If there’s one thing most Australian’s understand it’s don’t mess with our wildlife. We are infamous for our dangerous animals; whether it’s deadly snakes, jellyfish, octopus, sharks, crocodiles or spiders. So it should come as no surprise to us that we have a species of ticks, known as Ixodes Holocyclus, which can cause total paralysis in our pets – resulting in their unfortunate death unless treatment is sought immediately.
Where are Paralysis Ticks found?
If you live on the East Coast of Australia, from North Queensland to Victoria, you and your animals are at risk from Paralysis Ticks. Their natural hosts are bandicoots, possums, kangaroos and koalas. You’ll find these ticks lurking in bushy, scrubby edges of parkland, long grasses and at the edge of rainforest areas. After rain the wet weather flushes ticks out onto the tips of shrubs and grasses, where they wait for passing hosts to brush by, hoping to catch a meal and a ride.
Paralysis Tick Identification
There are three types of ticks we commonly encounter in Australia – the brown dog tick, bush tick and paralysis tick. It’s the female adult paralysis tick that poses the biggest danger to your pet. As the female paralysis tick sucks blood from its victim, it secretes toxins into its host – it’s these toxins that can affect the nervous system and can ultimately lead to death. The most common place to find a tick on a dog is towards the front of its body. The mouth, ears and around the collar are the big hotspots, as well the armpits of dogs and between the toes and paw pads.
If a tick is located it should be removed as soon as possible. To remove a tick you must pull out the tick as close to the skin as possible to ensure you remove the head. Tweezers or specific ‘tick removing’ tools pulled firmly and steadily will do the trick. Paralysis ticks are notoriously hard to extract without breaking but once they are detached they are dead and cannot continue to produce toxin or burrow. However, if it very important NOT TO SQUEEZE the tick when trying to remove it; this can result in it regurgitating its ingested contents into the victim – causing even more damage.
When in doubt you should always bring your pet to the closest vet clinic to remove and identify the tick.
Tick identification is critical as it will help you decide if your dog needs close monitoring. It’s important to remember that even though a paralysis tick has been removed the signs can worsen over the next 24-48 hours. Remember to check your pet thoroughly for other ticks, where there is one, there could be others – and often it’s on the second or third sweep when we discover other stragglers hidden away.
Paralysis Tick Symptoms
It takes a couple of days of attachment before the toxins begin to develop. The signs may be subtle at first – lethargy, loss of appetite, panting, coughing and regurgitation. You may also experience a change in the bark of your pet. As the toxins progress the dog can start stumbling until the back limbs become very weak. Eventually the paralysis becomes so severe that the animal cannot stand or lift its head and its breathing becomes quite compromised.
At the end of the day prevention is far better than cure. There is an anti-serum available which is quite successful, but only if treated early enough.
There are a number of tick repelling and tick killing agents on the market. Sprays, rinses and collars all containing certain levels of tick poison seem to be the readily distributed in shops but are often quite ineffective. The best option is to discuss prevention with your veterinarian; they should be aware of the current best products to use.
In short, remember these important points;