Paralysis ticks causing huge emotional and financial burden across Australia
Australia’s leading emergency veterinarians issue strong warning to dog owners as paralysis tick season continues in full swing.
As Australia’s peak paralysis tick season continues in full swing, some of Australia’s leading emergency veterinarians have an urgent warning message for dog owners – protect your pet against tick paralysis, a preventable disease, now, or face the deadly consequences.
Director and Veterinary Specialist at The Animal Emergency Service in Queensland, Dr Rob Webster comments: “Tick paralysis is a preventable disease. When we lose dogs, a terrible outcome for all involved, we are losing dogs that could have been saved by administering a long-lasting paralysis tick treatment.” “Once the paralysis from a tick bite has taken hold, even the very best we can do using tick anti-serum and supportive care is going to save 8 out of 10 patients. This leaves a large number of dog owners in the dreadful position where they essentially watch their dog die from a preventable disease.”
Dr Webster says paralysis tick season is a very difficult time for veterinarians as it’s a devastating disease to try and treat. He is urging dog owners to proactively talk to their local vet about long-lasting preventative medication against paralysis ticks not tomorrow or next week - but today.
“We live in a country which has access to the best preventative treatments for paralysis ticks for dogs, and knowledge on how to conduct effective daily searches dogs for these nasty critters is readily accessible. Put simply, there is no excuse for dog owners to put their pet in a situation where they suffer respiratory failure and die from suffocation because they can’t breathe and they inhale their own vomit.”
A recent survey commissioned by paralysis tick treatment Bravecto reveals over a quarter of Aussie dog owners mistakenly believe death is not a possible outcome of a paralysis tick bite.1 Worryingly, over one-third (36 per cent) of dogs are not protected by a paralysis tick treatment.1 Sydney Animal Hospitals Director, Dr Ben Brown is already treating paralysis tick cases and joins Dr Webster in urging dog owners to prioritise prevention, avoiding an expensive and sometimes a heartbreaking trip to the vet.
“We recently treated a three-and-a-half-year-old Border Collie called Buddy, who came into our clinic because his owners noticed he wasn’t able to use his back legs very well. We did a check and found a tick behind Buddy’s ear – which is the most common place that ticks attach on dogs. We treated him for tick paralysis and gave Buddy tick serum to help neutralise the toxins, and then put him on a drip for a few days. Thankfully, his case was low grade and Buddy made a full recovery.”
Dr Brown continues: “Unfortunately for some dogs, they’re not as lucky as Buddy, and over the years we have seen many heart breaking situations where dogs have died from tick paralysis.”
Sydney dog owner Henry Hance’s 12-year-old dog Charlie was severely affected by a paralysis tick, costing him thousands of dollars. “Charlie got a tick in his eye and his legs collapsed from under him. We rushed him to the vet where he spent the next five days in emergency. It was very expensive and in total we paid $2,500 in vet fees. Prevention is so important. Charlie has been on a long-lasting paralysis tick treatment ever since and we have had no issues,” says Henry.
Dogs should be inspected daily for paralysis ticks and if a tick is found, it needs to be removed immediately with finger nails, tweezers or a tick-removing device. After removal of the tick, if owners are unsure as to whether their dog is showing any symptoms of tick paralysis, they need to contact their local vet immediately.
Australia’s paralysis tick season runs from about September to March – the time when adult female ticks are most abundant2 but can vary region to region. Unique to Australia’s eastern seaboard, the paralysis tick - Ixodes holocyclus - causes a huge problem to tackle locally every year and is the single most dangerous parasite for dogs on the eastern coast of Australia with just one tick capable of causing paralysis and even death.2 References:
The Paralysis Tick Survey was completed in April 2017 with an online permission-based panel of owners of dogs in Queensland, New South Wales and Victoria. Quotas were used for state and gender so that the results can be projected to the full population of dog owners in the eastern states. The sample size was 507, giving a confidence level of ± 4.3% at the 95% confidence interval. This survey was commissioned by Intervet Australia Pty Limited trading as MSD Animal Health ABN 79 008 467 034. Level 1 – Building A, 26 Talavera Road, Macquarie Park NSW 2113. Toll free: 1800 033 461. Webster, M., Fisara, P. and Sargent, R. (2011) Long-Term Efficacy of a Deltamethrin-Impregnated Collar for The Control of The Australian Paralysis Tick, Ixodes Holocyclus, On Dogs. Australian Veterinary Journal, 89; 439-443.