Ticks on Dogs

Our emergency veterinarian, Dr Liz Napier shares advice on symptoms of paralysis ticks to look for, and the search techniques to find them on your pet. 

Paralysis ticks are a parasite affecting many of our beloved pets in the Hunter each year and can be deadly.
At the Animal Referral and Emergency Centre we see many paralysis tick cases throughout the year.
2020 however, has been a particularly devastating start to the tick season, with an increased number of pets presenting to us suffering from paralysis tick toxicity.

 

Tick distribution map Australia
Ixodes Holocyclus (paralysis tick) distribution on the East Coast of Australia (source: researchgate)

The paralysis ticks can attach to your pet and their saliva produces a toxin, which results in paralysis.  Generally, pets start to show signs after the tick has been attached for 3-4 days.  It is important to note that they can affect both cats and dogs.

Signs your pet may show if they are suffering from tick paralysis:

  • Early on the signs can be vague such as lethargy and decreased appetite
  • Wobbly gait (often starting in the back legs)
  • Change in bark/meow
  • Increased breathing effort
  • Vomiting or regurgitating
  • Reluctant to jump
  • Collapse or complete paralysis

What should I do if I find a tick on my pet at home?

  • Firstly remain calm and do not panic
  • If you identify a tick, your pet needs veterinary attention – please get them to your regular veterinarian or emergency centre immediately
  • It is safe for you to remove the tick at home, but if you are concerned your veterinarian can do this for you
  • If you do remove the tick please bring it with you for identification
  • It is important that your pet can deteriorate even after the paralysis tick has been removed, so please seek veterinary treatment urgently if you find or remove a paralysis tick from your pet

How do I perform a tick search?

Paralysis ticks are throughout the Newcastle and Hunter region.   The combination of tick searching and tick prevention is the safest way to prevent your pet suffering from the toxic effects of paralysis ticks.  You can perform a tick search daily on your pet and it only takes a few minutes.

search for a tick on a dog
Performing a tick search on a cat or dog

Tick search technique:

  • The majority of paralysis ticks are found from the shoulders forward on your pet, so focus on the front end of your pet when you start
  • Use a walking motion with your fingers to cover their body, parting the hair as you move along
  • Make sure you check under their collar
  • If you pet has a long coat, consider getting them clipped – this makes it easier to search for paralysis ticks

How do I prevent tick paralysis?

There are many different products for prevention of ticks – the best option is to use a preventative product in combination with daily tick searches.  To find out which prevention is the best option for you discuss this with your regular veterinarian.  They will formulate a preventative plan that is tailored to your pet’s needs.  We all live busy lives – to help remember your tick prevention set yourself a reminder in your calendar or phone, or always give your prevention on the same date – such as the start of the month.

River’s Run in with a Pesky Paralysis Tick

River – a bouncy 13 week old Kelpie presented to the AREC emergency department when he was showing signs of vomiting and was not acting his normal self.  Being a young puppy who likes to chew on things his family were worried he could have eaten something he shouldn’t have as puppies often do!  However, he started to make a different noise sounding like a groan, which was abnormal for him.

When he presented to the AREC emergency department a paralysis tick was identified on his shoulder.  Paralysis ticks can cause vomiting and a change in bark which explains River’s presenting signs.  Luckily his family brought him to be checked early so his signs were mild.  River was treated in hospital with tick anti-serum and he responded well.  He is now at home being a cheeky, playful puppy with his loving family.

Author: Dr Liz Napier