Dealing with Ticks on Pets
There are a few types of ticks that get on our pets in Australia, the deadliest being the Paralysis Tick. These are found largely along the east coast from North Queensland to Victoria. They love warm, humid weather so up north they are a problem all year around, and in NSW they tend to peak in Spring and Summer.
When the paralysis tick latches on to feed on your fur-baby (dogs and cats) they will also be injecting a poison which will cause your pet to become very sick and if left untreated, can result in death.
What happens when dogs and cats are poisoned by paralysis ticks?
The paralysis poison that’s injected into your mate can cause the following:
- A change in voice (i.e. bark)
- Loss of appetite
- Weakness/wobbliness of the legs, progressing to paralysis (back legs first but can spread to the front legs too)
- Difficulty breathing
If your pet is showing any of these symptoms, it’s essential to have them checked out by your local veterinarian immediately as early intervention gives best chance of full recovery.
Your at home, daily tick strategy.
- Use a preventative - Chat to a veterinarian about what works best for you and your pet. For dogs, options include sprays, collars, spot-ons (reapplied every two weeks), monthly tablets and the newest (and very exciting!) one is a very effective tablet that can be given orally every 3 months. Cats have less options and note that some dog products are life threatening to cats.
- Avoid walks in the bush / scrub – Ticks love it here.
- Know the signs of tick poisoning (above).
- Daily checks – get in the habit of doing a tick search daily. Don’t rely on preventatives alone. Use your finger tips to comb through your pet's coat for 5 minutes every day. You are feeling for a lump on the skin, from the tip of their nose to their tail, and everywhere in between! Most ticks are found from the shoulders forward (ear and lip folds as well), but they can be anywhere and are also often found on the paws. Feel over your entire pet every night as part of your regular routine (they’ll love this part!)
If your pet has any of the above signs you need to get to a bricks and mortar vet ASAP. We know that early veterinary intervention gives the best chance of full recovery.
First aid when you find a paralysis tick
The longer the tick is your pet the more paralysis inducing poison they can pass on, so my advice is:
Remove the tick IMMEDIATELY
There are a couple of options here.
- Tick Removal Tool (best option). Buy one, no, buy two! One for in the car and keep one on hand. They are cheap and can be purchased from pet care shops and veterinary clinics. They allow you to easily lever and twist the tick off your pet’s skin so that the tick’s legs and head are all removed and nothing is left behind to cause an allergic reaction or pass more toxin to your pet.
- No tool? You can use tweezers or even your finger nails underneath the attached tick as close to the skin of your pet as possible. Do be careful not to squeeze the body of the tick, as this could cause increased risk of an allergic reaction, or risk more poison to be passed to your pet. This method may not remove all parts of the tick that are burrowed into the skin, but at least no more poison is being released.
Collect the Tick
- Place the tick in a sealed bag or container so you can show your local veterinarian and ensure it can’t escape to cause a problem for anyone else.
- It can be a number of days from the feeding of a paralysis tick on your mate until signs are seen. This means that even if things appear normal with your pet after you have removed a tick, they are still not out of the woods, and you need to keep your pet quiet for a number of days afterwards. A common situation is that pets go away to a high risk tick area for the weekend, and it’s not until they’re home, on the Tuesday or Wednesday that they are showing signs that they have been poisoned
- See your local veterinarian IMMEDIATELY if you have any concerns ,or see any of the signs listed above in your pet. Lack of intervention can be sadly, be deadly for your pooch.
About the Author: Dr. Claire Jenkins, is a seasoned veterinarian, with over 13 years’ experience. It was clear that pet owners were often left guessing what was wrong with their pets and she thought that if we all had a vet on hand to help us at home, maybe we could all do more for our pets than ever before. Enter vetchat, an online service she co-founded that quickly connect vets and pet owners in real time via video and text chat.
Wherever you are, whenever you need it – vetchat is only a click away!