What is a Paralysis Tick?

Paralysis ticks are prevalent particularly in spring and summer. They are found in bushland and are commonly carried by wildlife such as possums and bandicoots. However, we are finding more and more ticks are finding their way into our backyards and affecting our pets at all times of year, whether they are indoor or outdoor. As their name suggests, paralysis ticks will latch onto your dog or cat and feed on their blood, releasing a toxin that causing progressive paralysis in the process.

How do Paralysis Ticks affect my pet?

It may take up to 3-4 days for the paralysis tick to visibly start affecting your pet, though this depends on how many ticks are attached and how big they are. The first sign may be a change or loss in their normal voice that sometimes sounds like they are “clearing their throat”. Usually weakness in their hind legs will follow that will then progress to complete dragging of the hind legs. Vomiting or regurgitation is common, as well as reduced drinking and appetite, lethargy, coughing, and eventually laboured breathing. If left too late, tick paralysis can be deadly, so it is important to seek medical attention as soon as you suspect your pet may have a tick. At its worst, treatment can require to up to a week in hospital on a ventilator and can extend into the tens of thousands of dollars, which is why it is so important to prevent against this deadly disease.

How can I prevent against this?

Prevention is thankfully quite simple! There are a few products that protect against ticks in addition to usual parasites we recommend to protect against in pets.

In dogs, Nexgard Spectra and Simparica Trio are monthly chews that protect against ticks as well as heartworm, fleas and intestinal worms. Bravecto exists as a 3-monthly chew or 6-monthly spot-on that protects against fleas and ticks.

In cats, Revolution Plus is a monthly spot-on that protects against ticks, fleas, intestinal worms and heartworm, while Bravecto Plus is a similar 3-monthly spot-on.

Products like Advantix and Frontline Plus are not ideal as they only protect against paralysis ticks for 2 weeks and make it hard to ensure pets are adequately covered year-round.

Tick prevention collars, such as Seresto, do exist that are useful in combination with a chew or spot-on in high-risk areas, such as if your pet goes on regular bush walks or your backyard backs onto the bush. They help to prevent ticks from latching on but will not kill ticks that do end up biting your animal, so we do not recommend them on their own.

Remember to keep a calendar of when you give your pet their preventatives, or keep it on a regular day every month (such as every 1stof the month!) as even a few days’ lapse may be enough to allow a tick to latch on.

Again, even indoor animals such as cats have been seen to be affected, since you or other outdoor animals such a dogs may pick up a tick outside and pass it onto an indoor animal. It is therefore important to ensure allyour pets are protected at home year-round.

If you’re not sure what will work best for your pet, call our clinic any time for further advice.

Even though all these products are highly effective, no product is 100% effective. We recommend thoroughly searching your pet every time they come back from a bushwalk or daily if your backyard backs onto bush.

What if I suspect my dog may have a tick?

If you find anything that resembles a tick, either remove it with tick tweezers (you can find these at pet shops) and place it in an escape-proof container such as a jar, or leave the tick there if you don’t have tick tweezers, and bring your animal and the tick to your nearest emergency centre.

If you notice any signs above, please call the clinic as soon as possible. Your pet can decline even within a few hours of the first signs so the earlier you can be seen by a veterinarian, the better their chances of survival.

As with any emergency, please call the clinic before heading down to us so we can prepare for your pet’s arrival which can save precious minutes in an emergency, or in case we are at capacity and need to refer you along to another emergency hospital.