With warmer days upon us, paralysis ticks are becoming more prevalent. The paralysis tick is an eight-legged insect that produces a potentially deadly toxin for cats and dogs. They can be found anywhere at any time of day and can be very difficult to find on your pet. Any animal can be affected by paralysis ticks and if not treated quickly can lead to fatality.

Identifying a Paralysis Tick:

Paralysis Ticks are grey or white in colour, but can resemble a dark purple-grey when they are engorged with blood from feeding on an animal. There are other species of tick that are brown or black in colour, and although they cause discomfort for the animal they are not toxic like the Paralysis ticks. If you are unsure, your vet can identify the tick for you.

Areas Your Pet is Most at Risk of Getting a Paralysis Tick:

Paralysis ticks are found on the East Coast of Australia and are often transported by other wildlife (especially Bandicoots and Possums). Tick season is predominantly Spring to Summer but sometimes cases have been reported in warm Autumn and Winter seasons. Some areas are known to see regular cases of animals affected with Paralysis ticks and if you live in or are visiting these areas, then your pet is more at risk. These areas include:

  • Northern Beaches
  • Coastal areas
  • Dense bushland
  • Mountains
  • The Hills District
  • Epping/Marsfield/Ryde
  • Hawkesbury Region

There have also been 2 reported cases so far this year in the city, both dogs visiting Centennial Parklands before showing signs of Paralysis tick toxicity.

Signs of Paralysis Tick Toxicity in Your Pet Include:

  • Wobbly Gait/Reluctant on stairs
  • Weak hind limbs – progressing to paralysis of limbs
  • Change or loss of voice
  • Difficulty swallowing/retching when eating or drinking
  • Coughing
  • Vomiting
  • Heavy breathing (panting, noisy breathing and possibly grunting)
  • Collapse

What to Do if You Suspect Your Pet is Affected by a Paralysis Tick:

  • Seek veterinary advice immediately, your pet will not recover without tick serum.
  • Keep your pet as calm as possible whilst transporting them to the vet.
  • If you have removed the tick from your pet, bring it with you for your vet to identify.

How to Remove a Tick

Preferably use a tick removal tool such as a tick hook/fork to remove the tick. If you don’t have this, use a pair of flat nose tweezers carefully. Place the remover as close to where the tick’s mouth is attached to the skin, twist the tick, and pull away from the skin. Try not to squish the body of the tick when removing. Removed ticks are often still alive so place them in a container.

* Pets can still develop symptoms of tick paralysis even after a tick is removed, so monitor your pet very closely, and if any signs are present seek immediate veterinary advice. We would recommend a vet check if you have removed a paralysis tick from your pet regardless of symptoms being present*

What to Expect at the Vet if Your Dog Has Tick Paralysis Signs:

  • Your pet will be assessed and a tick search completed by the veterinarian. Your vet may also recommend shaving your pet to make this process quicker and easier.
  • If tick paralysis is suspected, the vet will admit your pet to the hospital to administer tick antivenom under close supervision with supportive medication and therapies.
  • Your pet may also be given a tick-preventative product.
  • Your pet may be sedated to reduce stress on their system and to help them rest.
  • Depending on your pet’s response to treatment, they may require further hospitalization overnight or for a number of days, this may be at an after-hours clinic depending on their symptoms.

Click here to see some signs of tick paralysis in a dog and how it is treated – Courtesy of Animal Emergency Service.

What You Can Do to Protect Your Pet From Paralysis Ticks:

  • Ensure your pet is up-to-date with their paralysis tick preventative treatments, your vet can advise on the best treatment for your pet.
  • Perform daily tick searches on your pet in high-risk areas or after walks, ensuring you check inside the ears, mouth, and between the toes.
  • Shaving or trimming coats of longer-haired pets can make it easier to notice ticks.