Tick Paralysis Top Tips

  • Tick paralysis, caused by the tick Ixodes holocyclus, affects some 10,000 domestic pets along the eastern coast of Australia every Engorged Paralysis Ticksyear.
  • Paralysis ticks are milky grey in colour with their legs bunched closely around their head.
  • The natural hosts are native wildlife such as bandicoots, possums, koalas, wallabies and kangaroos but the tick will occasionally attach to pets and even humans. After they attach to a pet, they start to secrete toxin in their saliva.
  • The toxin is not secreted in detectable amounts until a few days after attachment. Clinical signs of your pet being sick are often seen at day 3-4 with peak toxicity on days 5-6. These 3 days before symptoms begin gives us a chance to find and to remove ticks before they inject large amounts of toxin.
  • Symptoms of tick paralysis can be quite vague but are commonly seen as lethargy, not eating, noisy/laboured or shallow breathing, salivation, vomiting and loss of coordination of legs. If a tick is found on your pet and any of these symptoms are noticed then your pet should be taken immediately to a vet.
  • Treatment of tick paralysis usually involves hospitalisation of your pet to allow administration of tick antiserum by intravenous infusion and then a period of rest in the hospital and nursing care for the symptoms that they are showing.  Pets are usually discharged when they can walk normally, eat and drink without gagging and are urinating properly.
  • Run your fingers all over your pet from front to back, keeping in mind most ticks are found on the front half of the body. Be sure to check inside your pet’s ears and between his toes too!
  • If you find a tick, you need to take it off straight away.
  • Immediately pull it off with tweezers or a special tick remover device by grabbing and twisting.
  • Although common myths surrounding tick removal include the use of matches, fingernail polish, alcohol, or petroleum jelly, none of these have been demonstrated to be as effective as straight grip removal and have been said to cause the tick to release more toxin as it dies.
  • If by any chance the head of the tick stays in the skin, scratch it out with your fingernail. The head will not inject any more poison once the body has been removed, but it may cause a foreign body reaction similar to a splinter.
  • Humid conditions are essential for survival of the paralysis tick. Dry conditions, relatively high (32°C) and low (7°C) temperatures will kill all stages after a few days. An ambient temperature of 27°C and high relative humidity is thought to be optimal for rapid development.
  • Tick season tends to be from August to February, peaking in the humid conditions of December, although ticks can be an all year round risk if the climate is right – so please get your pets on to a tick prevention product and always tick search your pets daily for any nasties! After all, prevention is better than cure!
  • Prevention of tick paralysis in DOGS has been revolutionised recently by the release of Bravecto® and Nexgard® - chewable tablets that control both fleas and ticks (Bravecto only needs to be given every four months!).  Other ways that you can help to prevent paralysis tick attachment is by using tick collars, topical products like Advantix ® or Frontline ® (remember to use these topical products fortnightly) or washes or sprays such as Permoxin ®.
  • There is only one registered product for use in CATS - Frontline® spray and this needs to be reapplied every three weeks.
  • NB It is imperative that Dog products are not used on Cats as some of them are toxic to cats.  You should as always read labels carefully before using any medications.

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