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Paralysis tick: a real threat

The tick of greatest concern in Australia is the paralysis ticks (Ixodes holocyclus and Ixodes cornuatus) capable of causing serious harm to your dog.

Why worry?

Paralysis ticks are dangerous parasites, causing paralysis and even death, harming thousands of dogs in Australia every year. Ticks, in general can have many adverse affects on dogs including anaemia from blood loss, allergic reactions and physical damage or irritation to the skin.

The female paralysis tick when attached to your dog cause’s paralysis tick toxicity. Once attached it begins to feed by burrowing its mouthparts into the dog’s skin and sucking blood. After attachment and feeding it starts producing a potent toxin that affects the dog’s central nervous system and causes progressive paralysis and possibly death.

There is an anti-serum available to treat tick paralysis however treatment is expensive and very much dependent on early identification of symptoms by the owner and immediate veterinary attention.

Remember, prevention is always better than cure.

Location and habitat

Commonly found on the east coast of Australia, stretching from Lakes Entrance in Victoria through to Cape York in Queensland. Paralysis ticks prefer bush land and scrubby areas but can be found in green, grassy areas too. They usually live on bandicoots and other native animals, many of which are often unaffected by paralysis ticks. Unfortunately paralysis ticks can attach to other animals such as dogs and cats, where they can have potentially deadly effects. Occasionally paralysis ticks may also be found in other areas, especially if transported on animals, plant material or other objects.

To survive, paralysis ticks need humidity and warm temperatures to develop and will not survive or breed in cold and dry climates. This explains why in cooler areas of Australia the paralysis tick season runs from spring through to late autumn, whereas in northern and coastal areas of Australia the paralysis tick may be found all year round.

paralysis tick locations in australia

Identifying paralysis ticks

Identification of different tick species is difficult because of their small size, although there are some physical differences including shape and colouring.

Immediate veterinary attention should be sought for any dog suspected to be suffering from tick paralysis.

paralysis tick identification

Symptoms of tick paralysis

Symptoms that your dog may be suffering from tick paralysis include:

  • Weakness or paralysis in the back legs, progressing to the front legs
  • Wobbling and lack of coordination
  • Coughing or gagging
  • Change in tone of bark
  • A grunt on breathing
  • Difficulty swollowing
  • Regurgitating or vomiting
  • Drooling
  • Inability to stand
  • Facial paralysis

What if my dog shows these symptoms?

Immediate veterinary attention should be sought for any dog displaying any of the above symptoms of paralysis tick toxicity.

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