The Ultimate Guide To Parasite Prevention In Dogs

The Ultimate Guide To Parasite Prevention In Dogs

I recently posted a reel labelling a certain type of parasite prevention that is commonly used in dogs as poisonous, toxic and dangerous. It got a lot of attention, mostly negative, and resulted in me losing over 100 followers and being labelled a “tin-foil-hat-wearing-quack”.

Talk about learning the hard way that parasite prevention in dogs is quite…. topical (pun intended).

Many concerned pet parents wanted to know what the alternatives options are for parasite prevention, and many said it was dangerous to advise against using parasite prevention, particularly for those in paralysis tick regions.

So, I decided to put together a comprehensive guide to parasite prevention in dogs to answer questions like:

How do I protect my dog from parasites?

Should I give my dog parasite prevention?

How often do dogs need parasite prevention?

What is the best parasite prevention for dogs?

What is a natural parasite prevention for dogs?

But don’t just take my word for it!

I have gathered some expert opinions from a canine nutritionist (Clare Kearney from Hunde), a trusted vet (Dr Nicole Rous from Shy Tiger) and those with experience and success in using natural alternatives (Claire from The Kruzzy Kollective) and an experienced industry professional Karen English from Scratch & Sniff in Ballina NSW (AKA: paralysis tick central!).

I joked about titling this blog “Parasite-Gate”, but I decided to go with a much more “googleable” title as even though I laugh now about all the hate I got, this is a serious issue and should be treated as such (can’t help myself with the puns!) #sorrynotsorry. DON’T@ME!

As this is quite comprehensive, I have broken it up into three sections so you can choose to read what’s most relevant to you.


Intestinal Worms

Contrary to what the clever marketing from big pharma will have you believe- worming medication doesn’t actually “prevent” worms. It just kills whatever is already there. This is why we worm puppies at a much higher frequency than adult dogs- because it takes much less of a worm burden to cause serious problems for a puppy than it does an adult dog.

Personally, I rarely worm my dog, Lulu. Maybe once every couple of years if I remember. Not because I’m against worming medication- I actually think intestinal wormers are the lesser of all the evils, as they usually have just one active ingredient and are not too toxic. But remember- every medication you give your dog needs to be processed by the body, so nothing is without an effect.

When dogs “scoot” it is automatically assumed that they have worms, but scooting is way more likely to be because of anal glands that intestinal worms. More on that here

Dr Nicoles thoughts on intestinal worming:

Gut wormers I treat as a “case-by-case” situation, I strongly believe a healthy gut (hello fresh fed pets) are pretty resistant to parasites but I’m also not naive it’s a possibility. We’re lucky we don’t have all the parasite issues they have in other countries but there are still zoonotic diseases of concern so I personally will randomly worm my dogs probably once a year with Milbemax, but if I was vigilant- I would do faecal floats every 6 months to assess if they have a worm burden and only worm if needed. There are many natural products that have *some* evidence against worms like pumpkin seeds (cucurbitacin) and even our controversial friend garlic (I’m pro garlic!).

I think in general wormers are in and out of the body and the chemicals aren’t stored like flea/tick/heartworm chemicals so I worry less.

Clare from Hunde on intestinal worms:

I don’t give intestinal wormers with any frequency. I will treat for worms if I suspect an infestation or just sort of randomly once every so often as a precaution but because they don’t have fleas, worms are much less likely. Generally, I try to avoid giving my dogs medications and chemical treatments unless there is an actual need, rather than a potential. Ticks are an exception because they’re so quick and deadly.

Key takeaways for intestinal worms:
1. Worming medication does not “prevent” worms- it kills whatever worms are already there.
2. It’s important to worm puppies at a higher frequency than adult dogs.
3. If you want to avoid unnecessarily over medicating- you can have a faecal float done at your vet, and only treat for worms if your dog has them.
4. The chemicals in intestinal worming medications are less harmful than some medications that treat for multiple parasites at once.
5. Some natural options that *may* assist in preventing intestinal worms are pumpkin seeds, garlic, diatomaceous earth, furry treats (like these) or homeopathic remedies.

Product Recommendations:


I have never treated my dog for heartworm, and in my decade plus experience as a vet nurse, I never once saw a positive heartworm case. Like testing for intestinal worms before treating- we can do the same for heartworm. A simple blood test at your vet will give you a negative or positive result, so for something that can be easily checked and only treated when and if necessary- I would tend to avoid giving a monthly treatment for heartworm. Especially given its VERY unlikely for your dog to get heartworm anyway (particularly for those that don’t live in tropical climates).

Clare from Hunde on heartworm:

I don’t treat for heartworm; I test for it. This is something I feel a bit conflicted over and I wonder if I should use prevention because I do live in an area where it’s possible. But for now, we test.

I feel okay about testing for heartworms because it’s a slower progressing parasite and it can be treated effectively down the road if detected fairly early, whereas ticks its often very serious once symptoms show and that can happen in a matter of hours.

Dr Nicole on heartworm:

For Heartworm I choose to run the blood antigen tests at the same time as titre testing and am also in a low-risk area.

Key takeaways on heartworm:

  1. It can be easily tested for at the vet with a simple blood test.
  2. Like paralysis ticks, the risk of heartworm is location/climate based so this should be taken into consideration when choosing whether or not a preventative is necessary for your dog.


Fleas and Ticks

This is where we start to get a little controversial. Fleas and ticks themselves are generally not particularly HARMFUL and can be treated relatively easily when and if necessary, with the exception of the paralysis tick- which are absolutely harmful.

Because I live in Melbourne VIC, I don’t treat Lulu for fleas or ticks as I have never seen one on her in years (well actually her entire life).


Dr Nicole:

Flea/tick prevention for me is on an at-risk individual assessment. I don’t personally choose to do it as I live in suburban Melbourne where we don’t see paralysis tick (yet!). If we did, I can guarantee I would and I know other integrative vets feel the same. Unfortunately, there is no natural prevention (that I am aware of) that’s effective against paralysis tick. I would also probably treat if I had immune compromised individuals in my household just due to increased risk of disease (e.g. cat scratch fever).

Clare from Hunde:

I use chemical flea and tick preventatives on my dogs because I live in the Northern Rivers, where it’s subtropical and an extremely high-risk area for paralysis ticks. It’s definitely not something I decided to do lightly, it’s actually something I really struggle with because the idea of feeding my dogs insecticide is completely at odds with the way I approach caring for them generally. They’re totally raw fed, receive minimal vaccinations (when actually required, not on an arbitrary schedule), and we try to opt for holistic care when possible and appropriate. But I love them dearly so I need to sometimes put my personal beliefs aside for their benefit, and tick prevention is one of those times. 

We use Nexguard monthly chewables because it’s the brand I have researched the most extensively and the research indicates that the side effects are actually extremely low (but I do acknowledge that this research is often imperfect). Monthly over 3-monthly so it’s less poison at a time, and I use chewables over spot-ons because they’re more effective (99% vs 80-something). I avoid Bravecto because, even though the chemicals work the same way, this particular pesticide is widely used in crops and other pest baits and it poses some environmental issues, plus I’ve heard more horror stories about it. I only ever use the flea and tick version, not the one that does everything at once. If they had one that was just for ticks, I’d use that but it’s the same poison that kills fleas so they’re always combined. If I need to treat worms I do it separately to spread the toxic load out, which was actually recommended by my wonderful raw-feeding vet too. 

We generally only treat during tick season, but to be honest that’s become pretty blurry lately and I found two ticks on one of my dogs in July this year, so I might need to start using it close to year-round unfortunately. Winter here is very mild and the floods sent the ticks into overdrive, plus we have ticks on our property, so it’s not just a matter of being cautious on bush walks. 

If I was confident that a natural solution would effectively manage paralysis ticks I’d be open to it, but I’m not aware of any that come close in effectiveness. Manually checking them every day unfortunately isn’t a realistic approach for us either as one of my dogs is double coated and the other is very reactive and doesn’t like to be examined, plus I have a baby and I work full time. If they weren’t paralysis ticks that could kill my dogs in a short period, I wouldn’t feel the need to do it. 

I also weigh up the impact that needing to treat my dogs for tick borne illness would have on them. An intensive hospital stay with anti-tick serum is not something I take lightly either, both from a cost perspective but also the long- and short-term impact it would have on them physically. 

For me it really is about balance. I am balancing the risk of tick preventative side effects with tick illness, as well as my guilt if they succumbed to a tick vs if they became unwell from my effort to protect them. They live a very low-tox life and are both in excellent health, so they’re well placed to tolerate this one less than ideal addition. People say it’s like taking painkillers in case you get a headache, but I view it as more akin to taking anti-malaria drugs when you travel to high-risk places, or immunising against deadly diseases. I think a lot of the issues come from stacking lots of less-than-ideal additives, like monthly parasite all-in-ones, annual vaccinations, processed food, medications that treat symptoms etc etc. It’s up to us to manage all of this in combination, so education is so key to making the decision that’s right for you and your animals on the basis of your personal circumstances. 



Claire from Kruzzy Kollective:

As a raw feeder for my boy Kruz I always try to do the best by him when it comes to parasite protection. I choose to treat him naturally after he had a bad reaction to a flea and tick treatment at the age of 1. This is why I choose to give Kruz natural prevention for parasites these include: blackseed oil, diatomaceous earth, apple cider vinegar, pumpkin seeds and coconut oil.

Karens thoughts:

As we know the East Coast of Australia is where the ticks typically congregate and there are two paralysis tick species out there in the Northern and Southern parts of the coast.

The main key to understand as a pet owner with keeping on top of fleas, worms and ticks from a more holistic perspective is to have a healthy strong immune system and this involves providing your pet with a balanced species appropriate diet of meat, organs and bones making up that bulk of the diet.

As parasites look for a weakened host and what weakens our pets immune system is inundating them with chemicals, preservatives and synthetic vitamins and minerals that are found in the many highly processed options available out there on the market now.

By the use of over vaccinating our pets when we should be considering titer testing, plus using the chemical options for preventing ticks, fleas and worms, also weaken the immune system.

By creating an environment internally for your pet that isn’t suitable for parasites, but also understanding the external environment your pet is exposed to is how it all works together. As long term and even short-term use for some dogs these chemical options can come with consequences with seizures, cancers, tumours, leaky gut etc etc…plus shortening possibly your pets life. And to also understand if your dog genetically has the MDR1 gene which puts them at a greater risk of seizures with the options like Bravecto etc and even Ivermectin (used in worming products for pets) can be a problem as well.

Internal options that can be used are adding to the diet options such as fresh garlic, apple cider vinegar, crushed pumpkin seeds, diatomaceous earth and herbs e.g. wormwood, herbal tinctures etc. Food additions like grated carrot, coconut flakes, options with the fur on can act as a cleanse option for worms…plus detoxing your pet with something like milk thistle …in conjunction with a species appropriate diet.

Externally is knowing about the environment you live in as ticks are more prolific in areas where wildlife/ bandicoots are one of the main carriers of ticks in grass and bush dense areas, also the east coast of Australia. As by maintaining your yard/ paddock with cutting grass regularly…you can use nematodes to help control the ticks, or by not taking your pet in areas that ticks are known or using topical options on your pet.

Topical options can be an apple cider water mix sprayed on the coat, essential oil mix sprayed on the coat, neem oil options, diatomaceous earth and even coconut oil rubbed into the coat …. plus, anything lemon or citrus be that oils is a good deterrent to ticks, mites and fleas and mosquitos that spread the heartworm. As heartworm are only transmitted more during the summer months when the temperature has been above 14C constant for 8 days…otherwise it breaks the cycle for it to occur.

There is no 100% guarantee with any option be that natural or chemical to be reliant on…as always check your pets coat daily…if needing to use a chemical option I would be opting more for a spot-on external option over something internal.

Key takeaways for fleas & ticks:

1. The “all-in-one” medications that treat for 4-5 parasites at a time are the most toxic and potentially dangerous. 

2. If you live in a paralysis tick area its important to prevent ticks.

3. If you want to avoid unnecessarily over medicating- the spot-on treatments that treat for fleas and ticks only and work from the outside rather than the inside-out are less likely to cause serious adverse effects.

4. Some natural options that *may* assist in preventing fleas and ticks are: blackseed oil, fresh garlic (added to food), diatomaceous earth, essential oils.



It is up to you as the pet parent, to educate yourself on all the parasite prevention options available and choose preventative medications based on risk posed to your pet. The level of risk that each individual is comfortable with varies- so choosing to prevent or not is entirely your decision.

An important factor in all of this is considering your dog’s general health and well-being. Healthy dogs who eat well and life relatively “low tox” lives are more likely to have strong immune systems and are therefore less desirable hosts for parasites all together.


Dr Nicoles Main Takeaways on Parasite Prevention in Dogs:

1. If immune compromised individuals in your household just use the preventatives (because of the zoonosis risk).

2. If residing in a paralysis tick area- use preventatives.

3. The chemicals used in gut wormers are less of a concern than flea/tick/heartworm.

4. Don’t feel bad about the choices you need to make for your family. Diet plays a bigger role in health than any of these thing’s IMO.

5. If you have to use them, consider implementing a detox regime as part of their lifestyle. Karen Becker has a good video on this.


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