The paralysis tick is one extremely nasty little parasite that every dog owner hopes their pooch will never encounter. Although these eight-legged creatures are very small, they can cause huge dramas for your dog. Tick paralysis can even be fatal for dogs, so it’s essential that you take all reasonable steps to protect your dog against the trauma of ticks.
What are paralysis ticks?
There are approximately 75 different species of tick in Australia, and while others can spread a range of diseases and health problems, only one variety (Ixodes holocyclus) causes paralysis — hence its much more recognisable moniker of the paralysis tick.
Paralysis ticks can be found right along Australia’s eastern seaboard, from far north Queensland all the way down to Victoria, and they thrive in warm and humid conditions. Commonly found in bush areas, paralysis ticks are often carried by bandicoots.
Females can lay up to an astonishing 3000 eggs after feeding. Those eggs soon hatch into larvae that need to find their own blood meal, and they lie in wait in grass and vegetation as they search for a host to come along. In many cases, the host could be your dog, out enjoying a relaxing stroll through the bush.
Paralysis ticks attach to your dog’s skin and then feed by sucking blood from your canine, injecting a strong toxin into your dog that could potentially be fatal. Light blue or grey in colour, paralysis ticks can grow to a size of about one centimetre but can be as little as one or two millimetres long.
Signs and symptoms of ticks
The toxin from a paralysis tick can produce a range of symptoms in your dog, including:
- Weakness in the hind legs, which typically will eventually progress to the front legs
- A change in your dog’s bark
- Loss of appetite
- Vomiting or retching
- Laboured or loud breathing
- A moist cough
- Excessive salivation
As the paralysis progresses, your dog may have trouble standing at all, will experience increasing breathing problems and may go into respiratory arrest. In many cases, death will soon follow.
If you notice any of symptoms listed above, check your dog for ticks immediately and remove any that you find. You’ll also need to get your pooch to the vet as soon as possible.
How to remove a tick
Although the majority of ticks are found around a dog’s head and neck, they can move to any area of the body. Make sure to systematically search your pet for ticks each day during tick season, particularly if your pooch has been in long grass or a bushy area. Running your fingers carefully through your dog’s fur or using a comb will do the trick.
If you find a tick on your dog, remove it as soon as possible. There are several schools of thought on the best way to remove a tick from a dog — tweezers, long fingernails and even specialist tick removers can all be used, or you could kill the tick with a spot-on tick preventative.
Even if you’ve managed to remove the entire tick, it’s still vital that you take your pet to the vet for a check-up. Take the tick with you if possible so your vet can tell you what you’re dealing with.
Tick paralysis treatment
The first step in treating tick paralysis is administering tick anti-venom, which your vet will do as soon as possible. However, even after this anti-venom (also called anti-serum or anti-toxin) has been given, your pet’s paralysis symptoms may continue to worsen as the tick toxin continues to take effect.
Depending on the seriousness of the paralysis, your vet may also employ a range of other treatment options, including IV fluids to keep your pet hydrated, and sedatives to stop your dog becoming excited and to therefore help with breathing problems.
Tick prevention for dogs
The best thing you can do to protect your dog aga
inst ticks is to avoid these nasty little critters at all costs. Unfortunately, that’s usually easier said than done, so it’s important that you use a trusted tick preventative to protect your pet — especially if you live in a tick-prone area.
Some dog tick prevention options include:
- Frontline Plus – this spot-on treatment is applied every two weeks to kill ticks
- Frontline Spray – this can be applied every three weeks to protect against paralysis ticks and fleas
- NexGard – this chewable treatment kills ticks and fleas for 30 days
- Advantix – this topical treatment is applied every two weeks and protects against paralysis ticks, fleas, bush ticks and brown ticks
- Bravecto – this flavoured chew is given every three months to control ticks and fleas
- Tick collars from brands such as Scalibor and Kiltix
You can also take a few other simple steps to reduce the risk of tick paralysis:
- Search your pet for ticks every day
- Remember that no tick prevention product is 100 per cent effective
- Keep your lawn cut short and don’t let your dog walk or play in long grass
- Fence off any bush areas in your yard
- Keep your dog’s coat cut short
These easy steps can ensure that your dog stays safe from paralysis ticks rain, hail or shine.