What are paralysis ticks?
There are around 75 different species of ticks in Australia, but the most common are the brown tick and the deadly paralysis tick. The paralysis tick is by far the most dangerous parasite when it comes to your pet. It is commonly found in bushy coastal areas along the East Coast of Australia, from North Queensland to Eastern Victoria. Ticks are most prevalent from Spring to Autumn, however, can occur at any time of year.
Traditionally ticks were “seasonal”, however, depending on where you live, you may see paralysis ticks significantly more often. Ticks attach to pets anywhere so check their ears, back legs, between their toes and under their tail. Most ticks are found from the shoulders forward.
When paralysis ticks attach to our pets, they inject a neurotoxin which causes progressive paralysis, respiratory depression, and death in animals.
What does the paralysis tick look like?
Paralysis ticks can be identified by their grey body and legs close to the head. Their legs are the feature which best distinguishes them from other ticks that occur in the same regions. Paralysis ticks have one pair of brown legs closest to their head, then two pairs of white legs and then one pair of brown legs closest to the body.
It is not always easy to identify paralysis ticks. If the tick is not fully engorged, its body shape and colour will be hard to determine. Often, a veterinarian will be the only person who can accurately identify the type of tick; it is vital that you take your pet to a vet if you have found a tick.
What to do if you have found a tick on your pet?
Remove the tick immediately. Using your thumb and index fingers, gently pinch the section of your pet’s skin that the tick has attached itself to. Then get as close to the skin as possible and firmly pull the tick out of the skin.
Don’t panic if the head of the tick remains attached to your pet; without its body, the tick is unable to inject any more toxin. Place the tick into a jar so your local vet can identify it.
Next, take your pet to the vet straight away. Even if they’re not displaying symptoms of tick paralysis, it’s important to get them checked over by a professional. The symptoms may take time to appear and by this time your pet may be in danger, a quick response can make all the difference.
Tick paralysis symptoms
First signs of tick paralysis include a lack of appetite, lethargy, change in bark or meow, gagging and increasingly worse wobbliness or staggering in the back legs. As the paralysis progresses, it affects the breathing muscles and the pet’s ability to swallow. Paralysis ticks are deadly without appropriate veterinary treatment including antitoxin. The sooner vet treatment is initiated the quicker pets may be able to recover.
- Staggered walking, difficulty jumping
- Wobbliness, especially in the hind legs
- Weakness or lethargy
- Vomiting, gagging or retching
- Change in bark or meow
- Difficulty breathing
Tick prevention medications are available as tablets, chews, spot-ons, rinses, spray and collars. Tick medications for dogs may be toxic to cats, ensure you use a cat-safe product for your cat or if you have cats in your household.
It is important to note that no product is 100% and daily tick searches are imperative. Chat to the team at your local Greencross Vets for more information.
Regular daily tick searches, which involve running your hands through your pet’s entire coat (including their face and ears, down the legs, paws, over their stomach, and to the tip of their tail) is recommended. Ask your local Greencross Vets team to show you how to do a tick check on your pet. These methods, in conjunction with regular vet health checks, are your best bet at keeping nasty ticks away from your beloved furry friends.