Ticks and your pets

Ok you have just relocated and have managed to sort the kids, your spouse, the house, Dr’s, Dentists. swimming classes, soccer lessons, schools AHHHH the list goes on. Next on your list of priorities at this time of the year needs to be your pets as we head into tick season. You have just moved to beautiful sunny Queensland but with this beautiful weather comes nasty paralysis ticks which are deadly for our little four legged loved ones.

Now I am no expert so we have a special guest Blogger and expert oh and of course (my fabulous sister) Dr Dallas Barker Veterinarian to give us the run down on these nasty little critters.

The Paralysis Tick – Ixodes holocyclus

Tick 1

Paralysis ticks can kill! If you find a paralysis tick (even if you’re not sure) please phone your veterinary clinic for advice as symptoms can continue to worsen even after the tick is removed.
Ticks are blood sucking parasites which are found throughout the world. Paralysis ticks are found along the east coast of Australia and can cause paralysis in dogs and cats, though less commonly in cats. The paralysis tick high risk season in the Brisbane area is from August through to March, though we do see cases throughout the year, even in winter.

Paralysis ticks feed on native Australian fauna such as bandicoots, echidnas and possums and so are found particularly in areas where these native species exist, including bushland, creeks and even backyards. The tick can also attach to your pet though, as they brush past foliage and vegetation. Once attached they start injecting toxin into your pet’s bloodstream which is toxic to nervous tissue.

Appearance of Paralysis Ticks?
An unengorged adult tick is approximately 4mm long; an engorged adult can triple in size, growing to 12-13mm long.

Tick 2 Tick 4

Symptoms of Tick Paralysis:
It can take several days after the tick has attached to the dog or cat for signs of poisoning to appear. The neurotoxin binds to nerves causing paralysis of muscles throughout the body. It is called an ascending paralysis, as the symptoms generally start to affect the hind limbs first and progressively move up the length of the animal’s body, to effect front limbs and muscles of respiration and swallowing.

• Ataxia – Wobbliness or a loss of coordination in the hind legs, progressing to complete inability to stand or walk.
• Dilated pupils
• Panting or agitation
• Change in voice
• Difficulty swallowing (delayed gag reflex) causing drooling, retching, gagging on food or water.
• Coughing
• Incontinence (due to paralysis)
• Difficulty breathing.
• Complete Paralysis
• Coma

If your pet displays any of these signs, treatment is essential as soon as possible. Even if the tick has already been killed and removed, clinical signs will usually continue to worsen due to the toxin still circulating in your pets’ bloodstream.

How is tick poisoning diagnosed?
There is no specific test for tick paralysis. If a paralysis tick is found on a pet with appropriate clinical symptoms, then the diagnosis is highly likely. However, it is not uncommon to have a pet showing these signs, and a tick cannot be found anywhere on them. In this instance, a tentative diagnosis can usually be made on symptoms alone. Most veterinary practices in the Brisbane area are very experienced in identifying and treating tick paralysis. It is often helpful and recommended that your pet be shaved from head to toe, to ensure the best chance to find any offending hitchhikers.

How is tick poisoning treated?
Treatment varies greatly between cases and can be very straight forward or can be incredibly intensive. Level of treatment will depend on the severity of the symptoms your pet is showing and most pets will require to be hospitalised for 1-3 days, possibly longer if complications occur.

Treatment involves injection of TAS (tick anti-serum). This serum contains antibodies to the neurotoxin and will bind any circulating toxin. Other aspects of treatment are supportive care, such as oxygen if your pet is having problems breathing, intravenous fluids to prevent dehydration, anti-vomiting drugs and/or antibiotics to minimise the risk of aspiration pneumonia, eye care (the toxin can prevent the blink reflex in some patients), sedation if your pet is distressed and anxious, expression of the bladder if it becomes paralysed and general nursing care.

Check your pet regularly. No product is 100% effective at preventing ticks from attaching to your pet and it is recommended that those who live in a tick area, check their pets from head to tail every day. Ticks are attracted to the carbon dioxide exhaled by your pets, and so often are found most commonly on the front 1/3 of the body, around the head and shoulders, BUT can be found anywhere on your pet. Check in ears, between toes and other areas of skin folds. Even if you find one tick, continue to check your pet as there may be more.

There are several products that may be used to help prevent ticks. Keep in mind most of these products are not registered for use in cats and can be toxic to them, so always read the packaging before applying to your pets.

• Advantix applied to the skin on the back of the neck every two weeks. It kills and prevents ticks.
• Frontline Plus Top Spot – Applied to the back of the neck every two weeks.
• Frontline Spray can be used every three weeks. This is applied to the entire coat. Care must be taken when applying it to the face. This is safe and registered for use on cats.
• Permoxin spray and rinse is applied to the dog on a weekly basis.
• Tick collars

How to remove a tick:
Ticks can be removed by grasping the tick as close to the animal’s skin as you can get and gently pulling while twisting. Tick removers (as seen in the image to the side) can be readily bought from most veterinarians. If you don’t have tick removers a pair of tweezers can be used. Frontline spray can also be sprayed directly onto the tick while still attached to the pet to kill it. Removal of the tick is your safest bet though.

Tick 5

Remember, if you are even a little bit suspicious that your pet may be showing signs of tick paralysis, your best chance of ensuring their full recovery is immediate examination by a veterinarian

Thanks so much Dallas,

And also remember these little ticks can attach themselves to humans as well as Sarah discovered after arriving when her youngest managed to get 2 within the 1st couple of mnths of being here , but we just used the tick remover and all was well

so keep those eyes peeled for these pesky little nippers 🙂


The Joy girls x

Written By
More from Jo

Gibbon Rehabilitation Project- Phuket, Thailand

Dear Joy Readers After a recent trip to Phuket and discovering the...
Read More

1 Comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.