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Time to Tackle Toxic Ticks for Australia's Pets

16 January 2015
Australian Veterinary Association

AUSTRALIA - With the high season for ticks upon us the Australian Veterinary Association (AVA) is encouraging pet owners to prevent serious harm or death by checking their pets regularly for ticks.

“Dog and cat owners must be vigilant at this time of year, particularly when travelling to tick prone coastal areas,” said AVA spokesperson Dr Robert Johnson.

In the last couple of months the Disease Watchdog database has recorded more than 350 cases of tick paralysis down the eastern seaboard. The hot spots include Coffs Harbour (18), Port Macquarie (17), Newcastle (23), Northern beaches of Sydney (18) and the Upper North Shore, Sydney (42).

“Ticks breed mainly along the east coast in warm and humid weather. With the extremely hot weather we’ve experienced lately, which is set to continue, we’re urging pet owners to take preventive measures to avoid what can often be a fatal outcome,” he said.

“There are a range of preventive tick products available. For people living in or going to tick prone areas with their pets they should contact their local vet who can advise on the best prevention method for their situation.”

Paralysis ticks tend to attach to the head and neck area of the pet and on the chest and the front of the leg, but can be found on any part of the body.

“Ticks release a toxin when they feed, which leads to a condition known as tick paralysis. Common signs of tick paralysis include difficulty walking, gurgling and choking. Dogs will often not be able to bark properly due to paralysis of the throat,” Dr Johnson said.

“Other animals may start to cough when eating or drinking, or may cough up water or food. Some may also have trouble breathing.”

Ideally pet owners should check dogs and cats daily if they live in tick-prone areas. This is done by running your hands over the animal to feel for anything unusual.

In cats, ticks often latch around the back of the neck where they can’t groom, so it’s important to pay special attention to this area. If you find a tick it’s vital you take action and contact your local vet for advice.

“Even if you find and remove a tick it’s important to keep an eye on your pet as they can be affected by the toxin for up to 24 hours after removal. Early treatment gives the best chance of survival,” he said.

Further Reading

You can read more about fighting ticks by clicking here.

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