One of the biggest concerns facing pet owners in the Cairns region is the risk of tick paralysis. In Australia, around 75,000 dogs and cats are paralysed by these deadly ticks each year. The paralysis tick is found mostly on the eastern coast of Australia, from Far North Queensland to Northern Victoria.


In Far North Queensland these ticks are more prevalent from June to December, but cases do occur all year round. Areas of natural bushland, creeks, etc. which harbour native animals, particularly bandicoots, are the most likely areas where paralysis ticks are found.



How does the tick cause paralysis?

When a paralysis tick crawls onto pets or other animals (called the host), they wander over the body before attaching to feed. During feeding the tick releases a neurotoxin called Holocyclotoxin, which is excreted from the tick’s salivary glands, into the host.
This toxin blocks the cells of the central nervous system causing life-threatening paralysis.


Symptoms of tick paralysis include:

•• Change in voice or bark.
•• Loss of appetite.
•• Retching, coughing, choking and vomiting.
•• Weakness, wobbly walk, lack of coordination which leads to paralysis.
•• Panting, grunting or difficulty breathing.
•• Collapse and sudden death.

The host animal usually shows no signs of illness for approximately four days after the tick attaches, however, once they begin to show symptoms they can deteriorate very rapidly.



What to do if you find a tick or your pet begins showing symptoms:

•• Contact your vet urgently for advice and an appointment.
•• Search your pet thoroughly for a tick paying particular attention to the head, neck and shoulder area.
•• If found, remove the tick by firmly grasping the tick between the thumb and finger. Firmly tug the tick out. It’s a good idea to keep the tick for identification at the vets.
•• Do NOT give any food, water or medications by mouth as animals affected by tick paralysis cannot swallow correctly.
•• Keep your pet calm and in a cool place until you visit the vet.

Ticks can be difficult to find, and pets can quickly progress to severe paralysis or death. Early diagnosis and treatment gives your pet the best chance of recovery.



How to prevent tick paralysis:


1. Keep your pet’s coat short – longer haired dogs and cats are more susceptible to tick paralysis as it’s hard to find ticks on them, especially if they are knotted or matted.

2. Avoid high-risk areas such as bushland, creeks, long grass, etc. Lawn maintenance is essential in reducing tick populations.

3. Search your pet daily for ticks – thoroughly search your pet’s skin and coat every day, even if tick control has been used. Ticks or tick craters can be felt as lumps on the skin surface.

4. Use a preventative tick control – the use of products specifically designed for tick control can greatly reduce the risk of tick paralysis. As there are many tick prevention products on the market, it’s important to discuss what product is best for your pet with your veterinarian or veterinary nurse before purchase.



For more information on tick paralysis or advice on the right tick prevention product for your pet contact either of our locations and chat to our experienced staff.

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