Dec. 14, 2015
The Australian paralysis tick is a very dangerous little creature responsible for the death of hundreds of dogs and cats each year. It lives in bushy coastal areas along the eastern seaboard of Australia from north Queensland to eastern Victoria. Ticks are most prevalent from spring to autumn however they may occur at any time of year.
Symptoms usually start with staggering gait caused by a weakness in the hind limbs. The paralysis then moves forward affecting the front limbs and throat, causing an inability to bark properly as well as a gurgling choking cough. The toxin will also affect the voice box so the dog may have a different bark or may not be able to bark at all. Because the tick toxin also causes weakness and dilation of the food pipe, affected dogs may retch and regurgitate their food, water or just frothy fluid. If the paralysis becomes too advanced and the muscles involved with breathing too weak, the dog may not be able to breathe sufficiently or at all. Tick paralysis is progressive and potentially fatal.
Paralysis ticks can be identified by their grey body and their legs around their head. Unlike other adult ticks, paralysis ticks have one pair of brown legs closest to their head, then two pairs of white legs and then one pair of brown legs closest to their body.
Prevention is essential and you must take precautions if you live in a tick area or are travelling to the East Coast on holidays. Clipping your dog’s coat short during the tick season makes performing tick searches much easier. If your dog lives in or visits an area where paralysis ticks are present, you should search them thoroughly every day. Ticks commonly attach around the head so be sure to check in and around ears and also under collar. Don’t forget to check between toes and under the tail.
If you have found a tick, ideally use a tick remover to detach it from the skin. There are different types available from your vet or pet store and you should follow the instructions provided carefully. If you do not have a proper tick remover, you can use a pair of tweezers to grasp it at the skin level being careful not to squeeze on the tick’s body. Then gently lever it off, rocking back and forward. Do not apply tick treatments, alcohol, mineral oil or petroleum jelly to the tick before removing it.
If you remove a tick after your dog has started showing some signs, I recommend that you seek veterinary attention. If your dog is paralysed, seek veterinary attention immediately. Please do not feed or give water prior to visiting the vet.
You can ‘t be too careful when it comes to paralysis ticks. They cause much distress to your dog and treatment is difficult and expensive. Talk to your vet about the best preventative treatment and be prepared this tick season.
Dr. Katrina Warren - Brand Ambassador & Petcare Expert