If you live on the east coast of Australia, it’s essential to regularly perform tick searches on your dog or cat. Paralysis ticks are one of the most common causes of veterinary clinic visits, especially from the start of spring until autumn. Tick paralysis is a potentially devastating condition that can result in death if untreated.

Paralysis ticks feed on the cat or dog’s blood, injecting small amounts of saliva into them in the process. The tick’s saliva contains a neurotoxin that disrupts the connection between the nerves and the muscles throughout the body, causing weakness and ultimately paralysis. Ticks that can result in death are usually between 3mm and 10mm in diameter.

Performing a tick search on a regular basis (preferably daily) is the only sure way of preventing tick paralysis. While there are collars, rinses and spot-on products that claim to prevent paralysis ticks from attaching to your pet, none of them will work 100 per cent of the time.

How to Perform a Tick Search

Locate ticks by systematically running your fingers through your cat or dog’s coat. Press your fingertips down to the skin level and draw little circles ensuring you cover the whole skin surface. Start at the nose and move along between the nose and eyes, searching in the lips as well as behind and in the ear.

Always remove your pet’s collar rather than moving it out of the way. Continue running your fingers around the neck, armpits, legs, between the toes, along the tail and around the anus and genitals. If your pet doesn’t want an area examined, it may be because of a tick bite making it sore, so check the area carefully.

Sometimes a nipple, wart, skin tag or other bump is mistaken for a tick, but by moving any skin bump and looking closely at how it’s attached to the skin, you can usually tell the difference. Sometimes the tick has already detached by the time you perform the search, in which case you may find a crater 3 to 10 mm wide where the tick was attached.

Removing the Tick

Ticks hold on very tightly once when bite and burrow their head into the skin. You can get special tick hooks from veterinary clinics to help you remove them. Similar to tweezers, tick hooks make it easier to grip onto the body of the tick and pull it out. When removed, they can leave a small crater that will scab up and heal within a month or so.

If the head is left in, don’t worry about it. The tick is dead and can no longer inject more neurotoxins. Keep in mind that it is possible for your pet to show signs of paralysis following tick removal so continue monitoring their behaviour to ensure they are okay.

Looking for a Veterinary Service in Sydney?

For a range of veterinary services for your pet, speak to our specialist vets at Sydney Veterinary Emergency & Specialists today. Book an appointment from Monday to Friday 8:30am-6pm or contact us for emergency veterinarian services and after hours care. Call us on (02) 9197 5800, contact us online or learn more about our services.