By Helen Burns | Dated November 12, 2020 | 0 Comments
Max is a superstar! Back in August, Max came in to see us because he was out of sorts. As we were giving him the obligatory head scratch ( Max […]
By David Loneragan | Dated September 18, 2015
Ticks are found all over the world but the Paralysis Tick (Ixodes holocyclus) is only found in Australia. It is restricted to the humid east coast region from North Queensland to Northern Victoria. Paralysis ticks inject a toxin into dogs and cats which can cause death through paralysis. Many Australians are not aware of the risk. A recent survey revealed that 60% of dog owners living in a paralysis tick area were not aware that they did and were therefore unaware their dog was at risk.
How does my pet pick up a Paralysis Tick?
Possums and bandicoots are the “natural host” of Paralysis Ticks. This means that ticks live on them without causing any harm. However, the paralysis tick quite happily feeds on dogs, cats and humans where they do cause harm! Ticks attach to pets as they walk through grass or bushes where native animals, such as possums and bandicoots live. Many pets become affected without even leaving their backyard as ticks may fall out of a tree onto a pet, or crawl onto them from the ground. Many Australian backyards have possums and bandicoots inhabiting them! The worst time for tick paralysis is from August through to February, but a few cases are seen all year round.
What is the Paralysis Tick Life Cycle?
After hatching from an egg, the Larval Paralysis Tick climbs onto nearby vegetation, waiting for an animal to come by. They prefer possums and bandicoots, but they don’t mind if it is a dog or cat! The larval tick burrows its mouthparts into the animal’s skin and sucks their blood, injecting a neurotoxin as it feeds. The tick grows as it engorges with blood. Once the larval tick is full, it drops off, moults and becomes a Nymph. This process is then repeated on a new host animal. After this the tick becomes its most dangerous – an Adult Paralysis Tick. Once the female paralysis tick is full of blood, she drops off the animal and lays up to 3000 eggs, starting the cycle again.
What are the symptoms of Tick Paralysis?
Female paralysis ticks inject a neurotoxin which affects the point where a pet’s nerves meet their muscles. It results in paralysis of different body parts. It usually takes 3-4 days of feeding before enough toxin is injected for symptoms to appear. The initial signs progress over a few days.
The most common symptoms are:
It is important to note that some pets will not show the usual signs of tick paralysis. They may also only show one non-specific sign such as vomiting. As the poisoning progresses, pets become unable to stand and have extreme difficulty breathing. Many develop paralysis of their larynx and their oesophagus, so they cannot swallow food and water. They are at risk of regurgitation and severe pneumonia. Eventually, untreated tick poisoning will result in death.
What if I find a Paralysis Tick on my pet?
If you find a paralysis tick, it is best to call your vet immediately. They will advise you to go straight in for an appointment. They can then remove the tick professionally. Adult paralysis ticks have very long barbed mouthparts which embed in the pet’s skin, which makes them hard to remove. They will use a tick twister to remove it, ensuring none is left behind. Due to the slow action of the tick toxin, a pet may develop tick paralysis several days after a tick has been removed. So always monitor your pet very closely after tick removal. Do not exercise them and only offer small amounts of food and water. Call your vet if you are concerned.
I suspect Tick Paralysis, but cannot find a tick. What should I do?
Once again, the best thing is to call your vet immediately. The sooner your pet is treated, the better their chance of recovery/survival. The vet will examine your pet thoroughly, assess the presence and grade of tick paralysis and provide emergency care if needed. They will do a tick search to locate the suspected tick(s). Tick paralysis is treated with a tick antitoxin given intravenously. The dog or cat is given supportive care to minimise life threatening complications. Food and water are with held until the ability to swallow returns. Hospitalisation at the vet is important for tick paralysis recovery.
How do I prevent Tick Paralysis?
If your pet recovers from tick paralysis, they will be put on regular tick prevention to reduce the chance of them being affected again! There are different pet products available. Dog products should NEVER be given to cats as some are poisonous. Your vet will also demonstrate how to do a thorough “tick search” on your pet at home. This must be done EVERY day during the tick season, even if your pet is on prevention. The most common places to find a tick are on the head, neck or shoulders but hidden places include the toes and lips.