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National Tick Awareness Month – why we need it

The first-ever National Tick Awareness Month was launched this month to help shine a spotlight on the dangers of paralysis ticks and call on pet owners to ensure their pets are protected against these potentially deadly parasites.

As a dog owner I ensure my two boys Darcy and Vindi are protected all year-round with a monthly chew, to help protect them from those parasites that are not only annoying to them (and me!) such as fleas and intestinal worms, but also the deadly ones like the paralysis tick.

While some pet owners are concerned about the health implications of giving their pet a monthly flea and tick treatment, I have seen first hand the pain and distress that fleas can cause a pet, especially if they suffer from severe flea allergy dermatitis, not to mention the malnutrition that a worm infested dog will suffer from…then there is the deadly paralysis tick!     So I choose to protect my boys instead.

National Tick Awareness Month has been timed to coincide with the beginning of Spring, which is the start of the highest risk period for deadly paralysis ticks, although cases are seen all year-round across Australia.

The need to protect your pet

What is concerning to me is that many pet owners don’t seem to understand the need to protect their pet from these parasites, and particularly the paralysis tick, with a survey showing that only 53% of owners living in paralysis tick zones, and 41% of owners living in non-paralysis tick zones, currently protecting their dog with an effective tick control product. (1)

If you aren’t aware of what happens when a pet gets infected by paralysis tick, then it is worth understanding the impact this can have on your dog.

Paralysis ticks are parasites that feed on blood and, as they feed, they secrete numerous toxins including a potent neurotoxin which can cause paralysis of the body, respiratory muscles, and affect the ability for your pet to swallow properly.  It can be fatal!

Not all flea and tick treatments are equal

With so many flea, worm and tick treatments on the marketing, it can be confusing to know which one to choose for your pet.  You also should be aware that there are some breeds that can be drug sensitive, such as the Australian Shepherd, so you should of course always speak to your Vet to determine the right options and product for your pet.

My parent’s Border Collie Joe (who looks like he does have some Aussie in him) was reacting very strangely and not eating when he would receive a topical flea and tick treatment applied to his neck.  I suggested they try Nexgard SPECTRA, which my boys take with no issues, and he never had any issues again.

For transparency, Nexgard SPECTRA sponsor Pooches at Play, but there is a reason for that –  I only form partnerships with products that I am willing to give to my own dogs. Plus, by giving them just that one monthly chew, I know they are protected against all of the most important parasites in one go, without having to give them a cocktail of products, or worry if I have missed something.

For those of you who would like more detail, Dr Ellie Leister, is a specialist in Veterinary Emergency and Critical Care, and member of the Australian Paralysis Tick Advisory Panel has been studying the impact of the launch of the most recent class of tick control products, which includes isoxazoline products like NexGard® and NexGard SPECTRA® .

Her research shows that since these new class of tick control products became widely available in 2015, there has been almost a 50% reduction in the number of cases of tick paralysis presenting to veterinary clinics (1).  So, as the numbers show, these new class of treatments are helping save suffering and the lives of our pets.

Regularly check your pet for ticks

If you live in, or are heading out to areas where ticks live, it is recommend you check your pet for ticks daily and watching for the early signs of tick paralysis.

These include changes to their bark or breathing pattern, and weakness in their hind legs progressing to paralysis. It is also very common for them to regurgitate or vomit due to the effect on the gastrointestinal tract.  For more information on the signs, symptoms and treatment of the paralysis tick, click here.

For more information on National Tick Awareness Month for Pets, including how to best protect dogs from ticks, fleas, mites, heartworm and intestinal worms, visit the Nexgard website.

How to check your dog for ticks: 
  1. Gently move your fingertips through the coat at the level of the skin, feeling for any bumps.
  2. Start at the head and neck – don’t forget the mouth and ears – and continue down the front legs to the paws, checking between and under the toes. Search the chest, belly, back, tail, and back legs.
  3. Remove the collar and search for ticks that may be hiding underneath it.

 

[1] Brand Tracking research, IPSOS, 2020


About the Author: Lara Shannon is a certified dog behaviourist and trainer, Executive Producer and Host of Pooches at Play on Channel 10 and editor of Poochesatplay.com. Lara runs her own dog training business in Melbourne’s Bayside area, is a sought after pet expert speaker and Author of Eat, Play, Love (Your Dog).

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