Paralysing facts about how such tiny creatures that can do such major damage!
Paralysis ticks affect domestic animals on the east coast of Australia. More than 80,000 cases of tick toxicosis, mainly in domestic pets, are treated each year.
Paralysis ticks inject a toxin that can be fatal in domestic animals, both pets and livestock. The salivary glands of the tick produce the toxin that affects the nervous system of the host. Paralysis begins with a loss of coordination in the hindquarters. It spreads at varying rates throughout the body, eventually affecting breathing when the chest muscles become involved.
Signs of tick paralysis
Signs of paralysis ticks include:
Once paralysis occurs the animal is likely to die unless it is treated with anti-tick serum injected by a veterinarian. It takes 48 hours for the toxin to be removed. Animals may require ventilation to breath (contributing to significant owner costs!).
Treatment of paralysis ticks
Prevention is better than cure. Use medications such as spot on tick and flea treatment. Unfortunately it is not as easy with cats which may need sprays or tablets.If you live in a tick prone area, checking everyday for ticks is the best prevention of tick paralysis.
Take your pet to your vet as soon as possible if you discover a tick and your pet seems listless. Do not wait.
More information about ticks from NSW Agriculture.
What is a paralysis tick?
Paralysis ticks are native to Australia and their natural hosts are marsupials, principally bandicoots, but also others such as echidnas, possums and wallabies. These animals are usually immune to the toxin.
Adult ticks are most commonly seen from July through to December with a peak of young adults in spring. The female tick sucks blood until she is fully engorged, then she drops off her host and lays between 2 to 3000 eggs. She then dies.
Eggs hatch within 7-9 days and the free-living stages, larvae, can exist on the ground for 5 to 8 months without feeding.
Ground mulch, with moist conditions provides ideal conditions for eggs. High temperatures (above 32C) delay development or kills ticks while low temperatures (below 7C) for a few days kills unattached adults. The prevalence of ticks is generally determined by rainfall during the year before.
Image courtesy of http://medent.usyd.edu.au/photos/tick_photos.htm