Be prepared: Spring is here and so are the ticks

By RSPCA Australia*

Spring may mean warmer weather, longer days and the return of blossoming plants, but it also means the perfect time of year for ticks to emerge.

Ensuring you know the dangers associated with paralysis ticks, and how to spot if your pet has been affected, will help keep your pets safe in the coming months.

Remember, both cats and dogs can be affected by paralysis ticks.

Paralysis tick can be fatal but can often be treated if you act quickly.

 

Know the signs

  • Loss of coordination in the hind legs (wobbliness in the back legs), staggering or not being able to get up.
  • Weakness in the back legs.
  • A change in the sound of the bark or voice.
  • Retching, coughing (sometimes it is a moist cough), vomiting.
  • Excessive salivation/drooling.
  • Loss of appetite.
  • Progressive paralysis to include the forelegs.
  • Difficulty breathing or rapid breathing.
  • Grunting noises when breathing.

If you’re not sure, but your dog or cat is showing abnormal behaviour or symptoms, better safe than sorry – consult your vet as quickly as possible.

How to check your pet

  • Search pets thoroughly at least once-a-day, using your fingertips to feel carefully through the animal’s coat. Ticks or tick craters can be felt as lumps on the skin surface.
  • Most ticks are found forward of the front legs, especially on the face, neck and ears. However, remember to search the entire pet.
  • Start at your pet’s nose and slowly examine the face, forehead and ears (outer and inner surface of the ear flap). Also search the eyes and lips and the skin/fur around the eyes and lips. Carefully examine all skin folds as well.
  • Remove any collars and search the neck area thoroughly including the skin folds of the neck.
  • Continue the search, searching the shoulder area and then down the shoulders to the front legs. Remember to check between each toe and under surface of the front feet. Also check under the ‘armpits’.
  • Examine the chest area, all along the back, sides, belly, inguinal (groin) area, around the tail and anus and the thighs, back legs, in between the back leg toes and feet (including the under surface).

 

If your pet shows signs of tick toxicity or you find a crater or a tick on your pet, take them to the veterinarian immediately, whilst keeping your pet as calm and comfortable as possible.

Do not offer food or water or give anything orally. Pets affected by tick paralysis cannot protect their airway when they swallow (as a result of the toxin) and this may lead to inhalation of food or water into their airways, which can cause pneumonia and serious breathing difficulties.

Make a habit of treating your pet with parasite preventatives every year, as these work against paralysis ticks and can help prevent your pet from becoming ill.

*Sourced from RSPCA Australia, www.rspca.org.au