One of the biggest concerns facing pet owners in the Cairns region is the risk of tick paralysis. In Australia around 75,000 dogs and cats are paralysed by these deadly ticks each year. The paralysis tick is found mostly on the eastern coast of Australia, from Far North Queensland to Northern Victoria. In Far North Queensland these ticks are more prevalent from June to December but cases do occur all year round. Areas of natural bush land, creeks etc which harbor native animals, particularly bandicoots, are the most likely areas where paralysis ticks are found.
When a paralysis tick crawls onto pets or other animals (called the host), they wander over the body before attaching to feed. During feeding the tick releases a neurotoxin called Holocyclotoxin, which is excreted from the tick’s salivary glands, into the host. This toxin blocks the cells of the central nervous system causing life threatening paralysis.
The host animal usually shows no signs of illness for approximately four days after the tick attaches, however once the dog or cat begins to show symptoms they deteriorate very rapidly.
- Change in voice/bark.
- Loss of appetite.
- Weakness, wobbly walk, lack of coordination which leads to paralysis.
- Retching, coughing, choking & vomiting.
- Panting, grunting or difficulty breathing.
- Collapse and sudden death.
Ticks can be difficult to find and pets can quickly progress to severe paralysis or death. Early diagnosis and treatment gives your pet the best chance of recovery.
- Contact us urgently for advice and an appointment.
- Search your pet thoroughly for a tick paying particular attention to the head, neck and shoulder area.
- If found, remove the tick by firmly grasping the tick between the thumb and finger. Firmly tug the tick out. It’s a good idea to keep the tick for identification at the vets.
- Do NOT give any food, water or medications by mouth as animals affected by tick paralysis cannot swallow correctly.
- Keep your pet calm and in a cool place until you visit us.
- Keep your pet’s coat short - longer haired dogs and cats are more susceptible to tick paralysis as it’s hard to find ticks on them, especially if they are knotted or matted.
- Avoid high risk areas such as bush land, creeks, long grass etc. Lawn maintenance is essential in reducing tick populations.
- Search your pet daily for ticks - thoroughly search your pet’s skin and coat every day, even if tick control has been used. Ticks or tick craters can be felt as lumps on the skin surface.
- Use a preventative tick control - the use of products specifically designed for tick control can greatly reduce the risk of tick paralysis. As there are many tick prevention products on the market, it’s important to discuss what product is best for your pet with our veterinarians or veterinary nurses before making a purchase.
For more information on tick paralysis or advice on the right tick prevention product for your pet, please contact us.