Paralysis Ticks & Your Dog &/or Cat

Every year vet practices are inundated with ill dogs and cats, struck down by the paralysis tick. Paralysis Ticks, a native species to this country,  are more common on the East coast of Australia (unfortunately that means us), and generally use native wildlife as a host. Some domestic pets have reportedly built up resistance to the parasite, but this is via repeat exposure at low levels (and if contact did not kill them in the first instances).

Poison is an essential component of the tick’s saliva, and its injection allows the tick to drink from its victim. This poison will accumulate at the bite site and usually absorption will continue, even after the tick has been removed. This is why your pets symptoms may become progressively worse even 24-48hrs after the tick’s departure.

Symptoms

  • Lethargy
  • Wobbliness, weakness in the hind quarters
  • Difficulty eating & drinking, gagging on food
  • Laboured breathing
  • Collapse
  • Very occasionally vomiting/diarrhoea
  • Death

Diagnosis

If your pet presents with the above symptoms, get them to your vet straight away. Diagnosis will occur from presence of ticks, clinical symptoms, presence of tick bite sight. Sometimes there is no real indication that a tick is the cause, and in this instance snakebite may be another possible diagnosis.

Treatment

Treatment for tick paralysis is expensive, and can involve hospitalisation, fluids, sedation, oxygen therapy, and most importantly, tick antiserum.

Prognosis

This is always guarded, because despite our best efforts they may not always be able to be saved. The majority are usually able to survive, but this is usually dependant on receiving comprehensive treatment: for this illness, short cuts may prove fatal.

Prevention – Dogs

  • If you don’t have cats, Advantix spot-on can work really well (but it is highly toxic for cats, even with low contact)
  • Frontline have a spot-on and a spray. Dr Dave prefers the spray, especially for big dogs
  • Flea collars are good, but ensure you are replacing them regularly as per guidelines.
  • MOST IMPORTANTLY, check over their coat thoroughly as often as possible. You can still have the other preventatives in place and have your pet struck with tick paralysis.

Prevention – Cats

  • Frontline spray is the only practical prevention, a thorough application every 3 weeks is recommended. Never use a product that is only recommended for dogs on your cat, as they are often toxic
  • MOST IMPORTANTLY, check over their coat thoroughly as often as possible. You can still have the other preventatives in place and have your pet struck with tick paralysis.