Telling tails…


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