What is tick paralysis?

HOW MUCH DO YOU KNOW ABOUT TICK PARALYSIS?

We’ve finally welcomed summer and the festive season is almost upon us. With this warmer weather, comes tick season. You may be wondering, “What is tick paralysis?” or,  “How can I protect my dog from tick paralysis this summer?”

Tick paralysis is a systemically serious condition that can turn fatal rapidly. So what are they and how do they cause paralysis? Ticks are one of the many parasites that can live on your pet’s skin and fur. They become deeply embedded into your pet’s skin and engorge blood from their skin. As they do this, they secrete toxins into your pet’s bloodstream. These toxins seriously affect the nervous system leading to a variety of symptoms, and can be fatal if not detected early.

It is important to be aware of paralysis ticks, know how to protect your pet from them, what signs to look out for, and when to seek Veterinary attention.

1. Avoid Tick Environments:

During the tick season (which in Australia is as soon as the temperature increases), avoid taking your dog walking through bushland or scrub areas. Try keeping lawns short and remove compost material from your backyard.

2. Ensure Prophylactic Care:

Discuss with your Veterinarian which preventative tick product will work for your pet and your convenience. Ensure that you set reminders for when they are next due for their treatment.

3. Search regularly for Ticks:

A thorough search from nose to tail of your dog’s skin is an essential preventative measure; even when tick treatment has been administered. Using your fingertips, run them through your pet’s coat from front to back, remembering to check the ears, eyes, mouth, between toes and around any skin folds.

4. Be aware of signs of Tick Paralysis:

  • - Crater like appearance to the skinRedness
  • - Itching
  • - Lumps
  • - Weakness in hind legs
  • - Loss of coordination/unable to get up
  • - Retching/coughing
  • - Vomiting, excessive salivation
  • - Loss of appetite
  • - Difficulty breathing or rapid breathing

It is important to note that if you think your pet is suffering from tick paralysis, they require immediate intervention to ensure no threat to their life.

5. Remove the Tick and seek Veterinary attention:

If you find a tick on your pet, it is best to remove it immediately whilst keeping your pet calm and quiet. When removing a tick, avoid disturbing the body of the tick (don’t squeeze the body). Aim to remove the tick by its head at the point of insertion into the pet’s skin because if mouth parts are left in, they are likely to cause inflammation and potentially also a local infection. A useful aid is a tick remover – a fork like device that slides either side of the tick without touching the body of the tick and removes the tick easily. After removal, dab the area with mild antiseptic. If you are unable to remove the tick, seek Veterinary assistance immediately. If you have removed the tick, it is still thereafter necessary to seek Veterinary assistance without delay.

IMPORTANT – If you believe that your pet has a tick, or is suffering from tick paralysis, it is important to not offer food or water or give anything orally. Pets affected by tick paralysis cannot protect their airway when they swallow (as a result of the toxin). This may cause them to aspirate (breath in) food/water into their airways, which can cause aspiration pneumonia and serious breathing difficulties.

Hollie-Ann Rachow
Cert II AS, Cert IV VN
RVN (Registered Veterinary Nurse).

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