What is tick paralysis in dogs and cats?

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As the weather gets warmer paralysis tick toxicity is a life-threatening problem that every pet owner should be aware of.


The paralysis tick (Ixodes holocyclus) is found in bush land on the east coast of Australia all year round but is most prevalent between August and February. If your pet has access to scrub, waterways or areas where wildlife lives, it is at risk of getting tick paralysis. However, we see cases where owners report the dog has not left their suburban back yard. The bottom line is all dogs and cats are at risk.


The native host for the paralysis tick is small native fauna (e.g. bandicoots, brush-tail possums, koalas and birds). Your animal picks up the ticks as it moves through the grass and bush.


Eighty percent of these ticks attach to your pet around the neck and head region but they may attach anywhere on the animal. The tick feeds on the blood of the animal and as it does injects the toxin into the animal's blood.


Early signs that your dog or cat has tick paralysis include weakness, not jumping, wobbly in the back legs, not eating, retching and vomiting. The signs progress to not being able to get up at all, trouble breathing and can lead to death.


Cats often have more trouble breathing and meow as if distressed or in pain.


It is vital that if you suspect your pet has tick paralysis you contact your veterinarian immediately. Your animal’s condition will worsen even after the tick has been removed. Treatment is available and is often successful however is can be expensive and stressful for both pets and owners.


Treatment is based around Tick Antiserum. This product stops more toxin attaching to your pet but doesn’t reverse the changes already occurring. Other aspects of treatment include sedation to reduce stress, intravenous fluids, antibiotics and anti-vomiting medications and intensive nursing care. More seriously affected animals may need oxygen therapy and even ventilation.


The good news is that prevention is easy and effective and includes tablets, spot-ons and collars. Nexgard is a once a month chew for dogs that prevents fleas and ticks. In Spring 2016 (or until stocks last) at Park Ridge Animal Hospital and Browns Plains Vet Surgery when you buy a 6 pack of Nexgard you get a bonus 1 month dose for free. Prevention is much better then cure!


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