Tick Season is Here !!!

Tick Season is here!  As we say goodbye to the winter chills and welcome the warmer days of spring we also find the paralysis tick season. The paralysis tick (Ixodes Holocyclus) is found on the east coast of Australia and as summer approaches the tick becomes more active. They will feed on any mammalian species including dogs, cats, horses, cattle, humans, macropods and even birds.  It is believed that the bandicoot is immune to the toxin due to frequent low levels of exposure, but even a heavy enough burden of ticks can kill a bandicoot.


The adult paralysis tick can be identified from the common bush tick and the brown dog tick by looking at the colour of the legs. There will be a dark leg, two light legs and a dark leg on each side. Typically the tick will be a blue or grey colour but this can vary a little. The immature nymph stage is very small (0.5mm) and feeds on its host then falls off and repeats this process one more time until it becomes the adult tick. The adult tick burrows into the skin to feed and in so doing releases a toxin that effects the nerves of the host. It is a toxin that attacks the nerve fibres from the back of the body first and then moves forward. The severity of symptoms increases as the dose of toxin gets bigger hence the number of ticks on the host pays a big role in the degree of sickness and how quickly symptoms progress.


Signs of tick parlaysis include:vomiting;  hind limb weakness;  hind limb paralysis;  weakness in all 4 legs;  collapse in all 4 legs;  prolapse of the third eyelid;  dilated pupils;  difficulty breathing;  change in voice;  gulping breathing pattern;  and when severe even death can result.


The major cornerstone of treatment is the identification and removal of the tick. This does not result in the immediate improvement of the animal and they will continue to absorb toxin from the bite site for a further 24 hours hence symptoms can get worse after removal of the tick. 


If your animal has a tick, never stop looking for ticks if one tick is found.  Always assume that there is another tick present and keep searching until the animal's condition is better.  In many cases it is necessary to clip off the coat to ensure no other ticks are present.  Ticks can also hide in the ears, around the vulva and prepuce but most ticks are found around the head and neck region.


To remove the tick it is best to pinch the skin up under the tick and remove the tick with your fingers or a pair of thumb forceps.  The less irritation that occurs, the less the tick will inject toxin into the animal.  Use of irritants such as alcohol or kerosene will eventually kill the tick but they really are not advised as they just encourage the injection of more poison.


Always contact your veterinarian for advice if you have removed a paralysis tick from your animal and it is showing symptoms.  Depending on the degree of symptoms, treatment may be required and the earlier treatment is commenced, the better the results.  Treatment includes the use of tick antisera, supportive medications and sometimes oxygen administration is needed and in extreme cases ventilation is required.  Animals that die from tick paralysis die from respiratory collapse.  Some dogs will die from heart muscle damage as well and this can occur any time up to 3 weeks following tick poisoning.  Hence rest is important for 3 weeks after being discharged.


Prevention is always better than the cure and so regular checking for ticks and removal of ticks is essential.  There are also numerous medications that can reduce the risk of tick envenomation; these include spot on treatments like Frontine, Advantix, Preventic Tick Collars, washes and rinses such as Fido's and also oral medications like Proban. There are many advantages and disadvantages with each product and it is best to tailor each approach individually so ring us to discuss your needs.