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  • Northern Illawarra Veterinary Hospital

Paralysis Tick Season is Back!

Updated: May 20, 2020

Paralysis tick season is back!

We have noticed a few of our patients coming in with immature ticks attached to them. Fortunately the immature stages are not toxic but it is a timely reminder that adult ticks will soon be out, so make sure your pet is up to date with their prevention.The paralysis tick Ixodes holocyclus is well known to cause serious disease in our pets, most commonly in dogs and cats but sometimes even horses, especially miniatures or foals.

What do paralysis ticks look like? Ticks are a round bodied arthropod with a grey body and a dark brown to black head at one end and 8 small legs clumped together under the belly.The immature stages are generally only pinhead up to match head size, while adult ticks are bigger than a match head and swell up to the size of a pea when attached to an animal for several days.

Where are they found? They are found in coastal areas, most commonly in bushy areas along the escarpment and creeks but have also been found in yards where wildlife are known to pass through. The main host is the

Fully Engorged Paralysis Tick

but they are also found on other wildlife such as possums and wallabies.

What are the signs? The paralysis tick has a potent toxin in the saliva it injects into a bite on a host animal that can cause severe paralysis not only of the muscles for standing and walking but also for breathing and swallowing. Generally it takes more than 3 days for an animal to show signs. The symptoms include gagging, retching, vomiting, difficulty breathing, weakness and collapse. We have seen many cases over the years and tragically, in severe cases that are not treated early, it can be fatal.

What should I do if I find a tick on my pet? If your pet is showing any signs, call your vet immediately to arrange treatment. In the meantime, you can remove the tick with a tick remover or fine tweezers by pulling it out by the head from the attachment site. Remember there can always be more than one tick so keep searching. They can sometimes be quite difficult to find. If your pet is not showing any signs, you still need to keep a close eye on them as they can still develop signs up to 24 hours later. It is important to withhold food and water until you can be sure your pet is not affected.

How do I prevent tick paralysis? There has been some excellent new preventative products recently developed, resulting in a dramatic reduction in the number of sick dogs and cats presenting to vets. We recommend preventatives such as Bravecto® for dogs and cats. NexGard® and Simparica® are also a good choice for dogs. Although tick paralysis is strongly seasonal with most cases around spring and early summer, cases can occur any time of year, so treatment year round is recommended. It is also important to check your pet daily for ticks by systematically working your fingers through the coat along the surface of the skin against the grain of the fur. Finally, it is best to avoid taking your pets into bushy areas as there is a high risk of them picking up a tick.


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