02 May Australian Tick Paralysis And Your Pet
At the moment cases of tick paralysis in dogs and cats are not at their peak. This is because Australian Paralysis Ticks are most active in Spring and early Summer. They are found mostly along the east coast of Australia. Their primary host is the bandicoot, but they can also be found on a number of other native animals.
In their quest to find a new host (and each other to breed) a tick will climb up to 50 cm in vegetation and wave their little front legs around until they manage to grab onto a passing animal which could be a dog or a cat. Ticks can also be carried on clothing or camping equipment and when brought into the home, might attach to pets indoors.
Once attached to the new host, the tick injects a local anaesthetic to numb the area so that it is not disturbed and will then start engorging itself on the host’s blood. As a tick feeds, it injects small amounts of the poison called holocyclotoxin from its salivary glands. A single adult female tick can produce enough toxin to cause death in a large dog.
Signs of tick paralysis are delayed 3-5 days from when feeding begins. Early signs include a softening of the bark/meow, weakness in the rear legs (the animal might frequently sit or have difficulty standing or walking, especially up stairs), loss of appetite and vomiting. These signs progress to paralysis of all four legs, coughing, laboured breathing and difficulty swallowing. Death is caused by paralysis of the respiratory muscles and can occur within 24 hours of signs beginning.
Prevention is definitely the best course of action with paralysis ticks. Speak with your vet about a tick preventative that works best in your local area. Performing a “tick search” 3-4 times per week is also invaluable. This involves walking your fingers through the coat in the opposite direction to fur growth; “feeling” for lumps and bumps on the skin. Particular attention should be paid to the head, neck and front leg areas (i.e., the front half of the animal); including ears, lips, mouth, nose and toes.
Generally speaking the ticks are grey, with legs close to the head. A distinguishing feature is the colour of the legs, with the first and last pair being brown and the two pairs in between being white. During the tick season, avoid taking your dog for a walk in areas of vegetation known to harbor ticks and keep the areas of your garden that pets have access to maintained (e.g, mow lawns, trim shrubs, remove fallen branches and ensure compost areas are secure).
Please call us if you have found a tick on your pet or if your pet has signs of tick paralysis. We can also help if you suspect your pet is having a reaction to a tick or flea preventative product. Our service is free to all pet owners. Phone 1300 869 738 (from Australia) or 0800 869 738 (from New Zealand).