Why Ticks Are Dangerous and How to Prevent Them on Pets
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. They are most active in the warmer months especially after wet weather which initiates hatching of eggs in the environment and activity of the larval stages which feed on mammals. This unfortunately means that they are a serious problem for pets in the Sydney area, particularly the northern beaches.
Understanding Tick Paralysis
After the tick has been attached for a day or two, enough poison will have been injected to cause significant neurological disease in pets due to blocking of nerve receptors. The most common tick symptoms in dogs is a weak or flaccid paralysis starting in the hind limbs due to nerve signals being blocked from accessing the muscles of movement. As time progresses the paralysis ascends up the body to eventually affect the muscles used for breathing and swallowing. This process causes significant illness and death, unless an antiserum is administered to neutralise the toxin before it attaches to more nerve receptors. Other tick symptoms in dogs include vomiting, coughing, excessive panting and grunting, an altered bark or limping if the tick is lodged in a foot or leg.
Tick Prevention Strategies
Tick poisoning is common, severe and very preventable. Our top tips for flea and tick treatment for dogs are:
- Tick clipping by an experienced groomer and daily tick searching
- Administration of highly effective and safe tick preventatives such as the recently released Bravecto Quantum yearly injection. Never rely on an animal’s natural immunity against ticks or herbal or natural remedies that have not been properly tested and proven to be effective and safe
- Avoid taking your pet into long grasses and bushland during the warmer months
- Ensure that you have adequate pet insurance for your pet and that this covers 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.
- A change in bark
- Increased or laboured breathing
- Excessive salivation
- Vomiting or regurgitation
- Weakness in the hind legs, which typically progresses to involve the forelimbs
- Reluctance to get up or walk
- Due to the ability to breathe and swallow being affected, some animals will inhale saliva or food (aspirate) resulting in life-threatening pneumonia
Reacting to Tick Paralysis
It is important to seek veterinary attention to determine whether your pet needs tick antitoxin. 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
Prevention of tick paralysis is essential to maintain the health of your pet. With the new release of Bravecto Quantum yearly injection, a flea and tick treatment for dogs, your vet at Sydney Animal Hospitals can provide a long-term prevention to keep your pet safe. Bravecto yearly flea and tick treatment allows you to carry on without the worry of needing to remember to give your pet a regular tablet at home.
Flea Infestations and Their Dangers
Fleas are small wingless insects which are not only an itchy nuisance for your pet, but they can also transmit disease and cause nasty allergies. It typically doesn’t take many fleas to cause a reaction in our pets, especially in animals that are highly sensitive. In these cases it only takes one or two fleas to set things off. Fleas can survive up to 100 days feeding on your pet. A female flea lays up to 50 eggs per day and over 2000 in her full life cycle, so it only takes a short period of time for your pet and their environment to become highly contaminated.
Symptoms of Flea Allergy Dermatitis
Pets suffering from flea bite dermatitis typically present with a history of biting and scratching over their lower back and down the side of their thighs. The scratching can lead to hair loss, sores and secondary infections. Sometimes you may not see the fleas themselves, but you may see evidence of them in the form of ‘flea dirt’. Flea dirt is actually flea faeces, and it looks just like regular specks of dirt. The way to tell the difference is to take some and put it on a wet tissue – flea dirt will stain the tissue red. Whilst fleas prefer warmer temperatures, they are also well adapted to survive inside during colder months. It has been proven that intermittent biting of fleas can cause pets to become more sensitive to their effects, so it is important to maintain flea control all year round.
Flea Management and Prevention
When it comes to flea management, prevention is the best form of treatment. With the new release of Bravecto yearly flea and tick treatment for dogs, your vet at Sydney Animal Hospitals can provide a long-term prevention to keep your pet comfortable and safe, without the worry of needing to remember to give your pet a regular tablet at home.
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Laser therapy is a noninvasive treatment designed to reduce pain and inflammation, and to speed healing. This treatment
is quickly becoming standard of care in both human and veterinary medicine. Our staff members administer laser therapy
via a handpiece that emits this therapeutic infrared light in a fast, drug-free, and soothing treatment.
If you have a pet emergency after hours and your local Sydney Animal Hospital is closed, please see a list of other ‘After Hours Emergency Veterinary Hospitals’ in Sydney.