Tick paralysis is a very serious condition which is caused by a small parasite, Ixodes Holocyclus commonly known as the paralysis tick. With weather conditions being quite unpredictable on the east coast of Australia, we see paralysis ticks in every season so it is important to have preventatives on board year round. The natural hosts are native wildlife such as bandicoots, possums, koalas and macropods but the tick occasionally will attach to domestic animals and even humans.

Treatment – what is involved?

After a consultation with your vet if toxicity is involved the patient will be admitted for treatment. Medication & sedatives will need to be administered to assist the body in processing the antiserum. Once patients have been assessed a very slow intravenous antiserum dose will be given. Patients need to be rested & closely monitored during this process. In severe cases, management of the respiratory & cardiac systems may be required. Often patients with airway difficulties need oxygen therapy and some may require referral to a specialist centre for ventilation as the toxin can paralyze the respiratory muscles and sadly this is when we can lose patients. It is important to realise that the recovery time will vary depending on the patient. A dog could spend up to a week or two in hospital as we are unable to send them home unless they are eating, drinking, urinating, defecating and walking correctly.

Signs of Tick Paralysis

There are many signals your pet may be suffering from TP. No case is the same and some patients deteriorate quickly whilst others show a more prolonged progress.

* Weak or collapsing in the hindquarters – a ‘drunken’ like walk
* Not able to or reluctant to stand
* A change in vocalisation – not able to bark or meow.
* A change in breathing pattern (panting or strained) – may be subtle increases in effort
* Strange noises heard during breathing
* Salivating(drooling) unable to swallow
* Thick, brown mucous present in mouth & throat
* Coughing, retching, vomiting
* Local paralysis at affected site e.g unable to blink
* The presence of paralysis ticks

What do I do if I find a tick?

1. Remove the tick/s
2. With minimal stress transport to the vet immediately
3. Bring the tick in a jar for identification
4. Remember if you pull off one there is a possibility there are more
5. Be cautious – even if the dog or cat is showing NO SIGNS, IT CAN STILL DEVELOP TICK PARALYSIS even after removal.

PREVENTION is the BEST CURE

Each year many animals die due to tick paralysis. It can be unpredictable in nature and it is always best to seek veterinary advice. No commercial prevention available is guaranteed to 100% kill or repel ticks; however, there are a number of steps you can take to prevent paralysis. There are numerous products on the market now including tasty monthly or 3 monthly chews for dogs or a new spot on that last 3 months for cats. Ask your vet for the best product for your household!