Tick paralysis

Every year in Australia, thousands of dogs are treated for tick paralysis and although most recover, some will die.  The paralysis tick is not usually found in the Canberra area, but in the last couple of years a few cases have been reported. The Paralysis Tick is usually found on the East Coast of Australia from North Queensland down to Gippsland in Victoria.  Both dogs and cats are susceptible.

Paralysis Ticks can be found all year round with a peak in numbers and activity in Spring and Summer, especially after rain.  The ticks attach to the skin and whilst sucking on blood, inject a complex toxin which takes from 3-14 days to start affecting the animal.  Occasionally we see tick toxicity in animals that have not gone to the coast but the tick has been brought back on clothing, camping gear, rugs etc. We have had one such case already this season!

The signs of tick toxicity include;
  • Lethargy, shaking, confusion and anxiety
  • Respiratory signs such as laboured breathing, coughing, change in voice.
  • Muscular weakness including wobbliness, inability to jump, paralysis
  • Gut problems such as salivating, vomiting and diarrhoea.

Affected animals can be treated with an antiserum if caught early enough. Treatment can be expensive and some pets may require a week or more in hospital.

Tick prevention

There are lots of things you can do to prevent ticks, but be aware that no single method is 100% effective.

  • Avoid letting your pet run around in the low, scrubby bushland or properties that have or used to have lots of cattle. Stick to the beach, footpaths and well mown backyards and ovals.
  • Once or twice daily searching of your pet.
  • 80% of ticks are found on the head, neck and shoulders. If a tick is found, pinch the skin, and remove the tick at skin level immediately. You can buy tick removers that can make this a bit easier. We recommend searching for 10 days after you return from the coast.
  • There are numerous tick prevention treatments available. However, we strongly recommend you get advice from your vet about their use, limitations and interactions with other drugs before deciding which one to use.
Some examples are of tick prevention products:
  • Bravecto chews (for dogs only) gives up to FOUR MONTHS tick protection in a single chewable treat!
  • NEW Bravecto Spot On gives SIX months tick protection for dogs
  • NEW Bravecto Spot On gives three months tick protection for cats
  • Nexgard chews (for dogs only) gives up to one month tick protection in a single treat.
  • Frontline Plus top spot or Frontline spray gives up to 2 weeks protection (safe for dogs and cats).

Remember, most of these products must be given or applied well before you leave home. Our friendly staff are very happy to talk you through which options are going to work for you and your pet.