Tick Control

Paralysis ticks – the tiny killer

The tick season typically extends from September to March, but cases of tick paralysis can occur at other times of year, especially in coastal areas to our north. Ticks are a big problem on the lower North Shore of Sydney.

Paralysis ticks attach to an animal's skin to feed on blood. The toxin is released with the tick's saliva as it feeds, and causes paralysis. Early signs include lethargy, weakness, and wobbliness in the back legs, which progresses to involve the whole body. Excessive salivation and vomiting or retching can occur, and breathing becomes more laboured (often with a grunt, or groan). Eventually tick paralysis can result in coma and death. In some cases sudden death may even occur in the early stages of paralysis.

Tick prevention products for dogs include, oral chews such as NexGard (Merial) (once month tick & flea protection) & Bravecto (MSD) (tri-monthly tick & flea protection), "back of the neck"spot-on products like Frontline Plus (Merial) and Advantix (Bayer), tick collars, sprays, rinses and tablets. Only Frontline Spray (Merial) is currently registered for tick prevention in cats, but can be difficult to apply. As a result many cat owners use Frontline Plus (Merial) spot-on fortnightly on the back of their cat's neck for convenience, but its efficacy for tick prevention has not been proven. Please note that Advantix (Bayer), while safe on dogs, is toxic to cats. We don't even recommend its use on your dog if it mixes closely with your cat. Products and directions for their use and a recommended program for your pets can be obtained from Mosman Vet.

Careful daily searching for ticks is always recommended in both dogs and cats, even if tick prevention products are in use. The paralysis tick has 8 legs and is a light grey or blue colour. When ticks first attach they are very small - about the size of a matchhead, but enlarge as they feed. Many ticks will be in the head,face and neck region but the whole animal should be searched thoroughly.

If you find a tick, remove it immediately by grasping it as close to the skin as possible with fingernails,tweezers or a tick hook, and plucking quickly. Sometimes the tick has detached by the time signs of paralysis are seen, leaving a tick crater only - a skin reaction at the site of attachment. Even if showing no signs of illness when you remove the tick, keep your pet rested for 3 days afterwards, as clinical signs can still appear after removal.

If you think your pet has tick paralysis, keep it calm and quiet. Do not offer it anything to eat or drink, and contact Mosman Vet immediately.

Veterinary treatment includes administration of tick antiserum and often requires a period of hospitalisation for supportive care, depending on the severity of the paralysis, and the incidence of complications. Careful observation is vital, and Mosman Vet has 24-hour live-in staff to care for your sick pet. Veterinary intervention in many cases can be life-saving.

View our Tick Alert Map for the latest reported sightings of paralysis ticks in the Mosman area.

For further information or advice about preventing tick paralysis in your pet call Mosman Vet on 9960 2856 or make an appointment online.

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For emergency and after hours assistance, please call 9960 2856 for instructions or call North Shore After Hours & Emergency Hospital 9436 1213

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