Emergency Care


Tick paralysis in dogs and cats

The paralysis tick (Ixodes holocyclus) is a small, eight-legged tick that produces a potent toxin. This toxin causes paralysis in dogs and cats, and is potentially fatal. Paralysis ticks are commonly found on the east coast of Australia, and favour warm, humid conditions. This unfortunately means that they are a serious problem for pets in the Sydney area, particularly the Northern beaches. It’s important to ensure that your pet is on tick prevention and that you search them daily for any potential ticks.

Some areas of Sydney are more prone to ticks than others, but none are absolutely tick-free, this is why we recommend tick prevention to be used all year round for both cats and dogs.

What does a paralysis tick look like?
  • are blue to light-grey in colour
  • range from approximately 2mm in diameter to over 1cm in diameter (usually the bigger ticks are engorged with blood)
  • have orange forelimbs
  • can feel like a small wart or lump to touch


When found on pets they tend to have their mouthparts buried in the skin. This creates a site of inflammation, which may be painful to touch. Once the tick is removed, it tends to leave a crater.

What are the signs of tick paralysis?

Signs of tick paralysis vary depending on the length of time the tick has been on the animal, as well as the potency of the toxin, which can vary between ticks.

Signs include:

  • a change in bark or meow
  • increased or laboured breathing
  • coughing
  • excessive salivation
  • vomiting or regurgitation
  • weakness in the hind legs, which typically progresses to involve the forelimbs also
  • reluctance to get up or walk

Because the ability to breathe and swallow are affected, some animals will inhale saliva or food (aspirate) resulting in life-threatening pneumonia.

If you find a tick on your pet contact your vet immediately

The toxin produced by paralysis ticks is very potent. Even when the tick is removed, most animals get worse before they get better – this is because the toxin that is already in the animal’s body continues to circulate and attach to nerves for a period of time.

It is important to seek veterinary attention to determine whether your pet needs tick anti-toxin. Until then, there are some important steps you can take to reduce the risk of complications:

  • Keep your pet calm, quiet and cool. Excitement, exercise and overheating can exacerbate illness associated with tick paralysis
  • Remove food and water. Your pet’s ability to swallow may be compromised, putting your pet at risk of aspiration pneumonia
  • Search for other ticks on your pet
How is tick paralysis treated?

Treatment of paralysis tick starts with tick anti-venom, which is administered as soon as possible by your veterinarian. Other treatments used depend on the severity of tick paralysis, but include:

  • Intravenous fluids to maintain hydration
  • Sedation to reduce excitement and prevent breathing difficulties
  • Medications to decrease salivation
  • Antibiotics for treatment of pneumonia
  • Oxygen therapy
  • Anti-emetics to prevent vomiting and aspiration
Can dogs and cats develop immunity to ticks?

Dogs and cats may develop immunity to ticks, but this requires repeated exposure to ticks – each time with the risk of paralysis and death.

Unfortunately where immunity does occur it is often very short-lived. There is currently no vaccination against the toxin produced by paralysis ticks.

Sydney Animal Hospitals’ approach to tick prevention

Prevention of tick paralysis is essential to maintain the health of your pet. There is a range of excellent products available to repel and kill ticks but nothing 100% effective. The ideal prevention strategy depends on the lifestyle of your pet.

At Sydney Animal Hospitals we recommend Bravest for dogs, which is chewable tablet given once every three months as an effective tick treatment as it is seen to be 99% successful in repelling ticks.

Contact your nearest Sydney Animal Hospitals practice to learn more about a tick prevention program tailored specifically to your pet and its lifestyle. Remember to search your pet each day for ticks – in our experience, most pets enjoy this ritual.

Jack the Cats Paralysis Tick Treatment

Treating Paralysis Ticks

While there are many human foods that can be safely fed to our four legged friends in small doses, chocolate unfortunately is not one of them. If your dog has eaten chocolate you are strongly advised to contact your local vet immediately for medical advice.

Chocolate is toxic to dogs. Chocolate ingestion can result in vomiting, diarrhoea or even seizures. In severe cases chocolate toxicity can be fatal.

How much chocolate is toxic for my dog?

The effect of your dog eating chocolate is determined by a few main factors:

  • How much your dog weighs
  • How much chocolate your dog ate
  • What type of chocolate your dog ate (dark, white or milk)

There is a chemical in chocolate called theobromine, which is similar to caffeine, and is highly poisonous to dogs.

Different types of chocolate contain different amounts of theobromine, however the general rule is that the more bitter the chocolate, the higher the toxicity to your dog.

As a rough guide:

  • White chocolate has the least at around 0.25 mg per 28 grams of chocolate
  • Milk chocolate contains 44–58 mg per 28 grams of chocolate
  • Dark chocolate contains between 130–450 mg per 28 grams of chocolate
What are the symptoms of chocolate poisoning?

Symptoms of chocolate toxicity can take several hours to show, and even longer to disappear. Some signs that your dog may have eaten chocolate are:

  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhoea
  • Increased thirst
  • Excessive urination
  • Faster than normal heartbeat
  • Muscle spasms
  • Seizures

High doses of chocolate ingested can result in cardiac arrest. The heart fails to pump blood effectively and can lead to sudden death or permanent internal damage if not provided with immediate emergency medical attention.

How is chocolate poisoning treated?

Treatments can vary depending on the amount of chocolate that your dog has eaten however the first step if treated early is to induce vomiting, and try to block absorption of the theobromine before it is absorbed into your dogs body.

Depending on the severity of the poisoning, it may be necessary to administer IV fluids to help flush out your pets system. If your dog has ingested chocolate please contact your nearest Sydney Animal Hospitals.

Due to bushfires, droughts, bad winds, urban sprawl and other various factors we have had growing numbers of injured wildlife bought into our hospitals. 

What to do if you find a baby bird:

  • The best thing to do is place the bird back up in the nest if possible.
  • If not, you can often make a replica nest by strapping an ice-cream container to the tree and filling it with leaves etc. The parents will then come down and feed the baby and it will have a much better chance of survival than a hand-raised bird.
  • If this is not possible, place the bird in a dark, warm box and if it is uninjured contact Sydney Metropolitan Wildlife Services on 9413 4300 or WIRES on 8977 3333 ASAP and they will organise to send out a carer.

For injured birds, mammals or reptiles

  • If you find an injured bird, mammal or reptile, place it in a warm dark box and bring it in to your nearest Sydney Animal Hospital so we can assess its injuries, commence treatment and re-release the animal as soon as possible.
  • Make sure you make a very careful note as to exactly where the animal was found so it can be released back into the same spot or as near as safely possible.