As summer approaches here in South East Queensland, Ixodes holocyclus, or paralysis ticks, come out to play. These little arachnids can make your dog extremely sick, and many dogs in fact die each year from tick paralysis.
Your dog can pick up these unwelcome guests from a walk in the bush or even if he has been playing in long grass. Male ticks aren’t a problem, they just stroll around on your dog’s skin looking for a girlfriend. The female tick is the dangerous one. She attaches to your dog and as she drinks blood, she injects a toxin which paralyses your dog.
The first symptoms of tick paralysis are often just a slight wobbliness of your dog’s back legs, and a change in the sound of his bark. It doesn’t take long before the paralysis progresses towards the front of his body. He then won’t be able to use his back legs, and eventually he won’t be able to get up at all. His breathing will become difficult and laboured and at this point he is in serious trouble!
Treatment is available for tick paralysis in the form of an injectable antiserum. However, there’s no guarantee it will be successful especially if the paralysis is severe. Hospitalisation and supportive treatment also adds substantially to your veterinary bill. The best thing you can do is prevent your dog getting tick paralysis in the first place.
Because we regularly take our dogs out on the trails for a run, we are extremely aware of the risks of tick paralysis and make sure our dogs don’t bring home any unwanted passengers.
Frontline is very well regarded for flea control, but it is also effective in killing ticks on your dog. It’s important to remember that you need to use it every two weeks for tick control. If you stick to the monthly schedule recommended for fleas, your dog is still at risk of being affected by ticks. I prefer to use the little spot on application because it is so convenient.
Another important part of protecting your dog from tick paralysis is physically checking them every day. A female tick doesn’t start injecting toxin into your dog until she has been attached for about 3 days. This is a great window of opportunity for you to get any ticks off your dog before they can cause problems. The little creatures aren’t always easy to see, so you are better off trying to feel for them. Run your fingers all over your dog from front to back, keeping in mind most ticks are found on the front half of the body. Make sure you peek inside your dog’s ears and between his toes too!
If you find a tick, you need to take it off straight away. There are little tick removing gadgets available, which are effective. Don’t put kerosene or petrol on the tick. Instead, I’d recommend you keep a 100ml spray bottle of Frontline handy, and give the tick a couple of squirts with that. It’s safe for your dog and it will definitely kill the tick.