Gungahlin Vet Hospital

Ticks and Tick Prevention

The Paralysis Tick kills many dogs and cats and causes paralysis in thousands every year. Don't let your pet be one of them!

Recommended products for tick prevention

Adult tick Ixodes holocyclus

Advantix™  - topical every two weeks – dogs only (from 7 weeks of age) – also kills fleas (for 4 weeks), controls lice, mosquitoes, sandflies and stable flies. Toxic for cats

Frontline spray™ – repeat three weekly for dogs and cats, safe from 2 days of age. Also controls fleas (12 weeks on dogs, 8 weeks on cats), biting lice, and aids in control of Sarcoptic mange.

Nexgard - oral, monthly (also controls fleas when given monthly)

Bravecto - oral, 3 (to 4) monthly for paralysis tick (also controls fleas (dose 3 monthly) and brown dog tick (dose 2 monthly))

Kiltix Tick Collar™dogs only from 3 months of age – aids in the control of paralysis tick for 6 weeks and fleas for 5 months

Preventic Tick Collar™dogs only from 16 weeks of age – controls ticks for up to 2 months. Don’t use if your pet is receiving anti-anxiety medication

The oral agent Cythioate (Proban) is no longer available

Paralysis ticks kill dogs and cats

There are many kinds of ticks in Australia, and several that may be found on dogs and cats. In other parts of the country, ticks can spread certain diseases like Babeseosis, but on the eastern seaboard, we are really only concerned about the Paralysis Tick Ixodes holocylcus. This tick kills dogs, cats, lambs, calves, foals etc by progressive paralysis, finally affecting breathing. These ticks get onto humans also, and may cause serious disease if not found and removed promptly.

At least 3,000 cases of Tick Paralysis occurred in NSW, Queensland and the ACT in the 12 months to November 2012 (www.diseasewatchdog.org). This is a common problem for pets which enter tick areas.

Where do paralysis ticks live?

Distribution of Ixodes holocyclusFortunately, the paralysis tick is not endemic to the ACT. The tick lives in a band about 20 km wide, from the tip of Cape York to Lakes Entrance in Victoria. This means that dogs and cats do not need to be protected against ticks when residing in the ACT, but must be protected against ticks if they visit the coast. We regularly see cases in pets which have spent even an hour or so at the coast, and from time to time in pets which do not go to the coast, but where members of the household did, and have accidentally brought ticks home in their clothes or beach towels.

How do I protect my pet from ticks?

Two simple rules:

                Apply a recommended tick preventative chemical which is safe for the species and age of pet, according to directions, well before visiting the coast. Reapply according to directions, so that there is residual effect for a week or so after your return.O'Tom Tick Hook

                Do not rely on any product for 100% protection. You must check your pets, from tip of nose to tip of tail, looking in every fold and opening, every day you are at the coast and for about 10 days after you return. Immediately remove any tick you find. We recommend you “look” with your finger tips, searching every square centimetre of skin. Remove collars and harnesses when you search. Use tweezers, forceps or, perhaps best, a “tick hook” – don’t use your fingers (there is a risk of tick borne disease). Don’t worry about "leaving in the mouthparts" – this is an old wives tale. Just get the tick off. Then look for more!

What are the signs that my pet has a tick?

Signs of a tick will start from about 4 days after the tick gets onto the animal, but in our experience, can be as late as 2 weeks after your pet has left a trick area. Signs include

  • A change in breathing, especially a sigh or grunt when breathing out
  • A small amount of vomiting
  • Just being quieter or less active than normal
  • Weak or wobbly legs – starting in the back and progressing to include the front legs
  • Inability to stand
  • Inability to stay upright
  • Increasing difficulty breathing and distress
  • Death

The rate of progression of the signs varies with size and age of the pet, and the toxicity of the tick/s. Importantly, the signs of tick paralysis get worse even after removing all ticks.

Any dog or cat showing signs of tick paralysis must be treated with tick antiserum by a vet. Most animals recover in a few days, but, sadly, some dogs and cats die despite our best efforts.

Tick stagesPrevention is the best (tick) medicine

Any dog or cat entering a tick area, no matter for how short a time or at what time of the year, must receive both arms of tick prevention – both a tick preventative chemical AND daily checking and removal of any ticks. We have seen tick cases in EVERY month of the year – even mid-winter, but the risk is higher in spring and summer. We’ve found ticks in cases misdiagnosed by others, for example, as pneumonia.

There are pros and cons to each of the tick preventative options listed above. Come in and discuss the best choice with our staff. One product which is registered for tick prevention and commonly used has a low success rate and is not recommended by us – ring or call in to check you are using one of our recommended products.

I’m moving to the coast – what do I do?

Follow the advice above – start one of our recommended tick control products before you leave and check your pets over every day once you get there. Then, seek the advice of your new local veterinarian about effective tick control in the local area.

Recommended products for tick prevention are availbale over the counter from Gungahlin Veterinary Hospital, and from our on-line store. Come into the hospital for personal advice.