The tick paralysis (Ixodes holocyclus) is a small, eight-legged tick that produces a potent toxin. This toxin causes paralysis in dogs and cats and is potentially fatal. Paralysis ticks are commonly found on the east coast of Australia.
They are most active in the warmer months especially after wet weather which initiates hatching of eggs in the environment and activity of the larval stages which feed on mammals. This unfortunately means that they are a serious problem for pets in the Sydney area, particularly the Northern beaches.
After the tick has been attached for a day or two, enough poison will have been injected to cause significant neurological disease in pets due to blocking of nerve receptors. The most common symptom is a weak or flaccid paralysis starting in the hind limbs due to nerve signals being blocked from accessing the muscles of movement.
As time progresses the paralysis ascends up the body to eventually affect the muscles of breathing and swallowing. This process causes significant illness and death unless an antiserum is administered to neutralise the toxin before it attaches to more nerve receptors. Other symptoms of tick paralysis include vomiting, coughing, excessive panting and grunting, an altered bark or limping if the tick is lodged in a foot or leg.
Tick poisoning is common, severe and very preventable. Our top tips for tick prevention are:-
- Tick clipping by an experienced groomer and daily tick searching.
- Administration of highly effective and safe tick preventatives such as the soon to be released yearly injection. Never rely on an animal’s natural immunity against ticks or herbal or natural remedies that have not been properly tested and proven to be effective and safe.
- Avoid taking your pet into long grasses and bushland during the warmer months.
- Ensure that you have adequate pet insurance for your pet and that this covers tick paralysis.
Finally knowing the symptoms of tick paralysis is key. Signs of tick paralysis vary depending on the length of time the tick has been on the animal, as well as the potency of the toxin, which can vary between ticks.
- A change in bark
- Increased or laboured breathing
- Excessive salivation
- Vomiting or regurgitation
- Weakness in the hind legs, which typically progresses to involve the forelimbs also
- Reluctance to get up or walk
- Because the ability to breathe and swallow are affected, some animals will inhale saliva or food (aspirate) resulting in life-threatening pneumonia.
It is important to seek veterinary attention to determine whether your pet needs tick anti-toxin. Until then, there are some important steps you can take to reduce the risk of complications:
- Keep your pet calm, quiet and cool. Excitement, exercise and overheating can exacerbate illness associated with tick paralysis
- Remove food and water. Your pet’s ability to swallow may be compromised, putting your pet at risk of aspiration pneumonia
- Search for other ticks on your pet Prevention of tick paralysis is essential to maintain the health of your pet.
With the upcoming release of a yearly flea and tick injection, your vet at Sydney Animal Hospitals can provide a long-term prevention to keep your pet safe, without the worry of needing to remember to give your pet a regular tablet at home. Book your appointment today.