dogs-in-parkThere’s something lurking in the undergrowth of our neighbourhood. It survival depends on finding a host, sucking its blood and implanting toxins deadly enough to kill our treasured family members. Three animals in my block have been struck down by these critters but is this a reason to keep you and your pets indoors for the rest of summer…….

Tick identification and prevention is important at this time of year in Australia. In Far North Queensland paralysis ticks are evident all year round but early spring rains and warm temperatures can cause an increase in activity. In my neighbourhood alone, one dog has died and two have had weekend stays at the vetinerary clinic racking up bills close to $1000. The experience of my neighbours dogs (Molly the Schnauzer and Juno the Staffy x Boston Terrier) are interlaced into this article.

Here are some pointers to help avoid Paralysis Ticks and still maintain a healthy lifestyle with your dogs:

Where are Paralysis Ticks found?

If you live on the East Coast of Australia, from North Queensland to Victoria, you and your animals are at risk from Paralysis Ticks. Their natural hosts are bandicoots, possums, kangaroos and koalas. You’ll find these ticks lurking in bushy, scrubby edges of parkland, long grasses and at the edge of rainforest areas. After a rain the wet weather flushes ticks out onto the tips of shrubs and grasses, where they wait for passing hosts to brush by.Paralysis-tick-map

Both Molly and Juno had spent time in a nearby neighbourhood park only days before their symptoms became evident. Both dogs had been playing near clusters of Singapore Daisy, a weed that grows in the gullies and banks of the parks they visited. Both parks are close to wallaby and bandicoot habitats.

Paralysis Tick Identification

There are three types of ticks you can encounter when you have pets in your household. It’s the female adult paralysis tick that poses the biggest danger to your pet. As the paralysis tick becomes engorged with blood its body changes to a light grey-blue colour. And as the paralysis tick sucks, it secretes toxins into its host – it’s these toxins that can affect the nervous system and can ultimately lead to death.tick-identification

The most common place to find a tick on a dog is towards the front of its body. The mouth and ears are hotspots, as well the armpits of dogs and between the toes and paw pads. In Molly’s case the tick was on her gums. Apparently for Schnauzers they often pick them up on their whiskers. In both Molly and Juno’s case the tick was discovered later at the vets.

Tick Removal

If a tick is located it should be removed as soon as possible. An insecticide containing pyrethrum sprayed directly on the tick will make it die and eventually fall of. The insecticide should be sprayed at least twice to work effectively (ensure that it isn’t a repellent you are using). Or pull out the tick as close to the skin as possible. Tweezers or a small tick tool pulled firmly and steadily will do the trick. Paralysis ticks are notoriously hard to extract without breaking but once they are detached they are dead and cannot continue to produce toxin or burrow.

Tick identification is critical as it will help you decide if your dog needs close monitoring. It’s important to remember that even though a paralysis tick has been removed the signs can worsen over the next 24-48 hours. Remember to check your pet for other ticks, where there is one, there could be others.

Paralysis Tick Symptoms

It takes a couple of days of attachment before the toxins begin to develop. The signs may be subtle at first – lethargy, loss of appetite, panting, coughing and regurgitation. You may also experience a change in the bark of your pet. As the toxins progress the dog can start stumbling until the back limbs become very weak. Eventually the paralysis becomes so severe that the animal cannot stand or lift its head and its breathing slows right down.

For Molly it was a gradual progression – she was off her food for the first day and then a strange vomit the 2nd day in. A stumble on her regular afternoon walk made Molly’s owner wary, especially as she wasn’t her normal exuberant self down at the park. A vet appointment was made and by the morning Molly couldn’t stand.

Tick Prevention

There are a number of tick repelling and tick killing agents on the market. Sprays, rinses and collars all containing certain levels of poison seem to be the most popular. The main thing to remember is that these preventative methods are not 100% protection. The best option is a full body check on a daily basis, paying extra attention to those hot spots. Feel for lumps and bumps and remember to check under collars as well. I’ve heard of several stories where the tick was found under the tick collar. In both Molly and Juno’s case they were both wearing tick collars prior to their visit to the vets.

Early treatment is best for a full recovery. The anti-serum is expensive and successful only if treated early enough. Juno seems to be her same ball-lovin’ chasey self. Molly’s recovery has been a little slower. Her owner is aware that there were respiratory issues at the clinic and her lungs have taken on some fluid. She is kept under a firmer control down at the park and her puppy-type antics have slowed somewhat. Molly’s owner is extra careful she doesn’t over exert herself.

dog-with-ball-in-parkBut both dogs are down at the park again. They are not allowed to wander into the long grass along the edges of the park and even though they are using a tick cream they are both checked thoroughly on a daily basis. Molly is also sporting a very short clip for the summer months ahead.

Some things to remember:

  • Avoid tick habitats such as long grass, forested areas and waterways during the season.
  • Check your pets all over for ticks daily – concentrate on the areas around their head, neck, pads of feet, armpits and the tail area.
  • Clip long-haired pets all over during the tick season
  • Remember that tick collars, washes and preventative creams aren’t 100% protection and also that some can be toxic to cats

Below is a video of what paralysis ticks look like and a bit about how they behave. 

Have you ever had a serious tick experience with your dog? Anything that needs to be added to these pointers?

This post is also part of the Fit Dog Friday Blog hop brought to you by SlimDoggy and co-hosts Peggy’s Pet Place and To Dog With Love. Join the Hop or just enjoy the links below – lots of fun fitness tips and advice!