Spring is just around the corner and luckily this means more outdoor activities for you and the furkids: more regular visits to the local park, the beach, bushwalks, maybe even a week-end away in the country?
The Facts about Tick Prevention
The peak season for the paralysis tick (Ixodes holocyclus) runs from August to March on the Eastern seaboard of Australia. RSPCA NSW’s Senior Veterinarian Dr Christina Zhu is warning all pet owners to check their pets thoroughly for any signs of ticks, as they become more prevalent in the warmer months.
"Native animals are a host for ticks,” added Dr Zhu. “So if you have blue tongues, birds or possums living nearby, you probably also have ticks about."
Don’t think it can’t happen to your dog because you live in a flat in the city or suburbs: a simple walk in long grasses is sufficient and just one tick is capable of causing paralysis or even death. Sadly without treatment, almost 100% of affected dogs will die.
“Ticks are dangerous parasites that attach to the dog to suck blood from them. As they suck the blood, they secrete a toxin. This affects the dog’s nervous system, leading very quickly to severe impairment or death.”Symptoms to watch out for include an unsteady gait - a weakness in the hindquarters will progress to a total paralysis of all four legs, heavy laboured breathing or dry cough, vomiting or the appearance that your dog has something stuck in its throat.
One common sense tip is to completely avoid the tick habitat: during the tick season, don’t take your dog walking in bush areas or scrub areas known to harbour ticks. Keep your lawns and shrubs short and remove compost material from backyards.
Your dog’s fur should be inspected daily for ticks, especially for the long-haired breeds. A thorough tick search involves working your fingers deep into your dog’s coat to check all parts of their skin. Around 70 per cent of ticks are found attached on the front half of the pet and could be hidden in areas like skin folds or even their ears.
The paralysis tick will look different depending on whether they are engorged with blood or not. When engorged with blood they have a blueish to light-grey/grey colour.
When removing a tick, avoid disturbing the body of the tick (don’t squeeze the body) instead aim to remove the tick by its head at the point of insertion into your dog’s skin.
A useful aid is a tick remover - a fork like device that slides either side of the tick without touching the body of the tick and removes the tick easily (ticktwister.com)
If you find a tick, remove it immediately and take your dog to the vet as soon as possible. Remember to also continue to search for more ticks. Some dogs can be infested with many ticks at one time.
A scary fact: 57% of dog owners treat for fleas every 3 months or less and 62% of owners treat for ticks every 3 months or less frequently.
Until recently protection from ticks was commonly gained from products that require a fortnightly or monthly application (spot-ons, collars, tablets, washes and sprays). A new innovative class of parasiticides has recently been launched in the Australian market, promising up to 3 months protection against fleas and 4 months against paralysis ticks.
Dr. Zhu says "You should seek advice from your veterinarian on the best form of tick prevention for your dog. Always read the instructions on the packet and continue to search your pets daily for ticks, even if you are using a preventative."
You need to choose the dosage appropriate to your dog’s weight, treat as frequently as required and educate yourself on how the product actually works.
Prevention is better than potentially losing your pet (or at least a very hefty vet bill) and we encourage you to seek advice from your local vet about the best prevention products against ticks and fleas based on your dog’s medical history.
Fleas are also a most unpleasant experience for dogs (and their owners!) causing itching and discomfort but they can also lead to allergies, severe dermatitis, transmission of other parasites and even more serious problems like anaemia.
A flea starts feeding on your dog’s blood within five minutes and may suck blood for up to 2 ½ hours! A single flea lays 40/50 eggs a day and it could take up to 8 weeks to remove an infestation once it is established in a home. You will need to use a product that actually breaks the flea life cycle (eggs, larvae, puppae) as well as regular vacuuming, washing and drying bedding in sunlight and using products like flea bombs.
Important note: Never use any dog tick control products on cats as some dog products are highly toxic to cats and can kill cats.