Albion Park & Gerringong

Tick Paralysis

Tick Paralysis is a medical emergency that requires prompt treatment as soon as clinical signs are noted

Tick Paralysis is a serious and potentially fatal condition caused by the Paralysis Tick Ixodes Holocyclus. A vast majority of cases are seen in spring and summer months. The toxin injected by the paralysis tick causes neuromuscular paralysis, resulting in clinical signs such as hindlimb weakness, coughing or gagging, lethargy, excessive salivation, vomiting or regurgitation, and difficulty breathing. If you notice any of these signs, please call us immediately on 4256 3638 or our emergency hotline if you are out of clinic hours.
The best way to prevent tick paralysis is to ensure your pets are to date with tick preventative treatments, especially during the spring and summer months (October through to March). It is also important to perform a tick search every few days or after you have been walking in the bush to ensure there are no ticks attached to your pet.
Albion Park Vet

Tick Paralysis (Ixodes holocyclus)

Well, it’s that time of year again. Tick season. Although this winter we have seen tick cases through the “off” season… global warming? More tenacious ticks? Who knows but we do know that all year round prevention is now required for all of our furry friends!So what is tick paralysis? Tick paralysis is caused by a blood-sucking arachnid called Ixodes hyocyclus, which injects a neurotoxin into the blood stream, and causes paralysis. One of the first signs that your pet may have a paralysis tick is wobbly back legs. They walk like they just raided your drinks cupboard! The toxin moves through the body affecting many systems, causing (among other things) vomiting, a lack of gag reflex, and eventually difficulty breathing, with eventual suffocation and death. However, this is not the only danger your pet faces when having its blood sucked by a paralysis tick. There are thought to be cardio-toxins, which effect the heart’s ability to function properly. Also, fluid in the lungs has been reported in every post-mortem study of dogs with tick paralysis. As you can imagine, lungs filled with fluid make breathing doubly difficult when the diaphragm and chest muscles are paralysed.
Added to the direct effects of the toxins, there are secondary complications of tick paralysis that can be life-threatening in their own right. Due to the concurrent loss of gag reflex and vomiting, there is a very high risk of your pet breathing in the vomit, and not being about to gag or cough to stop it going straight down into the lungs. The stomach acid in the vomit can cause massive damage to the lungs and result in dire consequences.
Albion Park Vet
If your pet does get a tick and start developing signs of tick paralysis, call your vet clinic immediately, as this is an absolute emergency. There is tick anti-serum available but once the toxin is having an effect, the anti-serum can’t reverse it. The anti-serum can only mop up the toxin that hasn’t already attached itself to a protein in your pet’s body, and is still floating around the blood stream. The rest of the toxin will continue to have an effect after the anti-serum has been given, and after the tick (or ticks) has been removed. Your pet will require intensive veterinary medical support to help them survive while the effects of the toxin wear off.

With all these consequences of a paralysis tick latching on, it makes good sense to have tick prevention on board from the get-go. Currently there are some great products on the market, which have been shown to be very effective and can last for up to 6 months at a time, depending on the product used. One such product available is Bravecto, which comes in a monthly chew, a 3-monthly chew, and a 6-monthly top-spot application. If you require any information about such products or have any questions regarding tick paralysis, just call your local vet clinic.
Albion Park Vet
Albion Park Vet

Tick Paralysis (Ixodes holocyclus)

It strikes fear in the heart of any Australian pet owner…. and for good reason. Paralysis ticks (scientific name Ixodes holocyclus) are unique to Australia and love warmth and humidity.
They are found all year round on the Eastern coastline – Favouring warm and humid climates, however don’t let this preference fool you! They have been sneaking up through winter as well. Ticks feed on blood by attaching to your pet’s skin. They inject a paralysing toxin that is deadly to pets. Early symptoms in affected pets include wobbly or weak back legs, vomiting and changes in their bark or meow. If left untreated, this rapidly progresses to full body paralysis and eventually results in the inability to breathe, leading to death. It is vital to seek treatment immediately; the sooner tick antiserum is administered the greater the chance of recovery.
Albion Park Vet
Prevention is definitely best. Knowing your pet is protected against this deadly parasite will give you peace of mind. There are a number of products available that are easy to administer and affordable. These can be administered to puppies and kittens as young as 8 weeks of age, via chewable monthly tablets, 3 monthly chewable tablets, or 3-6 monthly spot-on prevention.

“Should I use preventative products if my pet/s don’t go outside our house/yard?”

Short answer, Yes. To elaborate a bit; If you have birds, lizards and native wildlife travel through or over your property, then your pet is at risk of tick paralysis. Our natives aren’t affected by paralysis ticks like our companion animals are, and they play as temporary hosts for these nasty parasites.. So if you have lizard/bird traffic, or the occasional kangaroo or wombat travel past, your pet is susceptible to paralysis ticks.

“What should I do if I find a tick on my pet?”

If you can identify what type of tick you have found, fantastic! Remove the tick with a tick remover or by pinching towards the base of the burrowed head, and twist – then pull. A paralysis ticks toxins are in their body, not their head. So if you don’t have a tick remover, tweezers or pinching the base of their head will suffice.

If you’re unsure however, we’d advise taking your pet in to your local vet asap. Ticks can go unnoticed, until your pet eventually starts presenting symptoms and may deteriorate quickly. Prevention is ALWAYS recommended year-round.

We understand that every pet has different needs, so we offer preventative health advice to make sure we work together to choose the best product for your pet.

Call us at Albion Park Veterinary Hospital on 4256 3638, or Gerringong Vets on 4234 1317 and speak with one of our friendly veterinary nurses. 4234 1317