Al was on a camping holiday and worried that his 10-year-old labrador Sam was suffering from arthritis. He was dragging his back leg a bit and seemed quite weak. That combined with the fact poor Sam didn’t want to stand for long periods of time and Al was beside himself with worry.
He did what any modern-day pet parent would do and jumped on the internet to consult vetchat. He wanted an expert opinion from an independent vet so he could work out the best plan of attack for his beloved Sam.The vetchat vet asked a few questions and examined Sam over video, concluding that Sam needed to hightail it to the vet immediately. You see in this case waiting overnight could have been deadly. Sam’s leg wasn't just affected by arthritis, he was weak because he was affected by the deadly paralysis tick.
Paralysis ticks are a problem in Australia, largely along the east coast from North Queensland to Victoria. They love warm, humid weather so up north they are a problem all year around, and in NSW they tend to peak in Spring and Summer.
When this tick latches on to feed on your fur kid (dogs and cats) they will also be injecting a poison which will cause your pet to become very sick and if left untreated, can result in death.
What happens when dogs and cats are poisoned by paralysis ticks?
The paralysis poison that’s injected into your mate can cause the following:
- A change in voice (i.e. bark)
- Loss of appetite
- Weakness/wobbliness of the legs, progressing to paralysis (back legs first but can spread to the front legs too)
- Difficulty breathing
If your pet is showing any of these symptoms it’s essential to have them checked out by your local veterinarian immediately as early intervention gives best chance of full recovery.
How do I prevent paralysis tick poisoning in my pet?
- Know where ticks are found. Ask a vet
- Use a preventative. Chat to a veterinarian about what works best for you and your pet. For dogs, options include sprays, collars, spot-ons (reapplied every two weeks), monthly tablets and the newest (and very exciting!) one is a very effective tablet that can be given orally every 3 months. Cats have less options and some dog products are life threatening to cats
- Stay away from bushland. Ticks love it there
- Tick search daily. Don’t rely on preventatives alone. Use your finger tips to comb through your pet's coat for 5 minutes every day. You are feeling for a lump on the skin, from the tip of their nose to their tail, and everywhere in between! Most ticks are found from the shoulders forward (ear and lip folds as well), but they can be anywhere and are also often found on the paws. Feel over your entire pet every night as part of your regular routine (they’ll love this part!)
First aid when you find a paralysis tick
The longer the tick is on the animal the more paralysis inducing poison they can pass on, so my advice is:
1. Remove the tick immediately
There are a couple of options here.
- Tick Removal Tool : Best option. Buy one, no, buy two! One for in the car and keep one on hand. They are cheap and can be purchased from pet care shops and veterinary clinics. They allow you to easily lever and twist the tick off your pet’s skin so that the tick’s legs and head are all removed and nothing is left behind to cause an allergic reaction or pass more toxin to your pet.
- No tool? You can use tweezers or even your finger nails underneath the attached tick as close to the skin of your pet as possible. Do be careful not to squeeze the body of the tick, as this could cause increased risk of an allergic reaction, or risk more poison to be passed to your pet. This method may not remove all parts of the tick that are burrowed into the skin, but at least no more poison is being released.
2. Collect Tick
Place the tick in a sealed bag or container so you can show your local veterinarian and ensuring it can’t escape to cause a problem to anyone else.
3. Keep Calm
It can be a number of days from the feeding of a paralysis tick on your mate until signs are seen. This means that even if things appear normal with your buddy after you have removed a tick, they are still not out of the woods, and you need to keep your pet quiet for a number of days afterwards. A common situation is that pets go away to a high risk tick area for the weekend, and it’s not until they’re home, on the Tuesday or Wednesday that they are showing signs that they have been poisoned
4. Seek Help
See your local veterinarian IMMEDIATELY if you have any concerns or see any of the signs listed above in your pet. Lack of intervention can be deadly for your mate.
Take home tick strategy
- Prevention is best. Preventatives (available from your vet) AND daily checking.
- If found, paralysis ticks needs to be removed immediately.
- Signs that your pet is affected by ticks may not be seen for days after the tick has been feeding, or even after they have been removed.
- If ticks are in the area then seemingly minor symptoms such as a change in your pets voice or vomiting, are possible indicators of tick poisoning.
- Early veterinary intervention gives the best chance of full recovery.
Want help? Chat with our vets
Our experienced Aussie vets are online between 6am-11pm daily, so let’s get an action plan in place for your fur kid. Get an appointment for a video consult or start a chat within minutes.