Although ticks are found all over the world, the paralysis tick (Ixodes holocyclus) is only found in Australia. It is restricted to the humid east coast of Australia from North Queensland to Northern Victoria. Possums and Bandicoots are the natural hosts of the paralysis tick, and as with other Australian native wildlife, are usually unaffected by their toxin. i.e. it does not harm. However, the paralysis tick quite happily feeds on dogs, cats and humans. Ticks attach to our pets as they walk through grass or bushes where native animals, have been. Most pets become affected without even leaving their backyard. Ticks may fall out of a tree onto a pet, or may crawl onto them from the ground. Even backyards that have previously seemed safe from ticks cannot be relied upon as being tick free.
Signs of tick paralysis
As they feed, female paralysis ticks inject a neurotoxin that binds to the point where nerves meet muscles. It usually takes about 3-4 days of feeding before sufficient toxin is injected to cause signs of illness. Initial signs are vague, but progress over the following few days. The most common clinical signs that we see are:
It is important to know that occasionally patients will not develop the usual signs of tick paralysis, and may show other signs of illness. As the poisoning progresses, pets become unable to stand and have extreme difficulty breathing. Eventually, untreated tick poisoning will result in death.
If you suspect that your pet may have a tick, or if you find a tick on your pet, please phone Rosewood Veterinary Services immediately. On arrival, we will examine your pet thoroughly, assess the grade of tick paralysis and provide any emergency care that is needed. Tick patients are given an injection of a sedative to ensure they are calm and not stressed. We then place an intravenous catheter in one of the forelegs and administer the tick antitoxin via a fluid line. This product is made from the serum of hyper-immune dogs, and as a blood product, is given with great care. The tick antitoxin is not an antidote. It can only neutralise the toxin that has not yet bound to the nerve endings, and hence, is most effective if it is given as soon as possible. It does not give patients ongoing immunity to ticks. Pets are tick searched and receive a preventative product to ensure there are no remaining ticks.