Tick paralysis and your family pet

Vet nurse Hayley takes you through the day she faced tick paralysis with her beloved dog.  

I remember all too well the day I found a paralysis tick on my dog. I had been out Christmas shopping and came home to one very wobbly puppy waiting to greet me. I knew straight away she had a tick and after a prompt inspection found an engorged tick above her eye. Within 10 minutes I was back out again making my way down to the emergency out of hours veterinary hospital for treatment.

It sends a shudder down my spine knowing that my dog could have easily fallen victim to the tick’s toxins. No pet is safe, not even a veterinary nurse’s dog! I’m hoping the following info will help every owner to recognise the symptoms of deadly tick paralysis and know what preventive measures can be taken to protect your pet.

The paralysis tick is commonly found on the east coast of Australia, there are pockets that have increased numbers, which includes Wahroonga, Turramurra and surrounding suburbs.

Ticks can be carried by wildlife such as common marsupials and reptiles. They like bushy or scrubby areas.

Ticks can be found all year round but are more prevalent from September to March; the season can be quite variable depending on weather conditions. Ticks like a warm humid environment.


What do paralysis ticks look like?

Paralysis tick

Paralysis tick

  • They are light grey in colour
  • Range from about 2 mm to 1 cm in size
  • Have 8 legs, the front ones are orange





How to search of a paralysis tick

The Paralysis tick will bury their mouth parts in your pet’s skin. This can cause an area of inflammation or a tick crater. Paralysis ticks can be very hard to find even in short coated animals.

  • Search you pets thoroughly at least once a day, use your finger tips to feel through the coat, you may find it easier to go against the grain of the fur
  • Most ticks are found from the front legs forward, but it is important to search the entire pet
  • Start at the nose and work backwards – checking in the ears, in skin folds and the corners of the eyes
  • Look under the arms, between the toes, under the tail
  • Look underneath any collars
  • If you find a tick, keep on searching as there may be more than one


How do I remove a paralysis tick?

As a tick burrows into the skin they can be difficult to remove.

If Fox Valley Animal Hospital is open, please bring your pet in. We can remove it for you and show you how to remove ticks for the future.

Ticks must be removed immediately.

It is important not to squeeze a tick as it will inject more toxins into your pet.

Aim to remove the tick by its head.

We use a tick hook which slides under the tick and makes it easy and safe to remove.

You can also use a pair of fine nosed tweezers.

If you are unsure of how to do this http://www.mindanews.com/buy-inderal/ yourself and it’s out of our standard hospital hours, we recommend you seek assistance at emergency vet clinic, SASH.

How to correctly use a tick remover

How to correctly use a tick remover








What are the signs of tick paralysis?

The symptoms of tick paralysis can be varied but they include:

  • Loss of coordination or weakness in the back legs
  • A change in bark or meow
  • Retching, coughing or vomiting
  • Salivating or drooling
  • Progressive paralysis to include the front legs
  • Difficulty breathing or rapid breathing
  • Grunting when trying to breath

The toxin produced by ticks is very potent. Even once the tick has been removed, your pet will get worse before it gets better. This is because there is still toxin circulating in the blood stream.

It is essential that you bring your pet to us or seek veterinary attention to determine if your pet needs to be given the anti-toxin.

It is important to stay calm and keep your pet calm and at a comfortable temperature. Exercise and excitement will exacerbate the tick paralysis signs.

Because the ability to breathe and swallow is affected, some animals will inhale saliva or food and develop pneumonia. Do not offer food or water as your pet can not swallow properly.


Treatment of tick paralysis

Anti-toxin is given to animals that are exhibiting tick paralysis.

We often need to provide a lot of supportive treatment as well, from anti-emetics to stop vomiting, antibiotics to treat infections, intravenous fluids to maintain hydration and sedation to decrease stress levels. It can take days or weeks to recover from an episode of tick paralysis.


How to prevent tick paralysis

It is very important to prevent the attachment of ticks to your pet.

There is an excellent range of products available to kill and repel ticks but none of them are 100{4e16e80552bc34beec20bb748fa6a4b4bdde58d807858b510214db72831257f5} effective.

It is important to select the right product for your pet, so come and visit us at Fox Valley Animal Hospital so that we can tailor a tick prevention programme specifically for you and your pet.

Remember to follow instructions carefully a DOG treatment on a CAT can be LETHAL.


Tick treatment prevention plans for your pet:



Treatment How often?
Scalibor collar for DOGS Change 8 weekly
Nexgard tablets Oral tablet given monthly
Frontline PLUS DOG Use Fortnightly
Advantix for DOGS Use fortnightly
Frontline Spray Use every 3 weeks
Tick search Twice daily
Grooming Keep coat short during summer




Treatment How Often?
Frontline Spray Every 2 weeks
Frontline spot on Off label use for paralysis tick control if used fortnightly.
Tick search Twice daily
Grooming Keep coat short during summer



Maggie my dog after her tick paralysis

Maggie my dog after her tick paralysis

Although ticks are small, they are deadly. I have personally experienced the heartbreaking results of tick paralysis and the loss of life. It is paramount to keep up to date with tick prevention and care.

If you have any concerns to whether your pet may have a tick, never wait and see. Time is at the essence and can determine the prognosis between good and poor!




Want to know more about tick prevention? Come to Fox Valley Animal Hospital and discuss prevention options with our vets today. Call (02) 9489 4805.



About the Author
Owner and Vet Alex Brittan, Vet Katie Syms and the team of Fox Valley Animal Hospital pride themselves on quality service. Fox Valley Animal Hospital is the one you choose for your family pet when the care your animal receives really matters.