Paralysis ticks (Ixodes spp) occur 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.
The tick latches onto your pet (affects both dogs and cats) and feeds, whilst simultaneously injecting their toxin.The tick toxin stops the ability of the nerve ending to work normally and causes your pet to become very ill, and even result in fatality.
Symptoms of tick paralysis
Symptoms depend on how much toxin is injected into your pet, and also your pets sensitivity to it. It can take more than 5 days for symptoms to be seen after the tick has attached, and can cause the any of following:
- A change in voice (i.e. bark)
- Loss of appetite
- Weakness progressing to paralysis, often starting in the back legs moving to all four
- 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.
Tips to protect your pet
- Know areas affected by paralysis ticks
- 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 or 3 monthly tablets. 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 for tick paralysis
1. If you see the tick – remove it
The longer the tick is on your pet the more paralysis inducing poison they can pass on, so my advice is that if you are not close to your Vet clinic – remove it yourself – then head to the clinic. If you’re only a couple of minutes from the Vet they can do it for you.
Ideally with a tick removal tool (always have one on you – these are cheap and available most Vet clinics and pet stores). 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.
If you don’t have a 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.
Place the tick in a container for your local Veterinarian to identify.
2. Calmly head to the Vet
If you even suspect tick paralysis for your pet or they are showing any of the above symptoms you must seek Veterinary attention immediately. Early intervention increases the chance of survival.
Stay calm, keep your pet as still as possible and head straight to your local Veterinarian, have someone call them advising that you’re on the way so they can be prepared to look after your pet from the moment you arrive.