Skip to content

Guide to flea and worm treatments for pets

Parasites like fleas and worms are more than just a nuisance. Left untreated, they can cause your pet serious health problems.

Both dogs and cats are susceptible to parasites, so it’s essential you have them regularly treated for worms and fleas. Here’s what you need to know about flea and worm treatment for dogs and cats.

Parasites like fleas and worms are more than just a nuisance. Left untreated, they can cause your pet serious health problems.

Both dogs and cats are susceptible to parasites, so it’s essential you have them regularly treated for worms and fleas. Here’s what you need to know about flea and worm treatment for dogs and cats.

Written by
Mubina Pirmohamed
Insurance comparison expert
Last Updated
22 MAY 2023
5 min read
Share article

What are fleas on dogs and cats?

Fleas are tiny wingless parasites that feed on your pet’s blood. They’re the most common parasite your dog or cat is likely to come into contact with.

How do dogs and cats catch fleas?

It’s easy for your pet to pick up fleas – either in the garden or when they’re out on a walk. Before you know it, you could have a flea infestation in your home.

What health problems do fleas cause in cats and dogs?

Flea bites cause itching in humans but can lead to more serious health problems in pets. These include:

  • Allergic dermatitis from flea saliva
  • Skin infections
  • Anaemia from blood loss
  • Worms from eating a flea infected with tapeworm larvae.

Signs your dog or cat might have fleas

  • Constant scratching and chewing
  • Sores, scabs or patches of hair loss
  • Your pet may show signs of depression
  • Tiny black droppings in your pet’s fur
  • Flea dirt on pet bedding, carpets or rugs
  • Flea bites on you or other household members.

Worms in dogs and cats

Once your puppy or kitten is old enough to go outside, they’re at risk of getting worms.

How do dogs and cats get worms?

Dogs and cats can catch worms by eating eggs found in contaminated soil or grass. They could also catch them by eating infected rodents, raw meat or fleas. Roundworm is common in kittens, as it can be passed on through their mother’s milk.

What types of worm affect cats and dogs?

Tapeworm and roundworm are the most common types of worm that can infect your pet. Lungworm, which is becoming more common, can cause serious health problems – including heart and lung disease.

How do worms affect dogs and cats?

Typical symptoms your pet might experience include:

In rare cases, worms can be fatal. So it’s important to treat your dog or cat regularly – or immediately – if you spot the signs.

How to know if your dog or cat has worms

There are some signs to look out for, including:

  • Worms, eggs or blood in their faeces
  • Worms around their rear
  • Worms in their vomit
  • A bloated belly
  • Dry, dull fur
  • Dragging their bottom along the ground.

Flea and worm treatments for pets

Both dogs and cats need regular treatment to protect against fleas and worms.

You can choose between several options, which include:

  • Topical treatments – combined flea and worm treatments for cats and dogs that can be applied directly to your pet’s skin. These usually come as spot-on treatments, powders, shampoos or sprays.
  • Tablets – flea and worm tablets for cats and dogs are good at flushing parasites out of your pet’s system. If your pet finds a pill difficult to swallow, chop it up and hide it in their food.
  • Tablets – flea and worm tablets for cats and dogs are good at flushing parasites out of your pet’s system. If your pet finds a pill difficult to swallow, chop it up and hide it in their food.
  • Collars – can help prevent fleas but won’t get rid of worms. Collars aren’t as effective as topical treatments or tablets.

Do I need to get flea and worm treatments for my dog or cat on prescription?

You don’t need a prescription to buy flea and worm tablets for dogs and cats. You can buy them online, at the supermarket or at your local vets. However, lungworm treatments are only available on prescription.

The RSPCA recommends talking to your vet about which products are safe to use. Also, read the instructions very carefully.

Whatever you do, never use flea treatments designed for dogs on cats. There have been very sad cases of cats dying when this has been done.

How often should I treat my cat or dog for fleas?

How often you’ll need to de-flea your dog or cat will depend on the products you’re using. Check the instructions on the packaging, but it’s likely you’ll need to treat your pet for fleas once a month.

How often do I worm a dog or cat?

You should treat your pet for worms every three months – in some cases, more often. Ask your vet the best course of action, depending on your pet’s lifestyle and where you live.

The table below gives an idea of when you should treat your dog or cat for fleas and worms. Ask your vet if you’re at all unsure.

Worms When to treat Fleas When to treat
Puppies Every 2 weeks from the age of 2 weeks Puppies From 6-8 weeks old, every 1-3 months, depending on product
Adult dogs Every 1-3 months Adult dogs Every 1-3 months, depending on product
Kittens Every 2 weeks from the age of 2 weeks Kittens From 8-10 weeks old, every 1-3 months, depending on product
Adult cats Every 1-3 months Adult cats Every 1-3 months, depending on product

How to prevent fleas and worms

Dealing with fleas and worms is part of owning a pet. But there are ways to reduce the risk of infestation:

  • Clean your home and pet bowls regularly using a pet-safe disinfectant
  • Clean up after your pet and carefully dispose of their faeces straightaway
  • Use flea and worm treatments often
  • Regularly groom your pet with a fine-toothed comb and check for eggs or droppings in their fur
  • Wash your hands before eating – worms are easily transmitted to humans, particularly children.

Does pet insurance cover flea and worm treatment?

Pet insurance doesn’t usually cover routine treatment like flea and worm medication, so this is something you’ll need to stay on top of yourself. You may be able to find a separate health plan that covers medications like flea and worm tablets.

Remember, your pet will be healthier and happier with regular flea and worm treatment. This could also help keep the cost of your pet insurance down.

Compare pet insurance

Get a pet insurance quote and you could start saving now

Get a quote

Frequently asked questions

Why do I need to keep treating my pet for fleas and worms?

It’s really important to keep treating your dog or cat for fleas and worms because flea pupae can lay dormant in your house for up to a year. If one hatches, it will seek out your cat or dog as a source of food.

But if you’re using flea protection, the flea will die before laying any more eggs.

Do I need to treat my house if my pet has fleas?

If your pet has fleas, it’s likely that they’ve spread around your home. Fleas nest and breed in bedding, carpets and curtains, so wash soft furnishings and use a flea spray once your pet has been treated.

Don’t forget to wash your dog or cat’s bedding so your pet isn’t reinfected.

Can I catch fleas or worms from my pet?

Fleas tend to prefer hairy animals like dogs and cats, but they bite people, causing itchy skin and even flu-like symptoms. Humans can catch roundworm, hookworm and whipworm, with children most at risk.

Symptoms include coughing, headaches and stomach pain. In rare cases, roundworm larvae can infect organs.

What problems can ticks cause my pet?

Like fleas and worms, ticks are small parasites that feed off your pet’s blood. They’re found in natural habitats, including woodlands, long grass and places wild animals have been.

Ticks carry bloodborne diseases like Lyme disease, which could cause problems in pets, including arthritis and kidney damage.

Compare pet insurance Get a quote