Posted on 28 Mar 2013 in Ticks, Fleas

Fleas and ticks in the Northern Territory

While fleas and ticks can be a problem all year round in Darwin, they can often be particularly challenging in the wet season.


There are lots of flea species, but the flea that we find on our pets (dogs, cats and rabbits) is called Ctenocephalides felis, the cat flea. Fleas can make life miserable for our pets and can cause serious health problems, including severe skin problems from Flea Allergy Dermatitis, anaemia due to blood loss (this can be severe enough to be fatal, especially in young puppies and kittens), and they can carry parasites (Feline Infectious Anaemia, and also tapeworm).

Fleas can be hard to find, they are small and run away quickly, and animals are very good at licking fleas away. Just because we don’t see fleas, it doesn’t mean they’re not there!

Our warm humid environment is ideal for incubating flea eggs, and the life cycle is faster at warm temperatures, making them more difficult to control. Each adult female flea lays about 40 eggs per day for 4-6 weeks! It is important to realise that adult fleas only make up about 5% of the problem, the other 95% are the eggs, pupae and larvae. For this reason flea powders, washes and collars are generally not effective enough to control a flea problem on their own, as they only kill adult fleas, and they don’t work for long enough to control the problem.

We have a number of effective options for flea control, including a monthly tablet for dogs, and spot- on and spray treatments for dogs and cats. We also have options which combine flea control with heartworm prevention and intestinal worming. We are always happy to provide advice on the most appropriate treatment for your pet.

In addition to treating your pet for a flea problem, any bedding, carpets, and areas your pet goes, should be washed to help reduce the eggs and larvae in the environment.

It is also very important that all dogs and cats in the household are treated with an effective flea product, even if you are only seeing fleas on one of them!


Ticks are skin parasites that feed on the blood of their hosts (dogs). The tick that affects dogs in Darwin is the brown dog tick (Rhipicephalus sanguineus). As well as causing irritation, large numbers of ticks can cause life threatening anaemia (low numbers of red blood cells), and ticks can also transmit parasites that affect the red blood cells. We do not have the paralysis tick in Darwin, but it is occasionally seen on dogs that have recently come from other parts of Australia.

The brown dog tick uses 3 hosts to complete its lifecycle, requiring a blood meal before it can reach the next stage. The different stages of the lifecycle look quite different, but they are all the brown dog tick. Each female can lay around 4000 eggs!

While we see ticks all year round in Darwin, the brown dog tick is most active during the early wet season, with outbreaks frequently occurring. If we wait until ticks are crawling up the walls it becomes more difficult to control the problem! If you are seeing any ticks, it is important to treat your pet. In order to control the problem we need to break the tick life cycle.

We have sprays and spot-on treatments to help control ticks. If the problem is severe we can need to give a series of tick injections, which are usually very effective. It is important that to make sure that dogs do not have heartworm before using tick injections, if a dog is not on regular heartworm prevention, a heartworm test is needed.

If you find a tick on your pet, it is important to try and remove the head of the tick, pull steadily from very close to the skin, try not to squeeze the tick as you remove it. Make sure you check your pet regularly for ticks, don’t forget to look inside the ears, under the arms, and between the toes!

Please contact us at All Pets Veterinary Hospital to discuss the most appropriate tick control for your dog.

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