Spring has sprung, meaning new pollens, flowers, hotter and longer days, and the emergence of fleas and ticks! These bloodsucking demons are the most annoying thing to our pets. Fleas mean bites, scratching and a potential flea allergy. Ticks however are a different kettle of fish entirely.
There are a few different types of ticks – bush ticks, brown dog ticks and the deadly paralysis tick. In Moreton Bay, we usually see the paralysis tick seasonally from September through to March – but for the last year – we have seen paralysis ticks all year round.
Paralysis ticks inject a neurotoxin into the bloodstream of their host when they are taking a blood meal. This toxin causes progressive paralysis of muscles throughout the body.
If you find a tick on your pet, it is best to identify which one it is first. If light grey in colour, with legs up near the head, it is a paralysis tick. If your pet is exhibiting the following symptoms, please go to your vet straight away, as left untreated, paralysis ticks can be fatal.
Symptoms in first stages of tick poisoning:
a change in bark or meow
increased or laboured breathing
vomiting or regurgitation
weakness in the hind legs, which typically progresses to involve the forelimbs also
reluctance to get up or walk
Treatments can vary, but the main drug used to treat tick paralysis is an injection of hyperimmune anti-serum into the vein. This is a blood product collected from dogs that have been exposed to paralysis ticks over a long period. It contains antibodies against the toxins, so once it is given to an animal, any toxin that is still present will be removed and won't cause any more paralysis.
It can take a few days to a number of weeks to recover from tick poisoning – so prevention is better than cure! There are a few topical medications, collars and oral treatments available for dogs to prevent ticks:
NexGard – an oral chew that lasts one month for fleas and ticks.
Bravecto – an oral chew that lasts four months for ticks and three months for fleas.
Seresto collar – kills fleas for eight months and ticks for four months.
Adult ticks can live up to three years without a blood meal, so it is important to treat all year round. The newest product released to the market is NexGard Spectra, a monthly chew which not only prevents fleas and ticks but also heartworm and intestinal worms.