Tick season is here with a vengeance

We are experiencing high numbers of tick paralysis cases in the Brisbane area at the moment. Paralysis ticks (Ixodes holocyclus) are native to Australia and their natural hosts are marsupials (particularly bandicoots and possums). They are commonly found in thick scrub or bush-land, and can be found a long way inland in suitable habitats.

Adult ticks are picked up by our pets as they move through grass or other vegetation. The ticks then attach to their skin and feed on their blood, at the same time secreting a lethal neurotoxin.

Usually the tick engorges for 3-5 days before symptoms develop. Signs of tick paralysis include:
• Change in voice
• Gagging, retching or vomiting
• Coughing
• Breathing difficulties
• Weakness, then wobbliness in the hindlegs.
• As the paralysis progresses (first the then hindlegs, then forelegs) your pet may lose the ability to walk or stand, and will have difficulties breathing. Eventually respiratory arrest and death may occur.

If your pet is showing any of these symptoms please contact your veterinary clinic immediately.

Veterinary treatment of tick paralysis involves the administration of anti-toxin and treatment for respiratory complications. It is important to note that the anti-toxin only affects the toxin that is not already bound to nerve endings and that most animals will continue to worsen for a further 24 hours after beginning treatment. Tick paralysis is a very unpredictable disease with severe effects on the heart and respiratory muscles, and unfortunately not all animals survive, even with treatment.

Prevention- To reduce the likelihood of tick paralysis in your pet:
• Avoiding tick habitats – ie walking your dog in non scrub/bushland areas (if possible)
• Daily tick search of your pet – no tick product gives 100% protection, so this is extremely important.
• Tick preventative products – there are many specialized preventatives on the market including sprays, topspots, tick collars and new chewable tablets. Pop into your vet clinic to discuss what would be the most suitable for your pet – remember that many tick products are very toxic to cats so read the directions carefully.