Pet owners all the way up and down the Australian east coast tremble in fear at the sound of two words — paralysis ticks. While fleas and other parasites can cause plenty of health problems for your feline friend, the serious and potentially fatal effects of tick paralysis pose significant dangers to cats. Read on to find out how you can protect your cat against paralysis ticks.
Ticks and Cats
Australia is home to a huge range of ticks — approximately 75, in fact —
but the paralysis tick (Ixodes holocyclus) is the scariest one for cat owners. These tiny, eight-legged parasites can be as little as one millimetre long, and they attach to your pet’s skin to feed on its blood. While they feed, paralysis ticks inject your cat with a powerful toxin which, as the name suggests, can cause paralysis and eventually lead to death.
Paralysis ticks love hot and humid conditions and can be found right along the east coast of Australia, from northern Queensland down to Victoria. And while they’re a problem most cat owners commonly associate with the warmer months, paralysis ticks can be found in certain parts of the country all year round.
If you live in a tick-prone area and your fabulous feline spends time outdoors, there’s no way you can stop your pet coming in contact with paralysis ticks. The female tick can lay up to 3,000 eggs at a time, which hatch into larvae within one to three months. Tick larvae then search for a new host to feed from, and while they commonly attach to bandicoots and possums, they also attach to domestic pets like cats and dogs.
Symptoms of Tick Paralysis
If you know what you’re looking for, the symptoms of tick paralysis in cats are easy to spot. They include:
- Weakness in the back legs. Over time, this will progress to the front legs as well
- Difficulty breathing or noisy panting
- Loss of appetite
- A change to your cat’s meow
- Vomiting or dry retching
- Difficulty swallowing
If your cat shows any of these symptoms, take him to your vet immediately — the longer you delay, the worse the symptoms will get. You should try to keep your cat as calm as possible in order to help with his breathing problems, while removing food or water is also recommended.
Treating Tick Paralysis in Cats
If left untreated, tick paralysis can cause death quickly. The treatment for tick paralysis involves injecting your cat with a tick anti-serum, but as the toxin takes up to 48 hours to exit a cat’s system, your pet may even continue to deteriorate after treatment has started.
Depending on the severity of your cat’s condition, your vet may need to explore other treatment options to help with recovery, including ventilating your pet or administering fluids via IV.
Tick Prevention For Cats
Unfortunately, no tick prevention product is 100 per cent effective. If your cat spends any time outdoors, they run the risk of coming into contact with paralysis ticks, especially during the warmer months.
With this in mind, it’s a good idea to check your cat for ticks each day by systematically running your fingers through their fur. Remember to check under the collar, inside the ears and between the toes — your cat will probably love all the extra attention. If you find any ticks there are several options for removing them, including using tweezers or a specialist tick remover, or even using a specialist tick prevention product to kill the nasty parasites.
It’s also critical to use a form of tick prevention for your kitty, such as Frontline Spray. Applied every three weeks, this spray protects your cat against paralysis ticks and fleas and is the only product registered for tick prevention in cats.
It’s also worth noting that many tick prevention products for dogs are actually toxic to cats, so never use a tick product meant for dogs on your feline friend. Other tips, such as keeping your grass cut short and fencing off any busy areas of your backyard, can help minimise the risk of your cat coming into contact with ticks.
So although these little parasites can cause huge problems for cats, taking a few simple precautions can help you reduce the chances of your cat experiencing any trouble with ticks.