Tick Awareness Month: Protecting Your Dog From the Dangers of Paralysis Ticks

16 September 2022

September is National Tick Awareness Month which aims to raise awareness about the dangers of paralysis ticks for domestic pets.

Spring and Summer are generally the seasons for ticks in Queensland and, although they can be active all throughout the year, it’s especially important to be aware of ticks between the months of September and February as they thrive in the heat and humidity.

Dogs love nature, and they want to spend their time outside as much as possible, which means the threat of ticks is high whenever they are outdoors. However, if you know how these ticks operate in nature and what to look out for, you can minimise the likelihood of your pup getting bitten. This article will explain what you need to know about ticks, as well as our tips for care and prevention.

What You Should Know About Paralysis Ticks

Paralysis ticks are the immature form of a common species of ticks called Ixodes Holocyclus which can be found along the east coast of Australia. When the larvae of these ticks burrow into your dog’s fur, they will feed on their blood and grow into adult ticks. These adult ticks are responsible for transmitting harmful diseases to your dog, including the debilitating condition known as tick paralysis which is the result of toxins building up in the body. When a tick is feeding on your dog’s blood, it will introduce toxins into the bloodstream as well. These toxins are used by the tick as a natural defence mechanism. When the tick is removed, the toxins stay behind in the dog’s body. When they accumulate, they can cause paralysis. The severity of the paralysis will depend on the type of tick feeding on your dog. They may be tiny (approximately 3-5mm long) but they can be deadly – if they are not removed or left untreated for too long, they can cause serious illness or potentially be life-threatening for your dog.

Where Do Ticks Hide?

Ticks breed in areas such as bushland, long grass and near creeks and they thrive in the heat and humidity of the warmer months. When you go for walks in tick-infested areas you should regularly check your dog for ticks when you get home.

Paralysis ticks love to burrow into the fur of their hosts and lay eggs. They are commonly found on the front of the dog’s body and around the head and neck areas but ticks are very sneaky parasites, so it’s important to keep an eye out for signs of ticks all over your dog’s body. They can hide in your dog’s fur, and can easily go unnoticed, especially on longer-haired breeds.

What are the signs your dog has a tick?

Paralysis ticks can cause a number of different symptoms in dogs, ranging from mild discomfort to serious paralysis, and in some cases can be fatal. The symptoms depend on the type of tick, how many ticks have fed on your dog’s blood, and how long the ticks have been feeding. Even though paralysis ticks will cause discomfort, they are often overlooked because they are small and easy to miss.

Signs that your dog has a paralysis tick can take up to 3 days or more to develop, and may include the following:

  • Wobbly hind legs or unsteady walk due to paralysis
  • A dry cough or retching/vomiting
  • Loss of appetite
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Tired and lethargic

How to check for ticks on your dog

To perform a tick search you should gently rub your fingers over every single part of your dog’s body, not forgetting the tricky places like between their paws, and their mouth and ears. Be sure to remove their collar to check the neck area and make sure there are no ticks hiding underneath. Feel the skin underneath their coat for any bumps. If you can’t feel the tick on your dog’s body, look for dark spots on their coat as they are likely to be ticks, especially if they are in an area of the body not covered by fur. Ticks are large enough to spot with the naked eye, but you might still need to use a magnifying glass to search for ticks and ensure you don’t miss any.

Click here for more information on performing a thorough tick search on your dog.

How to remove a tick

When you find a tick on your dog’s body it’s critical you remove it as soon as possible. They can be removed using a pair of tweezers, or there are different tick removal tools on the market specifically designed for dogs. If you’re unsure of how to remove a tick you should take your dog to your local vet ASAP and even if you are able to remove it yourself it’s always best to get professional veterinary attention and to make sure there are no more ticks on their body.

Tips for protecting your dog from paralysis ticks

Some ways to protect your dog from getting ticks can include:

  • Perform regular tick searches on your dog, especially after you have taken them on walks outside in nature
  • Avoid walking your dog in tick-infested areas such as long grassy fields, bushland or near creeks to minimise their chance of getting a tick
  • Use a tick prevention product specifically for dogs. There are many different tick treatment and prevention products on the market such as chewable tablets, sprays and tick collars. Consult your vet for advice on what is best for your pet. (Note that no product is 100% effective and therefore should be used in conjunction with regular tick searches).
  • Be aware of the symptoms of tick paralysis and if you notice any of the previously mentioned signs, contact your vet for advice
  • Dress your dog in protective clothing like a jacket when walking or out in areas where ticks are common

Paralysis ticks are one of the most common parasitic infections in dogs. When these ticks feed on your dog’s blood for too long, they can cause serious damage, so it’s important to protect your dog from paralysis ticks by regularly checking their coat for ticks.

Always be mindful of walking your dog in tick-infested areas and if you notice any signs of tick paralysis, seek support from your vet as soon as possible.

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