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Deadly tick season threatens pets

Vets are warning pet owners to be vigilant as an explosion of tick paralysis cases in Australia’s eastern states leaves a trail of casualties.

Perfect breeding conditions have created huge numbers of paralysis ticks this summer, according to Australian Veterinary Association spokesperson Dr Jodie Wilson.

“The tick season is usually at its height in eastern states from spring through to autumn, but around 700 cases have already been officially logged in Queensland and New South Wales, which is extremely high for so early on in the season,” said Dr Wilson.

Due to these large numbers, vets are particularly concerned that pets in tick-prone areas will be hit hard this year.

Paralysis ticks are usually found in long grass and scrub, particularly in coastal areas. They tend to attach to the head and the 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 gurgling and choking. Dogs will often be unable to bark properly due to paralysis of the throat,” said Dr Wilson.

“Other animals may start to cough when eating or drinking, or may cough up water or food. Some animals may also have trouble breathing. It’s vital to take action immediately if you notice any of these symptoms,” she said.

Ideally pet owners should check dogs and cats daily if they live in tick-prone areas. This is most usefully done by running your hands over the animal to feel for anything unusual. In cats ticks often latch on around the back of the neck where they cannot groom, so it’s important to pay special attention to this area.

“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,” said Dr Wilson.

Your local vet can give further advice on effective trick prevention products and ways to remove ticks. If you have any concerns about a pet you should contact your local vet for advice.