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Tick Paralysis

Paralysis ticks and pets on the Central Coast

The paralysis tick is a major problem for cats and dogs on the Central Coast.  They occur year round but their numbers reach a peak from early spring to late summer when it is warm and wet. Paralysis ticks can lead to respiratory failure and death.

THE CAUSE OF TICK PARALYSIS

The paralysis tick, Ixodes holocyclus, is the cause of tick poisoning. This tick is found along the east coast of Australia

The paralysis tick is a grey coloured tick that can range in size from a pinhead to as large as a thumbnail. The size is an indication of how long the tick has been on your pet. The tick ingests blood and becomes engorged as a result, at the same time secreting its own saliva into your pet's bloodstream. It is the neurotoxins in the saliva that cause the clinical signs.

SYMPTOMS OF TICK POISONING

Clinical signs usually develop within 3-4 days after tick attachment

Symptoms most commonly seen include:

  • Vomiting and/or gagging or refusing food.
  • Reduced activity
  • A slight wobbliness of the hindquarters which worsens to paralysis and inability to stand.
  • A change in the sound of bark or miaow;
  • Difficulty breathing (slow and laboured, often with a grunting noise on expiration).

If your pet is showing ANY of these signs it is IMPORTANT that it is treated appropriately AS SOON AS POSSIBLE as untreated animals may die.

TREATMENT FOR PARALYSIS TICK POISONING

In all cases of tick poisoning the following procedures will be followed:
  • Administration of a sedative (cats especially can become very agitated and stressed with a tick);
  • Removal of all ticks and repeated searches;
  • Pre-medication and administration of anti-tick serum. Cage rest and close monitoring,
  • Monitoring of bladder function. Manual expression of the bladder is often required until normal function returns.
  • In some cases additional procedures are required, such as:
  • Supportive treatment, such as fluids, oxygen, etc. (depending on the severity) may be necessary
  • Artificial ventilation
  • Further diagnostic procedures including blood pressure, blood tests and chest radiographs. Other procedures may be necessary in severe cases.
In general your animal will be in hospital for at least 2-3 days.  Your pet will be graded on admission for respiration and gait.  You will be informed of the changes in the grading during your pet's hospitalisation.  Some breeds of dogs seem to be particularly sensitive to the effects of the neurotoxin.  These include Collies, Border Collies, Irish Setters and German Shepherds.  In such animals clinical signs can be more severe and recovery often slower.

TICK PARALYSIS AFTER CARE

It is important to keep your pet QUIET and COOL for 2 weeks after tick poisoning because of the possibility of delayed cardiotoxic effects.  In addition small frequent meals and fluids are preferable to one large meal a day.  Another common side effect of tick poisoning is inhibition of a dog's ability to urinate. 

It is important to realise that your pet is still susceptible to poisoning from any future ticks.  The antiserum given at the time of treatment does not have any lasting protective effects and so preventative measures should be undertaken.

TICK PARALYSIS PREVENTION

  • Frontline Spray every 3 weeks, from 2 days old
  • Nexgard Tablet every month, from 8 weeks old
  • Bravecto Tablet every 3 months, from 8 weeks old or > 2 kgs in weight
  • Frontline Topspot every 2 weeks, from 8 weeks old
  • Advantix Topspot every 2 weeks, from 7 weeks old   DO NOT USE ON CATS
  • Permoxin Rinse every 2 weeks, from 12 weeks old  DO NOT USE ON CATS
  • Seresto Tick Collar protects for 4 months for ticks and 8 months for fleas, from 10 weeks old