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Tips for ticks on your trip

Karen Goldrick has advice on how to avoid paralysis ticks while travelling Camping with dogs in the bush can be mutually enjoyable, but there are hazards to consider along the way.

Paralysis Ticks (Ixodes Holocyclus) are one such hazard. These are found in coastal bushland along the east coast of Australia.

A toxin found in the tick’s saliva can result in paralysis; usually beginning in the back legs, progressing to include the forelegs, and then the respiratory muscles. Four to five percent of dogs with tick toxicity may die, even if they undergo treatment.

The best treatment for tick paralysis is prevention. Avoiding areas known to inhabit ticks is one option. Generally ticks are found in coastal bush, but their prevalence can vary from season to season. Ticks are thought to be most active in spring and early summer, but in some areas may be active all year around. If you are holidaying in a tick area, try to avoid long grass or creek areas. Female ticks become more active, and eggs tend to hatch after rain and in more humid weather.

Consider calling ahead to the local vet in your intended destination and asking if you are unsure whether the area you are travelling to is a tick area. It is always handy to know the location of the local vet when travelling with your pet.

There are a number of chemical tick prevention choices available. In our experience no one method is 100% reliable. Options include Frontline Topspot or Advantix every two weeks, Frontline spray every three weeks, or a thorough weekly Permoxin rinse. Both Advantix and Permoxin are toxic to cats. We usually advise some additional liver support,
e.g.milk thistle, while using high doses of acaricides on your dog. Neem oil is reported to have some anti tick activity, but has not been shown to be protective against paralysis ticks.

It is essential to check your dog daily while away in a tick area, and to continue these exams for up to a month after returning. Keep your dog’s coat short while travelling to make the search easier. Most ticks will attach in front of the shoulders. However, I have found ticks in ears, inside lips, and under the tail. Sometimes there is more than one tick.

An attached tick looks almost like a grey skin lump. If you find a tick, spray it with Frontline, wait one minute, then remove with tick removing forceps or tweezers. Ease the tick out so as not to break off the head (breaking off the head does not increase the intoxication, but does result in a foreign body reaction). Then keep your dog cool and quiet for the next 48 hours, and watch for the development of any paralysis. If you are unsure, have your dog checked by a local vet.

If your dog does show signs it is essential you transport them to the nearest vet, and keep them cool and calm. Treatment is always more successful the earlier it is started. Early signs can vary, and can include a change in the voice or bark, back leg incoordination or wobbliness, a change in breathing, regurgitation or vomiting, dilated pupils, gagging or coughing.

Treatment consists of medication to reduce anxiety, tick antiserum, and supportive treatment for vomiting or breathing difficulties. Dogs are often in hospital for four days or more. Stress reduction is essential for tick-affected dogs, and we use Rescue Remedy to help those we have had to treat.

Tick prevention for cats consists of daily checks, keeping them indoors if possible, Frontline Topspot or Frontline spray.

Karen Goldrick is a veterinarian at All Natural Pet Care, Russell Lea NSW