Paralysis tick season is here.

Paralysis ticks are only found along the Eastern coast of Australia.

The natural host is the bandicoot, other wildlife act as hosts and develop immunity to the tick’s toxins by constantly having ticks on them, they include, wombats, kangaroos and possums.

The toxin released by the paralysis tick when it attaches to a mammal causes paralysis, it saturates the nerve endings with toxins so they cannot get their message through to the muscles of movement. The paralysis usually starts in the hind legs and the throat.

What we see if a dog or cat has a tick is the signs of this paralysis. A weakness or wobbliness in the back legs and a cough or change of voice associated with the paralysis in the throat. As the toxin spreads further, the front legs are affected, the animals looses its ability to swallow and the muscles of breathing start to become paralysed. Eventually the effort to breath is too much and respiratory failure occurs, followed by death.

The toxins produced by the paralysis tick can affect all mammals. All pets in this area are at risk of tick paralysis. 

To prevent your pets getting ticks you should, keep your pet out of the bush, check your pet daily for ticks, especially around the head, lips, ears, and neck, but they will attach to any part of the body. Consider having long haired dogs and cats shaved to make finding ticks easier, and use a tick preventative.

The earliest signs of tick paralysis will vary from pet to pet, but if your pet is vomiting, off it’s food, wobbly in it’s legs, coughing, gagging or has a changed or lost bark or meow, please think tick and start searching.

The treatment for tick paralysis is tick serum. Tick serum is made from the blood of dogs that have been bred to live in a colony and get immune to ticks by having them on them all the time. When the tick serum is given to a dog with tick paralysis, it helps to stop more toxin blocking the nerves but it does not reverse the paralysis already present. Most affected pets need supportive care in a veterinary hospital until this paralysis naturally resolves, including a drip because they cannot drink or eat with a paralysed swallow reflex and oxygen to help the weak breathing muscles.

Tick paralysis is a very serious condition and many pets, even with the very best treatment do not survive.

Never delay, early treatment is so much more successful than leaving it for a day.

Just because the tick has been removed, the pet may not recover and may become worse.

Take home messages

  • Use a tick preventative
  • Be aware of the signs of tick paralysis
  • Be proactive, if you think or know your pet has a tick, call the vet
  • Keep your pet out of the bush in tick season