Being a responsible pet owner

Ticks, worms and mange in pets

There are a number of health concerns and diseases that pet owners in the Northern Territory (NT) should know about.

These are often preventable through various treatments.

Parasites are endemic, debilitating diseases that can sometimes be passed on to humans.

Chances of this increase when there is close contact between the affected animal and humans, especially children.


Ticks are a blood feeding parasite that can anchor to an animal or human.

Continuous infestations of ticks can cause irritation, infection, loss of vitality and life threatening anaemia.

Pets can be treated with dusts, dips or sprays. Treatment of the animal's home may also be needed.

Be careful removing ticks from animals as the wound can become infected.

To prevent ticks, groom pets regularly to check for parasites and help keep them away.

The animal's bedding and surrounding areas should be kept clean and be checked for items that can harbour ticks.

Ticks can transmit Ehrlichia canis bacteria to dogs resulting in ehrlichiosis disease.


Worms are intestinal parasites that can infect animals including dogs, cats, horses and humans. Worms are serious especially in dogs and horses.

Worms can be difficult to identify so see a vet for treatment.

All dogs, cats and horses need to be treated for worms on a regular basis to stop contraction.

Basic hygiene can help stop worms as some worms are transferred through contact with infected faecal matter.


This can lead to anaemia as the worm sucks blood from the inside of the small intestine, causing loss of iron and protein. Diarrhoea and vomiting can lead to puppies and kittens becoming dehydrated.

Hookworm infection should be treated as soon as possible.


This can affect animals and humans. It lives mainly in the small intestine of the host and absorbs nutrients from food the animal eats. This interferes with digestion and causes pneumonia. Roundworms also cause anaemia.


This infects animals through a mosquito bite.

Adult heartworms live in the heart of the host animal where they can live for several years, eventually killing the animal through congestive heart failure.

Once infected, treatment can be difficult and uncomfortable so it is best to use a regular preventative medication.


Often this doesn't have obvious symptoms.

It can cause hydatid cysts, which can be very serious for humans. Regular preventative de-worming of animals, especially dogs, is essential.


Mange is a microscopic mite that attaches under the fur of the animal.

Depending on the type of mange, bathing with medicated shampoo may be enough to keep mild infestations in check. Antibiotics may be needed.

To prevent mange, the first defence is to keep the pet's natural immune system working effectively by taking care of its overall health and fitness.

Demodectic mange

This is a commonly occurring mite that causes problems when the animal's natural immune system is weakened due to extreme stress or malnutrition.

It can cause mild irritation, hair loss and secondary infection. This type of mange is not normally transmitted to humans.

Sarcoptic mange (scabies)

This is a highly contagious scabies mite that burrows into the skin and causes intense itching, crusting, hair loss and infection.

Start treatment quickly and include isolating the affected animal and thoroughly cleaning its bedding.

This type of mange can be transmitted to humans and other types of animals.

Cheyletiella mange

This is highly contagious and, although not a burrowing mite, it may infect humans and animals.

In dogs, this type of mange causes mild itching and looks like dandruff.

Treatment often needs a topical pesticide appropriate to the animal.

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Last updated: 18 June 2020

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