Paralysis ticks are the most dangerous ectoparasite that can affect your pet. Thousands of dogs every year are affected, and unfortunately, some die from the toxic serum secreted from the tick. You may have heard this called “tick paralysis” or “tick toxicity”. Paralysis ticks are found along the eastern coast of Australia, stretching down to Victoria. They are abundant from September – January, aptly named ‘tick season’ but can infest your pet at any time of the year, especially after a wet few days then a dry, hot day. Tick paralysis can affect dogs and cats, in all areas, from homes which are in bushy landscape, as well as residential suburbs without native vegetation.
Signs of tick paralysis in your pet
If your pet visits or lives in a high risk area, it is important that you remain vigilant of the signs of tick paralysis. These include loss of coordination of the hind legs (ranging from wobbliness to not being able to stand), change in voice or bark, retching or coughing or vomiting, loss of appetite, and laboured or rapid breathing. Not all cases have the same signs, as the location of the tick will affect clinical signs seen. If you notice any of these signs during spring and summer, you will need to see your vet immediately.
What do you do if you find a tick?
First, seek veterinary attention ASAP. Your pet will not get better by simply removing the tick, however, this is the first thing to do after notifying your vet. Keep the tick, either in a sealed container or zip-lock bag, so your vet will be able to identify the tick.
Keep your pet calm and at a comfortable temperature (Not too hot or not too cold).
Do not offer food or water, as this may make your pet’s condition worse, as tick paralysis can affect your pet’s ability to swallow, leading to aspiration pneumonia and breathing difficulty.
When your pet is at the vet clinic, your vet will administer an anti-toxin. This will neutralise the toxin in the system, and allow your pet to start to recover. Unfortunately, the severity of the condition and the location of the tick will affect the outcome and the length of time for recovery. Your pet may need hospitalization overnight to several days.
How can you protect your pet?
There are several things you can do to properly protect your pet, the best is to apply an approved tick prevention according to the instructions. Ensure that if you are protecting a cat, you use only the product which are approved for cats, either Frontline Original, Frontline Plus or Frontline Spray. Any other products listed for dogs only will make your cat very sick, as they are sensitive to pyrethrins and will be poisoned by products such as Advantix and Preventic/Killtix collars.
Preventic collars will protect your dogs for 2 months, however should not be allowed to be chewed on or get wet. Frontline Original and Frontline spray is incredibly effective when applied every two weeks.
Search your pet daily over Spring/Summer for ticks, even if you regularly apply tick prevention. Doing this will give you the best chance of finding a tick before your pet is affected. Remove any ticks that are present, keep them for identification and don’t forget to search for more. Ticks are attracted to carbon dioxide, so they are mostly found on the face, ears, neck and front legs. Use your fingertips to search for any lumps or scabby areas on your pet, as this will help you locate the tick or the ‘crater’ that the tick had lodged in. Start at your pets face, and slowly examine, feel and look for any lumps, or displacement of the hair. Remove your pets collar and search through the skin folds around the neck, careful not to forget the shoulders, front legs and between the toes. Continue this method for entire body, until the tip of the tail.