Keeping your pet safe from Paralysis Tick

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The deadly Paralysis Tick is found along the East Coast of Australia and can kill a dog if left untreated.  However, many dog owners are still unaware of the threat this deadly parasite poses.

Vets are urging pet owners to be compliant with tick prevention after a new study published in the International Journal for Parasitology found paralysis tick cases are seen all year-round (including throughout the winter months). [1]

It also found there are significant variations in the peak season of tick paralysis by region, starting earlier in in the north than in the south. It also uncovered that Victoria had two peak seasons of tick paralysis, while other regions only had one.

The Paralysis Tick usually targets native wildlife such as bandicoots, possums and koalas, but they can also attach themselves to domesticated animals, and even humans, if the opportunity presents.

As they feed, they inject dogs with a neurotoxin, and this can cause signs of paralysis. Complacency with tick prevention can cost dog owners tens of thousands of dollars, and some dogs will die from tick paralysis despite the best veterinary care.  

Where ticks tend to be found

Ticks live in long grasses and wooded areas, so spending time outside can put you and your pet in contact with ticks.

They must feed on blood during every point of their life cycle to survive and are constantly looking for their next meal. They lay in wait on the tips of grasses and plants and detect body heat. When a host brushes past, the tick climbs aboard and attaches.

As paralysis ticks can cause serious, and potentially fatal disease, if you live in, or have visited a paralysis tick area, it’s important to know the symptoms to look out for.

Preventative measures include:
  • Staying on trails when hiking. Ticks like to live on long grasses and in wooded areas. If out hiking, stick to marked trails and keep your dog on a leash to prevent them running off into the woods.
  • Using tick prevention. A monthly chew like Nexgard SPECTRA can protect your dog from the paralysis tick as well as other ticks, fleas and parasites, so make sure your dog is protected year-round no matter where you live.
  • Checking your dog for ticks after being outdoors. Ticks can even live in your backyard, so it is important to check your dog every time they are outside. Run your hands over every part of your dog’s body, paying careful attention to places that ticks could hide, such as between toes, inside ears, between legs, and under collars. Ticks come in all sizes and juvenile specimens can be difficult to detect due to their small size, so look carefully.
  • Removing ticks if found. You can remove ticks at home using a pair of tweezers or a tick removal tool, but you need to be sure to remove all of the tick,as any mouthparts left in the bite wound can continue to transmit infectious bacteria.
  • Take your pet to the Vet if you find a tick. So for the safety of your dog, particularly in the case of Paralysis Tick, it is best to take your pet straight to a veterinarian for assistance should you find a tick on your dog or cat.
  • Watching for symptoms. If your pet begins to show signs of tick-borne disease, even if you haven’t found a tick on them, contact your veterinarian immediately for testing.
Signs and symptoms of Paralysis Tick

If you notice that your pet is vomiting more than a couple of times a day, they could be suffering from tick paralysisLook out for frothy vomit also; this can be another sign.

If your pet is a little unsteady or wobbly in the legs, it could be a sign of paralysis tick.

A change in a bark or meow, or if your cat is showing the above symptoms and they are meowing more than usual, paralysis tick could be the cause. If the pitch or volume of your pet’s voice is altered in a significant way, this could also point to a tick.

Dogs will often pant heavily if they are affected by a paralysis tick. Listen for loud breathing and coughing.

If the poisoning progresses, the animal may not be able to move after a time. The gums will turn blue and breathing will become increasingly laboured. If not treated quickly, at this stage death will usually follow.

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[1] Teo, E. J. M., Arganda, A., Webster, R., Yappa, A., Barker, D. & Barker, S. C. (2023) Two seasons of tick paralysis in Victoria yet one season in Queensland and New South Wales, Australia. International Journal for Parasitology, 53, 43–53.


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