Spring is almost here and we have already had an increased number of tick cases in the last few weeks!
Please be extra vigilant with your animals and if you are in a tick prone area, ensure that your pets are tick searched daily and tick prevention treatment is kept up to date.
What are ticks? what do they do? How do I check my pet for ticks? What are the signs of tick poisoning?
Ticks are small external parasites that attach to and suck the blood of animals (and humans). There are many species of ticks within Australia however the most common species and the one we are most worried about with our pets is the paralysis tick (Ixodes holocyclus). This tick is found along the eastern coast of Australia from North Queensland and all the way down to Victoria.
How does your dog/ cat get them?
Ticks attach to dogs and cats by climbing onto grass, low foliage or bushes where they wait for passing hosts (animals or people) to attach to and feed on.
What areas do ticks thrive in?
Ticks thrive in moist, humid and bushy areas. They normally feed on native animals like bandicoots and possums which are their natural hosts – so any areas with wildlife are likely to have ticks too.
Paralysis ticks occur all year round, however their numbers are at a peak from early spring to late summer, when the weather is warmer and more humid.
The paralysis tick produces a toxin in its saliva which is passed on to the host animal when the tick feeds. This can lead to the development of tick poisoning in your animal.
Signs of tick poisoning in your dog?
Signs of tick poisoning include:-
· Weakness or loss of coordination in the hind legs (wobbliness or not being able to get up)
· Change in the voice or bark
· Retching, coughing or vomiting
· Loss of appetite
· Progressive paralysis to include the forelegs
· Laboured or rapid breathing
If your dog/cats shows any of these signs it is very important to have them seen by a veterinarian as soon as possible, as affected and untreated animals may die.
How to check your dog/cat for ticks?
Checking your dog/cat daily for ticks is extremely important especially if you live in tick prone areas. Most ticks are found around the head, neck and shoulders/forelegs, however they can potentially attach anywhere on your pet so it is important to also check areas such as the chest, back, abdomen, legs, tail, under the armpits and in between toes.
To check your pet for ticks, use your fingertips to feel through your animal’s coat. Ticks or tick craters (raised areas where a tick may have attached) feel like small lumps on the skin surface.
If a tick is found, it should be removed as soon as possible. Tweezers or special tick removing hooks can be used to gently lever or pry them off the skin. Your veterinarian can show you the best way to do this.
What does treatment and prevention involve?
Treatment essentially involves the administration of a tick anti-toxin and supportive therapy in hospital until your animal has recovered from the tick poisoning and is strong enough to go home.
Prevention, as always, is better than cure. In addition to checking your pet daily for ticks, there are a number of preventative products that can greatly reduce the chances of ticks attaching to or feeding on your pet. Products available include sprays, spot-on treatments, rinses and tick collars.
· Frontline spray ( Recommended for cats)
· Frontline spot-on
· Advantix spot-on (toxic to cats)
· Killtix/Preventic collars (can be used in conjunction with advantix/frontline)
· Permoxin rinse (for dogs only)
It is important to note however, that no tick preventative products are 100% effective in preventing ticks from attaching or feeding, therefore it is still extremely important that you continue to search your pet daily and immediately remove any ticks that are found.
Below is a Tick Identification Chart to help you identify the different tick species and their lifecycle stages.