ExcelVets Robina

237 Scottsdale Dr
Robina Qld 4226
Phone: 07 5562 5777
Fax: 07 5562 5522

Business Hours

8:00 - 5:30 Mon - Fri
8:30 - 11:30 Sat

After Hours Emergency

07 5559 1599


Paralysis Ticks

Deadly to Dogs and Cats

Tick paralysis is a ‘life threatening emergency’ and if left untreated it is usually very quickly fatal.

Paralysis tick before and after feeding

What signs of tick paralysis?

It is very important that you are aware of these signs, so you can seek help immediately.

  • Lethargy
  • Wobbliness in the hind legs initially, then progresses to the front legs as well
  • Panting / laboured breathing
  • Voice or bark change / high pitched bark or meow
  • Drooling of saliva
  • Regurgitation / vomiting
  • Shaking
  • Anxiousness
  • Panting

Are all ticks paralysis ticks?

No, there are many different types of ticks in Australia, including the common bush tick. However there is only one species, Ixodes holocyclus, that carries the toxin causing paralysis in dogs and cats.

How does my pet come into contact with a paralysis tick?

Paralysis ticks are found in scrub and bushland right along the east coast of Australia. Some of our native wildlife carry the ticks and are not affected by them in the same way domestic pets are affected.
There is a high chance your pet will come into contact with paralysis ticks if:

  • Your house or land backs onto scrubland or bush
  • You take your pet walking along a bush track
  • Wildlife such as possums and bandicoots often come into your yard
  • A visitor from a paralysis tick area has brought the ticks with them in their clothes or luggage or vehicles
  • You have had a holiday with your pet in a paralysis tick area

How does the tick cause these signs and symptoms?

The saliva of the paralysis tick contains a potent toxin, which affects the nervous system, causing paralysis not only of the limbs and the body, but also to the muscles involved in breathing. Without treatment, pets become distressed because they cannot breathe properly, which leads to respiratory arrest and death. The toxin also affects the muscles of the heart, which can result in heart failure and death. 

How do we diagnose tick paralysis?

Unfortunately there is no test available to diagnose tick paralysis. Definitive diagnosis relies on finding the tick on the animal and identifying it as a paralysis tick. At times, they can be very difficult to find, as sometimes they bury themselves in the folds in and around the ears, the creases of the lips, under the eyes and other tricky places.  Most ticks are found around the neck or on the face, however they can be found on any part of the body, so a thorough search is needed. If your pet has travelled to a ‘known tick area’ and is showing signs of tick paralysis, we would begin searching immediately for a tick, as immediate diagnosis and treatment is crucial to your pet’s chances of survival.

What part of the year are ticks around?

Paralysis ticks can occur all year around, however it is mostly between the months of August to April that we see pets paralysed by ticks. We often see a spike in tick poisonings after some rainfall during these months.

What do you do if you find a tick on your pet?

Although there are a few different types of ticks in this area that are non poisonous, you should always assume that it is most likely a paralysis tick as these are the most common type on the East Coast of Australia.  

Although just as serious as snakebite, tick poisoning has a slower onset (hours rather than minutes).

WARNING: Do not assume that tick removal is all that is required. Even when a tick has been removed it may take up to 48 hours for the worst signs of poisoning to develop.  Remember to keep the tick to show your vet.

If no signs are present – remove the tick and observe your pet for any unusual symptoms, for a minimum of 48 hours. Check that there are no other ticks, and apply a tick – killing product over the body such as a rinse or spray, that will work immediately.

If signs of tick poisoning are present -  you need to seek veterinary attention immediately.  Phone ExcelVets and let us know you are on your way. We will identify the tick, and remove it when you arrive.  

How do you remove the tick?

Killing or removing of all paralysis ticks is essential. Do not stop searching after finding one tick, for if there was one, there might be more!

Simple pulling : Grasping the tick as close to the skin as possible with the thumb and forefinger, (or tweezers) and pulling it out is the preferred procedure. If it is removed quickly – it can’t inject any more toxin.
Killing the tick with an insecticide such as permoxin (do not use on cats) / fidos rinse or frontline spray in dogs, or frontline or fidos in cats is an option if you are unable to grasp the tick and pull it out, when you are at home.

Ticks have strong mouthparts, and can take a good deal of pull to remove them. If the mouthparts of the tick stay in the skin, don’t worry too much, as no more poison can be injected into the pet once the body of the tick has been removed.  The mouthparts may cause a foreign body reaction, a bit like a splinter.  The spot where the tick was removed can sometimes form a “crater” or “lump” with a small hole in the skin.  This area can be sore, but will heal eventually, it may take up to 3 weeks.

How do we treat tick paralysis?

Life saving tick antiserum is administered intravenously, and many other supportive drugs are given to support all of the different body systems affected.
It is better to treat a simple case of tick poisoning then it is to treat an advanced complicated case in which pneumonia and heart failure have developed.  So the important point is:


How do we prevent tick paralysis? 

Dogs: Effective tick control products, such as  Advantix, Fido’s, Permoxin, Frontline and tick collars are readily available for dogs. The product launched January 2015, NexGard, is a once a month chewable tablet for flea and tick prevention.
Cats: There are only 2 effective products, Fidos Rinse and Frontline that can be used safely on cats.

Remember: Most animals that suffer from tick paralysis, were not on any prevention, however occasionally we will see an animal that has been on a preventative.


Please feel free to contact Excelvets anytime or come in to the surgery, we will be happy to advise you on the best tick prevention for your pet.