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A Who's Who of Pet Pest Problems

By: Dr Gareth Evans - Updated: 17 Aug 2012 | comments*Discuss
Pet Pests Worms Roundworms Tapeworms

Pets are great company, but sometimes you can end up with rather more companions than you bargained for! Whether you favour Labradors or lizards, there may be times when your pet harbours a few unwelcome guests, so it’s well worth making sure that you can recognise the signs of some of the more common ones.

To help you ensure that their stay is a short one, here’s a quick 'who’s who' of the top pests that are most likely to make a nuisance of themselves.


Although cats, dogs and many other animals, including rabbits and hedgehogs, have their own particular kind of flea, it's the cat flea which typically causes most of the problems for pets – and bizarre though it sounds, are the most common type found on dogs!

Their flattened body, ability to move very quickly through your pet’s fur, and their spectacular, spring-assisted leaps makes them a pest that is unlikely to be confused with any other, so diagnosis of the problem is seldom difficult. Dealing with them, however, requires a two-pronged approach.

Surprisingly, fleas routinely spend a long time away from your pet’s body, and well-carpeted, centrally heated houses make ideal places for them to lurk. It has been calculated that there may be as many as ten times more fleas hiding in your home at any one time than there are actually on-board Fido or Tiddles, which is scarcely a comforting thought!

Fortunately, they’re not too difficult to control provided you use a good proprietary spray or liquid to deal with the ones on your pet. You should also thoroughly vacuum your carpets and floors, and use a suitable residual insecticide to take care of the adults, eggs and larvae in your home and car.

If your pet seems prone to fleas, it may be worth asking your vet about the latest generation of preventative treatments. These can be dabbed onto your animal's neck and provide several months of protection.


Tiny relatives of spiders and scorpions, mites are another pest which can cause problems for our pets. Certain kinds of mites are behind some of the most unpleasant conditions of all, including both sarcoptic (known as ‘scabies’ in humans) and demodectic mange. Even those which are less serious in disease terms can turn any afflicted animal's life into a real misery. At some stage in their life an estimated 90% of cats will have suffered from ear mites – kittens seem to be the worst affected.

Keep a careful eye out for any hair loss, scratching, or general signs that your pet is uncomfortable. If you do suspect mites, seek veterinary help.


A walk in the countryside can be great fun, but it can also be the ideal way to pick up a tick. These unpleasant creatures are related to mites and they’re very hard to spot, at least until they’ve started to gorge themselves. When this occurs, their bodies swell up with the blood they’ve sucked from your pet and they start to look like little grey peas.

Happily, they’re not difficult to remove, but you need to take care doing so. It’s very easy to break the ticks, leaving their head-end embedded in the flesh of your cat or dog. Vets and many good pet shops sell specially designed tick-removal tools to ensure that you get the beast out in one piece, but if you’re not happy doing this, it’s another time when a quick visit to the vet will soon get everything sorted.


There are two kinds of worms that may bother your pet – roundworms and tapeworms – and if you ever see either, you’ll instantly understand just how accurate those names really are. Tapeworms most often give themselves away when something that looks like a small, wriggling grain of rice gets left behind on your cat or dog’s tail fur after it’s 'done its business'; roundworms are less easy to spot, unless your pet happens to pass one, or sick one up.

In either case, routine worming with a suitable product will ensure that your animal stays worm-free. Your vet will be able to advise you on the best wormer to use.

Although it can sometimes sound like a never-ending struggle to keep your animal free of pests, the greatest battle is knowing what you’re up against. With a bit of vigilance, good prevention and swift treatment if it becomes necessary, your pet shouldn’t be too bothered by unwanted guests – and just as importantly, neither should you!

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