1 Bay Road, Fennell Bay NSW 2283
Westlakes Veterinary Hospital

Westlakes Veterinary Hospital


Tick Paralysis

Summer is the one season that everybody loves after coming out of a damp and cold winter, but for people working in the Veterinary Hospitals it is the season which proves to be one of our busiest. Pet owners usually make a visit to the Vet with their beloved family pet due to illness, over-heating, bathing or a hair cut or the most dreaded tick paralysis, just to name a few.

Most people that have witnessed their dog or cat go through tick paralysis treatment are tuned into giving daily checks throughout the summer, but for those of us who are yet to experience this damaging illness it can be an overwhelming experience not only for animals but for the entire family.

Ticks come in many varieties - the cattle, bush, or most concerning, the paralysis tick. If you are unsure please contact a Vet for advice as time is of the essence when treating tick paralysis.

The tick starts off very small, no bigger than a match head, but once attached to your pet grows quite large - this is usually when owners discover it. Tick saliva will have been injected into the animal as the tick feeds on the animal’s blood. By this stage paralysis will have kicked in. Your dog's nerve function is one of the first things affected so you will notice wobbly legs, grunting, vomiting and a change in their voice.

It is essential to see a Vet at this stage. You may remove the tick but make sure that both head and body are removed. Please take both animal and tick to the Vets so if treatment is needed it can be straight away. If unconfident take your pet to the Vet where they can remove the tick. Remember to try to keep them as cool as possible when transporting.

Some tips that Vet Nurses recommend are to do daily tick searches, remembering that ticks like to hide in all places - that means ears, under tail, jowls, in between toes and their favourite, under the collar. Try to learn how to search with your hands not just with your eyes. Regular baths and grooming and a good tick treatment like Frontline will back you up. Lastly, clip your long haired animal it will not only make ticks easier to find but will also keep your pet cool. These treatments are all available at Westlakes Vet Hospital, along with clipping and grooming. Please feel free to call and discuss at any time.

Let's note the varieties of ticks - the most common trouble maker being the Ixodean, dog tick or shell-back tick. This is slate grey in colour and commonly found on the front end of your pet, especially on the side of the neck, front of shoulder and under jaws.

Other ticks found are the grass tick which is a mulberry colour and the cattle tick which is greenish and has wavy yellow lines on its back. These last two are only on your pet to get a blood meal and will drop off when full to lay their eggs in the undergrowth. They will have a local irritation at worst.

The shell-back tick is a trouble maker though, as its saliva is a neurotoxin for cats and dogs (and kids)! As it is feeding, withdrawing blood, it is exchanging this blood for its saliva which then allows the poison to attach to the nerve endings, shutting down muscle action. This shutdown causes the animal to vomit, gag when they breathe and walk with wobbly legs. Any symptom like this must be considered as a tick poisoning and the search for the tick must begin immediately.

Ticks do not need to breed in your back yard. They can be carried there by possums, stray cats, some lizards, etc. If the tick has not found a warmer-blooded host to get a blood meal, it will fall off the skin and attach to the next host that comes by.

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