As a Vet in Sydney tick paralysis is always on my radar, increasingly so as the weather heats up. Just this week one of my clients found a tick on their dog – so they are most certainly about!
Ticks come in a number of varieties and many pose no harm to pets. One that is dangerous though is Ixodes holocyclus (Paralysis ticks to you and me). These are commonly found along the eastern coast of Australia, thriving in hot and humid conditions. They are most common between September and April, but let’s be honest, it’s hardly ever actually cold in Sydney meaning Paralysis ticks can strike all year round.
What do they look like?
Paralysis ticks can range from tiny (1-2mm) to quite big (1cm or more) depending on the age of the tick and how much blood they have ingested! Small and blue-grey in colour, they can look like warts (or even nipples!!) until you examine them closely.
What are the signs of tick paralysis?
Paralysis ticks contain a toxin that can be fatal to dogs and cats. It is a progressive disease, which can be fatal, but happily an anti-toxin does exist. The prognosis is much better when we catch them early, so it is crucial to be alert to symptoms.
Signs to look for include:
- Change in voice, a different bark or miaow
- Coughing, regurgitating, salivating or vomiting
- Wobbliness in the back legs this will progress to the front legs as the toxin starts to take hold.
- Increased effort when breathing
- Excessive lethargy, lying down and not wanting to walk, jump etc
What should I do?
- Use a tick prevention product. A number of brands are available including oral tablets (monthly or every three months), spot on treatments (applied every two weeks), sprays or collars. Please always check suitability of the product you pick – some dog products are toxic to cats!
- Check daily – Even if you are using tick prevention, you should be checking your pets all over daily – twice a day if you are in a high risk area! If your pet is unhappy being handled in certain places, contact Dr Julie for some top tips on making them more comfortable!
- If you have a long-haired dog or cat, consider clipping to make searching for ticks easier! (and also for them to cool down in the summer!)
I think my dog or cat has a paralysis tick – what should I do?
If you ever find a tick on your dog or cat, I always recommend getting it checked by your Vet as soon as possible for it to be identified, treated as needed and also to check there are no more that you have missed. If your regular vet is closed, find an out-of-hours clinic.
Do not let your pet drink or eat anything until you arrive and they have been checked by a vet and on the way try to prevent them becoming stressed or over excited. Keep them calm and cool 🙂
Dr Julie is a Veterinarian and runs Life on Four Legs – a Veterinary Behaviour house call service, based in Sydney, NSW.