National Tick Awareness Month coincides with Spring, a time when the eastern seaboard braces for an increase in tick paralysis cases, and reminding dog owners to ensure their dogs are protected against the paralysis tick.
Tick paralysis is caused by the paralysis tick, Ixodes holocyclus, which inhabits coastal regions of eastern Australia and is traditionally most active during the warmer spring and summer months, however cases are seen year-round. Paralysis ticks are parasites that live by feeding on the blood of host animals, in the process injecting saliva that contains a neurotoxin which can cause signs of paralysis.
Tick paralysis is a preventable condition, however unfortunately it continues to kill many dogs each year.
Is your dog protected?
Recent research shows that alarmingly, many dog owners in Australia are failing to take appropriate steps to protect their pets. The research shows that just under half of dogs (48%) living in paralysis tick areas are on tick prevention. This has dropped five percent (5%) in the past two years. In non-paralysis tick areas, tick prevention compliance has dropped by 3% in 2022 to 38%. 
The Australian Paralysis Tick Advisory Panel is a group of veterinary and scientific experts who convene to review the latest scientific information regarding the prevention and management of tick paralysis. When it comes to prevention of tick paralysis, the panel recommend three simple strategies:
- the use of an effective tick preventative product
- daily tick searching and
- reducing potential exposure to ticks in the environment.
Dr Heather Russell, a member of The Australian Paralysis Tick Advisory Panel, has put out an urgent call to pet owners to take simple steps to protect their pets. Dr Heather says, “Quite simply, the risk of not being protected against paralysis ticks all year-round is a matter of life or death.”
Paralysis tick can be fatal
“Tick paralysis can be fatal. I’ve seen too many cases in my clinic that could have been prevented. This is why it is so important for pet owners to be able to recognise the signs and even more importantly, to be protecting their pets with an effective tick control product,” said Dr Heather.
To support with driving awareness about the importance of prevention, the second annual National Tick Awareness Month for Pets shines a spotlight on the dangers of paralysis ticks.
The data on the effectiveness of modern tick control products in preventing tick paralysis is compelling.
Research shows that since 2015 when the new isoxazoline class of tick control products, such as NexGard® and NexGard Spectra®, became widely available, there has been a greater than 50% reduction in the number of cases of tick paralysis presenting to veterinary clinics.
Signs of tick paralysis may include:
- Altered mobility, which may include loss of coordination and weakness
- Laboured or rapid breathing, grunting noises and/or abdominal heaving
- Change or loss of bark
- Gagging and vomiting
- Loss of appetite
- Inability to blink in one or both eyes
- Appearing generally unwell
In addition to watching out for the signs of tick paralysis, it is essential to check your pet daily for ticks, even if they are on a tick control product.
How to check your dog for ticks:
- Gently move your fingertips through the coat at the level of the skin, feeling for any bumps.
- 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.
- Remove the collar and search for ticks that may be hiding underneath it.
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.
 Source IPSOS 2022 on behalf of Boehringer Ingelheim. According to dosing to manufacturer’s instructions in treating for ticks. Online survey of n=500 dog owners
 Dr Leister and Dr Emily Ireland performed a search of hospital records for tick paralysis cases presenting to two Animal Emergency Services clinics in Queensland, with 10,914 cases of tick paralysis in dogs being diagnosed between March 2008 and March 2021.
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 World of Dogs and Eat, Play, Love (Your Dog).