We provide expert tick treatment in Coffs Harbour and Toormina should your pet require attention. Most residents and regular visitors to the Coffs Coast are extremely aware of the presence of paralysis ticks in the area and the risks posed to themselves and their pets. Although ticks are present all year round, ‘tick season’ is generally considered to be from July to January, with the highest cases of tick paralysis seen from September to November.
Prevention is better than cure. All pet owners should take preventative measures. The most important method of prevention for tick paralysis is early removal of the ticks, which means regular (daily) checking. Moreover, it would help if you searched your pet from head to toe. However, as most ticks are found on the head and neck, extra care should be taken in checking this area. Also, if your pet has a thick or long coat and you find it difficult to check properly, consider clipping it shorter during tick season.
Be aware that it is impossible to find every tick on every dog. Consequently, in addition to regular searching, it is essential to use one of the tick-repellent products that are available. We advise using a tick treatment product year-round. However, if you do not, please at least use one during tick season.
You may think that because your pet is an indoor pet, it is safe from ticks. Unfortunately, this is not so. Ticks can still enter the home by being carried in by people or other animals. We usually see at least one indoor cat with tick toxicity every season.
The newest group of chemicals used in tick control in dogs are the isoxazolines including Nexgard, Bravecto, Simparica and Credelio. These are available as chewable tablets or spot-on formulations for dogs and have proved to be very popular and effective if used correctly.
Isoxazolines are also available for use in cats, Bravecto and Revolution Plus. These are available as spot-on formulations and are quite user-friendly.
The relatively new isoxazoline-containing products have largely replaced the older products such as tick collars and Frontline and Advantix as they are proving to offer good protection, are cost-effective and are more user friendly. The latter factor has significantly reduced failures with the older products that were quite common due to user errors.
Note: If your animal is already showing signs of tick paralysis, immediate tick treatment by a veterinary clinic is required.
Remove the tick using a tick twister (an implement designed for tick removal – available at our vet clinics), fingers or tweezers. Firstly, try to grasp the tick close to the skin, and twist the tick – this will help to dislodge the mouthparts from the skin. Next, put the tick in a sealable container or ziplock bag (alive if possible) to be identified by a vet to see if your pet requires veterinary attention. Lastly, always look for another tick! If your pet has one tick, this signifies that they have been somewhere ticks are present, which means there could be more.
We recommend a visit to us for examination and possible tick treatment if you have found a Paralysis Tick on your pet, even if all seems normal. However, if you are confident that none of the signs of tick paralysis are present and decide not to see a vet, close monitoring is essential, particularly over the next few days. The signs to watch for include the following:
ATAXIA – wobbly when walking, starting with the back legs then ascending to the front legs before eventually leading to a complete inability to stand.
RETCHING/VOMITING – retching/coughing after eating/drinking can mean your pet is not swallowing properly. This can also be unrelated to feeding and can be quite persistent.
ANOREXIA – reluctance to eat.
WEAKNESS – sometimes, your pet may look steady on their feet but may have trouble getting up or with stairs.
LACK OF BLINK REFLEX – paralysis of the eyelids can be quite subtle. Check for a full blink (where the eyelid fully closes) by lightly tapping the corner of each eye. This sign can sometimes indicate the location of the tick – if the tick has attached on the left side of the head, often the left eye will be more affected than the right. Sometimes you may think your pet is blinking fully, but the eyelids aren’t quite meeting – this can manifest as a ‘gunky eye’.
DYSPNOEA – increased respiratory effort. In severe cases, your pet may be anxious and panting or have a notable increase in effort breathing. In addition, some affected animals make an abnormal noise when breathing, like a grunt or a wheeze.
ABNORMAL VOCALISATION – paralysis of the vocal cords can affect your pet’s voice, so if it’s quieter than usual or sounds different, this can be a sign of tick paralysis.
SORE – paralysis ticks bury their mouthparts deep into the skin and cause quite a marked skin reaction (leaving a large crater), so this can be quite sore. Some dogs will resent you checking these areas, so get someone to help you hold the dog to check more closely in sensitive spots.
ABNORMAL BEHAVIOUR – cats in particular do not always show the ‘classical’ signs of tick paralysis until severely affected, but often owners pick up on them being ‘not quite right’ quite early on. If you are concerned, call or visit your vet.
If your pet shows any signs of tick paralysis, do not delay seeking veterinary treatment. Tick venom binds quite slowly to the receptors in the body that cause paralysis, so even if the tick is found and removed, tick paralysis typically gets worse over the next 72hrs. This steady onset means that if you already see signs, your animal will likely worsen without treatment.
Once tick paralysis is diagnosed, reducing your animal’s stress is crucial. Even tick treatment procedures may cause stress; therefore, the vet will almost always give a sedative to your pet on the first day. For dogs, a catheter will be placed into the leg vein to allow intravenous administration of the tick serum. Also, anaphylactic reactions are RARE in dogs, but the chance of a reaction is slightly higher if a dog has received tick serum before. Your vet will weigh up the risk to your animal. Essentially, if your dog is already showing signs of paralysis, the risk of death by not treating is higher than the risk of anaphylaxis.
The tick serum is diluted and warmed to body temperature, then given quite slowly to help avoid anaphylactic reactions to the serum.
For cats, tick serum is usually administered by intraperitoneal injection – which means a needle is inserted into the abdomen, and the serum injected into the space between the abdominal organs. The tick serum absorbs into the bloodstream from the peritoneal space (abdomen) steadily and slowly. The risk of anaphylactic reactions is higher in cats than dogs as the serum is prepared from dog blood, but it is still very rare. If the vet feels your cat is at a higher risk (for example, if your cat has received tick serum before), they may elect to give purified tick serum. This is a more expensive serum, and often the cat will be in the hospital a little while longer than if normal tick serum is used, but the risk of anaphylaxis is reduced.
If your animal is stable enough, they may be clipped immediately. Clipping is an essential part of tick treatment because, without clipping, it is difficult to be sure that no further ticks are present. In addition, the clip has the added benefit of allowing you to more easily check your pet for ticks for the next couple of months when another tick would cause paralysis much faster.
If your pet is not taking tick prevention, a topical tick prevention product will be applied to kill any ticks not found during the initial check and clip. In addition, your pet will be regularly searched by different people to ensure any other ticks are likely to be found before the venom causes clinical deterioration.
Complications can arise that may require further treatment. If your pet is persistently vomiting, anti-emetic (anti-vomiting) drugs may be given to reduce this. Because the ability to swallow is reduced or absent with the majority of tick cases, there is a risk your pet could aspirate, where the vomit is inhaled into the lungs. Another common complication with the inability to swallow is dehydration, as we cannot give your pet food or water by mouth. If your pet is dehydrated on presentation or has multi-day stay in hospital it is likely that the veterinary team will likely administer fluids either under the skin (subcutaneous fluids) or directly into a vein (intravenous fluids). If your pet’s breathing is severely affected at presentation then supplementary oxygen therapy can also be administered, either temporarily until your pet settles down and begins breathing more normally, or for longer periods during their hospital stay. If your pet has already aspirated food, water, vomit or saliva, antibiotics will also be administered as part of tick treatment.
Often animals will need to be rested for several weeks after treatment. Resting ensures they do not overexert themselves from excitement and harm the heart muscles. Remember, your pet will still be in a weak condition and will need time to recover completely.