Watch your pet for these warning signs of deadly tick-bite paralysis
As any pet owner knows, tick paralysis can be a terrifying experience for any of our fluffy friends.
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Ticks are the carriers of multiple diseases and love nothing more than sinking their teeth into our beloved animals, and one of the most serious outcomes our pet can suffer is tick-bite paralysis.
A specific species of female tick secretes a potent toxin through their saliva, so when they burrow under our dog’s or cat’s skin, the toxin enters the animal’s bloodstream and causes paralysis throughout their body.
Worryingly, the combination of wet and warm weather Australia’s had this spring and summer has created a tick crisis – the pests are usually most prevalent in autumn and spring but the recent weather created ideal conditions for them to breed, meaning cases are likely to be seen well into the Aussie summer.
So, what can we as owners do to ensure that our furry best friends are healthy?
It usually takes four days of tick attachment before ticks cause any problems.
Paralysis ticks can be identified by their unique legs – like other common ticks, the paralysis tick has a grey body but has a pair of brown legs close to its head, two pairs of white legs at the centre of its body, and another pair of brown legs below them..
One of the most important preventative measures you can take to avoid tick paralysis is to check over your pet regularly for ticks.
Keeping your dog’s or cat’s fur short during tick season makes it much easier to search for ticks, and it’s ideal to check your pet once a day. Don’t be lulled into a false sense of security with a tick treatment designed to prevent ticks – while these are a great preventative measure, none are 100 per cent effective so a daily check is still a must.
Signs of tick paralysis
There are a few signs to look for if you think your dog might have tick paralysis.
If your pet is weak, suffers from coordination issues, seems to be walking in a wobbly way, or suddenly collapses, it is a good idea to get to the vet to check them immediately. Vomiting, retching, regurgitating food, excessive panting, or difficulty breathing are all signs that point toward tick paralysis as well.
You can also listen to your pet’s bark or meow — if this has noticeably changed tone or pitch, check over your animal’s body for ticks, because it could be a sign paralysis is beginning to affect their throat and oesophagus.
If you find a tick before any serious damage has been done, immediately detach it from the skin manually, using fine-tipped or pointed tweezers to grab it as close to the skin as possible.
Don’t apply tick treatment straight onto the tick or use alcohol or mineral oil as that can cause the tick to vomit and infect your dog further.
When you have removed the tick, there is still a chance that the toxins may have entered your pet’s bloodstream, so monitor your pet over the next few days and take to the vet if any tick paralysis signs appear.