Seek veterinary attention immediately – tick paralysis is life threatening!!
Every year dogs and cats in this part of Brisbane die from tick paralysis. Ticks breed in high grass, bushland and parks and are spread by possums, bandicoots and other native animals. The months of highest risk are July-January.
What does a tick look like? When they first attach ticks are very small and dark brown – as they grow larger from sucking blood they become a light grey/green colour. After 2-3 days they grow rapidly to 5mm-1cm in size and the pet starts to show symptoms.
Signs of tick paralysis
- Slightly weak in the back legs
- Looks like a drunken sailor – unable to stand properly on the back legs
- Cannot stand at all on the back legs
- Change in voice (bark or meow)
- Unable to swallow properly – may dribble water or food or cough/gag
- Change in breathing patterns. THIS MAY BE THE ONLY SIGN. Cats often only show this sign.
- Beware – this is the most life threatening sign.
- Depressed, slower, disinterested, decreased exercise tolerance
- More unusual signs – lame in one leg (tick under armpit) or facial signs (droopy lip or eye or ear)
Nb. Your pet may show only one or two of these signs!
Oh no – I’ve found a tick!
Latest research shows no increase in the seriousness of signs if the tick is pulled off immediately it is found, compared to if it is coated with insecticide and left to die. Use tweezers or a tick hook. Don’t worry if you ‘leave the head in’ – no harm – it will come out in a few days just like a splinter. Do NOT use kerosene or anything else on the tick that will burn the skin of your pet. Telephone us for more information, bring the tick in for identification, or come in to see pictures to help you differentiate the paralysis tick from other common ticks.
REMEMBER that animals can show symptoms of tick poisoning 24-48 hours after a tick has been killed – keep them cool and quiet after finding a tick and watch diligently for any signs as above.
If your animal is showing any signs of tick poisoning it will need veterinary attention as soon as possible!! The sooner treatment is started, the better the chance of survival and the lower the costs involved!!
Tick paralysis prevention
Nb. No form of prevention can 100% guarantee freedom from tick paralysis as the immunity of the pet, number of ticks and individual tick toxicity are always highly variable factors.
- Bayer ‘Kiltix’ Collar – active ingredient Flumethrin – replace each 5-6 weeks. Avoid supermarket collars with Amitraz – they just don’t work!!
- ‘Advantix’ Spot On applied every two weeks. (DO NOT use on cats – poisonous!)
- ‘Frontline Top Spot’ applied every two weeks.
THE MOST IMPORTANT PREVENTION is to check your pet over daily by feeling over its skin for ticks. Most ticks are found forward of the shoulder – head, ears, under lips, under chin, around eyes, chest – but they will attach anywhere (always check between the toes!!). Feel over your whole pet’s body with your fingers!!