The Paralysis Tick – what you need to know

The Paralysis Tick – what you need to know

The Paralysis Tick – what you need to know

25/01/2018

When we talk paralysis ticks, we mean business – these nasty critters are responsible for the death and illness of thousands of pets each year. So what can you do to make sure this never, ever happens to a cat or dog in your care?

What is a paralysis tick

The paralysis tick (Ixodes holocyclus) is located throughout various parts of Australia, but tends towards warmer, humid spots such as the northern regions and east coast. New South Wales and Queensland are a particular concern in the spring to summer months, so be super careful if this is where you call home.

This tick normally makes a meal out of animals such as possums, however, cats, dogs and small children do not have immunity to the tick like our native critters do. Which can lead to devastating consequences.

When the tick bites, it releases a neurotoxin that causes paralysis and eventually death. Fortunately, there is a serum that can be administered to your pet by the vet once a paralysis tick bite has been positively identified, but the effect of this can be delayed while symptoms worsen. 

Prevention and speed are the two words you need to know – they are our best weapons we have against the paralysis tick.

What symptoms should I watch out for?

Dogs and cats can differ slightly in their symptoms. You may not even see a tick once you spot symptoms as it may have dropped off – so if you spot any of these symptoms, move quickly and get your pet straight to the vet.

Firstly, cats can appear breathy with a little grunt or wheeze at the end of their breath. 

Dogs, on the other hand, can appear quieter than normal or lethargic. They can suffer from difficulty swallowing or having an unusual sounding bark, which is caused by the setting in of paralysis around the throat. They can also suffer from coughing, vomiting, wretching, gagging, swelling or uncoordinated and weak legs. 

How to avoid

First, have a chat with your vet about the various tick treatments on the market. Don’t medicate your furry friend without being sure you are using the right product and dosage – and NEVER mix up cat and dog medicine as this can be fatal.

Next – get used to checking your pet thoroughly (and we mean thoroughly!) every single day. Immediately after walkies is a good time, or when your pet comes in from playing in the garden. 

Feel with your hands all around their legs, belly, ears, chin, torso and tail – the tick is often easier to feel than see, but do take care to wash your hands if you touch one. Alternatively use gloves, a fine comb or part your furry friend’s coat with a hair drier if they enjoy this. Considering clipping your long-haired pets in the spring and summer.

Keep pests and local native critters under control around your house (for example, use possum guards around your roof) and always clear up long grass and clippings.

And if I find a tick?

It’s possible you have stumbled across a brown dog tick or bush tick. Though these ticks can carry nasties, they generally don’t cause death. 

Just to drill it in once more - if you see the described symptoms with or without the presence of a tick, head straight to the vet. Don’t wait. 

If you do spot a tick and it is yellow or grey with long legs (or if you find any tick you are unsure about), don’t try to remove the tick or as this can sometimes lead it to releasing more toxins – call the vet immediately and await their instruction. 

If the tick comes off, try to keep it in a ziplock bag or jar so your vet can identify it later if necessary. 

In the meantime, keep your pet calm and quiet and avoid giving them any food or water in case they choke.

This all sounds very scary (which it kind of is!) but fear not - the more we all are education about the paralysis tick and how to prevent it, the safer our furry friends will be. Spread the word and make sure all your dog-walking, cat-cuddling friends know what to do in an emergency.