One of the biggest threats for dog owners , living on the east coast of Australia, is the paralysis tick (lxodes holocyclus). There are about 75 different tick species found in Australia but the greatest concern is the deadly paralysis tick, particularly during the warmer months of the year.
True to its name, this tick will cause paralysis and eventual death unless it is found and removed in time. The tick causes paralysis by injecting a toxin found in its saliva into the dog's bloodstream.
Unfortunately tick paralysis can be hard to spot and very difficult to treat once it progresses. The tick must attach and feed from the dog for 3-5 days before signs of paralysis are seen, providing dogs owners with a short period of time to check, find and remove ticks, before they have a chance to harm their dog. Daily checks are strongly recommended even when tick control products have been applied.
Symptoms of tick paralysis
The symptoms include:
- Weakness, particularly in the hind legs
- Harsh groaning sounds while breathing
- Change in bark tone
- Vomiting and difficulty swallowing
If your dog is experiencing any of the above symptoms you should take them to the vet immediately. If left untreated the toxins released by the paralysis tick will cause cardiac and respiratory failure, resulting in 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.
Protecting your dog
The best way to protect your dog from ticks is to use a tick control product and perform daily tick checks. There are several products available on the market to assist in the prevention of tick paralysis; your veterinarian can help you select the best product for your dog. Dog owners should make a habit of checking daily for ticks, even if a tick control product has been applied.
Check your dog daily for ticks simply by running your fingertips throughout your dog's coat, against the hairline, down to skin level, feeling and looking. Pay particular attention to the chest, neck and head area, as most ticks are found on the front half of the dog, although ticks can be found anywhere on the body, including in the ears, between the toes, under the tail, on the eyelids and lips. Long-haired dogs can be clipped to make ticks easier to find. If you're unsure of how to search your dog for ticks, consult your veterinarian.
By using a paralysis tick control product and checking your dog for ticks every day, particularly during the warmer months of the year, you could save your dog's life!