Watch Out For Ticks
Paralysis ticks live mostly on the eastern seaboard of Australia, from North Queensland to Northern Victoria. Whilst in the northern parts of Australia paralysis ticks may be found all year round, in southern areas the season goes from spring through to autumn. Generally, the worst time for tick paralysis is in spring and early summer when it is warm and wet.
Early spring is the time to become more diligent in checking your pets for ticks.
Ticks are nearer to the coast and are mostly found on animals that have contact with bushland or the beach however possums and bandicoots can carry ticks into your yard. The toxin on paralysis ticks affects the nervous system of dogs and cats and causes progressive paralysis which is potentially fatal.
The tick finds it way onto an animal and buries its head deep into the skin. It then attaches itself using its barbed mouth parts.
When the tick first latches onto a dog or cat it is very small. It then spends time sucking blood before it starts injecting enough toxin into your pet to cause signs of illness.
Signs of tick paralysis
The signs of tick paralysis are:
- your pet may appear weak and wobbly, mostly in the back legs and may then progress to the front legs
- she may have difficulty breathing and display extreme panting
- there could be a change to the sound of his barking
- she may start retching, coughing or vomiting
- you may notice progressive paralysis and respiratory failure
After the tick attaches it can take 48-72 hours for the intoxication to commence and it can take up to one week before symptoms develop. The following illustrates how a paralysis tick looks when its abdomen starts to engorge.
What to do it your pet starts to show symptoms of tick poisoning
Firstly, try to find the tick (see How to check your pet for ticks below). You can try to remove the tick but it is extremely important not to squeeze the engorged abdomen. You can use Tick Twisters, tweezers, long fingernails or forceps. In an emergency you can use a piece of cotton to loop around the tick where it is attached. If you have any doubts about how to remove the tick it is better to take your pet to a vet though the tick must be removed as soon as possible. If you do remove it yourself you should take the tick to the vet to show them.
Once you remove the tick you should seek veterinary attention as soon as possible. Do not allow your dog to have any food or water as, if they are unable to swallow properly, this can cause breathing difficulties.
Your vet will have an antitoxin available and, the sooner it is applied, the more effective it will be.
How to check your pet for ticks
To check for ticks on your pet, run your fingertips through the coat checking the entire skin surface. Around 85-90% of paralysis ticks will attach around the head, neck, chest and shoulders but they can attach anywhere, even inside the mouth, between the toes and under the tail. The photo below shows just how hard it may be to find a tick on your dog so it is important to check everywhere.
The best thing you can do for your pet is be committed to tick prevention. Firstly, check your pet every day for ticks even if you are using a preventative treatment. Secondly, there are now many tick prevention products available that reduce the risk.
Here are some links to some sites that sell a good range of tick prevention products:
It’s also a good idea to have a Tick Twister on hand so that you can safely remove a tick if your pet has one attached. When you use one of these there is less risk of squeezing the poison into your pet.
Another danger for your pets, depending on where you live, is snakes. Read this article on snake bites for some preventative steps you can take.
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