Ticks for Travellers
Tick season is upon us, and it is important for all pet owners to be aware of the dangers of the paralysis tick, Ixodes holocyclus.
This tick occurs along the east coast of Australia from Lakes Entrance in Victoria to Cape York in Queensland. It is traditionally found in coastal regions but recent reports have suggested that the tick may be found further inland also.
Whilst Melbourne is not an endemic tick region, it is not uncommon to see dogs here affected by tick paralysis after being on holiday. The tick has also been known to travel hundreds of kilometres in luggage and on birds.
The paralysis tick attaches to and feeds from pets and livestock, and occasionally it may affect humans. It injects a potent toxin in the tick saliva, which affects the host on average 3-5 days after attachment. This causes a range of effects including muscle paralysis, difficulty breathing and sometimes heart failure. Often one of the first signs an owner will notice when their dog is affected is hind limb weakness, possibly also a change in bark, regurgitation or coughing. Paralysis tick envenomation quickly becomes life-threatening, and can only be treated with a tick anti-serum and intensive care in a veterinary hospital.
Prevention is better than cure
There are methods of avoiding the paralysis tick whilst on holiday. Apply a tick preventative, which will repel and kill ticks. Check your dog’s skin daily for ticks, especially around the face, neck, legs and paws, although ticks can attach anywhere. It may be best to clip long-haired breeds to make this easier. Take your dog to a vet immediately if you suspect he has been bitten by a paralysis tick. If you are not near a vet clinic, ticks can be removed with a tick hook, and kept for identification, before travelling to the vet.
If you plan to travel to an endemic tick region, and wish for more information on tick paralysis, please request one of our client information sheets, or discuss this further with one of our vets.