In SE Queensland paralysis ticks are a year round concern but they are particularly prevalent during spring and summer. Paralysis ticks inject their toxin while feeding on the blood of mammals. Cats and dogs are not natural hosts for paralysis ticks and are severely effected by their toxins.
Thankfully there are a number of tick prevention products available, including spot-ons applied to the back of the pet’s neck, tick collars, sprays and rinses, and chews. It is very important to check the labeling of each product for suitability for your pet. Some products are only suitable for dogs and are toxic to cats. No product will provide 100% assurance and daily tick searches should be part of any tick toxicity prevention plan.
The majority of ticks will attach to the head and neck region of cats and dogs, but can attach anywhere on the body, including in between toes. It is important to work systematically when performing a tick search to ensure that no body area is missed. The best place to start is the head and neck, working through the hair coat with your fingertips. An engorged tick will be about the size of a match head. If you find a tick on your pet remove it immediately. The longer it stays attached, the more toxin it will inject into your pet. You can remove ticks with tweezers, fingernails or a tick hook. Grasp the tick as close to skin level as possible and pull. Ticks are often firmly attached and once removed, the inflammation caused will form a crater. It can take up to 4 days for animals to show signs of tick toxicity even after a tick has been removed.
Signs of Tick Toxicity
Early signs may include:
- change in voice
- loss of appetite or picky eating
- retching or vomiting
- weak or wobbly back legs
Advanced signs of may include:
- back legs become paralysed
- front legs become weak
- eventually they are unable to walk
- breathing becomes laboured
- muscles of respiration become paralysed
If you find a tick on your pet, or a tick attachment site or crater, please seek veterinary advice. Tick paralysis is often fatal if untreated.