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Tick Paralysis Warning

Posted by VSS on 31 July 2020
Tick Paralysis Warning

Over the past 2 weeks, a significant number of dogs and cats presented to Veterinary Specialist Services after being affected by tick paralysis. Ixodes holocyclus, more commonly known as the Australian paralysis tick, can produce and inject a neurotoxin, causing life-threatening paralysis to our beloved pets. Australian native wildlife such as possums and bandicoots are relatively immune to the toxin therefore act as a reservoir host for the paralysis tick without showing any symptoms. They can bring paralysis ticks into our yards, parks or nearby bushland.

The number of tick paralysis cases most often correlates to the population of paralysis ticks. Tick season can vary each year, depending greatly on weather patterns. Generally, the official season is September through to midsummer, in February. Yet in South East Queensland, we start seeing tick paralysis cases earlier in the year, and often all year round. Weather changes like small bouts of rain, followed by warmer temperatures, can result in an influx of paralysis tick patients.

Tick paralysis itself as a disease can often be devastating. The tick neurotoxin affects muscle groups that can be controlled consciously, such as: limb muscles, breathing muscles, swallowing muscles and blinking muscles. Symptoms of tick paralysis therefore are often related to these muscle groups:

  1. Weakness or paralysis, hindlimbs progressing to forelimbs
  2. Ataxia (wobbly walking)
  3. Breathing difficulties
  4. Changes to voice
  5. Vomiting or regurgitation
  6. Loss of blinking

Animals affected by tick paralysis can become critically ill within a very short amount of time due to their inability to move their chest to breathe, leading to suffocation. Another common complication of tick paralysis is aspiration pneumonia, because of the inability for affected animals to control their swallowing.

Jack Russell

Meet Lucky, a sweet, happy little 4 year-old Jack Russell, who is certainly living up to his name. Lucky was brought in to the Animal Emergency Service at Carrara this week, after he collapsed on a walk and was vomiting at home. His breathing effort deteriorated in hospital and he was required to be placed on life support ventilation for 24 hours while he received the tick antiserum, and his body recovered from the paralysis. Lucky was transferred to the Internal Medicine Intensive Care team at Veterinary Specialist Services Carrara, and was intensively monitored and treated around the clock! His whole body was searched frequently for more ticks, as it is common for our pets to have more than one tick on their body, and they all must be removed to prevent further paralysis. This meant that we shaved his fur so that it was easier to search for more ticks.

Lucky made an incredible recovery, and was able to go home 4 days after being admitted to hospital! He will be back to his bouncy self in no time, and we look forward to seeing him again soon.

Thankfully, tick paralysis is now a preventable disease as there are multiple brands and forms of tick prevention products available on the market. They are an effective way to dramatically reduce the risk of pets being affected by tick paralysis. Talk to your local Veterinarians about prevention to ensure your loved ones are protected.

To read more about ticks, check out our other blog about searching for ticks here.

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