Flea, Tick, Lice, Mites and Worms

There is nothing that quite grosses owners out more than knowing that external or internal parasites are living on or in their pets. The creepy factor is huge and so are the health concerns caused by certain parasites. A good parasite is not supposed to kill its host but it can sure make their life miserable and as vectors of diseases, many of the insect and worm pests are pretty evil. Here is our primer on the parasite situation in Victoria, read on and the gross factor should lessen, especially when you find out that we can control and prevent these bugs from making your pets life hell.


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By far the most common skin parasite of dogs and cats in Victoria are fleas. Our flea season is generally June through October. If pets have not been on any one of many effective flea products listed below during the flea season, then it is common to have a second period of flea problems in households during December and January. Fleas can spread some infections (like the Black Plague) and suck the like blood out of weakened pets. The good news is that fleas can easily be prevented. Fleas are the intermediate host of tapeworms and so if your pet is diagnosed with tapeworms, be sure to treat them for fleas. See products section below for effective treatments, we carry them all, but ask our staff to guide you to the product right for your situation. Treat all the pets in the house for at least three months if you find your pet has fleas.

Veterinarian Services


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Ticks are seasonal and in Victoria we tend to see higher numbers of pets contacting ticks in the winter months of Jan-Feb and then in the summer, generally, June through August. On Vancouver Island, ticks may carry Lyme disease caused by a bacteria Borrelia burgdorfi. The intermediate hosts for the Pacific Tick are mice, rabbits and alligator lizards. Deer, humans, dogs and cats are often the final hosts. Very rarely dogs in our area may contract two other tick vector bacterial infections, Ehrlicia and Anaplasma. Ticks basically infect animals with these disease when they feed on hosts, so it is best to use products which repel or kill ticks quickly..these include Bravecto, Revolution, Advantage Multi and Adantix. Rarely do ticks spread from one pet to another in a household.


Ticks – Menace or Myth

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Perhaps no feeling gives humans the creeps like the that of finding a tick crawling on them and the same applies when they find a tick on their dog. There is frequently hysteria about the blood sucking habits of ticks and the diseases they can potentially transmit to us and our pets. But are they really a menace or are they so shrouded in myth that we can’t see that they are just arachnids going about living their lives?

The Western black-legged tick, Ixodes pacificus, is the main species of tick found on Vancouver Island. There appear to be two main tick seasons for many areas of Vancouver island, a spike in the winter months of January and February and another during the summer, May through July. In the nymph stage ticks need blood meals to complete development (nymph to adult) and as adults, the blood meal provides a protein source for producing eggs. Either stage can feed on a host of animals, including deer, rabbits, mice, dogs and humans and even reptiles, such as the alligator lizard. Cats appear to remarkably good at grooming ticks off their bodies thus we seldom see ticks in cats.

Humans and dogs generally encounter ticks in grassy, brushy and wooded areas when the ticks are questing for a host. “Questing” is the term used for the way in which a tick crawls out onto the tips of vegetation with some of the eight legs hanging onto vegetation while the other legs hang out in the air waiting for the host to brush next to them and then they grab onto the host. The most common locations where tick are found on dogs are the head and upper front torso of the dog, simply because these are the areas that are the first contact points as a dog moves forward through the brush.

Once on the host they select an area of skin and will start to take a blood meal. Contrary to myth, the head of the tick does not get buried in the skin, in fact only two small mouth parts actually penetrate the skin and to hold on, they secrete a biological glue called “cementum” from glands in their body. Secured firmly in the skin of the host, the mouthparts tap into capillaries and the long slow process of taking a blood meal begins. Full engorgement can take up to 48 hours and a tick may attain the size of a pea. Once full of blood, and ready to release, the tick secretes a digestive enzyme from the gut which dissolves the glue and allows the tick to pull out the mouthparts and drop off the host. It is during this last phase that disease producing bacteria are released into the blood stream of the host and infection can occur. Thus, if your find tick when it is small and flat and before it fully engorges, it is unlikely to had time infect your pet.

Fortunately, on Vancouver Island, Lyme Disease, caused by the bacterial Borrelia burgdorferi, is rare in dogs and people, and it has proven to be difficult to definitively diagnose. Blood tests may help determine the presence of disease and the general course of treatment, if the disease is suspected in dogs, is one of several antibiotics. Prognosis for recovery is good if treated, yet many dogs may also recover without treatment. The mains signs of Lyme disease in dogs are lethargy, inappetence, stiff joints and lameness, fever and swollen lymph nodes. There is also an annual vaccination against Lyme Disease in dogs and it is often recommended by veterinarians for dogs whose lifestyles put them in higher risk of tick bites in areas where Lyme disease is present.

Another tick borne disease that has been recorded more recently on southern Vancouver Island is a rickettsial bacteria called Anaplasma. This organism produces many of the same signs of disease in dogs as seen in Lyme Disease and the organism can create signature changes to platelet counts, red cell counts and even be seen in white cells on a blood smear. This organism can be treated successfully with a course of antibiotics.

Your dogs has a generally low risk of getting either disease on Vancouver Island, but the diseases can be serious therefore it is worth taking steps to avoid being bitten. There are several safe veterinary prescription flea and tick prevention products that are very effective in killing ticks before taking blood meals or just after starting to take a blood meal, and thus can greatly reduce tick borne diseases in dogs. Advantix and Revolution are topical medication applied monthly to the skin of dogs. Newer generation flea and tick products such as Bravecto and NexGard are perhaps the most effective prevention medications and both are oral chew tabs. One Bravecto chew tab gives three months of tick control, while NexGard is given monthly. Bravecto is also a very effective off-label treatment for eliminating mites, the tiny cousins of ticks; specifically Demodex and Sarcoptes mites, which cause two forms of mange in dogs.

If you find a tick on your dog the most effective way to remove them is with tick twisters, tick pullers or tweezers available at vet clinics and pet stores. Pull the tick straight out from the skin and try not to squeeze an engorged tick. Using vaseline, matches, kerosene, alcohol etc., are generally not effective and may harm your pet. The small firm bump in the skin that is left behind after pulling out the tick will eventually regress, but if an area of spreading redness develops then consult your veterinarian as this could be a sign of bacterial infection.

So generally, it could be said that yes there is a gross out factor for humans with ticks, but note that your dog may seem completely unaware it has a tick on it. By using effective tick prevention medications, close checking of your pet and tick removal after hikes in the bush, the risks of developing illness are fairly low here on Vancouver Island. Consult your veterinarian if you are finding many ticks on your pets during tick season and place them on a preventative medication.


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Lice are quite a common cause of intense itching in dogs (occasionally cats). As in humans, biting or sucking lice lay eggs (nits) on the shaft of hair/fur and can been seen quite easily with careful inspection of the fur, especially around the head in dogs. Any grooming equipment should be carefully disinfected if your pet dogs get lice. Lice are usually spread by close contact with other dogs when playing or sleeping together. Keep your pet away from other animals until the infection is gone and treat all pets in the household. The best products to combat lice are Revolution and Advantage Multi.


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In our area we rarely see mange (basically a term for any mite infections) in dogs, except in young dogs who have Demodectic mange. This is a mite which is present in the hair follicles in all mammals, but only in certain conditions which are not fully understood, does it develop into a difficult to control generalized skin disease.
Best traditional treatment for mites is with Ivomectins such as Advantage Multi. Recent trials using Bravecto in our clinic and on dogs in our Mexi-Can Vet Project, have shown high efficacy for eradication of Demodex, but as of 2015, using this flea and tick control product for treating mites is considered off label. Demodex is not easily infective from one dog to another in the same household.

Ear mites in cats are usually a problem in kittens. These are easily eradicate with many different medications which our vets can recommend.



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Nothing more disgusting than finding worms in a pets poop or vomit. Generally in our area we find ascarid worms (roundworms) or tape worms. Adult round worms are long, thin, pointed ended and can be seen in vomit or stool, usually in pups or kittens. In adult pets, roundworms are more common in dogs than cats, mostly because dogs think the poop of other dogs (containing the roundworm eggs) can be tasty…whereas cats do not. But since most owners scoop poop, roundworms are seemingly less common now a days. Children can become infected by dog or cat roundworm larvae and being an abnormal host, the worms can migrate to eyes or brain tissue and cause problems. This is also uncommon here in Canada. Many products can eradicate roundworms. Ask you vet to the best medication in your situation.

We also occasionally diagnose lungworm in cats in our area, generally in farm or feral cats. They pick up these parasites, which as their name suggests infect the lung tissue, by eating frogs, snails, slugs which carry the larval form.

Tapeworms live in the intestines of cats and dogs and release “segments”, basically egg packets, into the gut appearing a small rice grain-like worms on the surface of stool. Cats occasionally get tapeworm species from eating small mammals or birds, but by far we see pest with fleas getting infected with tapeworms, because when a cat or dog grooms an infected flea off it’s body, it passes the tapeworm larvae onto the the new host. These are gross worms but cause few if any problems. Tape worms are treated with a special medication – praziquental.

Products for Controlling Parasites

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Products for External Parasites

We stock many easy to administer, safe and effective external parasite treatment options.  They fall under the following categories:  topical medications, oral medications, injectable medications, collars and household sprays. You really need to ask our staff for the best product for your situation to prevent or treat an active infestation.

Topical Products are given every month:


effective against fleas only

Advantage Multi

kills fleas, lice, ticks, mites and intestinal worms


kills fleas and ticks (cannot be used in cats)


kills fleas, ticks, intestinal worms, lice and some mites

Oral Products are:


one chew tab controls fleas, ticks (and probably mites) for three months!


one chew tab controls fleas and ticks for one month. Sold in box of 6 chews.


one tablet controls fleas for one month


monthly chew pill and is basically Comfortis and a dewormer combined


monthly oral flea control, works on preventing eggs hatching

Injectable (cats only)

Program Injectable

one injection controls fleas for 6 months



prevents flea eggs from hatching for 6 months

Household Sprays


a premise spray containing a quick adult kll and an insect growth hormone regulatory lasts for several months