Paralysis ticks and fleas are blood-sucking parasites that can cause serious health problems with your dog or cat. Ticks and fleas are more common during warmer weather and so are much less likely to cause problems during winter.
Paralysis ticks are native critters that normally live on bandicoots and possums. Because these animals and the ticks have evolved together over the millennia, they are immune to the toxins in the ticks’ saliva. However, your dog or cat is not so lucky.
Paralysis ticks are found in a narrow band along the east coast of Australia. Anywhere where there is enough vegetation for possums or bandicoots to live, paralysis ticks may be found. When the ticks first attach to your pet they are very small, and spend some time sucking blood before they inject enough toxin to cause signs of illness. Signs include inappetence, regurgitation of food, a hoarse bark or meow, and weakness in the hind legs, which progresses to paralysis, a cough, and difficulty breathing. Animals die when their chest muscles become paralysed and they can no longer breathe. Signs usually start 2-7 days after the attachment of the tick. The tick is about 0.5-1cm long by this time, and a pale grey colour. Ticks can be very difficult to find in the coat, and the inability to find a tick does not mean that tick paralysis is not present.
Treatment for paralysis involves giving antiserum to neutralise free toxin and supporting the animal medically. This may include intravenous fluids and even attaching them to a ventilator if their breathing muscles are becoming paralysed. Treatment can be complicated by secondary infections, and is always expensive. Some animals may die despite treatment.
So prevention is better than cure!!! Especially if you live near a bushy reserve or your animal walks in one, it is important to feel the animal all over each day to check for ticks. There are a number of products you can use to reduce the risk of tick paralysis in your dog or cat. Frontline spray is a very good product that can be used on dogs or cats, to provide an all-over barrier against paralysis ticks. It should be applied every 3 weeks when used as a tick preventative. Frontline top spot and Advantix top spot needs to be used every 2 weeks for tick prevention. Dogs may be rinsed weekly in an insecticidal rinse, such as Permoxin, or have a tick collar applied as alternative ways to help reduce the risk of tick paralysis. In a high risk area, Proban tablets (an oral insecticide) can be given to dogs every second day to kill any ticks that attach to the dog.
If you find a tick, it needs to be removed without squeezing any more tick poison into the animal. This can be done by grasping it by the mouthparts with fine tweezers or a pecial tick hook (that can be purchased at GVH) and pulling it off the dog or cat. Alternatively, it may be killed first by spraying it with a fast knock down fly spray or Frontline spray and removed 1-2 hours later.
If you are concerned that your animal may be affected by a tick, or you have found a tick but are not sure whether it is significant, contact us as soon as possible!