The Australian Paralysis Tick (Ixodes holocyclus)

The Australian Paralysis Tick is extremely dangerous to our pets, and sadly, can be fatal.  The Paralysis Tick presents along the entire length of Australia’s east coast – from Lakes Entrance in Victoria to the Cape York Peninsula in Queensland.  Paralysis ticks favour humidity and are generally more prevalent during the Spring and Summer months, however, there is no time of the year that there is a surety that they are dormant.

Native wildlife such as bandicoots, possums, koalas are natural hosts of the Paralysis Tick and have often built a resilience to the tick toxin, therefore being mostly unaffected.  Our pets, and even ourselves, are very susceptible . . .

Paralysis Ticks, though only small in size (from 0.5 mm long as larvae – 3.8 mm long as an unengorged adult – to 13.2 mm long as a fully engorged female), are so terribly dangerous as their saliva contains potent neuro and cardo toxins, which cause progressive paralysis . . .

Paralysis Ticks take some three days to inject a detectable amount of toxin, hence the importance of checking you, your family, and your pets thoroughly every day whilst in the tick zone.

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Paralysis Tick Diagram

NSW Agriculture – Agnote ISSN 1034 6848 – Paralysis Ticks – Agnote DAI-267 – 2nd Edition – September 2003 – by Stephen Ottaway, Senior Field Veterinary Officer, Grafton – Keith Newby, Veterinary Officer, Grafton

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On Pets . . .

If living or travelling to the east coast of Australia, ensure your pet is protected by a Paralysis Tick prevention product.  A visit to your Vet will help you decide which is the best product for your particular pet – collars, topical liquids, chewable tablets, sprays . . .

cropped-POI-Australia-Favicon-e1406709399487.png  Many preventative products need to be worn or applied for some time PRIOR to entering the tick zone – be sure to start treatment PRIOR to arriving

cropped-POI-Australia-Favicon-e1406709399487.png  Be sure to seek your Vet’s advice on preventative products as, for example, dog products can be toxic to cats

cropped-POI-Australia-Favicon-e1406709399487.png  Be sure to use a product that REPELS and kills the Paralysis Tick

Whilst in the Tick Zone

cropped-POI-Australia-Favicon-e1406709399487.png  Be sure to check your pet every day – from the tip of the tail to the tip of the nose – especially around the eyes, inside the ears, interior & exterior lip areas, under the collar, around the anus, between the toes . . .

cropped-POI-Australia-Favicon-e1406709399487.png  Keep your pet’s coat short

cropped-POI-Australia-Favicon-e1406709399487.png  Keep on cleared pathways as much as possible – avoid long grass, vegetation where the ticks are hiding, waiting for a host to walk on by . . .

cropped-POI-Australia-Favicon-e1406709399487.png  Ingestion of garlic has been observed to assist in repelling parasites

cropped-POI-Australia-Favicon-e1406709399487.png  Regular swims in salt water can help – depending on the preventative you have chosen

Checking for Ticks . . .

cropped-POI-Australia-Favicon-e1406709399487.png  Should you find one, be sure to keep searching as there can often be more hiding

cropped-POI-Australia-Favicon-e1406709399487.png  You will be looking for visible ticks, lumps, severe localised skin reactions presenting as hardened, red and raised

cropped-POI-Australia-Favicon-e1406709399487.png  Paralysis Ticks can be identified from other ticks by:

Paralysis Tick - Semi Engorged c

Diagram – Semi Engorged Paralysis Tick

Legs:  the two middle legs on each side are lighter in colour than the two end legs on each side

Legs:  their legs are bunched together at the front of the body

Mouth:  their mouths are elongated

What to do should you find a Tick

cropped-POI-Australia-Favicon-e1406709399487.png  Do not panic !!

cropped-POI-Australia-Favicon-e1406709399487.png  Keep your pet calm

cropped-POI-Australia-Favicon-e1406709399487.png  Remove it immediately – be careful to remove the entire tick by attaching forceps or a special tick removing device as close to the skin as possible – pull, whilst twisting CLOCKWISE – in order to have the best chance of removing the entire tick – otherwise the head may remain in the body . . .

cropped-POI-Australia-Favicon-e1406709399487.png  Be sure to keep the Tick for identification

cropped-POI-Australia-Favicon-e1406709399487.png  Call your Vet

cropped-POI-Australia-Favicon-e1406709399487.png  Do not give your pet food or water

cropped-POI-Australia-Favicon-e1406709399487.png  Minimise movement of your pet until you have seen your Vet

Symptoms of Tick Toxicity

The following symptoms are typical of the toxin, however, allergic reactions can dramatically exacerbate the decline in the health of your pet.  Infection is another real risk to watch out for in the days following the incident.

cropped-POI-Australia-Favicon-e1406709399487.png  Lethargy, shaking, anxious, confused – due to increasing paralysis of the skeletal muscles

cropped-POI-Australia-Favicon-e1406709399487.png  Noisy, laboured breathing – panting – coughing – due to increasing paralysis of the respiratory muscles, pulmonary oedema

cropped-POI-Australia-Favicon-e1406709399487.png  Salivation, vomiting, lack of appetite – due to increasing paralysis of the oesophageal muscles

cropped-POI-Australia-Favicon-e1406709399487.png  Change in bark or ‘meow’ – due to increasing paralysis of the laryngeal muscles

cropped-POI-Australia-Favicon-e1406709399487.png  Inability to stand or stay upright – due to increasing paralysis of the skeletal muscles

cropped-POI-Australia-Favicon-e1406709399487.png  Weak / wobbly legs – starting in the hind legs – progressing to front legs – due to increasing paralysis of the skeletal muscles

– as the heart muscles become affected, the heart too, will begin to fail . . .

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On Humans . . .

Paralysis ticks can affect humans too.  Our advantage is education, however, our children may not be able to communicate their symptoms, so they need to be inspected – just like our pets.

If visiting a potential tick infested area it is wise to wear light coloured clothing – e.g. long sleeves, long pants tucked into your socks – thus making the presence of ticks are more visible.  Repellents containing DEET OR Picaridin are also advisable.

Paralysis Tick symptoms present initially with local itchiness and a hard lump at the site of the bite.  Increasingly serious symptoms present over a number of days as the tick engorges itself.  Symptoms can include:  rashes, unsteady gait, weakness in the limbs and partial face paralysis.

Allergic reactions ranging from mild itching and swelling to potentially life threatening anaphylactic shock are also risk factors.

Infection is another symptom to watch out for in the days following the incident . . .

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