The Paralysis Tick or Ixodes Holocyclusis is the only tick species in Australia that poses a real threat to pets. The tick is found on the east coast of Australia and usually targets native wildlife such as bandicoots, possums and koalas. They have a tendency to attach themselves to domesticated animals, however, sometimes even humans.
Tick Paralysis or ‘toxicity’ occurs when ticks over a period of time cause single organ toxicity, targeting the cardiac system, bladder, lungs etc. and may result in severe paralysis. The tick injects a poison into the dog or cat as it feeds, causing weakness, irritation, a change in pitch in the meow or bark, wobbliness and excessive panting.
The Paralysis Ticks are more likely to be found attached to dogs rather than cats, but cats are also susceptible to the Ixodes Holocyclusis. Scientists have said that the increased number of ticks is due to global warming and the growing bandicoot population in recent years. Your pet is much more likely to pick up a Paralysis Tick if they are outdoor animals, interact with wildlife or have access to bushy or grassy areas.
The female Paralysis Tick is the most dangerous. They lay up to 3,000 eggs and, once hatched, the offspring attach themselves to vegetation with their first host in mind. After they find their first host – either a possum, bandicoot or koala – the ticks drop off again and wait for another host. It’s at this stage that a cat or dog, even a human is usually the choice. They will engorge themselves on blood over 100 times their body weight and can grow to the size of your little finger nail.
Although dangerous, especially to small pets, Paralysis Ticks can be combatted with a number of medications and preventative measures.
Paralysis Ticks effectively poison your pet. Fortunately, there are a number of symptoms that will raise the alarm when it comes to spotting for a Paralysis Tick. You’ll notice a change in behaviour and the physical fitness of your cat or dog. They will most likely become sickly, weak and their voice may even change.
It’s essential that if symptoms are observed, medical attention is sought after immediately. Some pets have been known to die from Tick Paralysis, especially puppies, kittens and the smaller breeds. Some of the symptoms to look out for include:
- Dogs and cats will vomit from time to time but, if you notice that your pet is vomiting more than a couple of times a day, they could be suffering from Tick Paralysis. Look out for frothy vomit also; this can be another sign.
- If your pet is a little unsteady or wobbly in the legs, it could be a sign of Tick Paralysis.
- Change in Bark or Meow. If your cat is showing the above symptoms and they are meowing more than usual, Tick Paralysis could be the cause. If the pitch or volume of your pet’s voice is altered in a significant way, this could also point to a tick.
- Heavy Panting. Dogs will often pant heavily if they are affected by a Paralysis Tick. Listen for loud breathing and coughing.
- Paralysis and Death. If the poisoning progresses, the animal may not be able to move after a time. The gums will turn blue and breathing will become increasingly laboured. If not treated quickly, at this stage death will usually follow.
Most of these symptoms are associated with poisoning of some description or another serious, perhaps life-threatening condition. If you observe any of these behaviours in your cat or dog, seek immediate assistance from your veterinarian.
Tick Paralysis is usually diagnosed by observing the symptoms as outlined above. Upon careful investigation your vet may observe one or more ticks attached to your pet or, if the tick is no longer present, the inflamed crater-like area left by it.
Sometimes it’s difficult for the veterinarian to determine the location of the parasite. Paralysis Ticks will often attach themselves deep inside your pet’s ears, anus or in between the toes. If no ticks are found, diagnosis can be made by observing symptoms and by ruling out poisoning and other diseases that can affect the animal’s stability.
Paralysis Tick season Australia is between the months of August and February and the numbers increase with wet weather and the warm, humid days that follow. Tick Paralysis is high on the diagnoses list on the east coast during this period.
The vet may take a blood sample to test for changes to the level of glucose, cholesterol and a decrease in potassium. The dog or cat’s pulse can also indicate a level of physical stress. Another test – and much more conclusive – is blood gas analysis. This test is risky, however, and the dangers should be discussed with your vet.
TREATMENT AND MANAGEMENT
The treatments for Paralysis Ticks have become very sophisticated with the rise of cases in recent years. Paralysis Ticks can prove fatal to smaller or older pets and for veterinarians on the east coast of Australia, treatment for Tick Paralysis has become a common procedure. The steps involved can prove stressful for the animal, but necessary to save it from further illness, paralysis and death.
Sedatives will usually be given to cats as Paralysis Ticks can prove to be quite stressful to the animal. Following this, your pet will need a thorough investigation over its entire body. All ticks at this point should be removed.
Pets will be given a premedication and an anti-tick serum to attack the venom’s affects. Careful monitoring will follow as some animals can have allergic reactions to the medication. It’s important that a period of rest follows the procedure.
At this time, the function of the bladder will be observed to ensure that it operates properly. Sometimes a drip and oxygen will be required; this is usually reserved for the more severe, advanced cases of Tick Paralysis.
Blood tests will sometimes follow to ensure your pet’s health and recovery from the toxins. Rest should always follow such a procedure, paired with careful monitoring of its breathing.
Paralysis Ticks are sneaky parasites that will wait in bushy or grassy vegetation until your pet passes through it. The only way to avoid Paralysis Ticks is to keep your pet indoors or away from grassy areas. The east coast of Australia is a haven for the Ixodes Holocyclusis, even in the suburbs of Sydney.
If you suspect your pet may have picked up a Paralysis Tick, there are a few things you can do to avoid Tick Paralysis. It’s a good idea to get into the habit of checking for ticks after walks anyway, especially during the warmer months.
Systematically work your way through your dog’s coat with your fingertips, feeling for unusual bumps or sores. Always check in the folds of the neck and underneath the collar. Other popular spots for Paralysis ticks include between the toes, behind and in the ears, even in the anus. Check your pets thoroughly after they’ve spent time outdoors or in the bush; and especially if you’ve taken them camping for a few days.
If you find a tick, don’t stop at one. It’s common for pets to have many if you’ve found the one; remember, with smoke there’s usually fire.
COMMONLY AFFECTED BREEDS
Any breed of dog or cat can become a Paralysis Tick’s host. There are, however, a number of breeds that seem more susceptible to the ticks than others.
Collies, Border Collies, Old English Sheepdogs, German Shepherds and Irish Setters are all prone to tick attack. Try to keep these breeds away from bushy areas and have them checked for ticks regularly.
INTERESTING PARALYSIS TICK FACTS
Even though the Paralysis Tick or Ixodes Holocyclusis sucks the blood of its host to live, they poison dogs, cats and even humans in the process. The poison attacks the nervous system, eventually causing complete paralysis and, in extreme cases, death.
Ixodes Holocyclusis is native to a relatively small slice of the country. Only really abundant during spring and summer, the Paralysis Tick is only found on the east coast of the country and highly common on Sydney’s Northern Beaches.
Symptoms aren’t immediate. You’ll usually start to see signs of Tick paralysis some three to five days after it attached itself to your pet. Staggering, wobbliness and vomiting will begin around this time.
Paralysis Ticks don’t stay small forever. In their early stages, the Ixodes Holocyclusis will only be the size of a pinhead or smaller. After gorging itself on the blood of your pet, it can grow to 100 times its own bodyweight. In the adult stage, a Paralysis tick can be the size of a little finger nail, even the size of a thumbnail.
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