanted hitchhiker from the grass or other animals and bring them home.


How do I know if my pet has fleas?

Pets that can be affected by fleas include:

  • Dogs
  • Cats
  • Rabbits
  • Ferrets (commonly affected by the cat flea)
  • Guinea pigs
  • Rats and Mice


The common signs which may indicate that your pet has fleas include:
  • Your pet suddenly scratching, chewing or biting at themselves
  • Small black dots on their skin, fur or bedding (which may be fleas themselves or flea dirt, the digested blood the fleas have fed on)
    • To check if any small black dots are flea dirt or just dirt, place some on a wet paper towel, where flea dirt will turn red
  • Red or crusty patches of skin (some cats and dogs have an allergy to flea saliva which makes them super itchy and sore)
    • If your pet has a flea allergy, it can take just one flea to flare up a big reaction
  • Seeing fleas hopping on your carpet or furnishings
  • Patchy hair loss (where your pet may be excessively scratching or licking)
  • Small itchy bite marks on family members
  • If your dog or cat has been diagnosed with tapeworm (or you have seen flat, white, rice-sized, wriggly bits in their poo) then they may have caught tapeworm from ingesting a flea


Is prevention necessary?

Although warmer weather is assumed to encourage higher flea populations (flea eggs like to hatch with warmth, humidity and vibration), we see flea infestations occurring year-round not just in the Summer months. This is because of the use of heaters, rugs and carpets that tend to create cosy flea breeding spaces.

Not only do fleas annoy our pets, they can leave us with a few itchy reminders of their presence too.

For this reason, year-round flea prevention is recommended. There are a lot of flea products available and many treat multiple parasites, so ask your vet for a product that suits your pet and their situation.


Follow this treatment plan thoroughly for a flea-free home:


  • Treat all animals in your household with a veterinary product suitable to their species all year-round, check the label for how often this should be done as products differ (plus, some dog products can be toxic to cats and rabbits so ask your vet first and follow the label)

If you see fleas on your pet or in the house:

  • Throw out any cushions or bedding that may be severely infested
  • Wash pet bedding and all household bedding in hot water (over 60C) for at least 10 minutes
  • Clean out your pet’s bed
  • Clean out the kennel, basket or rabbit hutch
  • Vacuum lounge chairs and cushions
  • Vacuum the car
  • Vacuum or wash rugs
  • Bin or burn the vacuum bag immediately after vacuuming
  • Speak to your vet, as there are some extra medications which can be used (in conjunction with your current flea preventative) to help eradicate a current infestation or reduce the itch that your pet is experiencing



Keep your chosen parasite preventatives handy by storing them in your Vet in a Van – Navigator Pet First Aid Kit


When it comes to travelling, it’s all about looking for products that are convenient AND keep our pets safe. We’ve compared a few popular parasite treatments currently available, which have the best effect on our target parasites, to help you decide on which one suits your dog best.

Which parasites are a risk for my dog?

The most important parasites to cover whilst travelling are Heartworm and Paralysis Ticks, as they can be deadly and may not be part of your usual preventative regime if you don’t live in these areas. Brown dog ticks transmit the bacteria causing Ehrlichiosis, found in Western Australia, the Northern Territory and Queensland (see our article on Ehrlichia). Generally, all dogs should use a preventative for fleas and intestinal worms year-round regardless of location (roundworm, hookworm and Hydatid tapeworm can be passed to people). Hydatid tapeworm is a risk for dogs eating raw meat or offal, and Tasmania requires dogs to be treated before travel to our island state (see our article on Travel to Tasmania). Mites can be an occasional issue, whilst Sarcoptic mange is more likely if your dog is exploring areas with foxes and wombats and can also be passed to people.

How reliable are parasite preventative medications?

It is important to recognise that preventative products are not a guarantee, especially with parasites like the Paralysis Tick. All dogs travelling or living in a Tick area should be checked daily (at a minimum) for ticks – see our Tick Check Guide for further information. The majority of preventative treatments only kill the tick after it has attached, so the sooner a tick is removed the less chance there is of infections or other complications. In WA, the NT and now Queensland, Ehrlichia is transmitted from Brown Dog Ticks to dogs in a shorter time than spot-ons or chews can act, so the Seresto collar is recommended as it repels and kills ticks on contact before they can attach.

Ensuring that preventative treatments are repeated as recommended is imperative to their success. Monthly treatments must be given exactly monthly (within a 2-3 day window). We know that time flies and treatments can be easily forgotten when busy or travelling so choosing a longer term option may suit better in many circumstances for optimum health, convenience and peace of mind. Studies have shown the injectable heartworm treatment, Proheart SR12, to be the most effective heartworm preventative, both due to it’s ongoing long-term action as well as the susceptibility of heartworm to it’s active ingredient.

Likewise, choosing between an oral, spot-on, collar or injectable treatment depends on your dog’s lifestyle as well as the parasites being targeted. For example, if your dog loves swimming then a spot-on treatment is less likely to be as effective as an oral or injectable one (Seresto collars are waterproof so can, and should, be left on whilst swimming or bathing).

Product Bravecto spot-on Bravecto chew Nexguard Spectra chew Simparica Trio chew Seresto collar Advantix spot-on ProHeart SR12 injection Milbemax tablet Drontal chew

(5-6 months)

(3 months)

(8 months)

Paralysis Ticks

(5-6 months)

(3-4 months)

(4 months)

Brown Dog Ticks

(3 months)

(2 months)

(4 months)

Mosquitoes Sandflies Stableflies

(repels and kills)