What you must know about pet parasites

Have you heard any of these following statements about pet parasites?

  • Indoor pets do not get tick and flea problems
  • Fleas and ticks are just harmless nuisances
  • I can remove ticks off my dog’s body with tweezers!

These are in fact common myths or misconceptions pet owners have when it comes to ectoparasites (parasites that live on the outside of their hosts). Unfortunately, pets are exposed to ticks and fleas by various means. Your clothing, grooming brushes, or other pets that venture outdoors can all carry these ectoparasites. Even if your pet is fully indoors, your pet will not be protected from these parasites unless they are on proper ectoparasitic prevention.

A flea as seen under a microscope
A tick

So, are these parasites harmless nuisances? Ticks and fleas are the most common ectoparasites found on dogs and cats. They can cause an allergic reaction, often seen as red, dry, or irritated skin, excessive itching or scratching, dermatitis, and hot spots. As if that were bad enough. Fleas can transmit tapeworms, which can lead to poor growth, weight loss, gastrointestinal symptoms, and poor appetite, especially in young or small animals.

Ticks, on the other hand, can cause tick fever in dogs. Tick fever includes a range of diseases, such as babesiosis, ehrlichiosis and anaplasmosis. These diseases can make dogs very sick – lethargy, fever, anaemia, low platelet, and even neurological signs. Hence, prompt removal and prevention are vital to safeguard your pet’s well-being.

When it comes to tick removal, using tweezers is a popular DIY method. However, if not done correctly, it can lead to complications. Improper removal may leave parts of the tick’s mouthparts embedded in the skin, increasing the risk of infection.

Nowadays, there are more and more products available in the market that are convenient and safe for ectoparasite prevention in dogs and cats. There are oral tablets such as Nexgard, Nexgard Spectra, Simparica, Comfortis Plus and Bravecto. External spot-on applications such as Revolution Plus, Frontline Combo, and Advocate are also available as well as tick collar products such as Seresto.

For cats, the types of spot-on available in the market are Nexgard combo, Revolution Plus, Advocate and so on. You can opt for milder products such as Frontline spray to prevent ticks and fleas for puppies and kittens less than 6 weeks old. It is important to make sure your pets are on this prevention monthly. 


In addition to ectoparasites, gastrointestinal worms or endoparasites (parasites that live inside the host) are also common, especially in puppies and kittens. These worms can range from no symptoms to severe and life-threatening signs in the animal, depending on the type of worm and the severity of the infestation. Clinical signs of a high worm burden include lethargy, diarrhoea, vomiting, distended belly, and weight loss. Puppies and kittens should be dewormed fortnightly from 2 weeks old until 8 weeks of age, preferably with a product with activity against both adults and immature worms. Monthly deworming should be continued after the puppy and kitten turn 8 weeks old. Adult dogs should be dewormed monthly. More frequent deworming in adult dogs might be required in cases of heavy burdens.



In a nutshell, it is essential to be well-informed about ectoparasite and endoparasite prevention. Remember, taking preventive measures, seeking advice from your primary care veterinarian, and using reliable products are the keys to keeping your pets safe and healthy. By staying proactive and informed, you can help your pets enjoy a happy life by your side.


Dr Chen Swit Li

Bukit Jalil Veterinary Clinic & Surgery