Tick season is upon us with our clinic seeing a rise in emergency tick cases. It is so IMPORTANT that your animal is on flea and tick prevention all year round, but as the weather warms up and we see an increase in ticks in the area, it is important for owners to be super vigilant.
What are the signs I should look for?
The earlier a tick is found and removed, the better the prognosis is for the animal. The degree and intensity that the pet is affected by a tick cannot be predicted as every animal is different. Some pets will have varying signs and others may have very few.
The most common signs of tick paralysis include;
· Weakness, wobbling or paralysis of the hind legs, progressing to the front legs if the animal is left untreated
· Change in the pet’s voice
· Loss of appetite
· Gagging or vomiting
· Difficulty breathing
Should your pet be experiencing any of the following, take it immediately to your local vet.
What is it that makes paralysis ticks so dangerous?
The paralysis tick contains a powerful toxin in its saliva that it excretes into the bloodstream of its host once attached. Australia’s native wildlife are the natural hosts for the paralysis tick and have adapted over time so that they are not usually affected by this toxin. Our introduced, domesticated pets are not so lucky. The toxin affects the function of the nervous system and causes severe health concerns. One of these is ascending flaccid paralysis, usually beginning in the hind legs before progressing to the rest of the body. The toxin also affects the animal's ability to swallow and any food or water taken may be inhaled.
Without the tick being found and removed, and the animal treated, death is almost certain.
What do I do if I find a tick on my animal?
Firstly the tick must be removed. Secondly the animal must be brought to a veterinary clinic for assessment and possibly treatment.
There are a lot of rumours about how to successfully remove a tick. Some suggest Dettol, or methylated spirits. Some outrageous tales suggest even burning the tick off. All of these rumours are fallacies, and although they may kill the tick, they could injure your pet as well as cause the tick to secrete more toxin. The best way to remove a tick is by gently pinching the thumb and forefinger around the tick and pulling until the tick comes free. Forceps or a special hook may also be used. Sometimes the mouth parts will detach from the head and remain embedded in the skin of the animal. This is not a problem.
If you do not feel confident enough to remove a tick yourself, immediately take the animal to the nearest veterinary surgery and one of the trained staff will assist you.
Once the tick has been removed, the animal will need to be assessed by a veterinarian to evaluate its overall health. If the animal is experiencing any of the signs of tick paralysis, it is likely that it will need to remain at the veterinary clinic for treatment. This is because the toxin that has already been secreted under the skin and will continue to be absorbed, even though the tick has been removed. This will cause the signs of toxicity in your animal continue to worsen.
Treatment of tick toxicity involves the administration of tick antiserum as well as close monitoring throughout the initial recovery. Trained veterinary staff need to be at hand to regulate the animal’s temperature, ensure the airway is free and clear, monitor vitals and administer fluids should the patient be dehydrated.
The likelihood of an animal making a full recovery from tick paralysis is increased with speedy treatment. Unfortunately, advanced cases of tick toxicity cannot be guaranteed successful treatment. The cost of treatment will vary, depending on the size of the patient and the severity of the animal’s signs.
What can I do to reduce the chance of my pet succumbing to tick toxicity?
Religiously using tick prevention and checking your pet daily for ticks is the best possible form of prevention. There are a diverse range of tick prevention agents available; topical solutions, tablets and collars. Each have varying active time periods and you should always check the packaging before using them.
It is important to realise that no tick prevention will 100% cover your pet. Using tick preventions will not always stop ticks from attaching to your pet but they should eventually kill the tick before too much toxin has been injected.
Daily checking to find any ticks that may have attached to your pet is must for all pet owners living on the east coast of Australia.
Ticks are attracted to carbon dioxide and are mostly found in front of the animals shoulders around the face and neck. Running your fingers through the fur and feeling for any lumps or bumps can be the best chance of finding a tick early. Be sure to check in the ears, around the lips and eyes. This exercise is not only beneficial in finding any lurking ticks, but means that your pet will be more easily handled and used to having their head examined.
What is a paralysis tick & where can they be found?
The Australian paralysis tick is a very dangerous little creature responsible for the death of hundreds of dogs and cats each year. It lives in bushy coastal areas along the eastern coast of Australia, ranging from north Queensland to eastern Victoria. Ticks are most prevalent from spring to autumn; however they may occur at any time of year.
Paralysis ticks can be identified by their grey bodies with their legs positioned around the head. They have four legs on each side of the body, with the middle set lighter in colour than the outer pairs.
Ticks are very small creatures, generally no bigger than the nail on your smallest finger. Once they have found a host they burrow their mouth parts into the flesh in order to feed on the host’s blood. Owners may not often find a tick on their pet until it has become engorged with blood.
For recommendations on the most suitable tick prevention treatment for your pet, or if you have any questions, please contact the clinic 54455288.